Warm rock in the fingers with snow-reflected sun seeming to double the heat; we could have been on the south face of the Midi.
No Japanese tourists clapping our efforts here though, just a couple of friends taking it all in with eagles circling above them.
The sheer quality of the climb astounded me again, easily as good, if not better, than it’s classic neighbours. Clean rock, positive holds and great protection but no pushover. A positive effort was needed to avoid being drowned in the exposure, stay alert to what damage the harsh winter may have done or just suppress the temptation to jump for joy.
South Crack I love you, and Peter had a Cheshire Cat grin even though he’s from Lancashire where smilin’ ain’t manly 😉
Would have been rude to have run away without climbing the East and West Ridges too and three routes were saluted by 3 Sea Eagles but this pic is of 2
Lizz had never done any scrambling before but an adventurous and athletic atttitude saw her balancing confidently along the knife-edge crest of Ghreadaidh today.Thanks to Iain who was out shadowing with us for taking these great images.
For some context I’d estimate that only 1 in 50 folk I guide along here have the bottle and skill to pull it off with most folk taking the safer hands & buttocks-on option! The knife-edge only lasts 10 minutes when done in such good style and we were soon heading down on easier ground but opting for the crest wherever possible.
Almost as a reward we were treated to a sight I’ve never had before with a flock of 8, yes 8, white-tailed eagles rising on the thermals from below us. Footage on the go-pro shows that this display lasted for over quarter of an hour before they rather spookily rose up into the cloud base 500 feet above us and disappeared in an instant.
The sight was spectacular but also gave me an uncomfortable feeling- these birds are just so huge and gregarious compared with true mountain royalty, the Golden Eagles. Goldies are failing to breed with anywhere near the same success as they used to here on Skye in the 90’s and I certainly see them less frequently. The causes are multifold and funding towards research is, as far as I’m aware, very minor. I’d like to see some of the enormous quantities of money spent on the White-tailed eagle flagship directed towards working out how to slow this decline.
An aging population has reduced fertility and I’m aware of my own guilt with ever-increasing numbers of hill-goers inadvertently distrurbing these shy birds by venturing too close to their nests. However, having a bigger bird that eats largely the same diet and needs similar sized territories reintroduced to their Skye stronghold has undoubtedly had a big impact. The RSPB line is that the 2 species don’t compete directly with each other and there are certainly shots of both species feeding from the same deer carcass. It is hard for me, however, not to envisage the “gang” we saw today, completely frightening a goldie off any prey.We continued our traverse to Banachdaich and these ranting thoughts subsided as concentration on footwork absorbed me once more. The clouds burnt off and half an hour was easily wiled away on the summit before a quick descent to beers while legs were soaked in the cool pools.
On such a perfect windless day it seemed rude not to go and at least take a look for the humpback whale widely reported to be spending vacation time in the sound of Raasay- its got good taste because Her Majesty is also rumoured to love spending time here.
Calm seas boded well but the fantasy was flavoured with the usual mix of realism & pessimisim I get when it comes to spotting wildlife. Reports from watchers at Camastianavaig were encouraging though with minke whale apparently also adding entertainment. Leaving the village by the right exit (by the post box) was a good start but a bit of poor route choice at the first junction took us up out of sight of the shore.
A bit of bouldering entertained us between bog stomping up to the cliff top. Half an hour later and the Sound of Raasay opened up like a jewel in front of us. Only a handful of objects broke the mirrored surface and, while I zoomed in on what turned out to be a pod of kayaks, Ben spotted a whale instantly. Probably a good kilometre away but after surfacing a few times I managed to get the x16 zoom in focus and identify it as minke whale.
For the next hour a pod of 4 or 5 minke whales laid on a display that only started to wear thin as the warmth in the sun started to wain. As the tour boat reappeared out from Portree a larger ripple also appeared near to the minkes. Right on cue for all of us our humpback began to play.
The second act happened fairly close to the boat and, as it flicked the tail to finish we could hear cheering from the deck! A 10 minute lull in the action saw the boat heading for home and we gradually decided to follow their lead. It may have been a last glance but I think it was a distinctive blow that alerted us that our friend was back and this time heading straight towards us. Video of this is now on the Skye Guides facebook page.
After another brief lull and even a few steps towards home we got our own display less than 200m away below us with a fanfare flick to finish.
A great afternoon!
Monday looks like a good option for anyone keen, later in the week the wind is picking up but dry apart from Wednesday.
You may get views from other points along the sound but, for looking down and being able to appreciate the full size, I can’t recommend Beinn Tianavaig enough.
A great few days of rock climbing recently with my good friend Lucy back again to add any keenness I may be lacking!
Thursday started with a sunny walk up into Coire Lagan with the students of Landmark College.
After cooling the feet back in Loch Brittle we set back off up and one of the hottest walk-ins that I can ever remember. The target was a direct finish to Techno Snob– that Malcy & I climbed in 2012.
All the effort was worthwhile as we were rewarded with an evening of climbing on glorious clean hot rock. The Oldest Raver on Skye finish was even good enough to be considerably easier (E1 5b) than the parent route with the crux being the stiff rockover move off the ground. A word of warning to aspirants is that the best gear on this move is very high, too high for me, so Lucy stood on my shoulders to place it!
On Friday three Mikes and a Lucy headed to Kilt rock and a race to climb as much as possible before the rain arrived. Clandestine (VS) and Secret Service (HVS) were topped off with ascents of the uber classic Grey Panther. With a full ropelength of superb climbing on a plumb vertical fault this is a strong contender for the best E1 in the UK.
Saturday was as wet as predicted but Sunday was forecast as wall to wall sunshine. The 2 Mikes had been reading up on the Girdle Traverse of Sron na Ciche in the guidebook and Lucy and I agreed it would make a great team climb. 3 years ago we’d taken 5 hours in perfect conditions but JEB Wright, a guide back in the 1920’s recorded climbing it with parties of 4, 5 and 6 in all sorts of conditions and never in more than 6 hours.
The clear tops sank back into the mist as we arrived and a cold wind nipped at the fingers as we geared up. 2nd time around and with a quality team we made good progress to the Serpentine Chimney. Lucy & I felt we had cheated last time by abseiling the downclimbs but our attempt to mirror them failed at the first hurdle with a long damp move at the foot of the climb.
Things warmed up after Eastern Gully as we sped past a continuous series of old classic routes; the Cioch, down to the Terrace and Doom Walls, another abseil, over the Hexagon Block and across Amphitheatre Arete. Gaining entry to Trap Face Route once again proved awkward and needed a few runners to keep us safe before following the trap right out to overlook Western Gully and some welcome sunshine and lunch.
We’d made it in under 4 hours this time and Mr JEB Wright now seems a little less superhuman. His first effort took only 2.5 hours though so we’ve a way to go to still!
Abi, Ivan, myself & Ally were treated to an incredible dolphin display as we finished our climbing last Saturday. For more than half an hour a huge pod of bottle-nose dolphins headed around the bay, right under the cliffs and around into the jetty at Elgol. Sharp boat operators were rapidly reopening & filling up with tourists to head out & look as we got back there.
Estimating numbers was hard, we had to leave before all of them had passed, but I’d guess at over 40 including mothers with calves all breaking the surface every 10 or 20 seconds. They appeared to be hugging the kelp beds feeding happily and our lofty position meant we could see them rolling around and playing even while they were underwater :-)))
This is the first time I’ve seen them close up to the cliffs in many years and a real privilege. I expect we’ll just have to cope with the normal otters, basking sharks and occasional minke whales for the rest of the season but you never know.
Ivan & Abi had only done a small amount of outdoor climbing before but progressed rapidly with a grand finale on Jamie Jampot.
The weather has been treating us all fantastically right through Easter and looks set to continue.
Apologies for not blogging so far this month; plenty going on but very little reliable broadband still!
There’s been a mixed bag of weather and a late surge from the midgies but the majority of missions have been accomplished with the use of cunning tactics and a great attitude by clients and guides alike. Monday last was only the fourth day this year that has been lost to the weather completely!
The work has varied from Ridge Traverses, stag dos and showing travel journalists the stunning Cuillin to stunt filming for a new Gaelic soap. Clients have come from as far away as New Zealand, Majorca and Colorado; ranged in age between 11 to 70 years old. Major achievements include Jenny Dunn climbing her last Munro, Laura climbing the Pinn for her first ever mountain in full “Scottish” conditions and Marcus completing his long-held dream of a Cuillin Traverse.
Basking sharks and Orcas, eagles Golden and White-tailed and the last of the alpine flowers like Devil’s Bit Scabbius have all added to the enjoyment.
Here are some images-
It’s been a funny old week but plenty of action still going on. Guy squeezed in a Traverse with Pete & Andy, Andy guided Chris & Anna across some classic Cuillin scrambles including Pinnacle ridge and the In Pinn.
My week was very varied and admittedly a bit of a blur but celebrating with Schnapps on Sgurr an Fheadian, descending Pinnacle Ridge in the pouring rain and lovely dry rock across the knife-edge top of Ghreadaidh twice in 3 days are highlights.
Enjoy the selection of pics below-
Only a couple of the threatened heavy showers reached Skye this week so a lot of happy climbers. Humidity and heat were a feature so a lot of slimmed down climbers too:)
There were some cracking days on the peaks and a climbing day at Neist where the wildlife stole the show.
Thanks to Guy Andy & Gillian for keeping their clients happy and well throughout the week too.
Here’s a small selection-
Moody In Pinn, photo by Cameron
Quick update while BB is running; hopefully long enough to let me upload. Apologies to anyone missing a blog about their days out or updates on Skye weather. Investing in Highland Wifi is looking likely:-(
Sword fighting on the Cioch
It has been incredibly busy with 7 Skye Guides out working pretty much constantly for the past 5 week; a massive thank you to Gillian, Scott, Andy, Lou, John and Francis. Thanks also to Cameron and Nathan who both added help, enthusiasm and youth on their work placements from the UHI Outdoor course in Broadford.
“Just a short note to say you have one very happy client after my trip up Gillean and Bhastair with Lou. It was just a brilliant, brilliant day. Lou was excellent and we all got something out of it, which as we all had different experience and capabilities was a great testament to her and the Ridge! “
“Both Scott and John were excellent guides. Personally, I was very challenged by some of the terrain, but they were a great help; ten Munros bagged, incl. the In Pinn!”
After 2 mad stormy days everyone was glad the forecast for a settled sunny day turned out to be correct. Robert took my recommendation from last year to bag his last Skye Munro by the classic Dubh Ridge.
AquaXplore ran us in to Coruisk at high speed with just enough time to admire the basking seals. The nature continued with a new plant for me on the approach route that looks like a minature Cuillin red cabbage- any identification help much appreciated-
Cuillin Red Cabbage?
The cloud base lifted for lunchtime and sunburn kicked in as the sun reflected off the rapidly thawing snow.
There was enough snow to slow us a bit but not need crampons as we reached the summit of Dubh na Da Bheinn 5 hours after leaving the boat. Fortunately we had bypassed the summit of Dubh Beag and the awkward abseil to save time.
Happily I found my best ever line of descent down the Garbh (rough) corrie from the castle taking exactly 2 hours to reach the jetty with 5 minutes to spare before David whisked us home.