Blog > Winter Mountaineering

Skye Winter Festival 2020

28/10/19

January 24th to 2nd February 2020; 10 days for our 10th Anniversary!!

An open invitation to climbers, walkers and any others with an active interest in the Skye mountains in winter.

It’s that time again for climbers to meet up, climb together and enjoy the post-match analysis. The Cuillin truly take on their Alpine status in winter and offer climbing and scenery like nowhere else in Britain. There is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had!!

2020- A full week in the Glen then to up to Skye Basecamp for the weekend and annual dinner.

7 days of stepping straight out of the door and into a Cuillin winter wonderland. This was how the festival started back in 2011! The Glen Brittle Memorial Hut is situated at the foot of the southern Cuillin with easy access to Coir’ a Ghreadaidh, Coir’ a’ Banachdaich, Coire Lagan and Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda.

After 7 nights in the Glen the festival moves to the big smoke and 2 nights in the luxury of Skye Basecamp.

Background information.

Over the past 9 years  The Skye Winter Festival that has seen high levels of activity including over 60 new winter routes. The Cuillin offer massive challenges no matter how much or how little snow the gods decide to give us so there will be action every day.

The Skye Cuillin is an Alpine-style range offering mountaineering and climbing of the highest calibre that attracts real mountaineers but there is also a huge attraction for those who just enjoy being in amongst mountain scenery of such grandeur.

The festival is open to anyone between these 2 extremes and our only rule is that nobody gets left out! Come alone or with a climbing partner.

Guests come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb is embraced wholeheartedly (interpret as you like); just choose a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures.

The Climbing

Over the past 9 years we’ve well and truly blown the myth of the Cuillin being a poor option for winter climbing right out of the water. In 2018 Skye was the place to be with Traverses happening for over 8 weeks and multiple new routes. There is a whole mountain range of possibilities from hard-core mixed to truly alpine mountaineering.

White Wedding IV,4

 

 

It’s not all high-brow climbing with many parties enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. There’s Neist or Elgol for rock climbing and we’ve got some dry tooling crags developed. Even skiing and boarding have been growing in popularity over the past few seasons.

What’s to do?

If you’re unfamiliar with what Skye has to offer check out any winter blog posts or an article on “The New Cuillin” for plenty of ideas. On the ground there are plenty of folk with good knowledge including the guy that wrote the guidebook…

Accommodation and Food

The meet will start in the newly refurbished Glen Brittle Memorial Hut right at the foot of the Cuillin.

Skye Basecamp will be our hosts for the following weekend. 

Beds cost £20 per night in both venues.

The Memorial Hut and Basecamp both have good kitchens for self-catering.

The annual dinner is a big communal evening meal on Saturday 1st February at a cost of £10pp. Not sure what we’ll go for but local venison steaks, genuine French fondue and full roast dinners have been the norm. Please join us and let your hair down!

Booking

If you’re interested in joining us just e-mail mike@skyeguides.co.uk to reserve beds. We’ll send you a booking form to complete with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing. 

Bed reservations will need to be paid for but, if you are unsure if you can make it, we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking.

Costs

Attending the festival is free. Accommodation costs £20 per night for a bed and Saturday evening meal will cost £10.

Evenings

This is very much a climbing event and the traditional banter associated with it. Wonderful characters and craic are the norm and over the years we’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips and watched videos. Guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps. 

The Annual Festival dinner is cooked communally.

 

 Social media

Please keep up to date through the Skye Winter Festival facebook page and retweet news using this shortened URL#skyewinterfest. Add your own photos to the facebook page and make sure that privacy settings allow everyone to see them please.

FAQ

Got your own campervan– You’re still welcome to join us for climbing & socially.

Last minute climber– We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about bed space.

Unsure? Don’t worry if you don’t know the Cuillin- many of the Winter Festival regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering route advice and information on the ground but, on the whole, it’s a non-working meet for us and we’re here to play like everyone else.

A list of attendees is circulated before the meet with details of their experience & depth of Cuillin knowledge. Through the meet walking and climbing teams slot into place after making acquaintances.

Don’t be intimidated- if your ambitions are modest there will be somebody similar who knows any time on Skye is quality and happy to just rock back and enjoy!

Travel– Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts- there’s a part of the part of the booking form to help put you together with others offering/needing lifts

 

Winter Traverse conditions back again! 23 January 2019

24/01/19

Heads up to all Traverse aspirants that the Cuillin Ridge is in full winter condition and that progress is comparatively fast.

Blips of freeze thaw have left great cover and good consolidation. This improved by the day since the first snows arrived just last Thursday (17th) and walking out yesterday was a delight.

We approached by An Dorus and were glad of a trail but consistency was amiable and really we could have punched our own trail with just a bit more effort. The crest is glazed as well as snow cover so no squealing crampons. Summer bypass lines are holding more depth so harder work in ascent but quite forgiving in descent so choosing the best line is a good challenge. 

Forecast is currently for a fair amount more snow to fall on Saturday, a bit better for Sunday onwards with more possible until Wednesday evening when winds are due to turn to the drier northerlies.

Climbing conditions are already good with plenty of ice forming and not needing that much more. Avoiding routes that are just blanketed will be the hard part but plenty of rewards to be had. The shot below is of White Wedding looking too thin for screws just yet.

Skye Winter Festival 2019

19/11/18

 

 

February 17th to 25th 2019

An open invitation to climbers, walkers and any others with an interest in the Skye mountains in winter.

It’s that time again for climbers to meet up, climb together and enjoy the post-match analysis. The Cuillin truly take on their Alpine status in winter and offer climbing and scenery like nowhere else in Britain. There is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had!!

2019- Its time for a return to the Glen!

5 days of stepping straight out of the door and into a Cuillin winter wonderland. This was how the festival started back in 2012! The Glen Brittle Memorial Hut is situated at the foot of the southern Cuillin with easy access to Coir’ a Ghreadaidh, Coir’ a’ Banachdaich, Coire Lagan and Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda.

After 5 nights in the Glen the festival moves to the big smoke and 3 nights with our fine friends and the Waterfront bunkhouse at the Old Inn, Carbost.

Background information.

Over the past 8 years  The Skye Winter Festival that has seen high levels of activity including over 60 new winter routes. Over the years only 15 days out of 80 have seen no activity so come keen and you’ll get rewards.

The Skye Cuillin an Alpine-style range offering mountaineering and climbing of the highest calibre that attracts real mountaineers but there is also a huge attraction for those who just enjoy being in amongst mountain scenery of such grandeur.

The festival is open to anyone between these 2 extremes and our only rule is that nobody gets left out! Come alone or with a climbing partner.

Guests come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb is embraced wholeheartedly (interpret as you like); just choose a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures.

 

 

The Climbing

Over the past 8 years we’ve well and truly blown the myth of the Cuillin being a poor option for winter climbing right out of the water. In 2018 Skye was the place to be with Traverses happening for over 8 weeks and multiple new routes. There is a whole mountain range of possibilities from hard-core mixed to truly alpine mountaineering.

 

 

It’s not all high-brow climbing with many parties enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. There’s Neist or Elgol for rock climbing and we’ve got some dry tooling crags developed. Even skiing and boarding have been growing in popularity over the past few seasons.

What’s to do?

If you’re unfamiliar with what Skye has to offer check out any winter blog posts or an article on “The New Cuillin” for plenty of ideas.

Accommodation and Food

The meet will start in the newly refurbished Glen Brittle Memorial Hut right at the foot of the Cuillin.

 Waterfront Bunkhouse at the Old Inn  will be our hosts for the following weekend. 

Beds cost £20 per night in both venues.

The Memorial Hut and Waterfront both have good kitchens for self-catering and pub meals are available next door in the Old Inn throughout the 2nd weekend.

The annual dinner is a big communal evening meal on Saturday 23rd at a cost of £10pp. Not sure what we’ll go for but local venison steaks, genuine French fondue and full roast dinners have been the norm. Please join us and let your hair down!

Booking

If you’re interested in joining us just e-mail mike@skyeguides.co.uk to reserve beds. We’ll send you a booking form to complete with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing. 

Bed reservations will need to be paid for but, if you are unsure if you can make it, we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking.

Costs

Attending the festival is free. Accommodation costs £20 per night for a bed and Saturday evening meal will cost £10.

Evenings

This is very much a climbing event and the traditional banter associated with it. Wonderful characters and craic are the norm and over the years we’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips and watched videos. Guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps. 

The Annual Festival dinner is cooked communally.

 

 Social media

Please keep up to date through the Skye Winter Festival facebook page and retweet news using this shortened URL#skyewinterfest. Add your own photos to the facebook page and make sure that privacy settings allow everyone to see them please.

FAQ

Got your own campervan– You’re still welcome to join us for climbing & socially.

Last minute climber– We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about bed space.

Unsure? Don’t worry if you don’t know the Cuillin- many of the Winter Festival regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering route advice and information on the ground but, on the whole, it’s a non-working meet for us and we’re here to play like everyone else.

A list of attendees is circulated before the meet with details of their experience & depth of Cuillin knowledge. Through the meet walking and climbing teams slot into place after making acquaintances.

Don’t be intimidated- if your ambitions are modest there will be somebody similar who knows any time on Skye is quality and happy to just rock back and enjoy!

Travel– Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts- there’s a part of the part of the booking form to help put you together with others offering/needing lifts

 

Stellar spell of snow conditions. January 29 & 30th

30/01/17

The snow this week came thick and fast and with no strong winds behind it, resulting in a beautiful uniform layer.

Smiler

Yesterday this provided a wonderful cushion with no real need for crampons as we headed up the classic NW Ridge of Bruach na Frithe.

NW Ridge

Very different from this time last year where sheets of hard snow gave very serious conditions.

Handstand

Mara’s summit handstand was photobombed by Helen from Cioch Direct and we all enjoyed teasing glimses of the Ridge to the south as clouds rolled in and out.

S Ridge BnnF

Surprisingly a line of fresh prints led off ahead of us as we descended the South Ridge, others enjoying the superb conditions.

Blue Skies

A rope kept us safe on the few steeper steps before a descent from Tairnilear and out past the Fairy Pools with some obligatory litter picking.


With such superb conditions and an even better forecast it was time to up the fun levels for today and Clach Glas seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Gilchrist dawn

Phil joined me on the guiding today as Clair and Trevor started their Ridges and Routes course based at Skye Basecamp.

Crampon up

Far colder overnight had cemented the snow even better to the rocks. This meant crampons were compulsory but the combo gave incredibly positive footings.

CG start1CG start2

My guess is that anyone on the Ridge today will have made superb progress.

Window

The most technical section onto the Final Tower and descending the Imposter were pretty full-on, definitely grade IV climbing and a long abseil to get off the summit.

Phil Mara Imposter

The bitter wind hit us on this side and a free facial scrub was dished out every time someone moved much in front of you!

Clair

All in all a very full-on day in some of the best conditions I’ve ever had on Clach Glas.

Ridge 30Jan

Skye Winter Courses- places available

12/12/16

 

2017 Winter courses based at Skye Basecamp are filling well but we’ve still got space available.

 

 

  • Single place available for climber on a Ridges and Routes course.

  • 28 January to 2 February

An advanced course suitable for guests with previous winter mountaineering experience and some knowledge of rope-work.

For those with ambitions to climb graded winter routes.

P1040283

The itinerary will be adjusted to suit experience with examples on these web pages- winter-climbing and winter climbing skills

  • 1:2 Ratio.
  • 4 days guiding
  • Up to 6 nights accommodation at Skye Basecamp
  • Just £645pp

Dates don’t quite match or you have less time available? Contact us by email or call Mike on 07769221500


  • 21-24 February.

A brilliant way to start exploring the Cuillin in winter. Suitable for guests used to full days of summer hill walking. There are some sample routes and itineraries here.

P1050869

  • Learn to safely tackle Cuillin peaks and ridges
  • Introduction to ice axe, crampons and many other winter skills
  • 1:4 Max Ratio
  • 3-days of guiding
  • 4 nights accommodation at Skye Basecamp
  • Only £395pp

Dates don’t quite match or you have less time available? Contact us by email or call Mike on 07769221500

Skye Winter Climbing Festival 2017. New format- #skyewinterfest on tour!!

28/11/16

 

Week 1- Skye Basecamp Climbers’ Hostel, Broadford. January 12th to 15th

Week 2- Waterfront Bunkhouse, Old Inn Carbost. January 16th to 23rd 2017

Bonus facility- Access and beds in the newly refurbished Glen Brittle Memorial Hut throughout.

An open invitation to climbers, walkers and any others with an interest in the Skye mountains in winter.

It’s that time again. 2 weeks for climbers to meet up, climb together and enjoy the post-match analysis. The Cuillin truly take on their Alpine status in winter and offer climbing and scenery like nowhere else in Britain. We’re not expecting anyone to come for the whole fortnight but there is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had.

Angus, Ally, James, Spence & Brutus from the Old Inn

Booking

If you’re interested in joining us just e-mail mike@skyeguides.co.uk. We’ll send you a booking form to complete with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing.

Bed reservations will need to be paid for but, if you are unsure if you can make it, we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking.

Background information.

For the past 6 years staff and close friends of Skye Guides have held an informal winter meet that has seen high levels of activity including over 50 new winter routes. Over the years only 12 days out of 50 have seen no activity so come keen and you’ll get rewards.

Guests have come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb is embraced wholeheartedly (interpret as you like); just choose a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures.

The Climbing

Over the past 6 years we’ve well untruly blown the myth of the Cuillin being a poor option for winter climbing right out of the water. In 2016 Skye was THE place to be with Traverses happening for over 4 weeks and legendary ice routes seeing their first repeats in 30 years! There is a whole mountain range of possibilities from hard-core mixed to truly alpine mountaineering.

Takin it all in

It’s not all high-brow climbing with many parties enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. There’s Neist or Elgol for rock climbing and we’ve got some dry tooling crags developed. Even skiing and boarding have been growing in popularity over the past few seasons.

Last year’s festival had a superb first week with plenty of action. Week 2 turned tropical but those who hung around still got out for some quality adventures.

What’s to do?

If you’re unfamiliar with what Skye has to offer check out any winter blog posts or an article on “The New Cuillin” for plenty of ideas.

Accommodation and Food

On Tour!

This year we are splitting the festival between the new climbers hostel, Skye Basecamp in week 1 and then moving to the Waterfront Bunkhouse at the Old Inn for week 2. Beds and and facilities will also be available in the newly refurbished Glen Brittle Memorial Hut right at the foot of the Cuillin.

Beds cost £15 per night in any of the 3 venues.

Catering 2017-

kitchen3Self-catering in the well-equipped kitchen or eat in a variety of pubs in Broadford or next door in the Old Inn during week 2. There will be 2 big communal evening meals on the Saturday of each weekend at a cost of £10pp. Not sure what we’ll go for but local venison steaks, genuine french fondue and full roast dinners have been the norm. Please join us for these meals and let your hair down!

Costs

Attending the festival is free. Accommodation costs £15 per night for a bed and Saturday evening meals will cost £10.

Evenings

This is very much a climbing event not a film festival but, over the years we’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips and watched videos. Guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps.

The Old Inn probably the best pub in Carbost

 Social media

Please keep up to date through the Skye Winter Festival facebook page and retweet news using this shortened URL#skyewinterfest. Add your own photos to the facebok page and make sure that privacy settings allow everyone to see them please.

FAQ

Got your own campervan– You’re still welcome to join us for climbing & socially.

Last minute climber– We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about bed space.

Unsure?– The addition of weekend skills symposiums will offer a cheap way to have professional advice and leadership. Don’t worry if you don’t know th Cuillin- many of the Winter Festival regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering route advice and information on the ground but, on the whole, it’s a non-working meet for us and we’re here to play like everyone else. A list of attendees is circulated before the meet with details of their experience & depth of Cuillin knowledge. Through the meet walking and climbing teams slot into place after making acquaintances.

Guiding– Although officially this is a playtime for the guides  private guiding will be available on request.

Travel– Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts.

Good early start to Cuillin Winter. 17th Nov 2016

21/11/16

Conditions went from “ridiculous to the sublime” in just 3 days this week. On Monday Juan and Miguel from Mallorca had some type 2 fun across the knife edge of Ghreadaidh in a tropical rainstorm and certainly the wettest day of the year that I’ve had. No photos that day!

On Thursday, by contrast, Jo and Dan were able to take their time admiring and photographing immense scenery throughout our sortie up and across Bla Bheinn in deep snow. A selection of shots is enough to tell the tale of a wonderful start to winter-

20161117_09395920161117_09525620161117_10214220161117_11392120161117_12215620161117_12573320161117_13003920161117_12583420161117_13373620161117_13375120161117_134602

There is a weather god.

02/04/16

John and I spent a large part of Wednesday with incredibly heavy snow falling out of dark black clouds but the weather gods smiled on us in great big stylee 🙂

Despite John’s undoubted fitness and ability my ambition to tackle the In Pinn was optimistic before we started. However, it was clear and dry as we left the glen and stayed that way for the first hour where we reached the 2000ft mark.

P1000717

The magnificent view into Coire Lagan was soon obscured as mushroom-sized snowflakes fell vertically out of the windless skies.

P1000721

 

The density of cloud and intensity of snow would have got many folk down but Johnny is a man who loves the mountains whatever they chuck at him. The carpet underfoot fairly rapidly became knee-deep but every foothold formed as a solid level tread. At the final narrowing it was time to don harness, helmet and crampons and the magic of the day really began to a crescendo. Words aren’t really enough so here’s a sequence that hopefully gives a flavour of it…….

P1000724 P1000727 P1000729

Just a few steps and the cameras just had to come out again……..

P1000736 P1000734 P1000733

And things just got better as we moved in on the Pinn itself….

P1000743 P1000747 P1000745

 

I have to admit to being both shocked and very pleasantly surprised at just how bare the route looked- compare it to the pictures of Gillean yesterday! Keeping crampons on seemed prudent but gloves were completely uneccesary with warm dry rock more positive than 90% of summer ascents I’ve done!

P1000748 P1000754

I finally found John’s nemesis with the abseil requiring him to trust a bit of science and let the rope slip through his fingers- you can just see the tension building across his face here perched above a 60ft vertical drop; sorry John couldn’t let your mates think you were that cool 😉

P1000755

The moment we reached our rucksacks again the clouds rolled in and heavy snow started falling all around us. It didn’t give up until we had crossed all the way over to Sgurr na Banachdaich and right down to 1500ft in Coir an Eich. 12928192_1669770583288975_2678343027123775390_n With perfect timing once more, instead of getting a soaking below the freezing level, the clouds cleared to warm sunshine

P1000757 (2)

and a perfect view of our whole routeP1000761

And just to top it all off eagle eyed John even spotted an eagle soaring high between the peaks of Coire Lagan; thanks to the mega-zoom on the Panasonic Lumix we can identify it as a wandering sea eagle. Another boring day in the office for me obviously 😉

P1000762 (2)

Winter is back! 30th March

29/03/16

Winter is back with a thick covering on all faces above 500m.

P1000698

Had a great fun family day on Bla Bheinn yester day with the Jackson 5 yesterday including a great snowman built by Hugo & Annabel on the summit. Another highlight was watching a golden eagle soaring amongst the cliffs as we walked in.Goldie Blaven 20160328

Today John and I enjoyed an enormous adventure on Am Basteir and Gillean with hard graft and plenty of challenge.

P1000701 P1000708 P1000711 P1000715 P1000713

One more wafer thin ice climb sir? 10th March

12/03/16

 

Winter climbing conditions this past month have been truly stunning on Skye, undoubtedly the best I’ve known in 23 winters. The elusive Winter Ridge Traverse has been in condition and completed for 4 weekends on the trot with debates over records making headlines in the climbing news. Mythical ice routes have been climbed for the first time since Mick Fowler’s ascents 30 years ago (1986 was a legendary winter climbing season across the UK), many quality new routes have been added and modern mixed test-pieces such as Hung Drawn and Quartered have been repeated.

P1040644

Most significantly though, dozens and dozens of folk have visited for the first time and discovered just how glorious the Cuillin are under a blanket of white. Sure the hardcore have grabbed the headlines but it’s those with more modest ambitions that have discovered that there is something here for everyone. It has been a pleasure meeting and hearing from so many folk who have finally “seen the light”.

IMG_1403 (2)

On Wednesday evening I met Adam & Sofia at Sligachan, climbers looking for their first Scottish winter experience. Working in Patagonia and Alaska normally they had opted against the crowds on  Ben Nevis, Adam’s grandad had always told him Skye was a climber’s Mecca. I agreed and pointed them towards the ice-clad amphitheatre on Mhadaidh for a look. A helpful assistant in Ellis Brighams had disuaded them from buying extra screws for the Cuillin but luckily I had a few spare in the back of car I wasn’t planning to use til Friday.

When I got home and saw Friday was forecast to see a major thaw all sensible ideas an office day on Thursday went out of the window and I asked my new friends if I could come & play with them; not only might this be the end of the Cuillin ice this season, I may not see it like this again for the next 30  years!

A stunning dawn greeted us, windless and crisp only base layers were needed for the short approach.

P1000226

We were spoilt for choice, big new lines were tempting, a rematch with Icicle Factory too but we opted to try Spirulina, a new grade V put up by Uisdean and Lea last week.

DCIM999GOPROBoys look in awe as Sofia sets the go-pro

P1000230

Adam led the first pitch very well, especially as he admitted it was his first ice for a couple of years. Sofia & I both got a good pump just following him up, typically, the deceptively steep ice.

P1000236

IMG_4259

IMG_4256

P1000243

It had started to get noisy all around us as temperatures rose and snow sleuffed off from high above but the mixed moves above looked easy enough and would lead us to the mega looking higher pitches of Spectacula, irresistable!

IMG_4276 IMG_4279

Irresistable that was until I got hit by the first big sleuff. Our planned descent was back down the route and into the amphitheatre; not a good place to be. I faffed back & forth with the up/down dilemma but reasoned that there was bound to be a good anchor above to abseil off after just “one more slice of icy indulgence”. Perfect climbing but not at all enjoyable as the volume of snow and noise increased and I wished I’d just backed off easily.

P1000247

Crap rock meant I had to dive into the channel for good ice anchors. Should I bring the others into this spot too or just make the decision myself? Logic is a hard thing to retain under these circumstances but I knew now there were no big ice pillars above us to fall off so it was unlikely that anything more than wet snow would come down. Belaying them up was still a tense affair but the shared easy decision to abseil back off and their happy banter allowed me to mentally relax just a wee bit.

P1000248

We ducked (and prayed a wee bit) whenever stuff came down while Adam expertly built Abalakov anchors and Sofia and I sorted the ropes.

IMG_4282

We knew it would be close but there was great relief as Adam whooped and had obviously reached the bottom in one go, rather than needing to re-anchor for another abseil.

P1000256

At the base there was urgency as everything was rammed into sacks and we ran away from the hail of somewhat harder bullets. Only after exiting the Amphitheatre did we finally relax and start the process of really enjoying what a great experience Spirulina had been.

P1000258