Many of these answers are written with Cuillin outings in mind but can similarly be applied to rock climbing outings. Answers more specific to winter are lower on the page. Even more detail is given about the Black Cuillin, Munros, Inaccessible Pinnacle and Ridge Traverse on the information pages. Details of what to expect if you book with us are given on the Why Choose Skye Guides page.
Q. Do I need a guide?
A. Employing the services of a mountain guide is a luxury and certainly not necessary for everyone wanting to explore the Cuillin. We encourage experienced hill-walkers and climbers to explore and tackle as much as they can on their own and advice on this is always freely available. There are, however, great benefits from using a guide. These include maximising your achievements during a visit, learning new skills, getting a greater insight into Skye and the Cuillin and, we like to think, some good company on your day out!
Q. Why should I book with Skye Guides?
A. Skye Guides is a small company providing guiding similar to that on offer through the many guiding bureaux in the Alps. We only offer private guiding and you will not be mixed with strangers. We guide a broad spectrum of clients with diverse objectives. On any given day we can be guiding Cuillin Munros, introducing clients to rock climbing at Neist and Traversing the Cuillin Ridge. We are proud of our island, our mountains, the fantastic routes on offer and of the quality of guiding that we provide.
Q. Why do Skye Guides specialise in low ratio guiding?
Our experience is that large groups in the Cuillin are restricted in what they achieve. Our niche in the guiding market is to provide high quality guiding for individuals or small private groups in order that everyone achieves the maximum they can; the fast and confident client is not held back, the more nervous client doesn’t feel rushed. Smaller parties can also tackle more serious objectives with a greater chance of success and higher degree of safety.
Q. What happens if the weather is bad on the day of my booking?
A. Conditions in the Scottish mountains change rapidly and all clients should be prepared to go out in wet and windy weather. If the objective peak or climb is not possible an alternative activity will be offered in all but the worst of conditions. In many cases this activity will be one of the less serious peaks on the Cuillin Ridge; the Inaccessible Pinnacle throws up this scenario most often.
There are days when any outing in the mountains is ill-advised and our most common alternative is to do some climbing related activity at one of the many coastal cliffs. Familiarisation with the tools and techniques is always of benefit in the Black Cuillin, as well as being great fun.
If a day has to be cancelled we make every effort to provide an outing on a subsequent day if a guide is available. On the rare occasions that we do have to cancel a fee of £100 is still paid to the guide with the balance kept by Skye Guides as a deposit towards a rescheduled booking.
Q. Is it possible to postpone?
A. At busy times of the year such as May and June postponement for bad weather is often impossible to offer as the guides are working very busy schedules. A suitable alternative activity will be offered as described above. At quieter times of the year postponement to a better day can be possible but is subject to availability and at the discretion of Skye Guides. If you need to postpone a whole trip due to other circumstances, and are making a claim on your travel insurance, we will provide a receipt and other documentation required.
Q. I am particularly nervous about scrambling but really want to achieve my objective. Will Skye Guides help me?
Yes. We are used to dealing with clients aware that they will struggle in the Cuillin physically or mentally. We are quite happy to guide patiently with very close supervision in these circumstances but require clients to be open and up front with us so that dangerous situations are avoided.
Q. A group of us have mixed abilities; what do you recommend?
A. As a company of guides we can provide an extra guide that allows the party to have a similar agenda. At some point through the day one guide will take the more confident clients on a more ambitious route while the other will take an easier route.
Q. Can I join a group?
A. Joining a pre-booked group is not often available at the last minute; these clients have almost always paid for private guiding well in advance. We usually do, however, have guides available for last minute private guiding.
Q. What training should I do?
A. Any improvement in your fitness will always benefit you on the hill but don’t damage yourself preparing!
Cuillin specific training for a fit person would be all about balance; core muscles are used more in the Cuillin as they keep the body upright on uneven terrain. Just as important is training the brain to trust feedback from the feet. Moving across a boulder-strewn beach, balancing along kerb stones or even a kiddies adventure playgrounds make good places to practice. Too easy? See what affect a big pack and wet conditions make to your confidence.
Learning & practicing climbing can be of benefit; trusting the rope, knowing the odd knot and practicing abseiling will all increase your confidence on the most technical sections but is less important than the balance. Our guides are used to dealing with complete beginners and giving training in the basic skills required.
Do I need any special equipment?
No. Skye Guides provides any technical equipment needed. Clients just need normal hill-walking clothing & basics. See the Equipment page for a kit list. There just are two items that could be considered as unusual by some people-
- Carry cheap gloves to protect the skin on your fingers from the very rough rocks.
- Your day sack should be large enough to slip a helmet under the lid.
ABOUT THE DAY OUT
Q. What does the guide do?
A. We approach each outing much as we would if just climbing for our own enjoyment. This includes suggesting the best objective for the day after consideration for party members and weather conditions. On the hill we choose the best route, adapt the pace to suit the party, suggest when to have breaks and when to use ropes etc. We teach basic skills needed to enjoy the day such as good footwork. Our guides all have a good knowledge of many subjects related to mountaineering including geology and natural history. The guides all hold current first aid certificates, carry emergency equipment such as shelters and have client safety at the fore of every decision through the day.
Q. How many peaks can I climb?
A. Each person and every day is different and we never promise anything apart from an emphasis on safety and enjoyment. The lower the guiding ratio is the higher your chances of achieving the maximum out of the day will be.
Q. Why do I need to carry a harness & helmet?
A. As with any potentially dangerous pastime it is part of our professional duty to recommend that clients properly protect themselves from injury, particularly to the head. The harness allows the guide to quickly and efficiently secure a client who is either nervous or in an exposed position. Full training and supervision will be given.
Q. Can I take my walking poles?
A. Yes; for the majority of Cuillin objectives having walking poles strapped to the rucsac is no particular problem.
Q. Can I take my camera equipment?
A. We have no objection to clients taking photography equipment if they have booked private guiding. We do advise only taking small cameras as the weight can seriously affect the climbing and balance. A common scenario is for the guide to take photos of the clients to allow them to concentrate on the scrambling.
Q. Can I tick off the Cuillin Munros while completing a Traverse?
A. Munro bagging is not an objective directly compatible with the Cuillin Ridge Traverse. Many, and often all, of the 12 Munros are climbed in a successful week and they form the basis of objectives on unsuccessful weeks. However, the Traverse should be viewed as a completely independent challenge specifically to traverse the spine of the Main Ridge.
Q. The Cuillin have a fierce reputation in summer. Surely winter must make them too hard for me?
A. Snow covers up much of the loose rock that forms a major problem in summer with boulder fields and pebble covered slabs. Snow gives far better confidence for everyone in their foot placements. An introduction to the correct use of ropes in this terrain further increases security and confidence. Overall the only factor affected is the extra degree of physical work which is normal for any winter mountaineering.
Q. I haven’t heard much about winter climbing on Skye. Why should I come?
A. Swinging 2 axes into thick ice has been the definition of “good” winter climbing in Scotland since the decline of step-cutting in 1970. Mixed climbing has become far more popular in the past decade and is now accepted as providing fantastic climbing challenges with less reliance on prolonged high pressure and a chance to make use of brief cold snaps. Skye has dramatic weather by even Scottish standards and the Cuillin catches most of it. Conditions in the past three seasons have regularly been comparable with any other venue in Scotland. Our local expertise is in understanding what routes are likely to be in condition coupled with navigation to and from the climbs in all weather.
Q What happens if there is no snow?
A. This has not been a problem in recent seasons but is a very justifiable question.
It takes very little snow to make the Cuillin wintery but the beauty of the Cuillin is that they offer the adventurous climber a large selection of routes that are thoroughly challenging even without a single snowflake. Where Ledge Route on Ben Nevis or Fiacaill Ridge on Cairngorm are amongst the few well known alternatives on the Scottish mainland the Cuillin has hundreds of possibilities. Classic routes such as Pinnacle Ridge, Clach Glas and the Cioch, or long sections of the Main Cuillin Ridge are all high quality alternatives. A practical change of emphasis is put on skills taught. The theme is very much about getting out and enjoying these wonderful mountains whatever the weather. We also travel off the island at times: The mainland mountains in Glen Shiel take only 30 minutes to reach from the Skye Bridge. They can often hold snow in greater quantities and for longer and offer a great alternative venue.
Q. When is the best time to come?
A. The crystal ball question! The quality of light and colour in Autumn is outstanding. Heavy snow has been known in mid-October but more reliably from mid-November onwards. The best period tends to be between late December and mid-March with temperatures rising too high much beyond. Early Spring can produce superb conditions on the Ridge with dry rock on the crest linked by old snow patches for a real Alpine outing.