Patrick and I set off at 7am to beat the forecast rain today. Our early start was rewarded with dry rock all the way to the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean. A small amount of snow preceded the rain and by the time we left the top of Am Basteir it was raining heavily. We also stopped on the way back to find a geo-cache; I felt quite triumphant when I found the canister! (Geo-caching is a form of treasure hunting where people hide markers and then put the long/lat coordinates on the Internet for others to find the marker). On a slightly different note the weather has been pretty dire for the last two and a half weeks now but it has been possible to get out in the hills almost every day. Some flexibility is necessary, heading for lower or shorter options such as Sgurr nan Fheadain or Clach Glas or heading out earlier or later to take advantage of the better weather windows. There are some glimmers of hope late next week as it looks like an area of high pressure may move in-fingers crossed!
Patrick climbing the lovely basalt chimney on the 1st Pinnacle
The red granite of Ruadh Stac standing out against the black gabbro of Bla Bheinn and Clach Glas
Approaching the 3rd Pinnacle
High up on Gillean.
I took a few photos of Scott and Catherine on Gillean yesterday. The north end was a great place to be yesterday as the bulk of the Cuillin gave all of us a relatively sheltered and dry day out (compared to the last few days)! It was quite bizarre to be looking at all the white horses in Loch Scavaig and Loch Sligachan and to be totally sheltered on the crest of the main ridge.
Descending from the summit
Climbing towards the window high up on the west ridge of Gillean
Am Basteir and Caisteal Fionn Coire in the background
The weather today was wild (beautiful in comparison to yesterday!), however we had the odd glimpse of sunshine and some fine views at times from the Northern end of the ridge. Myself and Katherine Mcquitty went up Sgurr nan Gillean via the “tourist route” before descending the west ridge and onto Am Basteir. The wet rock and strong winds made the whole experience slightly more challengeing but enjoyable none the less. Katherine now has only 4 munros left to do – all in the Cullin! Matt and Ian were close behind us and they continued onto Bruach na Frithe.
Further along the ridge Mike was on Mhadaidh and Ghreadaidh with Redge, Rich and Neil While Gillian and Anne had a great day out on the Spur, Sgur an Fheadain.
(Photo 1: Katherine Mcquitty on the summit of Sgur nan Gillean)
(Photo 2: Loch Coruisk from Ghreadaidh)
We went for a go at the pinn but, like everyone else, were taken by surprise by the quantity of snow. Beautiful it was but climbing the pinn was opted against; this made Raymond happy but not our Marco.
Fanastic views back to Banachdich
Some happier than others!
Gillian was out with Robbie again and had to tackle the slabs of Am Basteir in a series of small pitches.
Contemplating the final section of Am Basteir from the top of the Bad Step
Gill makes precarious moves near the summit.
Very different from the simple wander that many of us had done the day before! Compare yesterdays shots of Pinnacle Ridge with todays-
Heavy overnight precipitation and a fast moving thunderstorm this morning suddenly transformed the Cuillin back to winter and caught every team by surprise today. With up to 6 inches of snow any steeper sections would have warranted crampons so there was much rapid changing of plans. Matt had an exciting time around Coire Lagan and An Stac with Alan, Nigel and Cole today with several activities including walking, scrambling, winter climbing, glissading and finishing with rock climbing in the sunshine.
Winter returns- Cole on the An Stac bypass
Strong westerly winds are deflected by the mighty bulk of Sgurr nan Gillean and, along with solid rough gabbro, make Pinnacle Ridge a good option for days like today. Marco & Raymond had a fine introduction to Cuillin scrambling and positively revelled in it. We’re now looking for a weather window to get a Traverse done.
Francis and Scott guided their parties across all 3 Northern Munros and Gillian did a round of Coire a’ Ghreadaidh with regular Bill Bell.
“Mind your gloves don’t blow off in the wind!”
Raymond in clover on the 4th pinnacle with the Basteirs behind.
Don’t leave me up here please!!
Despite the dire weather forecasts it has been possible to get out on dry rock the last two days. I was on Sgurr nan Fheadain with Alan yesterday and we had good fun on the scramble. It was a case of listening for the roar of an approaching gust and then crouching down and clinging on for a few seconds. This had the advantage of drying out the rock instantly and we both enjoyed a memorable day!
Looking at Sgurr nan Fheadain and the obvious dog leg of Waterpipe Gully
Today I was out with Alan and Cole and we enjoyed a dry ascent of Pinnacle Ridge and finished with a quick dash up and down the East Ridge of Am Basteir. There was one heavy shower in the morning but the day was dry and the wind was quite gentle-ideal!
Hail showers obscuring Pinnacle Ridge
Abseiling off the 3rd Pinnacle
Descending the west ridge of Gillean
Gillian and Francis had similar agendas for their clients yesterday with the Pinn top priority. Good early starts avoided any greasy work on Mhicchoinnich and the worst weather didn’t arrive until the Pinn had been climbed.
“Yesterday Francis, James and Rebecca got cooking with a round of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, the Inaccessible Pinnacle and Sgurr na Banachdich; only one pic and though and they don’t look that happy they definately were!”
Gillian’s party had been out with me on Alasdair the day before helping Clive knock off one of his 5 remaining Munros. Despite the wettest weather I’ve ever witnessed in the Cuillin everyone stayed warm & felt suitably deserving of Red Cuillin beers as a reward!
16 May; Dennis Silverwood adopts a continental approach to the mountain rain problem!
On his fifth outing with Skye Guides Dave had faith with our ability to find dry rock despite the forecast as he left Aberdeen on Monday. An early start out to Neist let us do 4 routes before the predicted storms actually hit. Conductor Cove is so-called because the thick copper conductor from the lighthouse gives the scrambling approach to the foot of the climbs. Grades in the last guidebook have gained a certain notoriety and I’ve labelled the photos below with my opinions.
Lucky Strike, Severe, takes the crack left of the rope. Our direct start has a stiff 5a move to reach positive holds.
Dave leads Dulux Corner, Hard V. Diff. A good route and the easiest climb in the cove.
Dave on the steep finish of Natural Look, Severe which I think is the best route hereabouts if the lower wall is added as mentioned in the description.
Gannet Crack which, in my opinion, deserves upgrading to Hard Severe or even VS (for the short) because of the ferocity of the crux.
After a day in the rain yesterday I was out with Alan, Nigel and Cole again today. We were hoping for better things and were not disappointed. The Dubh ridge was dry, the main ridge was in view and the rain held off until we had finished scrambling for the day; brilliant! I could not praise the fun and quality of a Dubh Ridge day out enough-everyone who loves Skye mountaineering should try and do this ridge at least once. Immaculate rock, wilderness setting, slabs, knife edge crests, down climbing, route finding and great summits all combine to make this an unforgettable day out.
Approaching Coriusk by boat
Three wise men?
Acres of Gabbro
High above Loch Coriusk
The challenging conditions have continued so photographic opportunities on the tops are limited but I took a few shots of various spring flowers on the way down. The rain is not good from the climbing point of view but growing conditions are great!
Butterwort or midge killer!
Cotton Grass, looking a bit bedraggled
Gorse in Glen Brittle
Lichens in bloom
Despite the tops being clear frequently at the south end of the Ridge it was undeniably challenging today.
Coire Lagan when we arrived at the beach.
Sgurr Mhicchoinnich in the wet is always greasy and strong winds blowing up from Coire Lagan didn’t help. Collie’s Ledge was a particularly slow and scary section.
2 shots of Collie’s Ledge
After lunch we traversed Thearlaich which was sheltered initially but a real snow storm came in for 5 minutes as we descended to the Stone Shoot. I’ll try to put the video of us abseiling in this onto You-tube soon. Everything cleared again briefly as we topped out on Alasdair with beautiful light and fine views but it was time to head back for well deserved beers.
Rainbow over Thearlaich from Alasdair.
Grant, Bruce and I had the north end of the Cuillin virtually to ourselves as strong winds and low clouds were forecast. Instead we had clear tops and only 3 heavy showers through the whole day. Dry rock on Am Basteir makes things far less serious so we went for that first in case the rain arrived. The dash and snatch approach again proved unneccesary for Gillean after lunch. Heavy rain did arrive shortly after 4pm but will hopefully clear through before the morning.
Morning sun on the approach.
DEscending the Bad Step on Am Basteir
Descending the steep upper reaches of the West Ridge of Gillean
With the demise of yet more blocks in evidence today (helmet off the pinnacle above the Window in particular!) I felt the urge to finally climb an improbable block part way down the West Ridge. It wasn’t easy with a slithering basalt chimney approach and loose crest to descend but if a lightning bolt blows it to bits tomorrow I won’t regret missing it out; great adrenalin rush!
Had to be done.
They may refuse to sponsor me but I’m still happy to push Paramo waterproofs as the way to go in Scotland. Today happened to have a shop window effect- hence the blog title- but all the Skye Guides use the jackets and I use waterproof trousers in the same material made to measure by Cioch Direct here on the island. It’s durability as well as vastly superior breathability to most other materials makes it ideal.
Gill and Matt reported over the past 2 days that the weather looked far worse than it was and that was certainly the case today. Apart from 3 heavy showers that each lasted no more than 5 minutes we stayed dry although the rocks remained damp. We traversed the skyline of Coire a’ Ghreadaidh (grade 3) by the 3 Munros in about 7 hours.
Knife-edge work at the end of Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh.
Looking at the Three Teeth ahead
The Full Paramo Monty!
I had a magical days climbing with Ian at Neist Point today. We headed for the guaranteed(?!) suntrap of Conductor Cove at the foot of the light house. Along the path we stopped to watch a basking shark cruise around the bay and the amount of gannets, cormorants, and guillemots around all seemed to suggest that there are plenty of fish around. We had a superb time climbing the immaculate black rock and after our first route topped out to the slightly surreal sight of a wedding being conducted at the top of the crag! After a few more routes we moved back to the upper crag of the south sector where Ian lead Juniper Rib. After admiring two more basking sharks we decided to call it a day…just another working shift on the Isle of Skye!
There is a shark in there somewhere.
Brilliant wellies under the wedding dress!
Ian on Dulux Corner
Halfway on Lucky Strike
The final move on Lucky Strike
Ian rounding off the day by leading Juniper Rib
A bonus sunset photo!
Despite the poor forecasts clients have been out enjoying the Cuillin in weather far better than expected. Yesterday Gillean took Dicky Green up Mhadaidh & Ghreadaidh while Francis tackled the Spur on Sgurr an Fheadain with Fraser & Mark. Everyone enjoyed clear blue skies from shortly after lunch.
Today was equally windy but Francis and Vic found the back of Am Basteir dry & friendly and got views from the summit of Bruach na Frithe while Gill climbed the Tourist Route with Andy.
Beautiful views to the south from Bealach a’ Bhasteir today
Gillian and Francis made the most of the dry spells in the past couple of days and had fun at Kilt rock in the north of Skye where on Friday they climbed ‘A Haggis called Wanda’ and ‘Fancy Free’ on Elishadder Wall. Yesterday they we’re joined by Rich, climbing the classic ‘Grey Panther’ on Kilt rock itself and ‘Skyscraper’ on Elishadder wall. Umpteen more perfect-ish dolerite cracks to go at and all within 45 mins drive from Broadford, ideal!
Czech climber on Fancy Free, E2 5b (2007)
Uber-Kilt classic Grey Panther, E1 5b
Platinum Pink Sunset tonight, 8th May.
Mike’s report for Saturday 7th May.
The pattern of heavy overnight rain, slow clearing high cloud and an afternoon of hot sun was repeated again today and seems likely for tomorrow (Sunday) too.
Fraser, Mark & I tackled the Tourist Route up Gillean’s South-East Ridge We started this last half hour with cloud covering all the tops and finished in blazing sunshine with every top on the Ridge clear; Magnifique.
Holwing wind and cloud cover greeted us at the SE Ridge
We climbed it directly as opposed to the easier terraces that run up the south side. It’s a few years since I last enjoyed this crest but it was as fantastic as I remembered with a couple of steep chimneys, some narrow ridges and clean slabs all leading to the final narrowing.
Beautiful views out over Sgurr na h-Uamha to Elgol
Descending the West Ridge was finished on a high with Fraser’s first ever abseil.
After the bad dream that was a wet and windy ascent of the Pinn on Thursday normal service of dry rock & views returned after lunch again yesterday.
Ian used to climb 20+ years ago but is now a self-pronounced “all the gear; no idea”.
A 50th birthday present to himself to rediscover the skills went well and, after a brief revision (he had it all locked in there really) he led a great 1st pitch up Slab Corner to the Cioch.
Taking in the views, Pinn in the background.
After a wet ascent of Sgurr nan Gillean and Bruach na Frithe yesterday I was out on the middle section of the ridge with John and Teresa again. We spent most of our day enjoying the atmosphere of the cloud enshrouded ridge until it cleared in the late afternoon. John and Teresa have both developed a lot of confidence in their scrambling ability over the last few days. It was a pleasure to see John in the lead finding the best line on the descents from both tops and Teresa has made great progress in using her feet in a very positive manner even on the steeper ground. Another fine effort!
High stepping action
A Cheval….another reassuring Cuillin technique!
Lakes based climbers Andy & Nikki Wild treated themselves to a feast of gabbro classics with me on Wednesday. It’s a hard job sometimes…
Andy enjoying the position on the crux Traverse on Cioch West
and Nikki enjoying the finishing jug.
The sweeping Cioch Slab with ropes running down Arrow Route
Good coloured rope use for a party on Integrity.
Nikki ecstatic topping out on Integrity
Picking out the lines and features we had followed
I have spent the last three days with John and Teresa having great fun on the ridge. John had briefly sampled the ridge over 30 years ago and this was Teresa’s first experience of Cuillin Rock. We took advantage of the great weather on Tuesday and Wednesday by heading out to Coire Ghrunnda with bivvy kit. Tuesday was an introduction to Skye scrambling and then on Wednesday morning we enjoyed the classic mountaineering of Coire Lagan, finishing with an In Pinn ascent. Teresa and John both coped with all the demands of Cuillin mountaineering in a fine style and threw themselves into every challenge of our mini adventure with complete enthusiasm. The sunshine, perfect rock and Johns intense interest in every aspect of the mountains made this an outstanding trip.
Looking south from Sgurr nan Eag
Teresa discovering the delights of Gabbro
Learning to trust your feet above big drops-an essential Cuillin skill.
Peeking into Coire Lagan near the top of Sgurr Alasdair
Descending the roof of Sgurr Thearlich
Helicopter pilot wishing that he was lucky enough to be on the ridge!
I’d arranged to meet with Matt and Francis after my work. The guys had already warmed up on Stormy Petrol (VS 5a) but sadly Matt had to leave to pack for a Ridge Traverse. Those who followed this blog in early winter will have realised Francis Blunt likes a good work out. He is here to work the spring season now and I persuaded him that Kilt Rock isn’t the only place with steep cracks just so that I could play in the Cuillin after my work. I’d heard Overhanging Crack on the underside of the Cioch was fierce at E2 5c and so it proved. Despite overhanging from the start watching Francis inspired me with confidence as the holds apeared juggy and his feet seemed to have plenty to stand on.
Straight into the arm-work
Then he mentioned a word I thought Francis hadn’t heard of- pumped. Annoyed with himself he had to take a rest before the final pull into a pod where the angle eased.
Francis contemplates the crux.
All too soon it was my turn and the jugs suddenly shrank and footholds disappeared. There was a real temptation to hang on the ropes very early on but, apart from it being cheating completely, experience has taught me that getting back onto overhanging rock is very hard work. Luckily the protection all came out without a fight until I was in the welcome pod. Here I did find an excuse to be held on the ropes and take a rest- remains of an ancient wooden wedge from an old aid ascent justified a photo.
Lichen covered remains of the wooden wedge from an aid ascent; the first free ascent wasn’t made until 1978 by Murray Hamilton.
We abseiled back down Cioch Corner, realised it was still only 5pm and the perfect corner lines of Spartan Groove and Trojan Groove on the walls opposite sealed the decision to do another route. Ignoring the obvious Blunt-style thuggery that was going to be needed at the top I asked if I could lead.
Starting Spartan Groove, E1, 5b
A bold start led to 25m of beautiful crack climbing to reach the huge roof blocking the finish.
I didn’t remember that the original finish went out right from here and went full throttle into the strenuous series of underclings. Impatiently I lurched at the final hold and woop… I was off.
Dangling after getting the sequence wrong.
Lesson learnt I got the sequence right second time and a combination of annoyance and ropedrag did take the edge off completing a fantastic route for a few minutes but was soon forgotten.
Spilling blood and fighting rediculous ropedrag above the crux
We walked out in a beautiful hebridean sunset with plenty respect for the Cuillin cracks. 3 quality routes for Francis and I’d had 14 hours of Cuillin heaven.
Sheila Finlayson from Thurso asked for a classic scrambling route onto Alasdair and certainly got good value as we tackled the SW Ridge of Alasdair by the legendary Mauvais Pas or Bad Step. It is a very awkwad & scary off balance manouvre involving a one finger hold that has to be used by both hands. It took me 4 goes to get the balance and sequence right.
The camera isn’t fast enough to catch going from this one-finger hold….
As quite an experienced climber Sheila watched carefully & I could hear her rehearsing the moves but she remained pretty confident that the guide was just making a meal of it. From my solid belay immediately above there was undeniable entertainment as the degree of swing became apparent to Sheila all too quickly and the commentry and facial expressions hit comedy level. Luckily Sheila saw the funny side too.
Sheila recovers from the rude awakening.
The reward is one of the most precarious but fantastically positioned ridges in the Cuillin with huge sweeeping drops to Coire Lagan on one side and Coire a’ Ghrunnda on the other, leading directly to the highest point on the island.
Tilted because I was hanging on but you get the idea!
We continued over Thearlaich after Alasdair before Sheila had to make an early return to the family. I then took the handy Lochan Traverse across the face of Sgumain’s West Buttress and met up with Francis for some good climbing on Sron na Ciche in the afternoon sun- see the next blog entry for pics & details.
I received some good photos from Rob today that reflect some of the enjoyment (and relief!) of reaching Cuillin Summits in good company. Rob and Mal completed their Cuillin Munro campaign later in the week after a few days of guided ascents.
On top of the In Pinn
Wall to wall sunshine is helping many dreams come true. I was on the Pinn with Colin Barry who had climbed all of the other Cuillin peaks under his own “guidance” since starting in 1982. The emotional mix of relief & excitement on reaching the top was tangiable despite keeping his eyes hidden from me all day!
Colin takes it all in from the Pinn
At the other end of the Ridge Scott was helping Bill and Royanne Quinton finally complete their Munro Tops on the Basteir Tooth. This was accomplished stylishly with an ascent of the classic rock climb Naismith’s Route.
Bill & Royanne high on Naismith’s Route
and on top of the Bhasteir Tooth
Huge numbers of parties succeeding on their Ridge Traverses with overheating and dehydration the main concern. Dave Birkett and Mary were spotted making good progress yesterday taking about 3 hours between An Dorus and Am Basteir. Were they scanning the corries for some big projects to work on over the next few days?
It was good to see the RAF practising in the corries rather than being needed but please keep vigilant and continue to stay safe.
Search & Rescue Sea-King helicopter in Coire Lagan below us