Archive for July, 2011

Bull’s Eye. New route on Sgurr nan Gillean, 27 July


Mike’s report.

Big buzz from another long-term project today. I had spotted an unclimbed crack line on the Bhasteir Face of Gillean about 5 years ago and finally had the combination of dry rock and willing climbing partner to give it a go. Lucy and I were a bit jaded by yesterday’s efforts but reached the foot of the face while it was still in the cool shade.

Bull’s Eye, 90m; E1 5a,4c,5a,4b. X marks the belays. Forked Chimney is the fault-line to the right.

The climbing needed full-on concentration with a combination of route finding, cleaning gear placements and superb moves.

Pitch 1 complete after an hour of head games; carry on or run away?

Lucy reaches the end of pitch 2

Pitch 3; Lucy exiting the steep chimney before the exposed slabby arete

From the top of pitch 3 it would have been possible to escape and descend north back to 4/5 Gully and would be my recommendation. We continued directly for a final 20m pitch; the climbing was good but the rock really not justifiable. Above a huge bowl of agglomerate gave a scary escape before traversing out to the West Ridge and descent.

Possibly the crux right at the top of the 3rd pitch

Grading and giving stars for new routes is always hard I find. I’ve gone for E1 but it may be closer to HVS. Although only 5a technically finding good gear took patience and some run-outs were quite bold.  For quality I’m going for 2 star but 3 stars wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration with 3 pitches of quality climbing at a very consistent technical difficulty. There was some loose rock but only dangerous for one tiny easy section.

Too late for the imminent guidebook this will have to wait until the next generation; shame but not for Lucy or me!

Girdle Traverse Sron na Ciche, 26 July


Had a fantastic climb on a long-term objective today under clear blue skies. Lucy Spark is a regular client with a great sense of adventure so the longest rock climb in the Cuillin sounded ideal to her. At 3000 feet (900m) long we knew there was lot of concentration to be done but big rewards.

The route traverses from left to right with the Cioch marked as C

It is a major challenge of route finding, rope trickery and bold confident climbing first done by Barlow and Steeple in 1920.

Happy to be off to a good start- there is plenty of wear on the rocks showing quite how popular this route once was.

One of the early space walks.

We took about 1.5 hours to reach the Cioch.

After that followed one of the best sections with a long complex descent to the foot of Crack of Doom.

Reaching the Terrace below Crack of Doom

“Descent pitches can appear terrifying and are abseiled by some parties” says the guidebook- descending to the Hexagonal Block.

Glad to finally get the boots off

Overnight photography trip on Blaven, 23 July


Mike’s report.

I enjoyed an indulgent feast of Cuillin views from an unusual bivvy site on the south top of Bla Bheinn last night with Danish friends Pernille and Thomas.

Sun playing on the mists that flew past on strong northerly winds.

Looking across the seas of mist to the Main Ridge; Gars-bheinn on the left and Alasdair on the right.

Out to the south and east the clear skies were glowing…

 Rum floats between the purple sea and the pink skies.

We had a leisurely morning as the mists took a long time to lift. Eventually we were treated to Brocken Spectres.

Catching the spectres was hard today with the speed the mists were moving..

We descended the classic South Ridge which gives a long but technically easy descent towards Elgol. The Main Ridge nearly cleared in its entirety with only Am Basteir steadfastly refused to appear.

 Thomas & Pernille taking in the amazing vista

Gillian’s Rock report; 23/24 July.


After 2 weeks in the climbing in the Ecrins massif in southern France Gillian has returned to the complete bonus scenario of time off work and beautiful dry rock to climb on Skye. Yesterday she climbed Bastinado on Sron na Ciche and today enjoyed some of the sundrenched rock delights at Elgol.

Bastinado E1, 4c,5b,5c,4b; The first Cuillin extreme was climbed by John Cunningham of the Creag Dhu Club in 1956.

Rich Parker just below the crux of the very fine Altar Ego, E1 5b. It turns the huge roof at the top by an outrageous 4b pitch.  

21 June; Fine weather forecast to remain and guides available..


Mike’s report.

Summer continues up here but a national forecast for poor weather seems to be keeping the hills very quiet. Matt and I have been busy this last week; Gillian has been in the Alps and Francis & Alex have been on MIA asssessments. With north and easterly winds set to remain until at least mid-week it’s a fine time to achieve some long-held ambitions. We have availability for anything from Ridge Traverses to Rock climbing.

Evening sun on Eas Mor, Glen Brittle

Yesterday I did a big day from Sgurr nan Fheadain to Gillian with the Bennett boys Greg & John.

Today the equally fit docs from Drumbuie, Lynn & Andy, romped around Coire Lagan in fine style & fantastic weather.

First success on the Pinn with the corrie round laid out behind.

Lynn & Andy on Mhicchoinnich with Thearlaich & Alasdair, still to come, behind.

Negotiating my least favourite section of Collie’s Ledge

Admiring the route after descending the Great Stone Shoot to Coire Lagan

Costa del Elgol; 18th July


Mike’s report.

Looking across the bay from the practice crag to the main cliff at Suidhe Biorach

Yesterdays rediculously heavy rain cleared through by dawn and hot sunshine burnt away the clouds by lunch again today. Most importantly the hot sun even burnt away the midges that would have otherwise made our sheltered crag pretty unbearable.

The result was a perfect day for an introduction to outdoor climbing for Finlay, Sean and his Dad Mike.

Team pic with the practice crag behind

Finn pulls through the overhangs

Today’s really low tide allowed us to wander across the beach and a rare chance to step back and study the crag from below.

1. Rum Doodle, E2 5c. 2. Angel of Sharkness, HVS 5a. 3. Fertility Right, Severe.

4. Mother’s Pride, E4 5c. All starrred (recommended) and about 30m long.

We climbed the classic Fertility Right.

Sean nearing the top.

All the guys seemed to find it pretty exciting with dad “telling it how it was” (as opposed to the cooler teenage version) in the post match analysis.

Mike’s recovery position doesn’t get any sympathy 🙂

A “Don’t believe the forecast” week; 11-16 July


Last Friday had most forecasts predicting a gruesome week of weather ahead for the whole UK. It’s a good rule of thumb that Skye gets the opposite weather to the rest of the country and, sure enough, the clouds were lifting off the tops by Sunday afternoon.

I started the week with a couple of excellent long days with a D of E group from Tiffin School in Kingston walking through Strath Beag to Torrin and over a shoulder of Blaven down to Camasunary on the first day and then through Glen Sligachan before crossing Bealach a Mhaim into Glen Brittle.

Looking in awe at the view of Camasunary bay after descending from Blaven

 Camasunary Bay

On Thursday I went to Ruabh Huinish at the very top of Skye with a Carpe Diem group from Norway. I also discovered a brand new path has been built that makes the approach wonderfully easy under foot.

Carpe Diem set off with the Quiraing in the background.

Lena looks down the huge cliffs below the ruins of Duntulm Castle; how did they build it?

On my way back I joined the triumphant team of Bill and Iain who had just finished a successful Ridge Traverse with Matt as guide. Following on from very fast times in the Glamaig hill race on Saturday and climbing the In Pinn themselves on the Monday I think it’s fair to say the guys had made the most of the first week of their holiday; fine effort!

On Friday and Saturday it was back to the Cuillin with Ben Thurnhill on his first visit. He has good climbing genes however with a grandfather who was the photographer at 28,000ft taking the photo of Hilary and Tensing setting off for the summit of Everest in 1953!! We”stole” Sgurr nan Gillean before the first big front drew in.

Ben on Gillean; he is wearing the old-style helmet as the only one we have that is large enough!

Very heavy overnight rain dictated a relaxed start. We waited until it cleared up about midday and then scrambled on dry rock right around Coire a’ Ghreadaidh.

Impressive waterfalls in Coire a’ Ghreadaidha after the heavy overnight rain.

 Ben concentrating over the narrow crest on Ghreadaidh as the mist clears behind him.

I even found time to tackle a new scrambling line I spied many moons ago; it takes the Coruisk side of the hill to Banachdaich from a ramp-line in Bealach Thormaid and finishing up the false gully near the summit that some Ridge parties start to descend by mistake in the mist. To simply describe the line as a 200m Grade 2 scramble doesn’t really tell the whole story. Heaps of untouched rubble & scree perched above the void and not knowing if I was going to have to reverse back down them gave the most realistic insight into how the pioneers first found the Cuillin that I have ever had; peverse but very exciting!

 My experimental line onto Banachdaich viewed from Sgurr Thormaid.

Selection of last weeks outings.


Mike’s report.

Intro to outdoor rock at Elgol; 27 June.

“Hi Mike, it’s Katrin and Jens from Hamburg. We’re just returned home.. to our boring indoor walls… 🙂 We just want to thank you again for the great experience of climbing the cliffs; we enjoyed it very much.”

Katrin at the top of her first ever abseil!

….and climbing back up the corner of Fertility Right using excellent camming (bridging in English)

Last Cuillin Munros; 29 June

Robbie is close to finishing and has made 4 trips to Skye to climb the Cuillin including the snowy ascent of Basteir reported here back in mid-may. Damp rock on Mhicchoinnich led to very slow progress and made it look like another trip would be needed but the rain stopped, rocks dried quickly and we both dug deep for a physical 3 hour trip to reach Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh and a late finish.

Robbie on Sgurr Mhicchoinnich

In Pinn- first Cuillin Munro; 1 July

Watching the weather and making a last minute call paid off for Hugh & Masie. The result was in doubt with heavy rain overnight and mist clinging throughout the ascent but the clouds parted to reveal all the views (and drops!) just as we reached the Pinn. Our rapid ascent was followed just as quickly by the mists rolling in and the rocks soaking wet before we all finished abseiling; perfect timing and a perfect result!

“Don’t know what all the fuss is about” says Masie as the Pinn rears into view.

Red Cuillin Solitude; 4th of July


Mike’s report.

An excellent change to the routine today with Phillip from Belgium requesting a good safe walk with sons Louis (14) and Alexander (19). The Red Cuillin Horseshoe was an obvious objective standing at Sligachan this morning with stunning views guaranteed.

Black Cuillin backdrop

We reached Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach (651m) in about 2 hours for a lunch of bread and Brussel’s pate!

View to Loch Ainort, Scalpay and the mainland from Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach

Descent was in order so we aimed south toward Mam a Phobuil before dropping to Glen Sligachan. The screes were pretty rough but the reward was a dip in the cool pools beneath Marsco.

We were entertained with fly-by displays from a couple of huge dragon-flies that were also good enough to sit still for photos. I’ll try to identify him but e-mail help is always welcome-

Golden-ringed Dragonfly with 4” body and 3” wingspan.

I’m now pretty sure this is the Golden-ringed Dragonfly. Wikepedia say they eat midgies; magic!