Archive for April, 2012

A day of 3 halves; 30th April


Waking in decent weather was a bonus but sadly the poor weather arrived mid-morning after commiting to  Pinn attempt. What wasn’t expected was the absolutely howling gale with big gusts that accompanied the snow.

I was very glad to have Ben Wallace along to belay me & help Ann-Marie, Jenny & Andy take my runners out of both pitches. Luckily the rime ice wasn’t on any of the horizontal holds, the snow stopped, winds died down as we climbed and the clouds parted to give great windows out to Rum.

Blaven appearing behind Andy as he tops out on the Pinn.

Congratulations to Jenny, Andy & Ann-Marie. We cracked on to Mhiccoinnich and before we reached the summit the tops were all clear.

Looking back to the Pinn. “Glad we couldn’t see it when we were on it!”

and happy girls looking back at Mhicchoinnich. Note the snow in the Stone Shoot.

Sadly the joy didn’t last with United failing us this evening but it ain’t over til the fat lad sings. More importantly A-M has finally climbed the Pinn after xxxxxx years of Cuillin climbing. See ya again soon me darling 😉

Ridge Traverse


Matt`s Report

Just finished a successful ridge traverse with Neil. We had scorching sunshine, snow, rain and the usual quota of amazing views.

The start

Soay, Eigg and Rhum

Kings Chimney


Eagles on Gillean; 29th April


CORRECTION AND UPDATE- I originally misidentified the eagles as Golden eagles but was corrected by Bob Macmillan who runs Skye The birds were acually White-tailed Sea Eagles. On a personal note I am very disappointed that the Sea Eagles are increasing so dramatically in numbers at the apparent expense of the native Golden Eagle. Bob informed me that the larger Sea eagles have now been seen to have taken over the eyries and territory of at least 3 pairs of Golden onm Skye in the past couple of years. The RSPB official line is that there is no impact but I can certainly vouch for seeing far fewer Golden in the past 5 years or so. Prior to this numbers certainly seemed to be on the increase. The reason for further reintroductions is cited as neccesary to prevent too much inbreeding but I think the priority should be given to the Golden, the true native bird of the Highlands.

My old friend Ann-Marie has climbed Gillean on many occasions and it was a privelidge for Chris & me to join her today. The real reason for her visit is to watch the derby match with me tomorrow and, if today’s luck is anything to go by, it’ll be a red night tomorrow:-)

Firstly the weather was immaculate, an effect that was enhanced by A-M’s friends texting all day about heavy rain south of the border, shame. But most impressive was the way A-M communicates with nature- “I’d love to see an eagle now”, “you’ll be bloody lucky” said I. Less than 2 minutes later a huge eagle with great hearing seemed to fill the sky just 50m above our heads…

We watched it soar up and out of sight around Pinnacle Ridge before we set off again. “Whats going on now Mike?” demanded A-M 5 minutes later and there above us was now a train of 3 eagles flying over the top of the first pinnacle.

A poor shot but easy to spot the 3 eagles.

“Flocking Eagle” I’ve never seen that before, said I.

The day continued in a similar vein of high quality; t-shirt weather, views to the Ben 75 miles away & bone-dry rock.

A-M lovin being on top of her fave mountain

Chris wasn’t the biggest fan of the airy summit of A-M’s fave mountain but was fine once we started moving again.

Not a forced grin at all eh Chris?

There were dozens out enjoying every peak today; we hope the chopper was doing some practice rather than a real rescue on Ghreadaidh

Looking west to folk on Am Basteir & Bruach na Frithe

We descended the West Ridge by a new variation (for me) that stayed on the south side of the window so we avoided the icy hard snow on the north face. The walls at the abseil section were stripped of the ice flutings that were there just 3 days ago.

Sunny walls instead of the ice from 3-days ago

Looking up the Bhasteir Gorge to Sgurr nan Gillean

The happiest woman in the world who’ll be happier still if Man United win tomorrow; C’mon the Reds!!!!!

Flodigarry Fun


Matt`s Report

Great day at the beautiful sea-cliffs of Flodigarry. Thanks to John, Norman and Murdo for a fun day in the sunshine! And for any surfers Staffin Bay looked clean and according to John would have been a lovely 3 foot swell.

Gillean & Basteir, 27th April


Had a great day out today despite the fresh coating of snow below 2000 feet. Matt & Sam climbed most of the Tourist Route on Sunday before the mist stopped play. Today I pointed out the easiest line to them while we tackled the narrow crest above which is one of my favourite sections of gabbro in the whole Cuillin. Snow made the ascent extra exciting.

Rime on the rocks

South East Ridge of Gillean taken direct (grade 3)

The West Ridge descent was very challenging but we still had enough in the tank to climb Am Basteir too. I’ll let the photos do the talking-

Heading through the Window at the top of the West Ridge

Retrieving the rope after abseiling the foot of the West Bridge

Matt climbing back up the Bad Step on Am Bastier

Stunning views back at the end of the day

Ice & wind means no go up the Pinn.


Despite a crack of dawn start to beat the predicted gales John & I were scuppered onour attempt to scale the Pinn today. I hadn’t forseen a coating of rime ice and a howling buffeting wind really made the Pinnacle Inaccessible today.

We headed north over Banachadaich and briefly indulged in some good scrambling on the 2nd top before ducking out of the gusting wind once more.

Cold Traverse 23/24 April


A few images from a hard won Traverse success with Iain over the past few days. Bitter temperatures and late snows were countered by mostly dry rock and a plenty of determination.

AquaXplore drop-off again.

Pitching across Collie’s Ledge

In Pinn summit

Sunset glory

Frosty morning

2nd abseil traversing Bidean Druim nanRamh

Misty finish over the north end; Martin Moran & client on Am Basteir

Am Basteir, the Tooth and Bruach na Frithe. 19th April


On Gary & Craigs last day we were just going to visit Am BAsteir and Bruach na Frithe but plans changed when Neil & Helen caught up with us and planted the idea of visiting the Basteir Tooth.

Stunning views on the approach; L-R Gillean, Am Basteir and Sgurr a’ Bhasteir

Final ascent to Bealach a’ Bhasteir

An abseil took us down to the Bhasteir nick-

Helen and Neil pulling the rope back down from the 1st abseil

from where a short rise leads to the top of the Tooth

We had to drop out of the sunny side and excitingly through the iced up slot of King’s Cave Chimney to reach our 2nd abseil point.

Craig enjoying himself far too much!

Gary equally happy; not quite what he envisaged on his Munro’s course this week!

Helen established that the kids were running the shop (Cioch Direct Outdoor Clothing) well enough that they didn’t need to run away so we all headed out to Bruach na Frithe to take in yet more of the wonderful views.

Gary snaps it up from Fionn Choire on our descent

Guy & Neil descended Sgurr a Bhasteir to prolong the fun while the rest of us headed for a well-earned pint at Sligachan; cheers to the Urquharts for an inspiring day out!

Pinnacle Ridge and Sgurr a Bhasteir

Sun & Snow fun on Ghreadaidh, 18th April


Guy and I went out with my good friend Chris today. He’s tackled all the easier Cuillin but never ventured onto the narrower ridges. Yesterdays snows had become solid in the overnight frost so we put the crampons on way below An Dorus; playing in crampons another first for Chris!

On the western flank of Mhadaidh with Ghreadaidh looming above and Alasdair in the background

We were greeted by stunning views down into Coruisk and out in every direction. After lunch on Mhadaidh we crossed An Dorus and found the snow on Ghreadaidh to be totally different, soft and thawing rapidly.

Ascending snow slopes on Ghreadaidh with Thuilm behind

Chris and Guy on top with Portree in the background

We removed crampons for the descent because they were more of a hazard than help. For a bit of added spice I opted to descend the dark narrow slot of Eag Dubh “Black Notch”. Normally it’s a dank greasy place but crammed full of deep snow it gave us great entertainment in wonderful rock scenery.

Deep inside Eag Dubh

Re-emerging into the sunlight

A couple of snow showers passed over our heads during the descent but were replaced by bright sunshine before we got wet.

Looking back up to Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh and Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh

Winter wonderland once more, 17th April


Incredible amounts of snow fell overnight giving Craig & Gary a totally different Cuillin experience. On Monday Matt guided them up onto the Pinn and then traversed north right up to Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh all on glorious dry rock.

Sgurr Mhicchoinnich was the plan and it emerged from the cloud right on cue as we reached a very snowy Coire Lagan

Stomping up deep anow was easier than the usual An Stac Screes but we needed crampons as soon as we hit the Ridge. Guy Steven is up working with us for a few days so he paired up with Craig while I climbed with Gary. It was slow work clearing holds but we reached the summit safely in about an hour from Bealach Coire Lagan.

Delicate footwork on the crest of Sgurr Mhicchoinnich

Great view of Alasdair and Thearlaich behind but not in these conditions!

Crystal clear on the Dubhs, 16 April


Everyone out in the Cuillin must have had a great day today, in fact everyone out in the whole of the highlands from the views we had.

Derek had done the Main Ridge Traverse with me back in 2009 and had fancied the Dubh Ridge ever since. He booked the day & weather to be as good as last time and I was glad to oblige!

Thanks to AquaXplore ran us in good and early

There were dozens of seals basking in the morning sun.

The mighty Dubh Ridge rising straight out of Loch Coruisk

Sweeping slabs give hours of superb scrambling

The route is very long and it was over 2.5 hours before we reached the top of the first peak, Dubh Beag

The free-hanging abseil was made more exciting with the wind blowing the ropes way off course

As predicted it took us over 4 hours to reach the main summit of Dubh Mor but we weren’t exactly hurrying with stunning vistas around every turn.

Looking at the In Pinn from Dubh Mor

The predicted front was approaching fast so we took the most direct descent across the head of Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda and down the Sgumain Stone Shoot.

Deer totally unphased by us being so close on the way down.

Heavy falls of fresh snow 15th April


Woke to a wintry scene this morning with snow right down to 150m. The sun has thinned the cover on south facing slopes like the photo of Glamaig below but the north facing ledges will be holding for a while ahead.

South face of Glamaig this morning

Those with serious intentions on the Cuillin may well be wise to bring crampons with them.

Sunset Spectacular; April 13th


I’ve long thought about producing a calendar of sunset shots from the house here in Luib and tonight’s is yet another one to add to the possible candidates; enjoy…..

Mid-section Munros; 12th April


Yesterday was one of those “every season in a day” outings as Colin, John & I traversed the classic round of Coir’ a’ Ghreadaidh and its 3 Munros. I ordered clear skies and sunshine for about midday to allow us to tackle the narrow ridge on dry rock and enjoy the views at the same time……

Ghreadaidh begins to appear out of the mist just above An Dorus

Full panorama 5 minutes later from the top of Mhadaidh

John Parkin on his final Cuillin Munro Sgurr a’ Greadaidh. 7 days and 25,000ft of hard work! Congratulations John

Colin revelling in the exposure on the narrow traverse to the south top of Ghreadaidh

The snow started falling just as we started the final rise to Banachdaich and everything was coated within a matter of minutes.

Not quite enough for a ski descent of Banachdaich’s West Ridge

20 minutes later and we were all stripping off the jackets as the hot sunshine returned to dry us out.

John & Colin study where they have been

More hot rock at Elgol, 11 April


The northerly wind gave an icy blast but the south facing cliffs at Elgol were a real sun-trap again today.

Siobhan showed excellent footwork on the practice crag while Phil was keener on using his arms.

Monkey man!

We also practiced gear placements before heading onto the Main cliff.

It works!

With the tide well in we had to do an abseil approach.

30m abseil approach. The triple roof to the right is the first pitch of India, E3.

After enjoying the superb Fertility Right we lunched on Paradise Ledge before dropping down to climb Fertility Left.

Paradise lunchspot.

Phil still had energy to burn so he finished off on the classic VS, Jamie Jampot.

Phil celebrates in style

Martin & Howard were also down enjoying the sun with Martin muttering something about it not being as easy without ice axes.

Howard finishing the highly photogenic Hairy Mary, VS

Sunshine, showers & snow; must be April


The weekend’s rain eased to showers today and the improvement is forecast to continue.

Matt took Ros & Andrew for a Cuillin intro up Sgurr a’Bhasteir & Bruach na Frithe; a gift voucher finally cashed in after nearly 2 years of planning sounded like it hit the mark nicely.

Good covering of white stuff still on the tops

Scott guided John onto Am Basteir then over Gillean and back down the Tourist route. Conditions in the chimneys on the West Ridge sounded quite full-on with well glazed rocks but the crest of the Ridge all sounded fairly friendly.

John glad to be past the narrows at the foot of the West Ridge

I had fun introducing Juan and Anastacia to rock climbing for the first time. The crags at Elgol kept the cold wind off and it was positively hot when the sun came out.

Fertility Right, a 2 star Severe in the new Skye Seacliffs guidebook (SMC 2012)available from us direct

A heavy shower mid-afternoon didn’t dampen enthusiasm or the rocks too much so we finished off up Fertility Right.

Wow ****!

Superb effects over the Cuillin from Elgol

Update 8 April 2012


Apologies for the lack of blogging recently; technical hitches are to blame but sorted now. It’s been a right mixed bag of weather which is forecast to continue through the week ahead as pulses of cold air compete with atlantic incursions.

Back in the hot week at the end of March a highlight was taking our Ruari up Window Buttress to the In Pinn on his 9th birthday; a fine effort on a beautiful day.

The proverbial Pig in Muck abseiling from the Pinn.

The very rare purple saxifrage was open a lot earlier than I can ever remember too.

Purple saxifrage

Last weekend started with a great traverse of Blaven and Clach Glas done back-to-front to the normal way.

Looking across to the Main Ridge on Monday 2nd April.

This was so that we could accompany Nick’s swollen ankle on the Normal Route up Blaven initially. Exposure & difficulties this way around is considerably greater (or so it feels) so no action photos I’m afraid.

Tim taking in what he had just done (up & down Clach Glas, the Matterhorn of Skye) on his first Cuillin outing; fine effort.

Next day we woke to a full-on wintry scene. Pinnacle Ridge idea was shelved and the Tourist Route and down the West Ridge proved more than enough for the day.

Starting the South-East Ridge of Gillean with Blaven in the background.

I donned crampons for the descent but we left Tim without; it was a close call but a first crampon experience on glazed rocks was just likely to add to difficulties as opposed to easing them!

Looking through the Window at the start of the West Ridge descent.

Tim still looking happy after his first abseil at the foot of the West Ridge

Next day we opted to stay low and climbed Sgurr an Fheadain. The build up of ice in the corrie was amazing; all too thin to climb but illuminating in terms of future potential.

Looking from the summit towards the north face of Sgurr a Mhadaidh. The Smear, V, is the obvious icefall.

Yesterday Jon & i had an early start to get the Pinn whilst dry. We failed on the weather front but climbed the Pinn and Mhicchoinnich on greasy rocks anyway.