Archive for November, 2012

Superb conditions and An Stac Chimney FWA 28th November.


The freeze thaw cycles have left great conditions in the Cuillin with a thin but complete cover from below 2000ft. The combination of conditions and forecast are the best I’ve seen for a winter traverse for  a couple of years. Still some small drifts that will be hard work for the first party along but I hope to hear of a few successes soon.

Ally took his “fast-tracking” into climbing a stage further today with a crash course in mixed climbing on the first winter ascent of An Stac Chimney in Coire Lagan. Graded moderate in summer I wrongly reasoned that it shouldn’t be too challenging for a winter ascent 😉

The initial squeeze pitch must have taken me half an hour to work out how to ditch my rucsack. Taking to the right wall just meant an exciting section above the jaws of the rift before finally getting back into the clutches and a good thread runner. More relaxed the final chockstonebefore the belay seemed easy with good frozen turf and hooks.

The next chimney was clearly too narrow to get into but bridging up worked well to start with. As the walls steepened I was forced out right on good footholds & tiny hooks to thankfully reach a bomber large nut. The steep sequence above was superb (or was that relief?) with great placements to pull onto a pedestal. Stepping back into the gully I was able to make good speed to the final narrows. Gorgeous colours on the snow in the corrie below suggested it was getting late so I stepped out right to join the crest of An Stac Direct above the drop into Coruisk.

Ally didn’t come off once all the way up despite it being his first time with axes & crampons; fine effort. Grade-wise I would say IV, 5 and worthy of at least one star. Similar to last December’s routes this was particularly pleasing because the route faces south so would be stripped very quickly by any sun; the depths of winter do have benefit for some of us.

We moved together for the final 100m to reach my favourite view of the In Pinn. Sadly it was too late to add that to Ally’s list of achievements for the day. Enjoy the gallery.



Free Winter Skills this Saturday 1st December


Saturday December 1st
Sligachan, 8-30 am. Free Winter Skills day. Suitable for those with summer walking experience with an interest in the Cuillin in winter. Also anyone with winter experience keen to meet other locals. Bring normal hill-walking kit. Some crampons and axes available. Contact Mike Lates on 01471 822 116 or e-mail

With snow on the ground and a cold forecast through to the end of the week this is a rare opportunity to plan a good day out.

The day is aimed at Skye and Lochalsh based folk with experience of exploring the Cuillin in summer. We will head into Coir’ a’ Bhasteir or up Sgurr a’ Bhasteir and mix new skills with walking to keep warm!

Normal hill-walking kit with good quality boots crucial. Gaitors & spare gloves too. Please call with questions and if you need to borrow crampons and ice axe; ideally we’ll try to fit these beforehand. Daylight is very short so we need to set off promptly and head torches are important.

This is a social as much as anything so please don’t feel intimidated. As the wording says above please do come along if you already know what you’re doing and just fancy meeting up & helping out. Please drop me a line if you are keen but no commitment needed.




The Saddle by the Forcan Ridge 26 November 2012


Cloud & rain hugged the coasts today so we headed just over the bridge to Glen Shiel; it may even be quicker than the drive to Glen Brittle for me. The difference in weather was amazing with heavy frost beautiful blue skies and very VERY snowy tops!

The snow did make for hard work but meant we were best to stick to the narrow crest.

We flushed up a couple of Golden eagles just as we started and I was made up to find their enormous talon prints part way up Sgurr na Forcan.

The pictures hopefully tell the tale of a great day out with Chris-

Beautiful in the Glen; 25th November


Quick trip to see what conditions were like today. Thin apart from the top 300 feet on the ridge but a beautiful day for all the many folk who appeared to be out playing.

Missing beach!


I haven’t visited my local bouldering spot on the Moll (NG563 316) since last year so was a bit shocked to see a big rockfall as I approached.





As I got closer I realised that the change was actually that my beautiful flat shingle beach had been washed away revealing jaggedy ankle-twisting boulders.





Here’s a shot of me playing last year; at my feet you can just see a white band of quartzite-

The next shot shows the same quartz band  now that the shingle has been washed away-

The bad landing put me off anything at all poky and I’m now faced with a choice-clear what I can & buy a bouldering mat or sandbag the base and spend a few hours reconstructing 10m of beach. There are good anchors at the top so top-roping is the other option.

It may only be wee but I don’t know of many solid outcrops of rock with so many positive holds on Skye. Once my arms hurt enough I took a wander further south along the shore towards the fish farm. There were a few more spots to play around but all with poor landings again.

It’s a fascinating section of shoreline with obvious otter debris but it was the huge array of ancient car debris that provided most amusement. The trees are all far too big to be able to have got cars through for many a year. Antique car buffs would have a field day.

Calendar Preview


I’ve had a few requests to see more of the calendar images before folk commit to buying so here’s a wee gallery.

Watermarks won’t be left in of course.

By popular request we have decided to produce a Skye Guides calendar for 2013. The theme is simply a balance of the best scenery shots that we have taken since the digital era took over.

It will take the format of an A3 appointment calendar. We are only planning a limited print run so please e-mail us to register an interest as soon as possible.  Cost is expected to be £11-99 including postage and packing to UK addresses.


Driest place on Skye? Neist 8 November


Mists clung to the Cuillin and heavy showers were sweeping through so Ally and I headed to Neist Point yesterday.

Not wanting to venture too far from the car we set up an abseil at the top of Sonamara so that we could cram in as much climbing as possible.

My favourite warm-up route isn’t in the new guidebook. It’s a Very Difficult standard climb just round to the right of Sonamara that stays dry in the lower half thanks to an overhanging rib of rock above. I’ll christen it Shelterstone, V. Diff, 20m for now and get it recorded somewhere.Walls of water swept in towards us but seemed to part and miss us, somewhat biblically, every time. We even had bursts of warm sunshine.

We squeezed in ascents of Sonamara and Baywatch before getting Ally set up for his first lead. He placed the gear back into Shelterstone whilst on abseil then I came down to check it. Pleasently surprised to find every placement a bomber it was an easy choice to send Ally straight back up without much further ado. Duck to water I’d say;)

A Blaven Beaut. 5th November


Rick, Jez and Yogi are enjoying a break at the delux Kinloch Lodge Hotel and restaurant, home to Skye’s only Michelin star.

Our climb up and over Blaven yesterday also deserved a Michelin star, justifiably claimed by many as the best viewpoint in Scotland.


The snow was deep above 500m; no need for crampons but very glad that we all took turns at breaking trail.

On top the mists came and went before clearing completely as we headed off to the south summit with snow formations made for a stunning foreground as we all burnt film.

Snow-laden Coire Lagan and rare Avalanche. 4 November


It had snowed very heavily last night leaving Coire Lagan even whiter than yesterday.














On the approach to climb Deliverance  Guy & I returned to the Great Stone Shoot. Initially I thought piles of snow debris was from our descent last night but it soon became apparent that a pretty broad & big avalanche had happened in the early hours.

Just at the foot of CD Buttress that we climbed yesterday we came across the “crown”, the shear point. Perhaps our wanderings had had something to do with triggering it. Two very obvious individual 8″ layers are left above the shear line suggesting at least 3 seperate and poorly bound layers.

Above this point we were back to deep wading.

Deliverance, VII,7. 4th November


Todays new route gave us some great quality climbing up a beautiful corner-line. Every time I went down the Great Stone Shoot this summer I studied the line and concluded that it was very, very steep.


Having never tried anything similar it was clearly  beyond my leading abilities. Guy provided the perfect solution; strong, skilled, (a little bit loony?) and with masses of enthusiasm. My conclusion about the steepness wasn’t wrong but the corner crack just kept giving him positive holds and good protection. A superb clean, ground-up first ascent.

I only started using leashless axes last year but I was glad I had with all the hand swapping needed through the firece laybacking. Reaching the top of the first bulge upward movement still seems to be happening, placements keep appearing and, miraculously, my hands are still gripping the axes. Took a long rest to get the arms back before the 2nd bulge; although it was shorter, Guy wasn’t kidding when he’d warned me about it being fierce. Things didn’t give up right to the belay. While Guy squeezed his way out above my head I studied the anchors & realised it had been constructed to haul me up if neccesary.

Winter climbing in the Cuillin gave everything he expected & more for Guy; Deliverance is a great addition for the future; thanks Guy!


I’m going to write a seperate post on quite how much snow had come down since yesterday with views etc.

We have winter lift-off!


An early blast of winter has hit Scotland already. Guy Steven has been doing a lot of work in the Cuillin this season, getting really psyched for a winter play, and it was a pleasure to accompany him as he enthusiastically got stuck in today.

We held off til 9am to let the thunder & heavy showers clear then made good time back to my favourite playground on Sgurr Thearlaich. Snow conditions were surprisingly good underfoot right up the Great Stone Shoot until the final 100m where slabs of powder had built up but not dangerously.

CD Buttress was the route of choice; given grade V,6 and a 2* recommendation by Dave Ritchie on the first ascent we would agree wholeheartedly. It gave us 3 very good quality pitches and a finish right on the crest of the narrow summit ridge.










The conditions were good, turfs frozen but could do with a wee thaw/freeze to cement a couple more blocks in.

We’re back up there in the morning for another bit of play. Incredibly heavy rain just now so we’re expecting some swimming on the approach.