Archive for March, 2013

In Pinn legislation part of Glen Brittle upgrades


The Black Cuillin landlords have announced that permits will be issued for teams making ascents of the Inaccessible Pinnacle this summer.

Traffic jams are commonplace on most fine days

A spokesman explained- “Queueing to climb the In Pinn has become a real problem in recent years. To sort this out a system with hour-long slots will be allocated between 4am and 5pm. A new high-speed internet connection at the campsite will allow climbers to book a slot either before they leave home, as they depart the Glen or even when they reach the foot of the climb.”

“The situation has got worse in recent years” agreed local mountain guide Mike Lates of Skye Guides. “Something certainly needed to be done. I’m just happy that they aren’t charging for these permits.”

Solitude on the Pinn as it used to be.

The campsite facilities have had a total overhaul this winter and the fine weather has allowed work to finish ahead of time. Wet-weather attractions available now include an extensive bouldering wall, cafe sauna and jacuzzi.Looking out to Glen Brittle beach

Best view in Skye? Sgurr na Stri 29 March.


With the high peaks so clad  in white I suggested to the Furze team that we should, instead, visit the lowly but fantastic Sgurr na Stri.

Taking the Aquaxplore RIB into Coruisk gave a bracing but rapid approach to the jetty and a chance to envy the seals basking on the rocks.

As if the view from the head of Loch Coruisk isn’t enough, the graduaal rise towards Druim Hain threw up evr increasing numbers of snow-clad peaks until the entire Main Ridge was in view.

John, Somerset & I headed up to the summit of Sgurr na Stri while the others headed down for lunch at the Camasunary bothy (Michelin 3* views:)

The peak has 2 summits and on reaching the first summit a raven seemed reluctant to depart. Looking across at the 2nd summit 50m away a huge bird was sitting beside the cairn. With my 16X zoom I snapped a quick shot, studied it and concluded that it was just another raven. I was told I should have lied to keep the client happy but instead went one better. Our friend continued to sit there and eventually turned his head. This time the photo revealed a beautiful hooked beak and definite hints of gold.

Eventually our friend flew off, we scrambled up to his perch, sunny snacks then we had to leave. We spied the rest way below but caught them at the bothy in time for a delux picnic on the beach and the long but stunning  walk back out to Elgol as the sun glinted magically.


Serious Sgurr nan Gillean. 27th March


Traversing Gillean with Brian, Kerry and dad Andy proved quite a test yesterday but meant we made the most of yet another beautiful day.

Approaching by the Tourist Route involved 2 roped pitches as well as long sections of moving roped together. Descending the West Ridge proved even more comple. We were forced into an abseil from just below the Window (that I’ve never had to do before).

After the normal abseil at the foot of the West Ridge we had to do another straight down to avoid traversing the banked out ledge that is normally used in summer.

Final Svalbard pics & reports


The intrepid explorers are safely home enjoying Arctic weather UK style now but here are a few final pictures & tales. It’s been a pleasure reading, seeing & being able to pass on the adventures; thanks to both Bruce & Steve for the entertainment.

8th March

Longyearbyen has a festival today. It marks the first day of the year the sun can be seen from Longyearbyen. The days grow by 18 mins or so each day. The weather is fine and its about -28c. Steve climbed up to a plateau above the town with scant equipment and the view included a couple glaciers.

We are staying in Guesthouse 102. It is run/owned by a Norwegian guy called Trond who also runs wildlife tours and is very helpful. The high winter season commenced March 1st and twin couch/bedded rooms cost £364 per week according to exchange rate.

Delux accommodation

Expedition leader White; whiter than ever:)

9th March

“Steve and a guy from our hostel summited a snow arrette today in mild -12c conditions,They didn’t encounter an ice bear but a beautiful ptarmigan.

“The 4hr dog sled trip costs £148 per person but I don’t think it could be more authentic. We set off with 5 teams and scattered reindeer on the plain that led us up to a glacier in -28c but beautiful sunshine. Steve was so good at getting the dogs from there individual kennels and attaching each of the 6 dogs to the line and unattaching on our return they suggested he could come and work for them. You can see from the attached pic how the ice affected him. My fingers gave up very quickly & I had cowered down into the sled; they thought I had died..

“Skol Letzboy,Ve kum ind der holitz,Ve hoppen ze vroom der vindow der terrain inderozt,Hoppen en joy der pic storeez.”

And the final gallery-

Peaks n Rock n Ice


Louis & Hannah gave us an open brief to improve their mountain skills & experience; mission accomplished.

On Wednesday Guy Steven gave them a revision of crampon and axe skills before climbing Great Gully on Blaven. Amazing weather & views all day-

On Thursday I headed into Coir’ a’ Bhasteir to give them their first taste of ice climbing.

Today we opted for some sunny rock climbing down at Elgol which culminated in Louis leading his first route in over 5 years.

Remote Red Cuillin 12th March


The Black Cuillin tops are harsh and serious just now so I opted to take Jacqui & Dave around the snow-free Red Cuillin horseshoe on Tuesday.

With dry and mostly frozen bog the approach walk was a pleasure.

The biting wind nipped at the left ear on the initial rise so we took some shelter in a wee recess as soon as we could. Reward for this move came in the form of a magnificent display by a golden eagle in the corrie below us. She eventually spotted us as she came level and soared away out towards Portree.

Fantastic; I’ve got a bit of a bee in the bonnet about white-tailed eagles taking over the Golden eagle territory so a victory all round as it meant Jacqui didn’t have to go on the disneyland Sea-eagle ride the next day:)

Fed & watered we zipped to the top of Beinn Dearg Mheonach with snowflakes growing in thickness and size.

Cloud clung to the Black Cuillin tops but the views were just as magnificent in that dramatic way that Skye does so well.

Conditions as we continued along the ridge deteriated to a “mild blizzard” which was pointed out to me as a blatent oxymoron. I agreed to full-blown blizzard as our bearing changed straight into the teeth of the weather right up and over Beinn Dearg Mhor and down to the Glamaig bealach where it was time for a sharp exit in the direction of Sligachan rather than the 1000ft rerise.


Spring Newsletter March 2013


Spring 2013 News from Skye Guides.

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The Cuillin seem as popular as ever for the coming summer season. Fingers crossed the Jet-stream will head south again this year and leave us with the same dry sunny weather that we enjoyed in 2012. From mid-March til mid-July the number of wet days could be counted on 2 hands and most of August was also superb.
Coire Lagan
Our team this year is a mix of faces new and old, all professional mountaineers with a real passion for the Cuillin that can’t wait to show you our special mountains.


Winter kicked off very early with a huge dump of snow in early November and has continued to be superb pretty much ever since. Climbing with a record number of winter clients our guides have had some incredible days.
Knife-edge snow arete  The days traversing sections of the Ridge have been sublime with stunning climbing, situations and views. Something of a Cuillin renaissance has seen far more visiting climbers, many turning out new routes ranging from easy to desperate. The great news is that it is still very rare to see another soul here in winter; there’s lots to do & plenty of space for everyone! Over 40 BLOG entries from the past 3 months should provide plenty of inspiration to come and play next winter.

Many thanks to all of you who bought the 2013 calendars. We sold out at Christmas but have had enough enquiries since then to put together another small order. Please let us know if you would like to add to this order by e-mailing us asap. For the 2014 calendar we aim to use some of the best shots sent to us by clients through the coming season.
2013 Skye Guides calendar
We often receive requests for presents and souvenirs so a small selection of Skye Guides t-shirts and mugs will be available this year. Collect from the office when you are up on holiday or order direct for home delivery. We’ll have a dedicated page on the website once we are up and running.

Cuillin Ridge

A fantastic ambition for any fit client who enjoys scrambling is, one day, to traverse the entire 12km spine of the Cuillin Ridge. The ultimate alpine-style challenge in British mountaineering requires dry rock, very high levels of fitness and good confident scrambling technique. Our booking system is arranged so that clients only pay for this premium product when all conditions are favourable. Read about a few of the Traverses we attempted last year on the BLOG

Cuillin Rock

Whether it is an introductory day or dedicated course we all look forward to passing on some of our enthusiasm and skills. We provide Introduction to Climbing courses, designed to guide your transition from the indoors to the outdoors. Our guides will instruct you in those all important gear placement, belay and abseiling techniques. Most importantly we will always look to improve your movement on rock to make you a better climber.

Mike went to the Eveline in the Swiss Alps to stay with good friend Graham who runs FROST GUIDING in January. The view from Graham’s backyard is something to behold as the valley stretches right up to the Dente Blanche. Highlight of the week was climbing the 100m Cascade des Ignes after a snow-shoe approach but the photo that drew most attention was a postcard of a rubbish skier upsidedown. Some BLOG readers even thought it was Mike.
Not Mike skiing!
In Pinn

The Inaccessible Pinnacle
The Inaccessible Pinnacle (commonly referred to as the In. Pinn.) sits like a dorsal fin atop Sgurr Dearg and overtops the mountain by some 8 metres. It is well known as the hardest of all Munros to climb which requires concentration and a strong nerve. Skye Guides offer the expertise to lead clients to this unique summit. We appreciate that the Pinn. is a crucial peak for Munro baggers in order to keep the ambition to compleat  the Munro’s list. We make every effort to advise clients on the best way to achieve their dream and also to make the climb a real highlight. The vast majority of our clients find the ascent to be a surprisingly pleasant experience. With simple instructions and skillful ropework we are used to safely leading clients with a vast array of fears to the summit.
Cuillin Magic

Skye is often the first encounter with ropes for many clients. The prospect of having a rope available should not be feared but welcomed. Ropes are carried on all Black Cuillin outings because it allows the guide to keep the client safe and build their confidence. The rope is always available and the extent to which a rope is used depends upon situations and individuals.


We recently added a facility to comment on any photos or Blogs. Feel free to ask questions, give your version of the adventures or congratulate your friends. You can follow us on Twitter and we have finally even got a Skye Guides Mountain Guiding Facebook page which will allow also allow you to comment, like or share!

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Beautiful but Bitter weekend. 9/10 March


Chasing my tail a bit just now so apologies for short & sweet blog posts.

James & Joe had their first outing on crampons on Saturday. Immediately after practising ice-axe arrest we found the snow slopes to be steel-hard so had to concentrate fully on the rise and descent to An Dorus.

The short stretch to the summit of Mhadaidh exposed us to the strong winds and we all looked suitably weather-beaten by the time we reached the Old Inn.











Sunday was an even more bitter day, possibly the coldest of the winter. The wind picked up soon after we left the hotel, adding a real intensity to the freezing temperature. Donning more clothes at every break we eventually took shelter in the cave in Coir’ a’ Bhasteir.

Here we concluded that neither open snow slopes nor narrow ridges were a good idea.

Instead we backed down slightly, traversed beneath Sgurr a’ Bhasteir and enjoyed some sunny scrambling on dry rough gabbro onto Meall Odhar.

This minor summit is a rounded grassy knoll but also happens to be one of the most impressive view-spots on Skye. We took in stunning views of Pinnacle Ridge, the north face of Sgurr a Bhasteir, Bruach na Frithe, Outer Hebrides, Red Cuillin, Torridon etc etc until we had nearly refrozen.


The gallery is a mix of the 2 days; hopefully in order-

Arctic updates.


More tales from Bruce; thanks mate we’re really enjoying hearing about it.

Tuesday 5th-

We woke this morning and Steve saw a set of horns sticking out of the snow,When we looked a little later there were 3 reindeer hoofing holes down thro the soil to feed,A male and 2 females just outside our hostel,We kitted up to go out in the -26c to take pics.

Steve decided to hike up to a disused coalmine he encountered sheet ice wearing his snow boots and contemplated his situation on a 30degree slope 100metres up and tenuously retreated in the absence of crampons and ice axe.

A very stiff breeze feels like -40 and is blowing fine snow into drifts.

Steves snore valve is not operating thank goodness. Our dog sled trip is booked for Thursday when it’s forecast to be -31c.


Wed 6th-

The weather had calmed down after yesterday’s blast. We are told it was minus -40 in the teeth of the wind and we went up onto a glacier this evening on snowmobiles with  guys that claimed the temperature had gone down even lower at higher levels.

We went into a cave caused by summer melt underneath the Longyearbyen glacier.

The ice crystals formed by condensation are amazing in there variety. The hike up onto the glacier would be a welcome activity but we would have to hire someone with a rifle as Polar bears have killed people here. The dog sled trip will be at 9am tomorrow morning and we have discovered how important it is to have the right equipment: One of our cave guides had no skin on the tip of his nose from frost nip. The wind chill on sled and skidoo rides will get you unless you completely cover up.

Arctic adventurer Bruce James

Beautiful on Bla Bheinn. 6th March.


Cracking day with Deidre & Martin heading up Great Gully on Bla Bheinn. Great views all round and a couple of Sea-eagles just to add to the quality.

Enjoy the gallery-

Love Is….Winter Mountaineering. 5th March



Damp mist was clinging to Skye this morning so we headed inland to find the Glen Shiel tops mostly clear of cloud; good result.


We opted for the classic Forcan Ridge and were rewarded with a truly apline day with a mixture of dry rock, mixed climbing and a fine snow arete to finish.



We skipped the usual descent east towards Sgurr na Sgine. Instead we doubled back from the summit headed directly north down the glen before traversing back below the cliffs to rejoin the approach path. With the snow so perfect it was an easy variation that was also far quicker.



Our descent was pretty much straight down the snow slopes from the peak before cutting out left.

The clients certainly seemed happy with it all:)

Svalbard arrival, 3rd March.


More incredible stuff coming from Bruce James in the Arctic. If you haven’t looked yet check out just where Svalbard is; nearly 80 degrees North!

“We’ve just arrived at Guesthouse 102 in Svalbard. Our flight was delayed from Tromso due to a minor navigation problem.

Tromso is on mainland Norway; a mere 70 degrees north.

As there are no other landing options in these latitudes they were not permitted to fly without all nav devises working. We arrived 3am in -23c conditions set to go lower. The permafrost on this archipelago is 100-150m deep and up to 400 in the mountainous region. The Raasay contingent of Steve, Duncan and Naomi have their youth to sustain them but my  silver surfer status has given me a struggle.”

About Bruce:

Bruce James (the Now World Famous:) is a climbing enthusiast who didn’t discover the joys until well into his 60’s. A couple of bad car accidents haven’t exactly helped the mountaineering but his enthusiasm has seen him reach the summits of Sgurr nan Gillean, Blaven, & Sgurr Alasdair. He is most at home on rock climbing and made an ascent of the Cioch last year.

Bruce climbing near Applecross last year.

Brief foray up Broad Gully, 3rd March


Martin had shoulder surgery just a few weeks ago so a gentle try-out was in order.

Broad Gully on Sgurr a Bhasteir is still holding plenty of well consolidated snow despite the thaw.

The mists still swirled around as we topped out so we skipped continuing up to the summit.

Descending to the lochan in Coir’ a’ Bhasteir we were greeted by the sight of 25+ members of Skye MRT all brandishing avalanche probes.

Apparently they had buried Jonah somewhere in the corrie for the exercise. There didn’t seem too much hurry and I couldn’t work out why they were all filing the ends of the probes…..:)

A wee bit of concentration to get out of the corrie and then a sprint to the pub which has finally reopened; yipee!

Arctic adventures. 2 March


I’ve just received some inspiring mails from a Skye Guides correspondant on the trip to Svalbard inside the Arctic Circle. Enjoy the story…… First photos added in now

Subject: Boda

Arrived this evening after an epic 22hr railway trip Oslo to Boda,It must rank amongst the greatest rail journeys but stopped at every station and didn’t sleep a wink so am exhausted,Weather fantastic but we’ve been thro a couple of really heavy snow storms,At one stage we had to abandon the train and do a 2hr coach trip,Norway had a hard cold winter and a sharp short thaw brought a lot of melt water threatening bridges that were in deep gorges so trains unable to use them,It’s awesome seeing the sea froze but when we got off at Boda you could imagine the sea can freeze and we  have a 24hr sea journey and 2hr flight,Need sleep and back online Monday.

update, we r on the Hutigruten off the Lafoten islands, We have seen incredible ice climbs and northern lights this evening,My god the arctic is awe inspiring.

Holiday of a lifetime here. It was so bleak this morning with fine powdery snow in a stiff wind ( like spindrift) and the environment here well inside the arctic circle is absorbing,A white tailed sea eagle flew over the ship with a group of seagulls accentuating its size with a background of sea cliffs around 4000ft high creating a scene that is captivating. We are having so much fun and laughter and today I learned my team won and are 5th and within 3/4 points of the leaders. “