Blog > Away from Skye and Overseas

Alpine success for Kevin. 18th July 2017


Kevin asked Skye Guides to help with his Alpine preparation in the Cuillin less than a year ago.
A mix days with dry rock, wet rock and snow in summer and winter culminated with a successful Cuillin Ridge Traverse here this Spring.
It looks like Kevin used a good mix of those experiences to succeed last week. What’s next Kevin?

Forcan magic. 10th January 2016


Had great fun introducing my good mate Innes to the joys of winter climbing yesterday and the weather gods treated us to a classic. The forecast had been for heavy rain/snow for most of the day but nothing came of it at all.

Now Innes built a lot of the Black Cuillin footpaths and has explored many of the peaks and ridges in that time. Instead he fancied Glen Shiel, having driven through it so often but never left the road.

A big part of the joy of the day was listening to the commentary- Innes was being blown away by every aspect of our environment. “It’s so 3-dimensional” was a comment really early on as the clever stalkers path weaved upward eventually revealing the hidden maze of glens beyond.IMG_0748 (3)


We left plans open but I reasoned that, if we were going to carry the crampons, rope etc we should aim for a route where they might actually be needed so the Forcan Ridge it was. I’ve done it many times but it never disappoints with progress often complex and time-consuming.


Top pupil donned the harness although I sensed an element of doubt about any need for it as I coiled the rope in preparation. Heading to the foot of the first slab Innes was hard on my heels and the beast was momentarily unleashed only to watch me fail miserably getting up the opening groove. A rising zig-zag left us no choice but to balance across the groove 40ft above the ground and the need for rope became obvious. The lad grew very fond of that wee bit of string over the following couple of hours!


IMG_0759What a position


IMG_0762 (2)

The aesthetics were great but the pics don’t show the brutal hard work. Every inch was hard fought for but, as Innes pointed out, it kept the mind off the drop.

IMG_0758 (2)

After an hour or so in the mist, things began to get distinctly brighter until we were suddenly in bright sunlight and the mists dropped off the ridge running away in front of us towards the Saddle.

IMG_0763Top of Sgurr a Forcan with The Saddle appearing out to the north.

It was already close to 2pm when we reached the summit of Sgurr a’ Forcan so an easy decision to head down immediately beyond. Now the bumslide descent from the Saddle is such fun it justifies the effort almost every time in winter but I hadn’t told Innes because I hadn’t been sure about the short-cut we were about to take. A foot of powder is a great cushion though and the run-out was clear so I armed the lad with an ice -axe, gave him a brief lesson then set him free while I packed the rope.


He was off like a shot and I was greeted by a cheshire cat-like grin 400 feet lower as Innes admitted the descent had been particularly troubling him whenever he made the mistake of thinking about it! With the tension released the eulogising really began in earnest; pretty sure I’ve another good keen climbing partner well broken in.

IMG_0771Looking back at where we’d been.

IMG_0769The Five Sisters of Kintail beautifully highlighted in the evening light

Thanks for inspiration for a great day out Innes!

St Kilda; Climbing on the edge of the world




Alan called me exactly a year ago with an outrageous request to be guided up Stac Lee on St Kilda in October or November 2015 “if there’s a settled period of weather”; ha, bloody ha. But no, he was serious as it was his last remaining Marilyn; a list of 1556 peaks over 500 feet high.

The full tale is long and full of plot & intrigue but, basically, the phone rang last Wednesday and I had to drop everything for the weekend ahead including all the rugby matches which was no small sacrifice!

We sailed to Harris Friday lunchtime and camped in an idylic spot just 10 minutes from Leverburgh where we would sail from at 6-30 next morning.




Beautiful skies at

Seamus and the crew of the Enchanted Isle had us all loaded and heading off 40 miles westward before the sun rose and I was soon catching up on Z’s but was woken by a shout of land ahoy. Not far ahead stood some impressive stacks, immediately recognisable from what little I’d managed to read. Distance was deceptive however andd it took more than another hour to finally reach St Kilda. Stunning light, dolphins and even a Minke whale kept us occupied along with a palpable tension of excitement & fear rising.






P1090314 P1100677

Stac Lee was the aim for the day and Alan and I were given the first ride ashore. The plan was for us to head up with Bob Kerr and his guide Tim following behind and rigging a static to help the less confident leaders behind and everything went pretty much exactly to plan. Conditions were better than the previous year’s assailants had encountered with bone dry rock and, more importantly, far drier and less deep guano from the gannets.

The route was effectively 3 pitches, never harder than V Diff in the conditions we had, and then a long easy scramble zig-zagging to the summit. The rock is gabbro; another super volcano that errupted at a similar time to the Cuillin volcanoes on Skye & Rum. The result is similar to what the Skye Cuillin would look like if sea-level rose to the level of Coire lagan or higher.

We made it to the top just before half 12 where Alan had to remind me it was his final Marylin top and a good celbration was in order. Michael Earnshaw also compleated and the others were alldelighted to get the highest & hardest “out of the way” 🙂






P1090431Ascent photos





Scorching sun & no wind added to the difficulties, not, as everyone gradually made it down for one big abseil descent and a safe return to the Enchanted Isle for tea & cake by about 4pm.



P1100750Descent pics

Speed was of an essence as we realised there was time to recce the next day’s objective, Stac an Armin. The swell was against us using last year’s landing so Tim & I rigged ropes on the East side. 35m of greasy slime covered rocks made us grateful for spikes & crampons but everything was set for a rapid ascent next day and return in time for the Scottish match on the ferry ride back from Tarbet……. if all went to plan. The swell nearly saw me in the drink as I abseiled onto the boat but, instead it was time to lap up the stunning light & scenery on the 20 minute ride to the old village on Hirta.







P1100783Boreray (right), Stac Lee (left) and Stac an Armin (centre)

The MOD base on Hirta is horribly out of keeping with the haunting beauty of the abandoned village but this didn’t detract from this, the largest island in the world heritage site, or the bouyant atmosphere as everyone settled down with good food, drink & banter & finally relaxing on what had been a high-octane day.P1100800



That’s all for now but I’ll complete with Sunday’s pictures asap.

Monte Viso wonderland


I first read about Monte Viso in 1999; Will McLewin’s classic book describing how every one of the Alps 4000m peaks could be seen from its summit. 3 days later and there it was, standing like an isolated church tower nearly 100km south of us. It stands 500m clear of any other mountains nearby and is one of the few “must do” peaks I’ve ever had.

A chance opportunity to climb with my old mate Icky saw us heading off over high passes on Tuesday and down into Italy. Our first close sight of it got the adrenalin rising nicely but quite a worry about how Red the dawg was going to get on!20150707_151457

Gulp! Monte Viso out to the right.

We got there, Red opted to stay in the Andretti bivvy hut @ 3200m (top of the heavy red line marked below) and sadly the haze limited views somewhat. The whole experience was outrageously good though with possibly the most beautiful alpine approach & descent I’ve ever done, quality  climbing, a tiny handful of friendly other climbers and superb company throughout. Enjoy the pics which I’ll label in time.-




















Recovery meal.

Sugar & Spice & all things nice. March 2015


March has been a hectic period as admin for the summer starts to dominate; very hard after such a fun winter. The wild conditions have continued pretty much identically to the past 3 months with plenty of good climbing conditions formed by bonkers winds, loads of snow, the odd thaw and repeat….. There’s snow settling at sea-level tonight and that’s not an April fool. Still basking in the glory of the In Pinn spoof in 2013; had folk who believed it well over a year later-

In fact I’ve bottled out of trying to catch you out this year so relax & enjoy a few pics from the past month or so.

Storr, 1st March. Driving there was scary enough! These guys had the harshest 3 days of the winter but still got out each day.



Sheltering under the Old Man of Storr

P1050672Sunshine; yey!

Neist. Friday 13th, not unlucky at all. First day of hot rock with Iain and Ally

Green Lady DirectIain on Green Lady


Spring tide funSpring Tide excitement


Man of StrawMan of Straw, VS 4c

Bruton party, 14th. A great day with miles of perfect snow to practice crampon & axe work.

P1050892Broad Gully, grade I, seen on descent


P1060647Tooth taken by Lucy that day


P1050869Perfect snow all day; here heading to Bruach na Frithe



Bla Bheinn with Lucy, Sunday 15th. Another immaculate day

Glory day

Alpine conditions on approach.



Not a cloud to ruin the view.



Can’t beat that view out to Rum



Serious graft for the Skye MRT taking the radio relay down for fixing, all 200kg of it!


Lucy on the crux of South Buttress Gully, III.



South Buttress Gully- A mix of sugary snow, plenty of spice & god it was nice!


Eilidh & Matt. A magical day with the mists burning off and rock drying front of our eyes on Sgurr an Fheadian, 21st



The Spur of Sgurr an Fheadain


Smiles of delight?


Nah, pure relief eh Eilidh!


Action Man


And that’s why she’s allowed to be happy!

IMG_0610Magical mists

Orion Face Direct, Wednesday 25th. Winter looked to be washed out very soon so Icky & I made a dash for the last route of the season. Spoilt for choice we chose Orion which I’d been on but never done in it entirity. Definitely didn’t disappoint and the legs really knew about it. Luckily the descent on a cushion of powder right to the door of the hut was as good as it gets; “If Carling made descents”.


Icky heading towards the exit chimneys that gave a superb steep finish to the 8 pitch day.






Mega Ice


P1000427Dodgy belay on the exit slopes.

31st March. Video work on Human Geography with Phillip from Canada was quite some challenge in the mega-gusts we had but the stinging showers mostly left us alone until the very end of the day. I’m not sure quite how it works but the project is based on Munro Bagging and he’s off to interview Chris Townsend next. Looking forward to seeing the results.


The Eastern Black Cuillin looking wintery. We went to the right hand of the 2 obvious cols


Clac Glas from the shelter of a welcome overhang.


Definitely winter.


Main Cuillin Ridge laid out in front of us


Clac Glas, the Matterhorn of Skye and a fiercesome barrier to reaching Bla Bheinn

Mega Ice on the Ben; too good to resist. 12thFeb


There has been so much stonking ice in evidence on photos from Ben Nevis that I couldn’t resist a quick hit on Thursday. Icky, Lucy, Cat & I arrived late in the CIC and didn’t rise early but still had a clear Curtain to start with.

A gentle angled pitch full of footsteps and hooks gave a good warm up-P1060420

…..before the steep upper half-


We were heading over to Italian Climb when Mega Route X came into sight just above us. Now I watched Cubby climbing this on video over 20 years ago and even bought one of (a large collection??) the red Cassin axes that he’d used on the ascent; apparently quite a lot of people have also bought the same axes with the same background tale 🙂 I digress, I knew it had been climbed a fair bit recently and it looked like it had plenty of bobbles for footholds. The team gave me the nod of approval and so off we went. IMG_1560

I’ve reverted to using wrist leashes on steep ice and loved them instantly; my arms really do appreciate not having to keep hold of the shafts at all. The ice was of stunning consistency (better than the steep part of Curtain) and the bobbles for feet allowed plenty of stability while placing screws.

Icky romped up behind and, although her arms wouldn’t quite do it, Cat has the pose of the day-


Icky & Lucy joined me on the belay and we all admired the icicle fringes all around us. The top pitch started steeply but soon relented with a groove on the left and just one short cheeky section of snowy ice before the final steepening.


A 50m abseil back to the ground was followed by pizza, tea & beer in the hut before the most dangerous part of the day- the drive home. Thank you Big Bad Ben for a glorious day 🙂


Please help Lynsey & Rabbie finish on a high


Lynsey & Rabbie the Dog are raising money for Help for Heros by climbing all of the Scottish Munros. In little over the 2 year mark they now have only 8 left to complete. A phenomenal effort from both but Rabbie does have 4 legs! This was painfully obvious as we descended steeply from the 5 Sisters of Kintail; while our knees screamed pure murder Rabbie chased his stick up and down the slope repeatedly.


Lynsey & rabbie1Stick throwing gave us both a welcome excuse for a break on the 1068m descent.

If you want to follow their adventures, including one of the scariest headcam videos of the In Pinn, check out their facebook page- Lynsey & Rabbie H4H Munro Challenge or donate directly here

One final word of warning to anyone descending towardss Sheil Bridge- the old suspension bridge at the east end of Loch Shiel is very unhealthy; I had to use special spiderman powers of praying to get across safely and avoid the 3km alternative detour!

Sheil BridgeOld suspension bridge east of Loch Shiel

Dry rock at Duncraig, 16th May


P1020742 (600x800)Silly steep start to the day!

Francis inspired Lou and me to join him and explore what the guidebook calls “terrain adventure, steep & exciting” on the upper cliff at Duncraig,  just across the water near Plockton. The book took a bit of deciphering but we were rewarded with 3 pitches of really good climbing. Our “combo” had Francis warm us up rapidly on Brigadier Braggart’s Little Secret, E3 5c. The obvious line above was eventually identified as Easy Rider, HVS 5a. This gave Lou a great curving crack pitch and then a very adventurous finish for me with route finding and vegetation adding extra spice to the high quality climbing.

P1020732 (600x800)Brigadier Braggart’s Little Secret, E3 5c

P1020728 (600x800)

Francis eyeing up the crux


P1020747Lou high on the first pitch of Easy Rider, HVS 5a

IMG_3238LandscapeOff for an adventure, pitch 3

P1020757 (600x800)

Set above Plockton bay with the Torridonian sandstone mountains behind the crag really is in a phenomenal position. Our adventure ended with yet more exploration as we took faith in the guidebook and abseiled back over the edge from the trees. The heavy rain had arrived but we really didn’t mind one bit.


P1020763 (800x600)Descending through the blueballs and bracken back to the car


Set above Plockton bay with the Torridonian sandstone mountains behind the crag really is in a phenomenal position.

Creag an Dubh Loch; a climb at last! 28th Feb.


Dubh Loch - CopyThe Dubh Loch with the crag and avalanche debris visible behind.

Desperate times make for desperate measures; with no serious climbing having been done since new year’s day a photo of fat ice at the Dubh Loch was enough to entice me into the huge drive to Ballater, 5am start, cycle and deep soft snow approach. It is a very beautiful part of the Highlands and the rewards soon started as the sun rose.

The Lips of Dawn

Sadly the lower half of the crag had lost a lot of ice in the past week but Robin came up with a plan.

A scary snowy approach over steep vegetation took us to the foot of The Last Oasis.

Last Oasis&New&SwordDamocles1Our line

I took the first pitch with instructions to break right to block belays below the thinly iced rib.

Last Oasis&New&SwordDamoclesLooking up from the foot of the pitched climbing after the scary approach.

Robin then took the helm, had a few words with himself on the initial thin steep slabs and finally sounded happier once the 3rd screw was placed without going down to rock. Classically I found the climbing far steeper than it had looked from below!

Steep thin startThin starting moves on the new pitch; Sword of Damocles icicle behind!

A drippy ice grotto after 35m gave a good screw belay but an intimidating step round the corner to reach the start of the Sword of Damocles final pitch.

PanclothPanorama experiment to show the drop below!

The excitement continued with a cornice to finish-

COrnice finish

 and then a huge great avalanche down the face 100m to the right of where we’d been climbing; gulp. This was the final straw in deciding not to stash our kit for a return battle next day but, in a winter where any climbing has been hard to come by the day was a great result. A waist deep battle through soggy drifts confirmed we’d made the right decision & we were both completely ****ered by the time we reached the bikes.

Cycling out

If anyone is particularly taken by the colour and design of Robin’s climbing sack he would love to hear from you; I’ve certainly never seen such a magnificent hue of blue……. 😉

A Torridonian Treat; 4th January 2014


Jim, Merrissa and I ended the week on a high with an ascent of Liathach over on the mainland. On Friday night we braved wild weather just to drive the 70 miles and then a 10 minute walk to the Ling Hut in the dark and driving rain. Next morning little seemed to have changed by 8am but the forecast came right just before 9.

Archive photo of the SMC Ling hut with Liathach behind; our route gained the crest at the right edge and traversed to the obvious high point called Spidean a’ Choire Leith (1055m)

The ascent is quite possibly the fiercest anywhere in the UK, rising from 30m above sea-level to 833m in little over a kilometre.We put crampons on at about 700m and it was obvious our descent was going to be concentrated.

our route behind us

Along the crest the snow was immaculate with just a small amount of give in a uniform covering.

Sun over Maol Carn Dearg

Roped together we wandered for the next hour in an almost dream-like manner with amazing light on the views all around.


Western Ridge of LiathachFrom the summit the ridge still stretched away into the distance but a lack of time and light meant we reluctantly had to turn heel and begin our descent.Luckily a direct slope back into Coire Liath Mhor gave a good fast start to this stage. A lip of rock below made us do a short abseil before traversing back towards our original path.

I realised it had been over 10 years since my last pilgramage to Torridon; this left me with mixed feelings of embarressment but mainly joy at rediscovering the hills I used to know so well. Liathach is 2nd only to Ben Nevis for mainland mountains I have climbed on. It won’t be long before I’m back again.

Good to be back

Harmony in Namibia


P1000964 (600x800)I was treated to some cragging near Windhoek today by Richard Ford of the Namibian MCSA branch. I had given a wee talk on the Cuillin to some of their members last night and Richard managed to wangle an afternoon off work. Access is a big issue over here so I can’t report on the exact location (had to be blindfolded for the journey;).P1000926 (800x600)

The crag is in a beautiful dry river bed where a waterfall forms in the rainy season. The rock is a metamorphosed sandstone with horizontal bedding that forms great holds, very reminiscent of climbing at Elgol but without the sea below.P1000954 (600x800)

All the lines have been bolted sadly but Richard was keen for me to lead the routes on my trad rack as a side of climbing he really wants to get into more.

The cliffs are about 15m high and we had time for 2 routes. Both gave great moves on steep ground.

P1000932 (600x800)Graded 17 on the South African scale I would give them HS or VS The rock was solid and yielded plenty of gear on the 2 lines we climbed. There was much talk of exchanges with Namibian climbers coming to Skye for snow and ice and the potential for UK climbers out here.

Last week I camped at Spitzkoppe, Namibia’s most famous centre of climbing.Spitzkoppe

Slabby granite with its huge crystals characterises the routes. I was limited to clipping a few bolts on one of the smaller areas but can’t wait to get back to tackle the peak itself and some of the huge long routes.

Cub (15) on Lion boulder

Hopefully Richard and I will manage to get something arranged over the coming months; anyone interested drop me an e-mail.

Road trip mindblower 15th July


With the weather breaking in the west Lucy and I decided to hit the road for the final couple of days of her week. King Bee on Creag Dubh at Newtonmore gave us our fix of 3 star climbing on the journey across but we were saving energy for what looked likely to be a massive day next day; and so it proved!

The Needle on the Shelterstone Crag is a classic route cleverly weaving its way up the enormous clean face to reach Needle Crack and finally thread the eye to reach the top. With alternating pitches of 4b, 5b, 4b, 5b, 4c, 5a, 4b, 5a, 4b it looked like we could alternate leads to give a perfect culmination in a week where Lucy’s leading has shot up from V Diff to confident VS.

The day was a long one, the tale even longer but culminated with Lucy leading the Needle Crack in superb style while I followed in a more agricultural fashion on the fantastic lay-back holds. All the routes open to her now dawned upon Lucy as she browsed Scottish Selected Rock Climbs over breakfast!

Enjoy the gallery-

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-

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

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.

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. “

Bealach an Sgairne 6th Feb


With a blanket of fresh snow covering the tops Chris and I opted for an exploratory walk on the mainland today. Neither of us had been near Beinn Fhada so we parked up in Strath Croe and followed the beautiful stalkers path around the north side of the mountain.

It started snowing heavily again soon after leaving the car but half an hour later the clouds cleared to reveal a real winter wonderland. Most striking was the deep cleft of Bealach an Sgairne out to the north.

There are a handful of long routes recorded on the western most top of Beinn Fhada, Sgurr a Choire Ghairbh. Although it looked impressive soaring above us the white blanket and steep black buttresses suggested the routes here weren’t a good option.

Another hour of pleasent walking finally led us to the high point at Bealach an Sgairne and a great view out into the wilderness beyond.

Mullach Fraoch choire may be the Munro in the distance

Before we could even identify the peaks another heavy snow shower rolled in but we were very happy with our reconnaisance mission.

Ski Touring; Pic d’Artsinol 10th Jan


I’ve only ever skied a handful of days but today had my first go at ski-touring. We were joined by Janine, Graham’s wife and member of the British ski-mountaineering team.

Chuffed not to have either wiped out or fallen off a lift I put the skins onto the skis at 2600m for the final rise to the Pic d’Artsinol, 2997m.

This 1000ft probably took me about an hour.

I’m sure the others would have halved that but some good simple instruction from them saw me right and positively enjoy myself by the top.

Far more worrying was the descent; I’ve never been off the pistes (as many of you will testify to; ha ha ) and deep snow with a thin crust looked like a good way to screw my knees. I was fully prepared to carry the skis down & wade through the deep snow but, despite wiping out a few times, had to agree that skiing down was quicker & easier.


Back on the pistes things suddenly seemed very easy and there was plenty of professional advice knocking around to help me feel almost competent by the bottom. 5000ft of skiing, nothing broken but definitely tired!

Cascade des Ignes. 9th January


I used snow shoes for the first time today to approach the magnificent Cascade des Ignes above Arolla. A couple of hours of this certainly did my fitness the world of good!

Ice plays games with the head in terms of steepness and Graham assured me it wasn’t as steep as yesterdays routes but close acquaintance didn’t appear to back this up.

Having taken fashion advice from his Cioch Direct clad guru Graham today wore a bright blue Montane jacket set off nicely by a bold orange Black Diamond helmet. (Sponsors please apply direct 🙂 


The ice was mostly excellent but powder snow poured down the climb almost constantly to create a very Scottish feel.

Some filing of my new axe picks helped get them both in and out far more easily today and I felt a whole lot more at home leading the 2nd pitch.

Beyond the 3rd pitch the gully opened out and G did a fine job of breaking trail up 150m of knee-deep snow to reach the plateau above. 

The views rewarded our efforts hansomely.


Alpine interlude 8th January


I’ve finally got back to the Alps for the first time since 2006 and so glad to have made the effort.

Good friend and UIAGM guide Graham Frost has taken a few days off his hectic ski-guiding schedule to indulge us in some cascade climbing.

I’ve never actually climbed continental ice so there was a fair amount of trepidation on my part.

We started today with a couple of climbs to see what I was capable of and I was relieved to find that arms, axes & crampons do work away from Skye too;)

A 20 minute drive took us from Graham’s house in Eveline up to Arolla and a 5 minute walk to the foot of a 65m icefall. G dismissed with the first steepening easily but I knew it was steeper than it looked when I caught him shaking out an arm.

New tools and new boots all seemed to work well for me despite the “in yer face” feeling that I’d forgotten about. Pitch 2 was nicely stepped and led to a friendly abseil ring and quick descent.

After coffee back in the village & admiring the weather forecast for the week we headed for something a bit steeper and a bit longer above an avalanche tunnel.

Only grade 3 in the guidebook I won’t be wanting to go much harder this week!


Off for some snow-shoeing and a route with a proper name tomorrow…..

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-

Alpine training feedback.



Many thanks to John Rushton and the White Hart mountaineers for some great action pictures from their trip to the Valais Alps this summer.

Mischabel Group behind. the Nadelhorn is the 2nd major peak from the right.

Back in January we ran an Alpine training course for John’s team of 6- see pictures of this in the January Blog

It is always great to hear follow-up from clients particularly when the skills learnt have been put to full use-

 “Hello Mike

Our group from Essex was at yours for mountain training in January. We went to the Alps in Mid July and the training you gave us was perfect for it. We first went up Weismiess split into two groups of 3. We all made it up, the first up that day, and had no trouble although there were a lot of crevasses.

Among the crevasses & seracs on the NW face of the Weissmies.

We then went up The Nadelhorn. Steve, Tom, Marco and I went for it and the ridge training with the mixed snow and ice was perfect. We used all the training you gave us and were glad of it.

Full Scottish conditions on the Nadelhorn!

I’m now looking forward to some more excellent craic in January with the team that trains most intensely in the White Hart; happy days-

We would like four days training in January to take it a bit further and tackle some grade III routes. John Rushton consolation


My trip down south was great fun until travelling back on Friday; I’d made the mistake of feeling smug at missing Thursday’s storm but we were turned back from Inverness late Friday night by snow. The delights of the extra time in Gatwick were rewarded next morning by the best arial views of Scotland I’ve ever had the privelidge to see. Here’s a selection as we approached Lochaber from the south before turning east along the Great Glen-

Clouds clear to reveal the Highlands in full winter garb.

Ben Nevis is the highest peak on the left of shot with Aonach Mor the long sunlit crest stretching rightward.

Looking east to west along the dawn-lit tops from Beinn na Lap past the Grey Corries, Aonachs, Carn Mor Dearg to Ben Nevis.

Ben Nevis News


Dispatch received from Mike who is working out of the CIC Hut on Ben Nevis. The warm conditions have left gaps in some of the classic ice routes and Point 5 gully sounds as though it is thin. The skies have started to clear so hopefully that will stay the same overnight for a good frost and lead to better conditions over the coming days. Mike was on Ledge route with Frank today.

Frank with Tower Ridge, Observatory Buttress and NE Buttress in the background.

Creag Meagaidh Ice


Matt met up with Gillian early on Friday morning at Spean Bridge. We had our sights set on climbing The Pumpkin (300m, Grade V,4). The ten vehicles already at the car-park convinced us to set a fast pace on the walk in and we managed to catch a few teams on the way through.

Gillian near the top of the first pitch.

There was a team just starting on The Pumpkin as we arrived at the bottom but their fast pace persuaded us to set off behind them. The ice was in fantastic condition giving great protection and providing good axe placements from every swing.

Gillian leading the second pitch

After five enjoyable pitches of climbing we topped out at about 2.30pm. We needed a swift bout of navigation to get off the summit plateau and then had an enjoyable walk back through The Window and down the Glen.

Looking back at the Post Face of Creag Meagaidh

South Glen Shiel Ridge


I enjoyed a couple of days introducing 3 Jonathons, Alasdair & Donald to crampons and axes on Friday and Saturday. The guys flew up to Inverness and had a stunning sunny drive through to Kintail Lodge on Wednesday afternoon.

We fitted crampons that night and headed off from the Cluanie Inn next morning. Everything was frozen solid and crampons needed at about the 600m mark as we followed the stalkers path up Druim Shionnach (987m). Cloud blocked the vista as we reached the top but with hardly a breath of wind and conditions under foot just perfect everyone was keen to carry on.

Druim Shionnach (987m)

The next 2 kilometres took less than an hour as we headed west to our second Munro, Aonach air Chrith (1021m). We had passed some impressive drooping old cornices along the way but the closest col gave a gentle descent back into Coire an t-Slugain.

Slooping Cornice

This is normally a boggy nightmare of a corrie but the heavy freeze let us wander happily. The clouds even decided to finally lift above the tops so we could fully appreciate the whole ridge we had just traversed. Spirits were high in the comfort of the Cluanie that we reached just before needing torches.

Saturday defied the forecasts and started with heavy mists and heavy heads for most of us after a fine night of Kintail Lodge hospitality. The stalkers path had a fair covering of ice despite the thaw but we only donned crampons on reaching the ridge east of Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais. Much talk was of the promised fine weather that seemed to have forgotten us but, right on cue, the mists started to clear just as we reached the summit. Wonderful glimpses of the Five Sisters and South Shiel Ridge came and went and then Brocken Spectres formed on the cloud still sitting in the corrie below. A golden eagle seemed as surprised to see the sun as us but then sank straight back in to the mist once he realised he had company.

Taking it in from the top of Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais (847m)

We continued west towards Sgurr na Sgine, used the rope to descend a surprise steep section (that cleared the heads) before heading back towards our approach path via Coire Toiteil.