Blog > Non-climbing posts

Scottish #Independence. Time to be serious.


I’ve always kept this blog for mountaineering topics but the importance of the upcoming vote justifies breaking the mould. The final catalyst to speak up has been the defection today of Tory MP Douglas Carswell to UKIP.

To me the vote comes down to culture; the social and economic outlook of the people I live with. After 21 years of living north of the border, I like Scotland. I’m sure there are other parts of the UK with an equally good case but Scotland has an opportunity to do something about it.

Political change is a natural, inevitable cycle in human nature and today’s political event, to me, summed up why I want my future to be in the hands of those closer to home. Right-wing tories moving further right to UKIP (BNP_in_disguise?) reflects a political direction as far from my own as imaginable in the UK. In a referendum on whether to stay in the EU a 100%, 4 million person, Scottish vote for staying in Europe wouldn’t scratch the surface of the UK result and yet only one seat was won by UKIP in the whole of Scotland in recent local elections.


In order to understand why there is so much conflicting information remember that a huge amount of negotiation is going to happen after the vote before full independence in 2016. This is a referendum on where the cards are going to sit at the table. At this moment both sides are in full political mode with the main game being to undermine the other; that’s what politicians do. I’ve tried to bypass the mire and stick to some logical truths.

Oil & other assetts

We’ve just gone to war in Iraq and Afganistan fundamentally over oil. Eastern Europe is unstable and I can only see the value of safe Scottish oil increasing and every last drop being extracted. Scotland also has a wealth of other assets to sell. I can only comment with any authority on tourism and whisky but both are industries on a major upsurge.

The split

Negotiations at all levels will be intense with both sides wanting the best deal. What I am convinced about is that rUK does not want a 3rd world economy next door so I don’t fear impending poverty. I also know who I would back in a poker game between Salmond & Cameron.


If the banks & goverment in rUK create problems with Scotland keeping the pound it would be economic vandalism against their own biggest (2nd?) trading nation with stupid repurcusions at home. Darling dropped a clanger by admitting there was nothing to stop it in the last debate. What is interesting is that we would be tied to the success or failure of the pound and rUK. The only conclusion I can make is that this common interest should act as a stabaliser between the countries.

My pocket

Part of how I will measure wealth on my death bed will be the richness of far more than money. I want health, education and damn good facilities at the retirement home! I do expect to pay more tax to get what I want but the levels we pay will be more fairly balanced between rich & poor.

Can it work?

We have an enviable infrastructure in place already and many assetts to generate income. Maintaining this and budgeting for alterations in spending are all part of the negotiations that have yet to take place. Undoubtedly there will be highs and lows in the years to come but the risks are no greater than staying put in the UK and the potential benefits are far greater.


I’ve long thought that “letting our boys join the British Army” is one of the concessions Salmond may make. Too simplistic possibly but fundamentally I still see there being Scottish soldiers, sailors & airforce personnel in Scotland and overseas. Trident could be a huge problem to sort out and 5.5 years (currently proposed schedule) may well turn out to be 20 but it is far less likely that a new era of nuclear weapons will end up in Scotland and even less likley to be out of the Scottish budget.


So far the best thing I’ve witnessed is that the referendum has created conversation and debate.  For over 2 years visitors have been shaken by the intensity of discussion going on in all circles of Scottish life. People young and old are interested in politics again. Modern life had become increasingly antisocial with opinions being shaped & formed by whatever the powers decided to release to our mobiles and laptops; Big brother’s perfect scenario. Whatever Scots vote for they will have chosen based on talking with those around them at least as much as what they have heard through the media. That interest in politics won’t subside quickly and the future of Scottish politics is bright.

South of the Border

The implications for rUK are big and I’m sure there will be political activity sparked as a result. I hope the result will be a similar rise in interest and political direction, inspired by a Scottish example that things can change. Talk of passports and borders is the worst spin from the No camp of the whole campaign. Its not just for currency reasons that Scotland will still retain a major interest in getting on well with its neighbours.

So Vote

We hear about fighting for independence every day in the news but peacefully negotiated independence from a sovereign state is a privelege that incredibly few people in this world will ever get. You only get one life, seize your chance to do something positive about it. Bring the decisions made closer to home, to the people around you. Most importantly make sure you get out and vote but, on a personal note, please vote Yes.








Lorraine’s Corbett Round, Skye May 18th


It was a pleasure to help Lorraine McCall on her way by lending her a bike for the short ride between Sligachan and Portree today.

LorraineLorraine with Glamaig, the last Skye Corbett, behind her

Lorraine is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support while attempting the first continuous round of Corbetts (Scottish peaks between 2500 and 3000feet). Since April 8th she has managed the awkward first 54 with only 167 left to go! Key to the islands part of the project is the beautiful Iona of Clyde, chartered from Gairloch and skippered by Graham. Over the past 2 weeks they’ve been to Arran, Mull, Jura, Rum and Skye and are off to Harris in the morning!

P1020803Lorraine in Portree harbour with the fixed up boat and support team on deck waiting for the tide

There are loads of people in the support team and half of them spent today fixing the boat after storm force winds nearly ended badly right in the harbour yesterday when fishing rope got caught in the propeller. The same winds had a similarly dramatic effect on the hill as Lorraine descended Garbh Bheinn with John and Caz. A gust picked Caz up and ditched rudely and painfully into the rocks. Very glad to report that she was well enough to join the team still today despite the souvenir 🙂

CazPirate Caz sporting bruises to match her jacket and Buff

All best wishes for a safe and successful trip ahead over the coming months to all the team. Follow her blog here

Skiing and Snowboarding in Fionn Choire


P1000081 (800x600)

Half way up. We made it about as far as where the cloud is sitting in the corrie.

Time for a change of hobby with all this soft snow. Angus and I loaded ourselves up and headed up into Fionn Choire at the northern end of the Cuillin. Going under foot wasn’t too deep and slow but the extra weight and wind catching the “sails” gave burning thighs.P1000088 (800x600)

Angus getting into the groove

No real action photos but some great videos of Angus boarding on Face Book; start here-

I’m not looking forward to videos of my inept skiing leakiing onto the net but I got down in one piece, managed to put in a few turns and can’t wait to do it again.

South Skye p4/5 shinty victory, 12th February.


Huge congratulations to South Skye A team for winning the p4/5 tournament tonight. It’s the second year in a row that they’ve beaten arch rivals Portree A to the trophy but has nothing to do with their lucky shirts 😉

P1000060 (645x800)Back- Aaron, Nuan, Lachlan (captain) Front- Nathan, Ollie, Calum

The guys won every match in the league stages, semi-final and very high quality final. Spectators and players nervously glanced at the clock as South End desperately defended their early goal before captain Lachlan Macpherson made space for himself cleverly before rifling home in the dying seconds.

P1000047 (800x600)Aaron throws arms in the air as the final hooter sounds.

Really well done to South End B as well who won 2, drew one and only lost to Portree A. The play-off against Portree, for the semi-final draw, was a marathon that went to extra time and then golden goal before their tournament was finally over.

P1000021 (800x600)James giving it welly in the mamoth play-off against Portree C

Single Track road advice.


Just a quick bit of writing I’ve been meaning to do for ages. Advice on how to drive up here on the single track roads is sparse so here’s my go. No incident provoked it; just somebody asking if driving up here is different-

Single Track road advice

The biggest single driving issue in the Highlands is how to deal with the many sections of single track roads. Advice is not broadly publicised and misunderstandings can be the cause of “road rage Highland style”.

Passing places on single track roads are marked with white diamond signs and are generally frequent and well placed for a driver concentrating & anticipating well. When a car is coming in the opposite direction convention is to keep driving forward to the mutually central passing place then pull over to the left-hand side to allow the vehicle coming the other way to pass. Equally the other car may pull over for you first so you should carry on driving rather than also pulling over. It is not unusual to accidentally over-run the passing place and you should be happy and prepared to reverse back.
Passing places are also very important to allow following traffic to overtake. If a vehicle comes up behind you should pull over as soon as possible to allow this. Not doing so is a great source of frustration for local drivers in particular and they will not be slow to let you know by flashing their lights and honking their horn. Being followed in this situation is not pleasant, can be distracting and dangerous. Allowing passing immediately relieves this problem and allows you to carry on enjoying the journey and scenery.

UPDATE- Watch this very short video clip for a musical explanation- Passing Places


Garbh bheinn; Golden light and Golden Eagle 15th February


2 days of intense wind & rain finally eased off yesterday morning and it was time to go and see what conditions were like. Parking for the beautiful peak of Garbh bheinn is just a  2 minute drive from home at the head of Loch Ainort.

We opted against the north face because we reckoned that the snow would be very soft after so much warm weather. Retrospectively this seems not to have been the case as the old snow fields are so well consolidated that they are still a good consistency.

An hour of walking up the Druim Eadar da Choire took us to the hill marked with a spot height 489m on the Harvey’s map; there is a local name for this wonderful viewspot (a best on Skye contender for sure) but I’ll have to write it down next time I remember to ask the crofters. The Main Ridge was clear and showed the crest to be well plastered still along the entire length. Undoubtedly some exposed rock sections but very, very wintery still!

The dip at point 429m just below is the geological boundary between the Red and Black Cuillin and the cliff of black gabbro can clearly be seen sitting on top of the more rounded red granite hillside. For another hour we all indulged in as much scrambling on the hugely crystaline gabbro as we could find with a fine narrow crest as a finale.

The view of the ridge from Clach Glas to Blaven from here is uber classic; great background for the team pic!

We’d planned to descend north-east towards Belig but the hard/sugary snow interspersed with rock-hard turfs looked far too serious for such a relaxed day out with friends so we retraced our steps and were treated to some wonderful mist and light effects out to the west.

Recovering from the re-rise to pt 489 and taking it all in Mark’s jaw hit the flaw and he gestured horizontally out over our heads; we all dived for cameras as quietly as possible as a mature golden eagle circled around and slowly upward.

Seeming to change his mind he suddenly folded the wings and soared down past us and settled amongst the boulders not far from where we had just descended. Magnificent display thankyou!

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!

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.


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.

Skye Guides 2013 Calendar for sale.


UPDATE JANUARY 2013- Limited copies are still available and retailing at £10 including UK postage. e-mail us to order.

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.