2017 Winter courses based at Skye Basecamp are filling well but we’ve still got space available.
Single place available for climber on a Ridges and Routes course.
28 January to 2 February
An advanced course suitable for guests with previous winter mountaineering experience and some knowledge of rope-work.
For those with ambitions to climb graded winter routes.
- 1:2 Ratio.
- 4 days guiding
- Up to 6 nights accommodation at Skye Basecamp
- Just £645pp
Dates don’t quite match or you have less time available? Contact us by email or call Mike on 07769221500
2 places still available on Introduction to Skye Winter course
A brilliant way to start exploring the Cuillin in winter. Suitable for guests used to full days of summer hill walking. There are some sample routes and itineraries here.
- Learn to safely tackle Cuillin peaks and ridges
- Introduction to ice axe, crampons and many other winter skills
- 1:4 Max Ratio
- 3-days of guiding
- 4 nights accommodation at Skye Basecamp
- Only £395pp
Dates don’t quite match or you have less time available? Contact us by email or call Mike on 07769221500
Tony & Maija have ambitions on climbing Mont Blanc this summer so my brief was to get them confident on their crampons.
We met in awful weather on the first morning but the forecast was to improve through the day so we spent a very productive hour fine-tuning and discussing the kit. It was still damp as we left the carpark but breaks soon began to appear.
Our delayed start not only worked very well with the weather but we were the 3rd party up the Great Gully on Ba Bheinn that day so had a wonderful line of bucket steps right to the crest. As so often this season the summit views were outstanding.
We wore crampons for practice more than safety but were very glad to have them on as we started our descent; the change of aspect made meant the initial 10 minutes were on very hard old snow before we got back to the soft stuff and some essential bumsliding to avoid sinking every step.
Next day there were strong gusts so we opted for the low-lying Broad Gully on Sgurr a’ Bhasteir.
On the ascent we encountered a wide variety of consitency, a common theme this season with so much weather going on. The ridge and corrie were surprisingly sheltered but the gusts were soon bowling us over on the way out.
On Wednesday we hid from the wet weather and had a concentrated skills session on the Portree high school wall and by Thursday it looked like we would struggle to find any snow to play on at all….
How wrong we were; snow with great consistency led right up the An Stac screes, around the bypass (and a huge new rockfall btw!) and up past the In Pinn to the summit crest.
I love it when the mountains treat you to such a wonderful surprise; a great way to finish the course.
Simon has finally squeezed the ambition of winter climbing into his hectic schedule of fell running, cycling & blowing up molecules (or something like that). In 2013 we had an exciting time climbing a route we called Broken Windows on Window Buttress so I knew he would be up for an adventure. XC forecast good weather until midday so I mooted a criminally early start.
I’d spotted a huge lump of ice on Friday so yesterday we aimed for that, fully armed with screws & screamers. We left the beach shortly after 5 and, as dawn broke, the icefall appeared but only half the man it had been. On closer inspection the remaining ice was clearly the best kind, grey and thick and still very much attached and my hopes rose again. I placed a screw then dashed past the cold shower (steep but on on perfect placements) for a closer look at the open book corner above. Sadly the nice ice ran out and this project came to an abrupt end.
Off to the right more ice led up to a good rock crack and offered an opportunity to give Simon his first go at swinging axes, even if we weren’t going to get to the top. Admittedly I got drenched while belaying but it was a good teaching exercise as Simon discovered the nuances of good/bad ice, how hard to hit, how to get the axes (and a screw) out. More importantly he learnt that it ‘s still all about the feet and discovered just how little a kick his crampon points needed in order to stay put.
We finished our 8-hour day & were back in the pub by 2 and the forecast bad weather eventually set in by 4.
All this set us in good stead for today and I was hopeful Foxes Rake, one of my favourite routes, would offer us some ice. We were joined by Ally (you’ll recognise the grin) for a very civilised 7am start and the rain had cleared through as predicted. As the light arrived The Smear and Icicle Factory ice shone big and bold above us (nowhere near complete but definitely fat where they had formed). Foxes also had some great looking sections but looked thin at the crux especially. I toyed with the pros & cons; the route had never looked so huge & alpine before. Knowing that good rock anchors are sparse exaggerated the seriousness, escape if the crux was too thin was going to be “interesting”. I decided Upper rake would be a better idea but would reconsider as we passed the start of Foxes. From closer up I realised there was far more ice and it all looked delicious again.
Temptation got the better of me & up we went, moving together for the first 150m, moved in shortpitches for another 100m then got both ropes out for the beautiful wide ice pitch below the crux. A bombproof blade belay increased my optimism hugely as I studied the crux that I knew had very little protection. A positive mentality definitely helped as no cracks apeared for protecion. After some balancey steps a narrow groove offered up thicker ice and just enough excellent placements to keep things calm. The cave offered up 3 “better than nothing” runners but the solid line of immaculate ice above was the real source of safety. 25m above, and running out of rope forced me to leave the joyous medium for easier angled snow but we still managed 2 more pitches of indulgence after this.
The route ended just on cue as snow & hail suddenly whipped around us on the latest weather front. Descending back below Deep gash Gully we found fresh fox prints emerging from a dry cave and Simon even glimpsed him heading off into the murk; a fitting finish for a foxy day.
Apologies for no photos in the text but the images are refusing to be rotated. Hopefully the right way around in the gallery below.
With so much work going on this summer regulars will have noticed that blogging has dropped in the priorities. One important one I should have done at the time was with the Young family who, in addition to having fun, are training daughter Nina for an ambitious plan to cross Antarctica when she is 18. She hopes to raise a huge amount of money for the Teapot Trust. Details are explained in a letter from dad John below.
Much fun & many good lessons were learnt by the whole family over a couple of days, finishing with a full team ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle. Well done to John, Laura, Nina and Isla and every bit of luck with the Teapot Trust.
It’s been a funny old week but plenty of action still going on. Guy squeezed in a Traverse with Pete & Andy, Andy guided Chris & Anna across some classic Cuillin scrambles including Pinnacle ridge and the In Pinn.
My week was very varied and admittedly a bit of a blur but celebrating with Schnapps on Sgurr an Fheadian, descending Pinnacle Ridge in the pouring rain and lovely dry rock across the knife-edge top of Ghreadaidh twice in 3 days are highlights.
Enjoy the selection of pics below-
With a Ridge Traverse high on Mark’s ambitions I decided a day of intense training at Elgol was in order after 2 hard days in the snow.
First was an hour of abseiling until Mark was completely happy doing everything himself.
Next was some intense footwork on the easy slab which took Mark from a rock hugger to a smiling rock gymnast in a matter of minutes. We had to dive for cover as a heavy shower passed over us but the rocks were dry enough to climb minutes later.
After lunch we crossed the beach to the main cliff. The noise of crashing waves reverberated under the huge rooves and created a seriously intimidating feel as we perched on our tiny ledge. As we covered the important sequence of what was going to happen I watched the next shower storm across the Minch towards us but a tiny cave at the foot of Fertility Right kept us dry.
Climbing a Severe standard climb on damp rock, rucksack on back and in approach shoes gave a realistic insight into what Mark is going to find on the TD Gap & Naismith’s Route when he returns with some fine sunny weather for a Traverse:-)
An early start to catch the dry weather worked well for Marissa, Jim & I today. We climbed the classic Spur on Sgurr an Fheadain and concentrated on scrambling techniques rather than snow as temperatures have risen to double figures.
Good to see a golden eagle soaring off over Sgurr Thuilm and even better to reach the summit and have all of the Tops clear. This only lasted a matter of minutes before the weather front arrived right on schedule complete with damp cloud.
We enjoyed a quick scree running descent and fortunately the rain held off until we reached the safety of the Old Inn. The pools were as busy as ever and we even spotted a fairy bathing in the icy waters 🙂
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Here’s a shot of me playing last year; at my feet you can just see a white band of quartzite-
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.
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.
Chris was back again after his first taste of the Cuillin in November, this time for an introduction to the white stuff. Despite the rain being heavier than the Beeb predicted we had a good day on Sgurr a’ Bhasteir.
Enjoying the dry approach
We were helped by a dry start and then a fine set of tracks left yesterday by, at a guess, Sgurr a’ Bhasteir officianado Mr Beads. These led us not only to our objective but right up into it and a handy dry cave in which to kit up.
Our surprise shelter
Broad Gully is about 600ft long and gives a great way to approach the NE Ridge of Sgurr a Bhasteir and holds snow for most of the winter. There are some great icy alternatives on either side that form readily, all in the lower grades and all put up by Beads with a variety of partners.
…and looking down
On hitting the ridge the weather had deteriated to a tropical rain storm so it was time for a sharp exit with some ice axe breaking instruction on a perfect slope that dropped us straight down to the lochain in Coire a’ Bhasteir.
Far too much fun being had in this serious winter mountaineering game!
I was out with Tim and Nina today introducing them to basic winter skills in preparation for their attempt on Mt. Blanc later this year. We had an entertaining time walking into the wind and rain for a while but it was quite sheltered from the wind high up in Fionn Coire. We found a good variety of firm and soft snow so that we could practice moving around all types of terrain on the way up and down the coire. The snow-melt was increasing as we came off the hill today and I expect the hills will be looking quite bare in a day or two. There will be plenty of patches of snow along the ridge for quite a while yet though.
Going up the hill….
And down again!
Peter did a complete Ridge Traverse with Gillian as his guide last year and has his focus on the big 3 alpine peaks of Eiger, Matterhorn & Mont Blanc this year. He has asked for a course giving an introduction to the skills he will need and today certainly covered most of these areas.
Pristine snow in An Doras
For starters we covered crampon and axe work on simple slopes as pristine snow led us easily to An Doras. Only one small step was needed to gain the slopes of Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh above. We found wind-blasted hard snow on the Coruisk side with a complete contrast of softer powder on the lee slope above Glen Brittle.
Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh’s huge bulk behind us.
We moved together throughout the next 1.5km as far as Sgurr na Banachdich. Generally conditions were excellent but the knife-blade crest of Ghreadaidh was very taxing and required extreme concentration.
Yawning drops focus Peter’s concentration
Peter took to crampons superbly but also realised why the rocky ridges of his alpine objectives will need to be clear of snow.
The narrow crest section finally comes to an end.
Matt was out with Phil and Andy today. We had a fantastic time making our way up the Great Gully to the summit of Bla Bheinn. The cold air has finally had an effect on the hill and the snow pack is really firming up now, it was so solid that we were extremely thankful for the old footsteps. We spent some time playing with the rope, digging bucket seats and body belaying on the way up the gully. Sadly the cloud had closed in when we topped out but it did provide an opportunity for some navigation practice. It was a grand day out and many thanks to the guys for good company on the hill and an entertaining natter.
Beinn Sgreithall on the mainland rising above the mists.
Andy coming to terms with the art of body belaying!
Mike was out with Sam and Tom on Bla Bheinn as well, climbing South Buttress Gully. They looked pretty happy when they passed us on the way down and Mike would not shut up about how much fun the climbing was!
South Buttress Gully is just visible to the left of the main buttress. Great Gully is on the right of the buttress
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.
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.