Blog > Winter Mountaineering

Christmas Comes but Once a Year

15/02/20

2020 has not been a good year for winter climbing conditions, particularly here on Skye. December was tropical and January’s storms rolled wildly from hot to cold and back again, right on through into February without taking a breath. At last, word on the frustrated ice-warrior grapevine was that Thursday might, just might, be windless, cold and still snowy. Surely there must be some amazing ice left after so much precipitation, wind and fluctuating temperatures…..

Lucy is quite possibly the keenest Cuillin climber in the world, even though she lives in Fife. Last minute plans need this level of commitment and my part of the bargain was to head out and check conditions on the ground. By Wednesday lunchtime Storm Ciara was in her death-throws.

There was heaps of snow visible but steep rocks looked brown and dry, right to the tops. Beautiful though it was, I was feeling pretty pessimistic about finding us a big new route.

My mood swung enormously with pictures from Andy and Callum who were immediately above my head on the 5th Pinnacle. Acres of beautiful solid snow ice plastered everywhere; ye ha!

Lucy was on her way and my head was exploding with a mix of optimism and terror. The terror at this stage was more about making the right shout and finding a good option; physical fear could wait until we find a line. At the same time I was like a kid in a candy shop with so many amazing existing climbs that we could go for if my lines turned out to be blank; but that’s not the new-routing “game”.

Top of my list was a route first climbed in 1911. I went for a look back in December with Steve Worth but the blanket of wet snow wasn’t even remotely frozen.

Lucy and I arrived at Sligachan at first light and our line was “sort of” visible on a zoomed in photo-

The approach walk was glorious with crunching footfall and golden light.

 

Our line stayed out of view until the very last minute and there it was; thin but a continuous line of white ran up a shallow groove. 

Excitedly we kitted up with the pressure of a big route and many hours of work if we were going to succeed; and then disaster. I’d left my crampons behind. Chucking everything on the snow in a fit of frustration a set of micro-spikes miraculously appeared but they weren’t going to be much good with no front-points. Lucy didn’t skip a beat as she whipped off the crampons and pointed me at the sharp end; she wasn’t going to let a wee problem like this stop our fun!I didn’t share her optimism and set up a belay immediately above the initial ice so I could pass down the crampons but she insisted on giving the micro-spikes a go first. I kept the rope tight but smooth and steadily Lucy joined me with the usual big grin and the route ahead opening up.

The ice was definitely not going to be taking screws and the sheathed rock bands looked very compact. I played out some major head games before committing to this pitch but the ease with which Lucy climbed had removed my main excuse to run away. I finally got into the zone and was rewarded with a juicy big cam placement from beneath the continuous white canvas 5 metres higher.

The climbing was superb; never too technical or sustained but a thoroughly absorbing mental game of delicate footwork and imaginative axe-work, wonderfully interspersed with regular dollops of bomber ice. Lucy cruised steadily upward and I was able to admire some super-imaginative foot, knee and Dachstein work as she got closer-

The amphitheatre above didn’t have an obvious line but logic said follow the fattest ice for the easiest way. A footless pull-up to knee-jam was probably the technical crux and the angle began to fall back as the rope ran out. A final pitch where the ice was finally fat enough for a screw and then the end was in sight.

 

We fed, watered and drank in the views before a bum-slide and comparatively short walk out then home for tea, biscuits and whisky 🙂

 

High Crag Sgurr nan Gillean. Christmas Comes but Once a Year, IV,4 165m *** ML and Lucy Spark, 13/02/20

Skye Winter Festival 2020

28/10/19

January 24th to 2nd February 2020; 10 days for our 10th Anniversary!!

An open invitation to climbers, walkers and any others with an active interest in the Skye mountains in winter.

It’s that time again for climbers to meet up, climb together and enjoy the post-match analysis. The Cuillin truly take on their Alpine status in winter and offer climbing and scenery like nowhere else in Britain. There is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had!!

2020- A full week in the Glen then to up to Skye Basecamp for the weekend and annual dinner.

7 days of stepping straight out of the door and into a Cuillin winter wonderland. This was how the festival started back in 2011! The Glen Brittle Memorial Hut is situated at the foot of the southern Cuillin with easy access to Coir’ a Ghreadaidh, Coir’ a’ Banachdaich, Coire Lagan and Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda.

After 7 nights in the Glen the festival moves to the big smoke and 2 nights in the luxury of Skye Basecamp.

Background information.

Over the past 9 years  The Skye Winter Festival that has seen high levels of activity including over 60 new winter routes. The Cuillin offer massive challenges no matter how much or how little snow the gods decide to give us so there will be action every day.

The Skye Cuillin is an Alpine-style range offering mountaineering and climbing of the highest calibre that attracts real mountaineers but there is also a huge attraction for those who just enjoy being in amongst mountain scenery of such grandeur.

The festival is open to anyone between these 2 extremes and our only rule is that nobody gets left out! Come alone or with a climbing partner.

Guests come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb is embraced wholeheartedly (interpret as you like); just choose a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures.

The Climbing

Over the past 9 years we’ve well and truly blown the myth of the Cuillin being a poor option for winter climbing right out of the water. In 2018 Skye was the place to be with Traverses happening for over 8 weeks and multiple new routes. There is a whole mountain range of possibilities from hard-core mixed to truly alpine mountaineering.

White Wedding IV,4

 

 

It’s not all high-brow climbing with many parties enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. There’s Neist or Elgol for rock climbing and we’ve got some dry tooling crags developed. Even skiing and boarding have been growing in popularity over the past few seasons.

What’s to do?

If you’re unfamiliar with what Skye has to offer check out any winter blog posts or an article on “The New Cuillin” for plenty of ideas. On the ground there are plenty of folk with good knowledge including the guy that wrote the guidebook…

Accommodation and Food

The meet will start in the newly refurbished Glen Brittle Memorial Hut right at the foot of the Cuillin.

Skye Basecamp will be our hosts for the following weekend. 

Beds cost £20 per night in both venues.

The Memorial Hut and Basecamp both have good kitchens for self-catering.

The annual dinner is a big communal evening meal on Saturday 1st February at a cost of £10pp. Not sure what we’ll go for but local venison steaks, genuine French fondue and full roast dinners have been the norm. Please join us and let your hair down!

Booking

If you’re interested in joining us just e-mail mike@skyeguides.co.uk to reserve beds. We’ll send you a booking form to complete with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing. 

Bed reservations will need to be paid for but, if you are unsure if you can make it, we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking.

Costs

Attending the festival is free. Accommodation costs £20 per night for a bed and Saturday evening meal will cost £10.

Evenings

This is very much a climbing event and the traditional banter associated with it. Wonderful characters and craic are the norm and over the years we’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips and watched videos. Guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps. 

The Annual Festival dinner is cooked communally.

 

 Social media

Please keep up to date through the Skye Winter Festival facebook page and retweet news using this shortened URL#skyewinterfest. Add your own photos to the facebook page and make sure that privacy settings allow everyone to see them please.

FAQ

Got your own campervan– You’re still welcome to join us for climbing & socially.

Last minute climber– We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about bed space.

Unsure? Don’t worry if you don’t know the Cuillin- many of the Winter Festival regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering route advice and information on the ground but, on the whole, it’s a non-working meet for us and we’re here to play like everyone else.

A list of attendees is circulated before the meet with details of their experience & depth of Cuillin knowledge. Through the meet walking and climbing teams slot into place after making acquaintances.

Don’t be intimidated- if your ambitions are modest there will be somebody similar who knows any time on Skye is quality and happy to just rock back and enjoy!

Travel– Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts- there’s a part of the part of the booking form to help put you together with others offering/needing lifts

 

Winter Traverse conditions back again! 23 January 2019

24/01/19

Heads up to all Traverse aspirants that the Cuillin Ridge is in full winter condition and that progress is comparatively fast.

Blips of freeze thaw have left great cover and good consolidation. This improved by the day since the first snows arrived just last Thursday (17th) and walking out yesterday was a delight.

We approached by An Dorus and were glad of a trail but consistency was amiable and really we could have punched our own trail with just a bit more effort. The crest is glazed as well as snow cover so no squealing crampons. Summer bypass lines are holding more depth so harder work in ascent but quite forgiving in descent so choosing the best line is a good challenge. 

Forecast is currently for a fair amount more snow to fall on Saturday, a bit better for Sunday onwards with more possible until Wednesday evening when winds are due to turn to the drier northerlies.

Climbing conditions are already good with plenty of ice forming and not needing that much more. Avoiding routes that are just blanketed will be the hard part but plenty of rewards to be had. The shot below is of White Wedding looking too thin for screws just yet.

Skye Winter Festival 2019

19/11/18

 

 

February 17th to 25th 2019

An open invitation to climbers, walkers and any others with an interest in the Skye mountains in winter.

It’s that time again for climbers to meet up, climb together and enjoy the post-match analysis. The Cuillin truly take on their Alpine status in winter and offer climbing and scenery like nowhere else in Britain. There is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had!!

2019- Its time for a return to the Glen!

5 days of stepping straight out of the door and into a Cuillin winter wonderland. This was how the festival started back in 2012! The Glen Brittle Memorial Hut is situated at the foot of the southern Cuillin with easy access to Coir’ a Ghreadaidh, Coir’ a’ Banachdaich, Coire Lagan and Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda.

After 5 nights in the Glen the festival moves to the big smoke and 3 nights with our fine friends and the Waterfront bunkhouse at the Old Inn, Carbost.

Background information.

Over the past 8 years  The Skye Winter Festival that has seen high levels of activity including over 60 new winter routes. Over the years only 15 days out of 80 have seen no activity so come keen and you’ll get rewards.

The Skye Cuillin an Alpine-style range offering mountaineering and climbing of the highest calibre that attracts real mountaineers but there is also a huge attraction for those who just enjoy being in amongst mountain scenery of such grandeur.

The festival is open to anyone between these 2 extremes and our only rule is that nobody gets left out! Come alone or with a climbing partner.

Guests come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb is embraced wholeheartedly (interpret as you like); just choose a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures.

 

 

The Climbing

Over the past 8 years we’ve well and truly blown the myth of the Cuillin being a poor option for winter climbing right out of the water. In 2018 Skye was the place to be with Traverses happening for over 8 weeks and multiple new routes. There is a whole mountain range of possibilities from hard-core mixed to truly alpine mountaineering.

 

 

It’s not all high-brow climbing with many parties enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. There’s Neist or Elgol for rock climbing and we’ve got some dry tooling crags developed. Even skiing and boarding have been growing in popularity over the past few seasons.

What’s to do?

If you’re unfamiliar with what Skye has to offer check out any winter blog posts or an article on “The New Cuillin” for plenty of ideas.

Accommodation and Food

The meet will start in the newly refurbished Glen Brittle Memorial Hut right at the foot of the Cuillin.

 Waterfront Bunkhouse at the Old Inn  will be our hosts for the following weekend. 

Beds cost £20 per night in both venues.

The Memorial Hut and Waterfront both have good kitchens for self-catering and pub meals are available next door in the Old Inn throughout the 2nd weekend.

The annual dinner is a big communal evening meal on Saturday 23rd at a cost of £10pp. Not sure what we’ll go for but local venison steaks, genuine French fondue and full roast dinners have been the norm. Please join us and let your hair down!

Booking

If you’re interested in joining us just e-mail mike@skyeguides.co.uk to reserve beds. We’ll send you a booking form to complete with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing. 

Bed reservations will need to be paid for but, if you are unsure if you can make it, we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking.

Costs

Attending the festival is free. Accommodation costs £20 per night for a bed and Saturday evening meal will cost £10.

Evenings

This is very much a climbing event and the traditional banter associated with it. Wonderful characters and craic are the norm and over the years we’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips and watched videos. Guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps. 

The Annual Festival dinner is cooked communally.

 

 Social media

Please keep up to date through the Skye Winter Festival facebook page and retweet news using this shortened URL#skyewinterfest. Add your own photos to the facebook page and make sure that privacy settings allow everyone to see them please.

FAQ

Got your own campervan– You’re still welcome to join us for climbing & socially.

Last minute climber– We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about bed space.

Unsure? Don’t worry if you don’t know the Cuillin- many of the Winter Festival regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering route advice and information on the ground but, on the whole, it’s a non-working meet for us and we’re here to play like everyone else.

A list of attendees is circulated before the meet with details of their experience & depth of Cuillin knowledge. Through the meet walking and climbing teams slot into place after making acquaintances.

Don’t be intimidated- if your ambitions are modest there will be somebody similar who knows any time on Skye is quality and happy to just rock back and enjoy!

Travel– Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts- there’s a part of the part of the booking form to help put you together with others offering/needing lifts

 

Stellar spell of snow conditions. January 29 & 30th

30/01/17

The snow this week came thick and fast and with no strong winds behind it, resulting in a beautiful uniform layer.

Smiler

Yesterday this provided a wonderful cushion with no real need for crampons as we headed up the classic NW Ridge of Bruach na Frithe.

NW Ridge

Very different from this time last year where sheets of hard snow gave very serious conditions.

Handstand

Mara’s summit handstand was photobombed by Helen from Cioch Direct and we all enjoyed teasing glimses of the Ridge to the south as clouds rolled in and out.

S Ridge BnnF

Surprisingly a line of fresh prints led off ahead of us as we descended the South Ridge, others enjoying the superb conditions.

Blue Skies

A rope kept us safe on the few steeper steps before a descent from Tairnilear and out past the Fairy Pools with some obligatory litter picking.


With such superb conditions and an even better forecast it was time to up the fun levels for today and Clach Glas seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Gilchrist dawn

Phil joined me on the guiding today as Clair and Trevor started their Ridges and Routes course based at Skye Basecamp.

Crampon up

Far colder overnight had cemented the snow even better to the rocks. This meant crampons were compulsory but the combo gave incredibly positive footings.

CG start1CG start2

My guess is that anyone on the Ridge today will have made superb progress.

Window

The most technical section onto the Final Tower and descending the Imposter were pretty full-on, definitely grade IV climbing and a long abseil to get off the summit.

Phil Mara Imposter

The bitter wind hit us on this side and a free facial scrub was dished out every time someone moved much in front of you!

Clair

All in all a very full-on day in some of the best conditions I’ve ever had on Clach Glas.

Ridge 30Jan

Skye Winter Courses- places available

12/12/16

 

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.

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The itinerary will be adjusted to suit experience with examples on these web pages- winter-climbing and winter climbing skills

  • 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


  • 21-24 February.

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.

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  • 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

Skye Winter Climbing Festival 2017. New format- #skyewinterfest on tour!!

28/11/16

 

Week 1- Skye Basecamp Climbers’ Hostel, Broadford. January 12th to 15th

Week 2- Waterfront Bunkhouse, Old Inn Carbost. January 16th to 23rd 2017

Bonus facility- Access and beds in the newly refurbished Glen Brittle Memorial Hut throughout.

An open invitation to climbers, walkers and any others with an interest in the Skye mountains in winter.

It’s that time again. 2 weeks for climbers to meet up, climb together and enjoy the post-match analysis. The Cuillin truly take on their Alpine status in winter and offer climbing and scenery like nowhere else in Britain. We’re not expecting anyone to come for the whole fortnight but there is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had.

Angus, Ally, James, Spence & Brutus from the Old Inn

Booking

If you’re interested in joining us just e-mail mike@skyeguides.co.uk. We’ll send you a booking form to complete with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing.

Bed reservations will need to be paid for but, if you are unsure if you can make it, we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking.

Background information.

For the past 6 years staff and close friends of Skye Guides have held an informal winter meet that has seen high levels of activity including over 50 new winter routes. Over the years only 12 days out of 50 have seen no activity so come keen and you’ll get rewards.

Guests have come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb is embraced wholeheartedly (interpret as you like); just choose a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures.

The Climbing

Over the past 6 years we’ve well untruly blown the myth of the Cuillin being a poor option for winter climbing right out of the water. In 2016 Skye was THE place to be with Traverses happening for over 4 weeks and legendary ice routes seeing their first repeats in 30 years! There is a whole mountain range of possibilities from hard-core mixed to truly alpine mountaineering.

Takin it all in

It’s not all high-brow climbing with many parties enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. There’s Neist or Elgol for rock climbing and we’ve got some dry tooling crags developed. Even skiing and boarding have been growing in popularity over the past few seasons.

Last year’s festival had a superb first week with plenty of action. Week 2 turned tropical but those who hung around still got out for some quality adventures.

What’s to do?

If you’re unfamiliar with what Skye has to offer check out any winter blog posts or an article on “The New Cuillin” for plenty of ideas.

Accommodation and Food

On Tour!

This year we are splitting the festival between the new climbers hostel, Skye Basecamp in week 1 and then moving to the Waterfront Bunkhouse at the Old Inn for week 2. Beds and and facilities will also be available in the newly refurbished Glen Brittle Memorial Hut right at the foot of the Cuillin.

Beds cost £15 per night in any of the 3 venues.

Catering 2017-

kitchen3Self-catering in the well-equipped kitchen or eat in a variety of pubs in Broadford or next door in the Old Inn during week 2. There will be 2 big communal evening meals on the Saturday of each weekend at a cost of £10pp. Not sure what we’ll go for but local venison steaks, genuine french fondue and full roast dinners have been the norm. Please join us for these meals and let your hair down!

Costs

Attending the festival is free. Accommodation costs £15 per night for a bed and Saturday evening meals will cost £10.

Evenings

This is very much a climbing event not a film festival but, over the years we’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips and watched videos. Guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps.

The Old Inn probably the best pub in Carbost

 Social media

Please keep up to date through the Skye Winter Festival facebook page and retweet news using this shortened URL#skyewinterfest. Add your own photos to the facebok page and make sure that privacy settings allow everyone to see them please.

FAQ

Got your own campervan– You’re still welcome to join us for climbing & socially.

Last minute climber– We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about bed space.

Unsure?– The addition of weekend skills symposiums will offer a cheap way to have professional advice and leadership. Don’t worry if you don’t know th Cuillin- many of the Winter Festival regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering route advice and information on the ground but, on the whole, it’s a non-working meet for us and we’re here to play like everyone else. A list of attendees is circulated before the meet with details of their experience & depth of Cuillin knowledge. Through the meet walking and climbing teams slot into place after making acquaintances.

Guiding– Although officially this is a playtime for the guides  private guiding will be available on request.

Travel– Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts.

Good early start to Cuillin Winter. 17th Nov 2016

21/11/16

Conditions went from “ridiculous to the sublime” in just 3 days this week. On Monday Juan and Miguel from Mallorca had some type 2 fun across the knife edge of Ghreadaidh in a tropical rainstorm and certainly the wettest day of the year that I’ve had. No photos that day!

On Thursday, by contrast, Jo and Dan were able to take their time admiring and photographing immense scenery throughout our sortie up and across Bla Bheinn in deep snow. A selection of shots is enough to tell the tale of a wonderful start to winter-

20161117_09395920161117_09525620161117_10214220161117_11392120161117_12215620161117_12573320161117_13003920161117_12583420161117_13373620161117_13375120161117_134602

There is a weather god.

02/04/16

John and I spent a large part of Wednesday with incredibly heavy snow falling out of dark black clouds but the weather gods smiled on us in great big stylee 🙂

Despite John’s undoubted fitness and ability my ambition to tackle the In Pinn was optimistic before we started. However, it was clear and dry as we left the glen and stayed that way for the first hour where we reached the 2000ft mark.

P1000717

The magnificent view into Coire Lagan was soon obscured as mushroom-sized snowflakes fell vertically out of the windless skies.

P1000721

 

The density of cloud and intensity of snow would have got many folk down but Johnny is a man who loves the mountains whatever they chuck at him. The carpet underfoot fairly rapidly became knee-deep but every foothold formed as a solid level tread. At the final narrowing it was time to don harness, helmet and crampons and the magic of the day really began to a crescendo. Words aren’t really enough so here’s a sequence that hopefully gives a flavour of it…….

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Just a few steps and the cameras just had to come out again……..

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And things just got better as we moved in on the Pinn itself….

P1000743 P1000747 P1000745

 

I have to admit to being both shocked and very pleasantly surprised at just how bare the route looked- compare it to the pictures of Gillean yesterday! Keeping crampons on seemed prudent but gloves were completely uneccesary with warm dry rock more positive than 90% of summer ascents I’ve done!

P1000748 P1000754

I finally found John’s nemesis with the abseil requiring him to trust a bit of science and let the rope slip through his fingers- you can just see the tension building across his face here perched above a 60ft vertical drop; sorry John couldn’t let your mates think you were that cool 😉

P1000755

The moment we reached our rucksacks again the clouds rolled in and heavy snow started falling all around us. It didn’t give up until we had crossed all the way over to Sgurr na Banachdaich and right down to 1500ft in Coir an Eich. 12928192_1669770583288975_2678343027123775390_n With perfect timing once more, instead of getting a soaking below the freezing level, the clouds cleared to warm sunshine

P1000757 (2)

and a perfect view of our whole routeP1000761

And just to top it all off eagle eyed John even spotted an eagle soaring high between the peaks of Coire Lagan; thanks to the mega-zoom on the Panasonic Lumix we can identify it as a wandering sea eagle. Another boring day in the office for me obviously 😉

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Winter is back! 30th March

29/03/16

Winter is back with a thick covering on all faces above 500m.

P1000698

Had a great fun family day on Bla Bheinn yester day with the Jackson 5 yesterday including a great snowman built by Hugo & Annabel on the summit. Another highlight was watching a golden eagle soaring amongst the cliffs as we walked in.Goldie Blaven 20160328

Today John and I enjoyed an enormous adventure on Am Basteir and Gillean with hard graft and plenty of challenge.

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One more wafer thin ice climb sir? 10th March

12/03/16

 

Winter climbing conditions this past month have been truly stunning on Skye, undoubtedly the best I’ve known in 23 winters. The elusive Winter Ridge Traverse has been in condition and completed for 4 weekends on the trot with debates over records making headlines in the climbing news. Mythical ice routes have been climbed for the first time since Mick Fowler’s ascents 30 years ago (1986 was a legendary winter climbing season across the UK), many quality new routes have been added and modern mixed test-pieces such as Hung Drawn and Quartered have been repeated.

P1040644

Most significantly though, dozens and dozens of folk have visited for the first time and discovered just how glorious the Cuillin are under a blanket of white. Sure the hardcore have grabbed the headlines but it’s those with more modest ambitions that have discovered that there is something here for everyone. It has been a pleasure meeting and hearing from so many folk who have finally “seen the light”.

IMG_1403 (2)

On Wednesday evening I met Adam & Sofia at Sligachan, climbers looking for their first Scottish winter experience. Working in Patagonia and Alaska normally they had opted against the crowds on  Ben Nevis, Adam’s grandad had always told him Skye was a climber’s Mecca. I agreed and pointed them towards the ice-clad amphitheatre on Mhadaidh for a look. A helpful assistant in Ellis Brighams had disuaded them from buying extra screws for the Cuillin but luckily I had a few spare in the back of car I wasn’t planning to use til Friday.

When I got home and saw Friday was forecast to see a major thaw all sensible ideas an office day on Thursday went out of the window and I asked my new friends if I could come & play with them; not only might this be the end of the Cuillin ice this season, I may not see it like this again for the next 30  years!

A stunning dawn greeted us, windless and crisp only base layers were needed for the short approach.

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We were spoilt for choice, big new lines were tempting, a rematch with Icicle Factory too but we opted to try Spirulina, a new grade V put up by Uisdean and Lea last week.

DCIM999GOPROBoys look in awe as Sofia sets the go-pro

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Adam led the first pitch very well, especially as he admitted it was his first ice for a couple of years. Sofia & I both got a good pump just following him up, typically, the deceptively steep ice.

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IMG_4259

IMG_4256

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It had started to get noisy all around us as temperatures rose and snow sleuffed off from high above but the mixed moves above looked easy enough and would lead us to the mega looking higher pitches of Spectacula, irresistable!

IMG_4276 IMG_4279

Irresistable that was until I got hit by the first big sleuff. Our planned descent was back down the route and into the amphitheatre; not a good place to be. I faffed back & forth with the up/down dilemma but reasoned that there was bound to be a good anchor above to abseil off after just “one more slice of icy indulgence”. Perfect climbing but not at all enjoyable as the volume of snow and noise increased and I wished I’d just backed off easily.

P1000247

Crap rock meant I had to dive into the channel for good ice anchors. Should I bring the others into this spot too or just make the decision myself? Logic is a hard thing to retain under these circumstances but I knew now there were no big ice pillars above us to fall off so it was unlikely that anything more than wet snow would come down. Belaying them up was still a tense affair but the shared easy decision to abseil back off and their happy banter allowed me to mentally relax just a wee bit.

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We ducked (and prayed a wee bit) whenever stuff came down while Adam expertly built Abalakov anchors and Sofia and I sorted the ropes.

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We knew it would be close but there was great relief as Adam whooped and had obviously reached the bottom in one go, rather than needing to re-anchor for another abseil.

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At the base there was urgency as everything was rammed into sacks and we ran away from the hail of somewhat harder bullets. Only after exiting the Amphitheatre did we finally relax and start the process of really enjoying what a great experience Spirulina had been.

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Winter heaven continues. 9th March

09/03/16

Earlier this week the forecast was not good for Gill & Euan’s day out; so glad I don’t pay much attention to long term forecasts!

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With clear blue skies and tons of pristine new snow it was a no brainer to head out straight from their base at the Sligachan Hotel. Good on the hotel which has re-opened earlier than usual and looked absolutely packed out with residents as a reward.

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I did suspect we had a hard day of deep wading ahead so left our ambitions open but, instead, the very first snow we reached justified crampons. Broad Gully is a favourite of mine with superb rock architecture and conditions were utterly perfect with full foot support pretty much every step.

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Skiers would have loved conditions today as this continued almost uninterupted right to the top of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir. There were a couple of very short wind-scoured harder sections but it was easy to cut back onto the good stuff.

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The vistas just kept coming as we crossed the head of Fionn Choire and out to Bruach na Frithe.

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Euan was so impressed with the “lady of the Trig point” he had to give her a kiss!

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We may not have had skis but such superb conditions weren’t to be missed- we headed back to Coir’ a’ Bhasteir and took a very direct line back to the corrie floor on our butts; definitely Gill’s highlight of the day!

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The quantity of snow that has come down over the past couple of weeks is astounding and there is unusual climbable ice everywhere; hopefully the thaw forecast for the weekend will be kind and leave us something to play on next week.

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Mega conditions continue. 3rd March update.

03/03/16

Ice above 700m has survived well by the look of things today so last weeks classics should all be in this weekend.
Some fresh snow but nothing like quantities I’m hearing about elsewhere. Effect on the Traverse is probably harder work for the first party again but still full nick & highly achievable by a fit team; what is the running total for this season so far???

For those who didn’t gather last week and weekend saw the best all round Cuillin conditions I’ve ever known. Plenty of Traverses over the weekend 20/21.
Beads and I got finally (tried 3 times beforehand) got the 2nd ascent of White Wedding on Tues 23rd with superb ice. By Saturday this was soloed by Andrew Barker on the 4th ascents.
Andrew climbed West Buttress of Bidean @ II/III earlier in the week. Andy Nisbet & Ssandy Allan climbed a line on the Coruisk side of the Pinn on Friday and another called SkyeFall at IV,5 on Sunday 28th.
Uisdean & Adam Russel climbed NE Gully on Mhiccoinnich with Guy Robertson who got the meaty pitch at V,6 and they all climbed another obvious line beside Practice crag at IV that afternoon.
I took to the air from the top of the icicles on Icicle Factory on Thursday after 3 superb approach pitches.; annoyed but now happy to be unscathed. Skye boys James Sutton, Ben Wear & John Smith finally got the 2nd ascent narrowly beating Uisdean, Adam & Douglas Russell. More than a consolation was the parallel line of Spectacula VI,6. The teams then swapped routes and James even tried to complete the trilogy with the Smear but found it brittle & wet. Thanks for retrieving my gear guys.- http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=272086
Scott Webster & Yanis indulged in a sunny Traverse over the weekend while Anna Wells was back for another single day effort. Having to break trail they stopped short of the end but loved the experience anyway. Other teams also enjoyed but failed to complete with route-finding, exposure and general speed cited- great route but don’t underestimate how hard it is!
Escape from Colditz III is recorded as climbed and I’m sure there was plenty more I’ve missed.
Oh yep; Team Neil Adam & Silver climbed HDQ on Am Bastier on Sunday in ace conditions; it appears to be panning out at VIII,9 and uber classic.
Sounds crowded? An average of 1 team per corrie so not really Come & get it while you can cos looking warm from next Wednesday.

Photo credits to Lucy Spark, Scott Webster, Yaris Volmer.

 

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Skye Winter Festival 2016. 14-27th January

22/02/16

The first week of the Skye Winter Climbing Festival was very productive with keeness, weather and conditions allowing great climbing every day. The weather for the second week wasn’t the best but Skye still produced its magic for everyone who ventured out.

Nathanmike

The small selection of the pictures here may make a few of you jealous but there were some stupid early starts, wild weather to battle, grit, determination and incredibly hard work needed to achieve this and we didn’t enjoy it one bit so don’t feel too bad 😉

 

The meet started with a huge bang from Skye boys James & Doug Sutton making the first winter ascent of Crack of Dawn. Grade VIII is as hard and serious as any route on the island and well untruly keeps the Cuillin on the hard man’s radar.

Crack Dawn nightLate finish on Crack of Dawn

Weipeng, Maymay & I had a more gentile day taking in a feast of light & colour on an ascent of Bla Bheinn. Their Sony camera produced some of the best quality shots of the week.

mists weipeng

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On Friday Pat Ingram and I looked at a new crag low in the Cuillin to avoid the deep powder higher up. Park Lane V,4 wasn’t as frozen as hoped for but gave good some very good climbing.

IMG_0824Pat Ingram stepping into the main line on Park Lane

 

Beads & Dave Bowdler got a beaut of a route following North Rib of Banachdaich Gully at grade IV,5 with steep well protected climbing.

North Rib Beads approaching the crux of North Rib, IV,5

Saturday the good forecast was slightly out but just added more snow & ice to the fun. Lucy & Nathan must have had 1.5 hours on the belay waiting for me to top out on Owl Chimney IV,5; thanks guys.

P1110510Fierce weather on Owl Chimney IV,5 *

The route was technical right to the top but well protected. A bonus for all of us was seeing the Owl Pinnacle which is as elusive as the real bird from almost all angles in the corrie. Beads & Dave added a direct start to South Buttress just to our right at IV,4.

P1110536The elusive Owl Pinnacle

Meanwhile Michael Barnard & Pat were climbing Tres Difficile V,6 a steep line immediately left of the TD Gap summer route. They then moved onto the south face of Alasdair and a line immediately right of Michael’s route from last year Skye High. They abseiled off after a pitch with Michael keen to come back and add anothe pitch to complete the route.

P1030102Michael high on Tres Difficile, V,6 TD Gap.

A 5am start on Sunday allowed Michael and me to get 2 new routes climbed on the Stone Shoot face of Thearlaich. Both were very technical and I was very glad to be following. The Bogeyman, VI,7 was a serious and sustained route that looked as promising as the route next door (Curse of the Hobgoblin V,6) but was very sparse on gear and had more than it’s share of loose rock.

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Far more solid but desperately steep the line closest to the top of the Stone Shoot gave Mr Charlie VI,7 which I finished off by squeezing under the summit cairn itself.

Mr Charlie

On Monday Michael, Julian Goddard and Mark Pratt had a long day climbing Fox’s Rake III,4 in not quite ideal conditions with more snow than ice but all good fun and a headtorch descent.

actionJulian on Fox’s Rake

Tuesday had me kicked out of bed at 5 again as Michael had a mission to finish his route on Alasdair. Pat had promised me that the first pitch was very good and he wasn’t lying; a beautiful line with positive hooks and good gear all the way.

Temperatures were rising rapidly as Michael explored the options above before finally returning to the belay soaked through. I took the obvious easiest line of weakness up a tapering ramp above the steep initial wall. It looked blank and smooth to start with but a bit of courage was rewarded with a cluster of bomb-proof gear before running it out on a series of positive edges and small hooks. Michael’s sling was still there at the top of Skye High from last year and I was able to see the quality of that route as we abseiled straight down the line; inspiring stuff.

IMG_0860Michael’s quality route The Sheriff’s Ransom V,6 on Sgurr Alasdair

 

With the thaw setting in we intended to lower the bar for Wednesday’s ambitions; it seemed likely that the In Pinn would be stripped bare and make a suitable outing for what seemed likely to be the last day of winter climbing. It was very obvious we were wrong about the thaw from quite an early stage but this was embraced with glee by the others; I’ve been pretty scared on the Pinn in full winter garb so was reserving judgement.

IMG_0882Climbers for scale below the firigtening Inacceessible Pinnacle

The climb was pretty epic with Michael leading the route in 2 halves and then me,Mark and Johnny following. All captured nicely on a Go-pro on Johnny’s helmet you can enjoy it here- Inaccessible Pinnacle

Outings later in the week were more sedate but any efforts were rewarded hansomely as ever with drama and scenery like only Skye can do properly-

IMG_0932 IMG_0931Ardtrek point with Annmarie

P1110590 P1110617Core Lagan in full thaw!

P1110649Dry tooling at Fiskavaig

 

The annual dinner was a highlight as ever. Iain addressed the Haggis in stunning style that matched his dry-tooling earlier in the day; in fact that’s how he learnt to cut the haggis with the ice axe so accurately. Beads gave the after dinner speech, the before dinner speech and the during dinner speech. Slainte Mha!

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Click on the images below, once for the thumb-nail and again to view full size.

 

Forcan magic. 10th January 2016

11/01/16

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.

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

Beautiful Bla Bheinn. Friday 8th January

11/01/16

Stunning light and colours on a quick trip up Bla Bheinn last Friday afternoon.

Nice ice surprise

01/12/15

A warm week followed by another cold weekend but Monday’s forecast was better so we waited ’til today for our adventures. With low snow once more I was sure we’d get last week’s low lying ambition done but, yet again, conditions just weren’t playing ball. Even the high cliffs on Bla Bheinn looked dry and powdery so Beads and I agreed on a wander across to a buttress on the South Ridge that neither of us had visited before. Deep powder gave us a good work out but we were rewarded with a huge sweep of hillside dripping in good ice.

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Too good to miss we soloed a bit then took the precaution of a rope for another 3 pitches or so, delightful movement in bright sunshine and a pretty good backdrop….

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All this indulgence took us high on the South Ridge where the we met the weather; not a sign of Glen Sligachan, let alone the Main Ridge. It was time to run away but not until we got a good look at the buttress we’d originally been aiming for. Plunging down the nearest gully the powder was now our friend as we dropped a long way down, me mainly on my butt. Now there had been no intention of doing another climb but when a recessed gully suddenly appeared complete with a long ribbon of ice it was time to kick ass and accept a headlit descent.

IMG_0253The beautiful Gully

Beads volunteered for the first pitch, very gallant given the thin, hollow ice and obvious lack of protection. He climbed it well, a relief to us both but particurly him with a bank of deep powder as the only consolation available. My pitch proved very similar in style but yielded a wire placement close to half height. Very hard to grade but, in the conditions we had today, probably IV,4. In perfect conditions it could be as low as grade II but any less frozen and it wouldn’t be possible.

IMG_0256Looking down pitch 2

It was then a long, very hard flog through the powder to the top of the gully

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but rewarded with a view to the Main Ridge

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Light was fading and the full sacks weighed heavily but the last light out over Rum gave one final special view

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The Breadline, V,5.

23/11/15

The first winter climbing day of the season is always daunting; so much extra kit to remember, fit, fix and, worst of all, carry. Yesterday though, I had a cunning plan; walking up Blaven on Saturday I’d spotted a couple of ideal new lines all icy and snow covered nice and low on the hill. Now I do remember clocking how warm it was on the walk back from the Broadford football dance too late on Saturday night but Sunday dawned stunningly and the car was coated in frost. Beads and Murdo were right on time and I felt smug remembering to pack the hot flask despite my thick head. Torrin was stunning with the eastern Cuillin as a backdrop but most obvious was that the snow-line had jumped half-way up the mountain or more; on the back of 3 fast days on the tops my body ached just at the thought of having to go right up again.

At the carpark Murdo let out an expletive as he located his boots as being back in Portree and my relief came in the most comical/painful/more comical manner. Smug we were not as Beads and I know it will be our turn to screw up soon enough but we did enjoy an extra cuppa with the time we knew Murdo needed to make the next rendezvous at Sligachan. So the crack team was finally in action before 10-30am.IMG_0197

Beads tried to tempt us to the flesh pots of his own personal face on Sgurr a’ Bhasteir but it was black as the ace of spades and obvious we needed to go high; either the Bhasteir face of Gillean or Am Basteir itself. Way back in 2009 I’d spotted an open-book corner directly above where The Deadline(III) turns hard right. Another attraction was that it seemed likely to be short enough that we might top out before dark 🙂

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My pitch gave a sharp wake-up call for the new season with a wide range of tactics and plenty of fight needed to make upward progress. A couple of good ice placements early on were but a tease and above here I used everything from full body wedging to tiny finger edges. The protection was all a bit testing to construct and somewhat reliant on the rock holding together but luckily wasn’t put to the test.

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A pull over the capping stone to finish saw both Murdo and I flop like seals onto the snow-covered scree bed but Mr Beads managed the whole pitch in some style.

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The continuation pitch gave Beads more quality climbing and a stunning top-out on the back of Am Basteir.

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Shining out from below our cloud cover was a dazzling aray of autumn colours out over the mainland to the south; here looking across to Loch Nevis with Mallaig to the right and Knoydart to the left-

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The route was short (70m) but gave sustained and quality climbing. Wordmeister Beads had christened it The Breadline tied into the parent route The Deadline long before we had completed. Grading a route with so much thrutching is always hard but I’m going to settle on V,5 for now and see what future ascentionists think. It’s a good line that will be in nick frequently so shouldn’t be long….

Heavy sacks gave squealing quads on the initial steep downhill but I found myself back in a serene mindset once more as the moon lit the moorland path back to the car; a hair of the dog, a bath and a long lie-in…….

Swiss selection

23/11/15

3 very different days out this week with Erik, Fabian and Andrew on their Skye break. Sorry but no pics from a rather damp traverse of Sgurr nan Gillean on Thursday. Skies cleared as temperatures dropped and gave us beautiful views on An Caistiel via Sgurr an Fheadain on Friday.

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A baltic wind and thin skim of hailstones added a sharp edge to the scrambling and we were glad to abseil into some shelter on the way down; so much so that the 2 swiss guests went for a dip in thee Fairy Pools on the walk out.

IMG_0135 (1024x768)Head on into a bitter wind

Snow lay very low on a beautiful Saturday morning.

IMG_0151 (1024x768)Eastern Cuillin giants; Blaven, Clach Glas, Sgurr nan Each and Belig

 With rain forecast we opted for a quick romp to the summit of Blaven rather than the technicalities of Clach Glas.

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The clouds did roll in and a few flurries of snow added to a festive feel.

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Once on top the bitter wind became apparrent and we were all glad to wrap up fully for tackling the short awkward step betweeen the summits.

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The guys came with an open mind, a good level of fitness and a willingness to take advice- a perfect way to approach the mountains but especially at this time of year. Sante!

“Hey Mike – just wanted to once again tell you that we had a great time and great experience – appreciate your time and patience, and look forward to seeing you again before long – we are already talking about a summer trip”

Day 2 Sgurr an Fheadain and An Caisteal

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Day 3 Blaven-

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Return of the Skye Winter Climbing Festival.

11/11/15

Skye Winter Climbing Festival 2016

Waterfront Bunkhouse, Old Inn Carbost. January 14th to January 27th 2016

An open invitation to climbers, walkers and any others with an interest in the Skye mountains in winter.

It’s that time again. 2 weeks for climbers to meet up, climb together and enjoy the post-match analysis. The Cuillin truly take on their Alpine status in winter and offer climbing and scenery like nowhere else in Britain. We’re not expecting anyone to come for the whole period but there is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had.

Background information.

For the past 5 years staff and close friends of Skye Guides have held an informal winter meet that has seen high levels of activity including over 40 new winter climbs. Only 5 days out of 34 have seen no activity so come keen and you’ll get rewards.

Guests have come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb scene is embraced wholeheartedly (interpret as you like); just choose a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures.

fonduefest 2Romain’s Fondue-fest 2013

 

The Climbing

Over the past 5 years we’ve well untruly blown the myth of the Cuillin being a poor option for winter climbing right out of the water. There is a whole mountain range of possibilities from hard-core mixed to truly alpine mountaineering.

 Foxes RakeAlly on Foxes Rake III

It’s not all high-brow climbing with many parties enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. There’s Neist or Elgol for rock climbing and we’ve got some dry tooling crags developed. Even skiing and boarding have been growing in popularity over the past few seasons.

Last year’s festival was a resounding success with over 60 people enjoying superb winter conditions that spanned the whole 16-day period. It was undeniably hardcore on the majority of days and some got luckier than others, but people were out every day climbing more than 50 routes including 20+ first ascents.

Approaching Twicicle on the very wild “Black Friday”, 2015 Festival

How does it work?

Nothing complex- Come for as many days as you want. There are beds for 24 people available throughout the fortnight; first come first served. Use the meet as a base for climbing with a regular partner or come and match up. Collectively we make sure that nobody is left partnerless, short of inspiration or too far out of their depth.

What’s to do?

If you’re unfamiliar with what Skye has to offer check out any winter blog posts or an article on “The New Cuillin” for plenty of ideas.

Booking

If you’re interested in joining us just e-mail mike@skyeguides.co.uk or call telephone Mike on 01471 822 116. Bed reservations will need to be paid for but, if you are unsure if you can make it, we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking. We’ll get you to complete a booking form with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing.

Accommodation and Food

The festival is based at the Waterfront Bunkhouse at the Old Inn. 24 beds in 5 different rooms with bunkbeds and bedding provided. The accommodation has a spacious lounge with TV or there’s the pub next door.

Catering 2016- different this year!!

Self-catering in the well-eqipped kitchen or eat from the pub’s superb menu. There will be 2 big communal evening meals on the Saturday of each weekend at a cost of £10pp. Not sure what we’ll go for but local venison steaks, genuine french fondue and full roast dinners have been the norm. Please join us for these meals and let your hair down!

Costs

Attending the festival is free. Accommodation costs £15 per night for a bed and Saturday evening meals will cost £10.

B&B

The Old Inn will be open for business and private rooms will be available for those wanting a bit more privacy and peace. Please contact them directly- Old Inn

Evenings

fonduefest

Over the years we’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips and watched videos. Guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps. The Old Inn is the climbers’ pub in Skye but also a busy local. It’s a lively spot with organised bands and impromptu jamming.

The Old Inn probably the best pub in Carbost

New for 2016- Skills symposium

Following a suggestion from guests last year some of our guides have committed a couple of days to specifically pass on their knowledge and skills. Limited places are available on a variety of full-day courses over the 2 festival weekends. Request more details when booking your place in the bunkhouse:-

  • Introduction to winter walking skills; 6 places per course. Suitable for walkers with good fitness but little winter experience. £50pp
  • Cuillin Winter Munros; 6 places per course. Suitable for fit winter climbers or walkers. £50pp
  • Dry Tooling skills; 4 places per course. Low-level; £50pp
  • Alpine rope skills for Cuillin ridges in winter; 4 places per course. Suitable for climbers or winter walkers of good fitness. £60pp
  • Mixed climbing skills; 2 places per course. Suitable for those with some pitched winter climbing experience. £80pp

Every effort will be made to achieve the course objectives but the mountains are in charge! Full refunds will be given if it is not possible to run the courses. Please just ask if you would like private guiding at any other point in the course.

 Social media

Please keep up to date through the Skye Winter Festival facebook page and retweet news using this shortened URL#skyewinterfest. Add your own photos to the facebok page and make sure that privacy settings allow everyone to see them please.

FAQ

Got your own campervan– You’re still welcome to join us for climbing & socially.

Last minute climber– We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about bed space.

Unsure?– The addition of weekend skills symposiums will offer a cheap way to have professional advice and leadership. Skye Guides normal private guiding will be available throughout. Don’t worry if you don’t want to book anything- many of the Winter Festival regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering route advice and information on the ground but, on the whole, it’s a non-working meet for us and we’re here to play like everyone else. A list of attendees is circulated before the meet with details of their experience & depth of Cuillin knowledge. Through the meet walking and climbing teams slot into place after making acquaintances.

Travel– Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts.

Winter Munro bagging in June

02/06/15

I’ve seen some hefty snow-flurries in June before but never a complete coating down below 600m. This mad weather just continues to amaze, frustrate but also give superb entertainment in the form of mountaineering challenge.

Angela wanted to climb Sgurr Alasdair because it is the name of her eldest son; preferably before he climbed it himself! Normally a fairly safe bet, especially in June, I had quite serious doubts as we met at Sligachan and saw quite how much snow there was.

We did suceed but only after a serious winter climbing expedition; would happily have graded it as III with crampons & axes!P1060732

Sgumain stone shoot. 

 

 

P1060742New guide Alasdair Snowman

Things got considerably more interesting next with the exposed slabby descent to reach the start of Alasdair

P1060750Came down here…

P1060749trying not to look down there…….

The SW Flank of Alasdair would ordinarily have been a 15 minute scramble; instead nearly an hour was spent pitching our way carefully up snow-coated basalt.

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Chimney at the foot of the face.

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View back to Sgumain & where we’d come from.

P1060761Angela on top of Alasdair; before her son of the same name makes it himself. Competetive mums eh!

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Window across to Thearlaich & Mhiccoinnich

Heavy sleet/rain finally caught us out on the top of Alasdair but didn’t dampen spirits. The snow made for good cushioning for the knees on descent and the tops even all cleared to let Angela see where she’d been.

P1060768Slippy descent from Alasdair with a view straight down to Ghrunnda to focus the mind.

P1060771View back to our peaks with deceptively little snow showing….

Snowy crest for bank holiday weekend.

30/04/15

After the brief dose of summery warmth & dry weather winter has returned with a vengeance. Despite strong sunshine temperatures remained low enough through today to leave the thick covering of snow on the Ridge crest complete. P1060454

The snow is heavy and wet but crampons will still be needed by anyone wanting to tackle the narrower sections of ridge, Thearlaich, Mhiccoinnich, Ghreadaidh, Pinnacle Ridge of Gillean in particular.

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A general recommendation would be to aim for individual peaks, add 50% to timings. SGurr an Fheadain, banachdaich, Blaven & Bruach na Frithe.

Sadly there doesn’t appear to be any full-on winter routing to be done.

Rock climbers should aim for the coast; here’s the Cioch today- P1060421

Temperatures may rise a bit mid-week next week but no heavy rain forecast to wash it all away.

Sugar & Spice & all things nice. March 2015

31/03/15

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.

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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.

 

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Not a cloud to ruin the view.

 

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Can’t beat that view out to Rum

 

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

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Lucy on the crux of South Buttress Gully, III.

 

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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

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The Spur of Sgurr an Fheadain

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Smiles of delight?

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Nah, pure relief eh Eilidh!

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Action Man

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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”.

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

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Position

 

 

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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.

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

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Clac Glas from the shelter of a welcome overhang.

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Definitely winter.

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Main Cuillin Ridge laid out in front of us

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

Val di Lagan winter sports resort

09/03/15

With temperatures forecast to soar into double figures the following day it seemed that everyone wanted to get out on Wednesday. We were worried winter would come to an abrupt end but it hasn’t; we’ve more fresh snow down to 500m today, Sunday, with plenty of old snow on easterly aspects in particular.

Plastered

Laden with snowboards, skis and climbing kit our team made “steady” progress but nobody minded with the warm spring sunshine on the face.Spluttering start

Snow conditions were a wee bit “lively” but we eventually made it to the cave half-way up the Great Stone Shoot. It was a lovely day for a walk but we were a bit shocked to have a couple of French tourists in jeans & trainers join us! We assured them it wasn’t the voie normal so they gaily scooted off down again without a care in the world.Stone Shoot stomp

Angus opted for an extended rest so we had to miss his boarding but you can look it up on facebook.Here he comes

Snow cover was very limited and it really doesn’t show the steepness but, wow, what an arena to play in!

All Action team

Short on time we opted for Diedre Blanc again with Beads & Icky enjoying the lead.Pitch1

In December I suggested it may be IV,4 but with a thick coat of ice blocking both placements and protection the top pitch definitely felt worthy of its original grade V. Placements may have been blocked but the snow and ice was in superb condition which made the climbing feel a lot closer to traditional winter than modern mixed.Diedre Blanc

A long abseil took us back to the sacks (well nearly:-) Icky’s just below the skyline here-abseil2

before a traditional bumslide descent for me. Icky grabbed his skis from the cave and made an olympic standard descent with axes jangling like swiss cow bells.Survived

Things were warming up all day and, as well as some friendly red deer, we even spotted the first lamb of the season.First lamb 4 march

Training for the Blanc 16-19th Feb

26/02/15

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.

P1050475 (1024x768)Maija not convinced about this improving forecast….

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.

P1050516 (1024x768)Blue skies on top

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.

P1050520 (1024x768)Passing the “Jacuzzi” pool.

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.

P1050537 (1024x768)Tony looking up the Bhasteir Gorge to Pinnacle Ridge

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….

P1050546 (1024x768)A black looking Coire Lagan.

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.

P1050566 (1024x768)Very definitely winter!

I love it when the mountains treat you to such a wonderful surprise; a great way to finish the course.

Skye Winter Festival 2015 report.

22/02/15

Wow; what a fortnight. A huge thanks to everyone who came along to support the event, to Angus and all of the staff at the Old Inn for making us so welcome, to Annmarie for keeping us all domesticated and, perhaps most of all, to the weather gods for turning on the winter weather spectacularly. The only day when nothing was climbed was 25th January but it did mean that nobody was late for their Burn’s supper!

panoPanorama above the clouds from Friday 6th

Over 40 people all appeared to be having a good time whatever the weather threw at them and reaped the benefits of some spectacular conditions for both mixed and pure ice climbing. More than 20 new routes were added between grades I and VII. Over half of the participants lost their Cuillin winter virginity and now can’t decide if they are nymphomaniacs or just perverts 🙂

peepoStuart popping through Mo’s hole…..

Mentions in dispatches, in no particular order, go out to most folk and apologies if you’re not listed-

Craig, Rory & Dylan who embraced the spirit of the festival brilliantly despite their first day being more like a tropical typhoon than Scottish winter; they went on to add at least 4 new routes over the coming days.

P1050119Rory’s hole

Michael Barnard and partners for showing everyone quite how much Cuillin potential there is for the accomplished winter climber in the higher grades. He came up 3 weekends on the trot.

Skye HighMichael on Skye High V,7

Antoni for keeping the standards of single malt incredibly high despite less cultured alcoholic interference.

Jonny for his modest “I’m not a climber” achievements through the week including the In Pinn; every team should have a Jonny to break trail!

Lucy for services to the team including top-roping 5 folk on the icefalls in a blizzard then missing out herself and being first to balance up the In Pinn with only a nut key to clear cracks.

Pinn startLucy starting up the Pinn

James found Deep gash had little usable ice in it but his consolation route was the third ascent of Doug Scott’s The Smear!

And Romain, what can I say? For taking gaelic flare and passion for Skye & winter further than anyone thought possible, for winding me up to the great entertainment of everyone else and for surviving a diarrhoea filled car journey through drifts & blizzards.

RomainRomain

I loved all of my days out but there were a few particularly good highlights-

A team effort with good friends Beads, Antoni & David in the wild blizzards of Friday 30th to finally tackle the twin icefalls (they’ve teased for 20 years) high on Sgurr a’ Bhasteir. We aimed for the pair but the weather dictated that teamwork was the best idea.

trenchTrench warfare approaching Twicicle

Twicicle was a superb grade IV with Beads & I sharing the gear & the craic on lead. Another highlight that day was the huge relief at the whole festival team reappearing back in the corrie cave out of the maelstrom; phew.

JonnyJonny, Cat & Jo sheltering from the maelstrom on Friday 30th

On the Sunday I got a complete beasting at the hands of James on Con’s Cleft (VII,7). He’d run out of daylight 2 days earlier and I was more than happy to come and help him get the project finished. It was a fantastic effort from him, poor style on my part but a long term ambition put to bed and great to climb with James again for the first time in over a decade.

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James on the crux of Cons Cleft

Next day Ally & I were the only ones left and were rewarded with the first properly settled day of the meet. Onceicle had grown to suitable thickness, gave 45m of great steep fun and moonlight lit our walkout.

OnceicleOnceicle, just below the steepening

Wednesday dawned stunningly and I took a gamble to return to a mixed venue that had defeated me twice previously; the day turned out to be the highpoint of my festival. Lying on the north side of the West Ridge of Garbh-bheinn is a 100m high cliff of gabbro unusually adorned with loads of vegetation. Conditions were just right with frozen turf and oodles of ice smears. Mo, Stuart and I grabbed the first good looking line leading to a tight chimney with a crucial chockstone.

starfishMo on the crux chimney of Chockolates

Mo’s pitch started by poking herself through a tiny squeeze before some great moves to top out. Full of character we decided Chockolates was a 2 star V,6. With some daylight left we shot down again and Mo led off up Yat for the Doh, II- a Hong Kong phrase meaning “one for the road”.

For more images and tales see the festival Facebook page. For those who were there please put links to your own accounts and look closely at your privacy settings so that as many folk as possible can see anything you have shared with the Skye Winter Festival page. Any photos gratefully received.

Alpine route for an Alpine day; 15th Feb

15/02/15

Clear blue skies and heavy frost signalled stonking conditions and we weren’t disappointed. I opted for one of the longest snow lines in the Cuillin, Diagonal Gully on Ghreadaidh.

The snow was uniform from bottom to top; not steel hard but definitely calf burning.

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I’ve had big crevasses in the lower reaches before but todays wasn’t wide; deep enough to swallow us but we all crossed safely and paced ourselves on “fast simmer” for the next 1000ft.

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The views from the Ridge crest were stunning with snow-clad peaks laid out spectacularly.

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Climbing along the narrow crest was a slow and delicate procedure with only tiny amounts of rime ice muting the squeals from our crampons. Check out the short video HERE

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The descent of the crest was higher octane with long runnels of water-ice to negotiate and the hard snow in An Dorus gave 20 minutes of concentrated and thigh-burning descent.

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Lucky Friday the 13th.

14/02/15

My first outing in the Cuillin for over a week looked like it wasn’t going to be too wintery as I gazed on Coir’ a’ Bhasteir stripped of its ice. We rationalised down to single axe and single rope with the Tooth as an ambition.

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By the time we reached the gorge a coat of rime was eveident above 600m and we donned crampons pretty soon afterwards on the NE Ridge of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir.

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Still I exxpected a rock scramble up Collie’s Route which, in the full glare of westerly wind, sun & rain must surely have been stripped. No such thing as we descended past the Tooth into Lota Corrie.

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5m of icy rock led into the diagonal break of Collie’s Route which rolled up away into the mist as a continuous white line of neve. We moved together placing runners every now & again but never on moves that were more than grade I.  Traversing a (normally easy) horizontal ledge system proved the scariest with the banked out snow steepening up.

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Dropping into the nick & up onto the Tooth was a simple exercise but all of the abseil tat was buried in King’s Cave Chimney. A sling on a block at the back allowed us to pull the ropes safely though (thank goodness) and we lapped up the scenery on the descent as the clouds cleared.P1050392

 

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Skye Winter Festival photo update from week 1.

03/02/15

 

P1060320Bhasteir Icefalls

Weather was testing but results were great. Wee sample but too busy having fun. Follow us on the Skye Winter Festival facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/skyewinterfestival?ref=hl

 

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Lagan fun

Marsco

Marsco cloaked

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Michael Barnard in ation Ghrunnda

Onceicle

 

Onceicle

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Relief from the storms on Friday

Ally 1st lead

Ally’s 1st lead on Ice

bridge

bridge1Monkey business

Full body armour

Twiceicle

 

How Steep

How Steep

james Cam manJames Cam Man

james pullJames pulling the ropes after finishing Con’s Cleft

Lagan vistaCoire lagan from the Sgumain Pinnacles

 

Skye Winter Climbing Festival- off to a good start.

29/01/15

There’s been some great Cuillin adventures already despite the roller-coaster temperatures.

Climbing highlight was day 1 when Michael Barnard and Tim Oates caught the last day of big ice. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow gave a big 50m pitch of grade IV,4 water ice in Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda. The name was a far too accurate prediction with almost all decent ice on the hill destroyed by Sunday’s warm wet pulse. They also climbed a good mixed route on Alasdair, possibly Central route which gave 3 pitches at V,6.

Here today, gone tomorrow

Meanwhile the rest of the team had a more leisurely intro & exploration in Coir’ a’ Ghreadaidh.

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We climbed a 50m pitch of grade III ice and set up ropes for everyone who wanted to have a go.

Ally

We all retired to the bunkhouse for haggis neaps & tatties and a quiet drink & early night 😉

Monday dawned cold & clear again and the 5 of us that had stayed on all headed into Coire na Banachdaich. The missing ice was a blow but The White Line gave the best part of 1000ft of great fun snow stomping.

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No need for crampons with such soft snow but the excitement was created by trying to “act like a feather” crossing the more hollow sections of old snow.

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Rory easily won the competition for action when he dropped through a hole right in front of Craig and reappeared through a hole at his feet!

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Annmarie has been off the hill for 2 years with surgery on her feet but you’d never have guessed; as the pics show she was like the proverbial pig in poo J

Things took a more serious turn once we reached the Ridge.

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A wee blizzard made putting crampons on a real test but we were very glad of them for the next 2 hours. A thin cover of old snow & iced rocks led easily to the summit of Dearg and a cracking view of the In Pinn.

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The wind was ripping into us by now and the descent of the West Ridge was very testing.

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This theme is likely to remain over the coming week and choosing a good descent route in advance is going to be crucial. We made it down to the path just as darkness engulfed us but the crescent moon gave just enough light to allow us to save the batteries for a more serious occasion.

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There’s very little but cold, wind, snow etc forecast for the coming week so looking forward to plenty more adventures. There’s a few spaces available still this weekend then plenty more room for the week after. Pack your goggles & Dachstein mitts!