Full Skye Winter Experience on Thearlaich; 14th March


After a week of heavy snowfall and strong winds it was time for Matt and me to find out what had been given to us by the gods of winter climbing. Deep drifts were a feature but we stuck to our guns and aimed for  the first winter ascent of Gully E on Sgurr Thearlaich near the top of the Great Stone Shoot. This is thought to be the line taken by Charles Pilkington’s party on the first ascent in 1887.

A Dachstein Mitt day

Matt with the In Pinn behind.

On finally reaching the climb the weather gods decided that another hour or so of blizzarding would give us more of a challenge. While I froze slowly Matt excavated good protection and dived out of the spindift avalanches to belay on the left edge. I continued by the buttress and avoided returning to the gully for as long as possible but was finally forced back in. Swimming up steep powder snow for the next 20m was more like climbing on Ben Nevis than the usual Cuillin experience but I finally reached the crest of the Ridge as the sun came out once more. Overall the route we followed was probably grade III,4.

The blizzard kicks in as Matt reaches the crux.

And now enjoying his belay jacket to the full!

Deep powder at the top of Gully E

Mike rigging the abseil with the sun coming back onto Loch Brittle way below

We didn’t follow in Pilkington’s steps to the summit, opting instead for a long abseil back to the Stone Shoot and our real reward- a thousand foot bumslide back to the corrie below where hot afternoon sun reflected off the snow and the vistas out to the Hebrides were of the usual astounding high quality.

From L-R Sgurr Mhicchoinnich, Thearlaich and moon above Sgurr Alasdair. Our bumslide tracks can be seen in the Stone Shoot.

Sublime lighting over Loch Lagan looking out to the Outer Hebrides