Small is Beautiful, 22 December


Today Mike and myself explored Ruadh Stac, a mountain which rises a mighty 493 metres (1617 feet) above sea level. This is not the most popular mountain on Skye but it is certainly worth visiting on a clear day for its spectacular views of the main ridge, Clach Glas, Bla Bheinn and the Small Isles. However we were not visiting primarily for the views but to investigate the Allt Teanga Bratlan and the gullies on the South East face of Ruadh Stac for any climbable ice.

Looking towards the North end of the ridge

From the lay-by at the head of Loch Ainort we admired the style of Neil from Torridon as he scampered up the prominent waterfall above the road. This left us feeling suitably inspired to find some ice of our own, so stopping only to take photos and investigate cunningly disguised patches of bog we made our way to the Allt Teanga Bratlan. Dropping down to 130 metres above sea-level we were pleasantly surprised to see reasonable amounts of ice, unfortunately we were unpleasantly surprised to see a plunge pool or two barring our way. After a short debate over who weighed more we managed to overcome these obstacles. Arriving in a bay we discovered a slabby line of ice on the right and a much steeper climb on the left. We ventured onto the right hand option and enjoyed the delights of ice climbing at an amenable grade II/III in the sunshine on Skye in December!

Mike leading the second pitch

After this little adventure we headed off onto the side of Ruadh Stac to investigate the most prominent gully line on the South East face of the mountain. We found a continuous line of snow and ice from bottom to top, going at about Grade I, with a short 40 foot step that looked to be about Grade V. Given the thin state of the ice we summoned up various excuses and traversed round this part.

Underneath the Grade V section

We gained some  bonus entertainment in the rest of the gully grappling with holes in the snow, a mini bergschrund and the unexpected discovery of some small pools. Finally the climbing came to an end and we topped out on Ruadh Stac to be greeted by the most spectacular panorama of the entire ridge in winter glory.

It was a perfect end to a spectacular Skye day: exploration, adventure, ice, sunshine and some of the best views imaginable…..