We have just been enduring a more typical run of Scottish weather, with very humid wet conditions making things slow going in the mountains. There have been some breaks in the weather that thankfully coincided with some work and a couple of days off.

Last week I was back in the Cuillins guiding John up Pinnacle Ridge for West Coast Mountain Guides. The Isle of Skye had allowed John and I a brief lull in the wet weather to enjoy this classic route up the North side of Sgurr nan Gillean. We escaped onto the West Ridge before traversing Am Basteir and rapping out of the Kings Cave. John seemed to enjoy every minute, savoring the experience which was in every way different to 30 years earlier when he had scrambled around these mountains independently as a youngster. On our descent the skies cleared to reveal the northern end in all its glory, a fine end to the day.

After a return to wet, misty conditions at the weekend summer briefly returned with a couple of scorching hot days. I enjoyed some family time running around the hills with Jane and the dog, exploring the far eastern end of the Grey Corries and Mamore’s where I hadn’t been to previously. This area provides a contrast to the busy Nevis Range and is highly recommended for the adventurous hill runner. Co-incidentally I met up with my friend Graeme who was then off to run the Tranter Challenge through the night. He nailed 33km before night fell and the mist came with it making it very slow going and less fun than anticipated. Still a great effort though!

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The start of the month marked another stint of Cuillin action, kicking off working for Abacus Mountain Guides with Kate and Tim who were only on their honeymoon! They simply lucked out with a couple of dry, calm days amongst allot of rain, this meant we could go ahead and attempt a traverse carrying all our kit which allowed us plenty of flexibility. Im not sure who had more fun but I loved it. Both should be super proud with their efforts but especially Kate who isn’t used to heights never mind scrambling at the highest level.

I then had two days work for West Coast Mountain Guides with John, Mark, Donald and Jacqueline. We were treated to more excellent weather for an ascent of the In Pinn and Sgùrr MhicChoinnich before a steady descent of Bomb Ally which a the name suggests is a little loose…… Day two was a more typical Skye day so without Jacqueline this time the boys went for a more crusiy day on Bruach na Frithe. Well done everyone!

Sunday was the final day in this medley, when I was joined by Emily, Tracey and Nicki. Two of the ladies had ran the Skye half marathon the day before and Nicki isnt too keen on air beneath the feet so on what was an extremely wet day (even for Skye) we decided on Bruach na Frithe and a wade back to the van! That wrapped up that wee stint, tomorrow I head back for more………

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Its been a busy period on Skye lately. After Jim and team departed I met up with Gary who was keen to get a Cuillin Traverse under his belt if the weather would allow. We got warmed up on Pinnacle Ridge which is great route to prepare for a traverse, given the climbing, scrambling, exposure and an exciting abseil followed by a tricky descent down the West Ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean. Gary did well so the next day we decided to stash some kit up on the ridge and prepare for a traverse. Wednesday dawned misty and wet but we set out anyway hoping for a late break in the weather and a dry(is) bivi. Unfortunately the clouds didn’t part and if anything it just got wetter and windier. By the time we got up and off the Inaccessible Pinnacle we were well and truly soacked – time to go down. Gary’s last day was spent climbing Mhadaidh and Ghreadaidh, and finally – we got a view! Well done on your efforts Gary, next time we will book the weather…….

The last three days I have been joined by Beth, John and Kev who thankfully brought the sunshine with them. The Inaccessible Pinnacle was first on the hit list so we waited in line on a very busy bank holiday Friday to ensure all the team got to the top of this sought after summit. The day was just too good to go down so we went onto Banachdaich before a de-rigeuer dip in the Alt a Choire Ghreadaidh.

Saturday was an active rest day which to me meant a bit of seacliff climbing. Kev and Beth are both keen indoor climbers and have an interest in progressing to proper rock. We went to Suisnish Pillar and climbed Right Edge (VD) and Coffee Capers (S) before getting to grips with a bit of a challenge on Eiggbound (HS,4b).

The grand finale yesterday was to be an ascent of Pinnacle Ridge on Sgurr nan Gillean. We had a near perfect ascent in great conditions all be it with just a little mist throughout the day. Another happy team bagging a Skye classic! Thanks for your efforts everyone, its been a great few days.

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Last weekend Jim, Jenny, Dave and Heather resumed their mission to complete the Skye Munros. Tom was along as another pair of working hands which worked well whilst travelling over the slippery Cuillin rocks.

Saturday we went to the Southern end completed Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr Dubh Mor and Sgurr Alasdair. Despite the lack of views and rather damp slippery rock we made good progress before heading down the Great Stone shoot into Coire Lagan.

The following day our team made short work of Sgurr a’Mhadaidh and Sgurr a Ghreadaidh. Again the weather wasn’t ideal as strong winds and typical misty wet weather engulfed the central Cuillin making for a tough but enjoyable day. Well done to everyone involved, just one more Cuillin Munro to do!

 

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I have been enjoying a little down time, working routes in Glen Nevis and belaying as Kev smashed out a tricky E4 with Euan along to film. Mid May however, is a busy work period with lots of time on Skye and the occasional Aonach Eagach to rest the legs!……..

Last week I was guiding Katy and Issac over the Aonach Eagach for Lochaber Guides, we had a very sociable day with many other instructors making use of the fine spring weather. Our team made very steady progress and seemed to enjoy every moment, even though it was their first foray into the Scottish Hills and first time scrambling to boot – well done!

More recently I made a return to the Isle of Skye and its mighty Cuillin Ridge. Good job I was feeling energised as both John and Mukesh were eyeing up some tough climbs along the main ridge over their three day trip.

We got warmed up on Pinnacle Ridge which I hadn’t done myself for a few years, for some reason it wasn’t on my clients radar yet this year its the goal of many…..The abseil off the third pinnacle was as exciting as I remember, my guys did great and reveled in the exposure. We descended the West Ridge for the full experience.

The following day John had an ambitious plan of TD Gap to The Pinn with all the climbs, this was something I had mentioned last year and clearly the idea had stuck. I was as excited as John, its not to often you get to work on this section, never mind it be dry enough to make it enjoyable. First time this season in the TD Gap and it was as smooth as I recall! Slithering upward progress over we went on to climb Kings Chimney, An Stac and the In Pinn – one of the best days on Skye and highly recommended.

Mukesh had unfortunately niggled a knee so had another day resting whilst John and I went for a grand finale on Naismith’s Route to the summit of the Basteir Tooth – not a bad haul for a man of 67 going on 40! As always both John and Mukesh were brilliant company, the perfect way to kick start my Skye season. I was working for Skye Guides.

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The line of Tupilaq

Last Tuesday I was out climbing with Kev and Ken. I’ve been scouting several new lines in Glen Nevis but high priority was a revisit to Bistro Buttress which sports excellent clean rock and a handful of established routes from HVS to E3. Over two days I had six attempts on top rope, one of these was purely to get a direct start which ended up being very bouldery and serious should you fall off it. The line then climbs a very thin crack up the wall straight to the huge pine at the top. I maybe biased but its now the best route at the crag, easily two stars and well worth a visit. Grading it took a while but I think I have settled at E5, whatever the grade, its another top day for the season. Thanks to Kev for the pics and Ken for the belay!

Tupilaq (E5,6a) ** 17m – Fierce moves through the roof to get established on the wall, then climb the thin crack with difficulty straight to the prominent pine.

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The North face was pretty quiet today. Aside from teams heading towards No2 Gully, Tower Ridge and high up in Observatory; we had the Ciste to ourselves which was surprising considering the return to winter and plenty of rime on the rocks. After climbing No2 Gully on Monday Neil and I went for something a little steeper; No3 Gully Buttress (III,4) which was really enjoyable. The lower pitches were as good as they have been all season, the upper traverse was a little dry but it was certainly wintry enough, much like typical mid January. Things were melting fast, the white and rime ice from recent Northerly winds dissapearing as we finished the final direct pitch. Shame it wont last for one final winter hit…….

Neil enjoying the delights of No2 Gully on Monday

A wintry Ben Nevis this morning

Neil getting to grips with No3 Gully Buttress today

Lots of rime, unfortunately stripping quickly this afternoon

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Tom getting us started on ‘Tom’s Other Route’

Yesterday Tom and I wanted to make the most of the good weather so had an impromptu couple of hours up at Crown Buttress in Glen Nevis. I’d been here last year with Jane and the dog so knew it would be a nice place for tom to do a couple of established routes and maybe a new one for good measure.

‘Cool Beans’ FA

Tom on FA ‘Cool Beans’

We climbed the plumb line down the slab between Palpitation and Pal which gave a really enjoyable pitch that we called ‘Cool Beans’. Its difficult to put a grade on it but we felt it was harder than other similar routes in the Glen such as Rubberface, Secretaries Super Direct & Twitch but easier than Diode so E2,5b maybe? Anyway, its a nice addition to a great wee crag. Tom also climbed the two ‘Tom’ routes which were also on brilliant rough rock: Tom’s Arete (HVS) and Tom’s Other Route (HS). 

Tom starting up ‘Tom’s Arete’

Tom high up on ‘Toms Arete’

Cracking day to be out

Cool Beans E2,5b FA Steve Holmes & Tom Lawfield 27/03/2017

Climb steeply to gain the slab passing a foot long wobbly block on the right. Climb straight up the slab to the niche just right of the final moves of Palpitation.  

The abseil rope pretty much takes the line of ‘Cool Beans’

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Mascot for the day

Kev, Jane and I had an amazing day climbing rocks yesterday. Yep, the spring season has arrived when we can climb ice, ski, bike or go rock climbing; its an amazing time of year and possibly my favourite too. Having had plenty of success at the small but perfectly formed Beinn Bheag Slab, Kev and I both had projects we wanted to get done so we can move on to other objectives burning away in the back of our minds. After a short (freezing) session in January and a further one last week, I managed to get the nerve to tie into the sharp end and climb Skyfall (E6,6b) which could possibly be the 4th ascent of this precarious slab climb.

Getting to know the route on bottom rope

Building psyche for the head-point!

Game on…… very reachy initial moves to get to the only gear on the route at just over 1/3 height

Great climbing

Through the crux which relies on a crimpy sidepull that I broke last week….

Stretching for the jug & top

Kev had been busy on what might be the final new route to be done at the crag. Again, pulling the top rope to get on lead needed some convincing but he came away with The 45 (E4,6a) which runs up and left of Jacobite Rising on the side wall of the crag. Jane was on hand to snap some cracking photos (all credits to her!) and Goose tagged along for moral support!

Some practice and a little cleaning revealed a great route up the sidewall

Rubbish gear in place, its game on

On the jugs way above that poor pro…

A Happy Kev Shields!

Celebrating Scottish style!

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It was Roberts last day so at his request we took a journey round the CMD Arete in full winter conditions. There was loads of wading and battling with surprisingly strong winds and by the time we got to the top of Coire Leis it was like being in a washing machine of spindrift! We ploughed on up the shoulder onto a benign summit before heading straight down the red burn. A significant thaw is set to take place over the next few days – the end of winter maybe??

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