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Guiding the Skye Munros

Over the past couple of weeks, Scott and I have been on the Isle of Skye, running a couple of Skye Munro weeks. We’ve been running these 4 day courses for a number of years in collaboration with Steven Fallon Mountain Guiding, with the aim being to summit all 11 Munros that lie along the spectacularly jagged crest of the main Black Cuillin Ridge.  The majority of these 11 Munros require very careful route finding (particularly in the mist) and involve technical scrambling, sometimes across very exposed terrain. The In Pinn and Sgurr nan Gillean also require a short abseil in order to descend safely.

Guiding Skye Munros

Raring to go!

For the first week, we were joined by Richard, Simon, Craig, Colin, David, Kevin, Stuart and John. As ever in the Scottish Highlands, the weather has a huge influence on the itinerary, and so with a good forecast for the first day, we decided to make the most of it, and tackle Sgurr Mhic Coinnich, the Inaccessible Pinnacle and Sgurr na Banachdich, which is one of the more challenging days, however, with dry rock underfoot and light winds, the day posed no problems for the team. That said, I think many were quite relived to get the In Pinn ‘out of the way’ early on! We stayed at the southern end of the Cuillins for day two, and took in Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr Dubh Mor and Sgurr Alasdair. This day, whilst technically easier than the first, still involves plenty of interesting scrambling and complex terrain. The descent via the Great Stone Chute ensured that the team were fully focused until safely down in Coire Lagan. Again, with a better forecast for the third day, we took in the northern three Munros, Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Bastier and the easier Bruach na Frithe, before a shorter final day saw the team completing their 11 Munros by summiting Sgurr a’Mhadaidh and Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh. Despite moody skies, the rains didn’t materialise until we were down.

 

Guiding Skye Munros

Sgurr Mhic Coinnich

 

Guiding Skye Munros

Dave enjoying the In Pinn

 

Guiding Skye Munros

Sgurr na Banachdich

 

Guide Skye Munros

The Window, Sgurr nan Gillean

 

Guide Skye Munros

Sgurr nan Gillean

 

Guide Skye Munros

Am Bastier

 

Guide Skye Munros

Bruach na Frithe

 

Guide Skye Munros

On Saturday, Scott and I were back on the northern three Munros, this time with a smaller team (Stephen, Stuart, James, Diane, Kenny and Brian), who had attempted these Munros last September, but were repelled by strong winds and driving rain. This time round, the weather proved to be much kinder, although, unfortunately, the low clouds meant that the views from each of the summits were identical. You can’t have it all!

Guide Skye Munros

Am Bastier

 

Guide Skye Munros

Bruach na Frithe

 

After a day off, we were joined by Jamie, Jonny, Jo, Gary, Colin, Darren, Mark and Paul. With a slight deterioration in the weather forecasts from the previous week, and in particular, strong winds for the first day, we opted for Sgurr a’Mhadaidh and Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh. The ascent of both Munros from An Dorus is quite short and not too technical, so even with strong gusts, they can be tackled safely. As we descended back into Glen Brittle, we emerged out of the clouds and into clear skies and sunshine, lifting everyone’s spirits. The clouds lingering over the Cuillins whereas it being clear in the glens seemed to be a theme for the rest of the week. For the second day, we tackled the southern three Munros, before completing the remaining summits over the following two days.  The team did fantastically well, particularly considering the less than ideal conditions.

It’s been a very successful couple of weeks on Skye. We’ve got a number of guided teams up there over the forthcoming weeks. We will also be running three more of these Cuillins Munros Courses in September, on which there are still a couple of spaces.

Guide Skye Munros

Sgurr a’Mhadaidh

 

Guide Skye Munros

Clear over Loch Brittle

 

Guide Skye Munros

Sgurr nan Gillean

 

Am Basteir and Basteir’s Tooth

 

Guide Skye Munros

Bruach na Frithe

 

Guide Skye Munros

Clouds swirling around the northern Munros

Guide Skye Munros

Successes on the Skye Munros Course & Cuillin Traverse

The second half of May has been busy period, mostly in conjunction with some amazing weather in The Scottish Highlands.

Firstly, Guy and I ran another Skye Munros Course, with a team of four each, on behalf of Steve Fallon.  The aim of these courses is to complete all 11 of the Munros that lie on the main Cuillin Ridge over four days, as well as to arm the participants with core mountaineering skills that they can then transfer to their own adventures.

The weather forecast for the week was for mixed conditions, very different to the sunshine and dry weather of the previous week, but with a bit of juggling of days and the teams being thrown into the deep end by tackling the Inn Pinn on the first day, which they all coped brilliantly with, we enjoyed a hugely successful four days, and summited all eleven Munros.  Well done to the teams for braving the elements, particularly on the final day!  Hopefully they will be back to enjoy the Skye Cuillin, in the sunshine, which does happen, in the future.

Back in Lochaber, Kenny was out with Joe, who is in training for a trip to the Alps.  They had a successful day on North East Buttress on Ben Nevis.  North East Buttress is a fantastic route in summer conditions, as well as being one of the finest climbs of its grade in winter, and perfect preparation for bigger objectives in the Alps.

David & David had a day out with Scott, on the Aonach Eagach, in Glencoe, and a day out with Ian on Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and the Inn Pinn on Skye.  They enjoyed two productive days, in great conditions, on two of the UK’s finest single day mountaineering routes.

Ian also guided Steve, Jack and Jeremy on Skye that week.  It was their first time on the Cuillin Ridge, so a great opportunity to sample a number of Munros in the best mountaineering playground in the UK, as well as pick up some essential mountaineering skills along the way. A complete Cuillin Ridge Traverse next time chaps?

Speaking of complete Cuillin Ridge Traverses, Scott successfully guided brothers Bob & Peter along the ridge.  Bob and Peter had tried a traverse in the past, but had been thwarted for a number of reasons, however, this time, things were different, and everything fell nicely into place, allowing Bob and Peter to successfully complete the traverse, with perfect weather from end to end.

Success on the Cuillin Ridge Traverse!

Success on the Cuillin Ridge Traverse!

Finally, Tom enjoyed an adventurous day out in Knoydart, an area not often visited when working.  He was out with Humphrey, who in the past, has completed all of the Munros, and is now working his way through the Corbetts.  Humphrey had chartered a boat which left at 8am from Mallaig, and so the pair were dropped off at the head of Loch Nevis, to tackle the remote Corbett, Ben Aden.  This mountain extremely rock and steep on all sides, and one of the hardest summits to reach in the whole of the UK, so the pair did well to reach the summit in good time, and made it down in plenty of time, for a boat pick-up at 5pm.

So, fingers crossed that there’s more good weather over the next month, which predications are suggesting will happen: Monthly weather forecast for the UK – Net Weather.

Cuillin Munros Course

Last week, Guy and I ran a Cuillin Munros Course on the Isle of Skye, something West Coast Mountain Guides have been delivering for a number of years on behalf of Steve Fallon.  The aims of the course are very straight forward: to summit the 11 Munros on the main Cuillin Ridge over 4 days.

With a near perfect weather forecast, and 7 enthusiastic and experienced hillgoers joining us for the course, it promised to be a great week.

We kicked things off with an ascent of the southern three Munros: Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr Dubh Mor and the highest peak on the Isle of Skye, Sgurr Alisdair.  Whilst on the move, the group practised their scrambling skills, and made short work of the first couple of Munros.  With such good conditions, we also took in the summit of Sgurr Dubh na Da Bheinn en route to Sgurr Alisdair.  The descent of the Great Stone Shoot proved to be the trickiest part of the day, and so with a bit of coaching, everyone’s technique improved as they gained the confidence required to tackle loose and awkward scree, of which there is plenty of on the Cuillin.

On Wednesday, we tackled Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, The Inn Pinn and Sgurr na Banachdich.  There is a rather subtle line of reasonable sized rocks in amongst the loose An Stac screes that we snuck our way up, before we summited Sgurr Mhic Choinnich via it’s west ridge.  From here, we retraced our steps and ascended The Brown Ramp, which cuts beneath An Stac to gain the foot of one of the highlights of the ridge, The Inn Pinn.  The East Ridge of The Inn Pinn, an awesomely exposed but never difficult climb, was pleasantly quiet.  For many of the group, this was their first experience of pitched climbing, and what a great place for it!

Looking north along the Cuillin Ridge

Looking north along the Cuillin Ridge

With slightly tired legs, we opted for a shorter day on Thursday, well, it’s meant to be a shorter day, but with such good weather, basking in the sunshine on both the summits of Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh and Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh seemed to be of high priority, and so we still had a full day, although about half of it was spent stationary!

For our final day, there was nothing for it, but to finish off the Munros on the Cuillin, by heading into Choire a’Bhasteir to tackle Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Basteir and Bruach na Frithe.  There was still quite a bit of snow lying in Choire a’Bhasteir, so having ice axes to hand proved reassuring.  From the Bealach, Guy and his team headed east to ascend the brilliant West Ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean, whilst I took my team up Am Basteir, before swapping routes.   Our final leg took us over to our final Munro, Bruach na Frithe and then back via Fionn Choire.

Everyone did fantastically well, and it was great to see everyone’s skills and confidence grow throughout the week. Make sure that you keep those developing mountaineering skills up!

Guy and I will be starting another Cuillin Munros Course tomorrow, fingers crossed for such good conditions!

Guiding on Skye

Finally, it feels like summer has arrived!  On the Isle of Skye, it only really materialised this afternoon, but that was enough to get excited about!  I’ve been guiding on Skye this past week, the first half of the week for Moran Mountain, and today a day of private guiding with Les.  Actually, thinking back to Monday, we didn’t visit Skye at all, with a fairly cold and wild day, Mark, Sinclair, Nathan, Martin and myself decided to stay on the mainland and visit the brilliant Raven’s Crag, near Gairloch.

In amongst the squalls and fresh winds, we managed to get a couple of routes climbed and looked at personal abseiling and belays in preparation for the following day, where we ventured to Skye, and battled our way up through hail showers to the Inn Pinn, which was pleasantly sheltered from the worst of the SW winds, and despite there still being plenty of snow lying on the ridge, the East Ridge of the Inn Pinn was ok, I just had to clear a bit of graupel from some of the hand holds.

Wednesday saw us returning to Skye (from Lochcarron).  With another wild forecast and tired legs from the previous day, we decided to stay low, and climbed the easy, but sustained Spur on Sgurr an Fheadian.  This route finishes on the summit of Sgurr an Fheadian, and coupled with a quick descent down scree slopes into Coir a’Mheadaidh makes it a great choice for windy/wet/short days.  We finished the day off with a quick drink in the Sligachan Hotel, a must for any mountaineering trip to Skye!  Unsurprisingly, it was quite busy in there, with plenty of folk taking shelter from the rain.

I was back on Skye today, this time with Les, who has had the Inn Pinn on his radar for the past ten years.  We set off in amongst a few showers, but restrained from donning waterproofs, and sure enough, it paid off, as the rain soon cleared.  Quite a bit of snow had been washed away since Tuesday, and we were able to make our way to the Inn Pinn without the need for an axe.  The rock on the East Ridge was dry, and Les made quick work of the two pitches of moderate climbing, and we soon found ourselves back down again.  Another team were also enjoying the dry rock whilst making an ascent of South Crack.  The skies cleared on our descent to remind us both that Skye really is one of the best spots in the world.

I’m back in Lochaber this weekend for a couple of days of mountaineering, before heading back to Skye next week to run a Munros course.  The weather forecast is looking very promising!

 

 

 

Sgor na h-Ulaidh and Beinn Fhionnlaidh, Glen Etive

Before you spend the whole time reading this blog wondering how an earth to pronounce the two mentioned Munros, here you go: Sgor na h-Ulaidh is pronounced ‘skor na hoolya’ and means peak of the treasure and Beinn Fhionnlaidh is pronounced ‘byn yoonly’ and means Finlay’s peak.  And it’s these two Munros that Johnny and I, working for Steve Fallon, guided a strong group of ten around yesterday.

Following a rather wild and wet week, with some quite mild temperatures, things took a distinct turn on Friday evening, with a drop in temperatures, and with it, the promise of fresh snow, possibly down to valley level.  Fortunately for us, the snow was nowhere near as heavy as some forecasts predicted, allowing us to drive safely down the often untreated road in Glen Etive, and set off at 8am on Saturday morning.  What snow had fallen, had been brought in on fresh NNE winds, therefore transporting much of it onto southerly aspects, which was quite apparent when making an ascent of the south eastern flank of Sgor na h-Ulaidh.  A thin layer of windslab was starting to form in hollows, but without a base, was of very little concern. As ever, it’s interesting to see it forming.

The group made steady progress up the steep SE flank and ridge, and we were soon enjoying the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh, with little wind, and great visibility over towards the Aonach Eagach and Ben Nevis to the north, to Beinn Cruachan to the south and over to Mull out west.  From here, a long descent down to nearly 400m, brought us to the foot of Beinn Fhoinnlaidh.  We ascended the mountain’s west flank, again, up steep slopes, to gain a short but interesting summit ridge, which led us, via a couple of tricky steps to the summit.  As it was 3pm, and therefore with limited daylight left, we chose not to hang about, and managed to negotiate all the steep ground to the SW, before having to don headtorches and make our way over easier ground back to the cars.  All in all, it was a big yet rewarding day for the group, taking in 2 Munros, 17km and 1600m of ascent with less than perfect underfoot conditions.

Winter climbing wise, things are improving, but reports suggest that Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glencoe may not be quite there yet.  A mild and wet start to this coming week, but again, next weekend looks promising.

Here’s a very short film that I quickly put together, it’s amazing what you can do on a phone!

It’s cooling down – Scottish winter courses

It’s been a busy summer, both on the Isle of Skye and in the Alps and it’s been great to meet new and also catch up with familiar faces. The late Indian summer we’ve had has been very much appreciated and t-shirt climbing in October and November has been great! We are however also pleased to say it’s now cooling down, and with winter not far away, it’s a good time to start laying down plans for the upcoming winter season.

Our first Scottish winter courses this year start in mid December and we also have some running over the New Year period. This coming winter, we will be offering a greater range of courses than previously, with the inclusion of a Winter Skills & Summits course, aimed at hill walkers looking to take their first winter steps in the Scottish mountains and who wish to tackle snow covered Munros.

Should you wish to tackle something steeper, such as a snow filled gully, iced up buttress or classic icefall, then our range of Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Courses may be just what you’re after!  We’re lucky to be surrounded by some of the finest winter venues, from Ben Nevis to Aonach Mor on our doorstep, to the impressive peaks and crags of Glencoe just to the south.

We will, of course, be running our flagship CIC Hut Weeks too.  The week is spent in the UK’s only alpine hut, at the foot of the North Face of Ben Nevis, which means minimal walk-ins, maximum climbing time!

Don’t forget, we also take Private Guiding bookings too so if you can’t quite find what you’re after when it comes to climbing, winter skills, or walking make sure you get in touch whether your an individual or a group so we can talk through what you’d like to achieve and we’ll come up with a tailor made itinerary for you.

The West Coast Mountain Guides blog will also be kept up-to-date throughout the winter season and please feel free to email us with your own conditions updates and pictures that we can then include on our blog

Oh, and if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to ‘like’ us on facebook and we look forward to seeing you soon!