Skye season is underway

Some years, the transition from winter to summer seems to take a while, whereas others, it seems to happen almost overnight and this year is definitely one of the latter. The weather in the Highlands recently has been incredible, with wall-to-wall sunshine almost everyday. When it's like this, there really is no better place in the world!

Ben and Paul (both fully qualified Mountaineering & Climbing Instructors) kicked off our Skye season this year, with a team of motivated and determined hillwalkers, keen to get some of the Cuillin Munros ticked off over four days. For the first day, they enjoyed a brilliant day on the southern Munros; Sgurr nan Eag and Sgurr Dubh Mor. On day two, they climbed through the clouds to enjoy an inversion on Sgurr a' Mhadaidh and Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh. Yesterday, with tired legs and thick mist and drizzle, they tackled Sgurr na Banachdich. For their final day, they made the most of the better than expected weather, by tackling Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and the In Pinn.

There's very little snow on the Cuillin this year (unlike last year), so no winter kit was required.

If you fancy tackling all 11 Munros on the main Cuillin Ridge over 4 days, with fully qualified Mountaineering & Climbing Instructors, we have availability on the following courses (£489):

7-10 May (1 space)
10-13 September (3 spaces)

For further info, please get in touch or visit:…/guide-skye-cu…/

Availability on our 4-day Cuillin Munros Course on Skye

With the longer daylight hours and an amazing spell of excellent weather, our thoughts have now well and truly turned to our spring and summer mountaineering courses in the Scottish Highlands.

We will be running a number of our popular 4-day Cuillin Munros Courses (£489 guiding fees, including the use of helmet and harness), during which the aim is to tackle all 11 Munros on the main Cuillin Ridge.

We will split the days into the following:
-Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr Dubh Mor and Sgurr Alasdair
-Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, The In Pinn and Sgurr na Banachdich
-Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh and Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh
-Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Bastier and Bruach na Frithe

We have a number of spaces left on the following courses:
-7-10 May 2019 -1 space available
-11-14 June 2019 – 1 space available
-10-13 September 2019 – 3 spaces available

For further information or to enquire about booking, please visit:…/guide-skye-cu…/

Sunshine & ice climbing – Central Gully R/H, Ben Nevis

I was back out with Marcin and Pawel today and with such a good forecast and cooling temperatures, we ventured back up to Ben Nevis to see what was on offer.

There's a reasonable amount of snow-ice on the mountain, but many routes are missing just enough to make them unfeasible at the moment. We plumped for the Central Gully Right-Hand on Creag Coire na Ciste, which looked to be in reasonable condition. There was a fair bit of verglas on the rocks beneath Creag Coire na Ciste, a good indicator that things had cooled down.

The route was a bit on the lean side and required a few mixed moves here and there. After the first few moves on the main pitch, there was very little in the way of gear, so be prepared for quite a long run-out. Marcin and Pawel both climbed the route well and enjoyed the steeper sections. There was little in the way of a cornice at the top and an exposed but easy traverse to the right gained the plateau with little difficulty.

Ali was out with Matt, in Comb Gully, which he reported to be quite goey for the grade. A couple of teams in No. 2 Gully and on Green Gully, where the first pitch looked to be broken in places. No. 3 Gully Buttress looked ok, if a little bit more rocky at the top than of late. South Gully had what looked like a giant serac barring the exit. North Gully was complete. The major gullies will be in excellent condition for the next wee while, but we could do with a bit of snow for the steeper routes to be in good nick. It is still definitely winter up there and who knows how long it will continue for.

Great Winter Climbing Forecast

❄️The forecast for 30 March – 8 April must be one of the best looking periods for winter climbing this season❄️
We still have availability over the next couple of weeks, so if you’re not quite ready to hang up your crampons and ice axes this winter, get in touch!

Curved Ridge Conditions & Summer Availability

For the past couple of days, I've been out with Phil, Marcin and Pawel. I was out with Phil last winter, but for Marcin and Pawel, it's their first time in the Scottish Highlands. We opted for Castle Ridge on Ben Nevis yesterday, which was largely snow free until we gained the summit of Carn Dearg. There's still plenty of snow on the summit plateau of Ben Nevis and we were able to stay on snow for much of the way down the Red Burn.

Today, we decided to stick with the theme of classic rocky scrambles and made an ascent of Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor. The approach and route were largely snow-free, however, there's quite a bit in the basin at the foot of Crowberry Tower and on the final slopes. With a drop in temperature on the cards for the weekend, this will firm up and it will be worth carrying an axe and crampons. We avoided much of the snow by traversing above Rannoch Wall and made an ascent of Crowberry Tower. Still plenty of snow in Coire na Tulaich too.

With the clocks going forward this weekend, we're looking ahead to our Spring and Summer mountaineering courses and guided trips. We still have spaces on the following courses:

⛰️4-Day Skye Munros £489
-11-14 June 2019
-10-13 September 2019

⛰️1-Day Curved Ridge, Glencoe £99
-2 June 2019
-23 June 2019
-4 August 2019
-15 September 2019

⛰️1-Day Aonach Eagach, Glencoe £99
-15 June 2019
-22 June 2019
-3 August 2019
-14 September 2019

⛰️ Private Guiding also available throughout the year

Winter still holding on – East Ridge of Beinn a'Chaorainn

Jamie has been out with us a number of times over the years, slowly building up his skill set and experience. Jamie also gains sponsorship for these trips, to support the Teddy Bear Childen Support. This year, we decided that the East Ridge of Beinn a'Chaorainn would be a good objective.

The approach through the woodland was entirely snow free, which whilst not quite as pretty, is much easier. On popping out onto the open hillside, the environment completely opens up with large, snow filled corries and gullies in almost every direction.

There's still plenty of soft snow on the ridge, with the odd patch of firmer, old snow in places. There are now patches of grass showing here and there, but it still felt quite wintry up there. The cornices above the corrie were huge!

I often head up Beinn a'Chaorainn when the forecast is for strong, westerly winds, so it made a very pleasant change to be able to enjoy lunch at the summit.

Proper winters day on Comb Gully, Ben Nevis

Uncertainty, adventure, spindrift, strong winds, snow, poor visibility, good ice, bad ice, firm snow, soft snow. Yep, we had it all today and it was great to be out in it.

I was out with Chris, who was keen to climb Tower Ridge and the forecasts were such that there was a chance that it could have been fine, but whilst gearing up, the winds picked up a notch and served as enough of a warning for us to change our plans. We skirted around the base of the Douglas Boulder and underneath the western flanks of Tower Ridge, before making our way up towards Comb Gully, our plan B for the day. I've always enjoyed the journey from the western flanks of Tower Ridge back into Coire na Ciste, as it feels like a cunning route through an otherwise very steep-sided gulch.

Comb Gully was good fun as always, although it is quite lean, with only just enough snow-ice to make steady progress. Whilst I had a set of ice screws with me, the snow-ice just wasn't dense enough to allow for good enough placements. That all said, the snow-ice was generally excellent for axe placements.

We had torrents of spindrift piling down at times, giving us the full Scottish winter experience and topped out into strong winds and poor visibility, with rime building on our kit and clothing. We descended via the Red Burn, which was largely full of helpful snow.

Mike, of Abacus Mountain Guides, who I was working for today, was next door, on Clough's Chimney and reported it to be good fun too.

Up Tower Ridge, Down Ledge Route

I was back on Ben Nevis today, this time with Stephen and Jardine. Fortunately, things have cooled down quite a bit since I was last up there, on Thursday and with a fresh dusting of snow, things were looking much more wintry. The old snow, which was saturated, has firmed up well, particularly above 900m.

Stephen and Jardine have had Tower Ridge on their bucket list for some time and over the years have put in the mileage on easier routes to set themselves up well for one of the finest ridges in the UK.

We weren't alone, with three other teams all setting off at about the same time. Everyone was climbing well and so progress was fluid. Quite a bit of the snow on the lower half of the ridge had melted away since Wednesday, but there's still plenty left. From the top of the Little Tower, things hadn't been affected quite so much. There was also plenty of rime above 1000m.

Stephen and Jardine both moved well and we found ourselves at the summit of Ben Nevis in good time and made our way down via Ledge Route (and traversing over the top of Moonlight Gully Buttress). We had a look at No. 4 Gully, but it's still got some fairly large cornices above much of it.

A number of teams were also enjoying this latest cold spell, with teams on Comb Gully, Green Gully and around Two-Step Corner. All of these routes will be much leaner than usual, so don't expect them to be easy at the moment. We could also see the West Face and summit plateau of Aonach Mor, both of which are very bare now.

NE Buttress, Tower Ridge and SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder

With a rather sustained thaw in progress, we opted for ridges to stay out of the way of falling debris. Phil and Diggy made a quick ascent of NE Buttress, which they reported to be in reasonable condition, although the 40 Ft Corner was quite bold, with a thick layer of refrozen (and slowly thawing) rime ice.

Myself, Linnea and Andrew were on Tower Ridge and found it to be in good nick as well, with enough firm snow along the crest. The Little Tower was still fairly well banked out and the Leaning Block Chimney is still buried.

We topped out in good time, descended Coire Lies, before Andrew and I nipped up the SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder, which is largely snow free now.

Making the most of it on Ben Nevis

Yesterday, Phil took Diggy and Devon up Tower Ridge, whilst I was on Castle Ridge with Linnea and Andrew. Castle Ridge was covered in deep snow, and the first crux groove was only a couple of metres rather than its usual eight. We descended the northern flanks of Carn Dearg, which was very easy going, with plenty of snow snow.

A thaw arrived yesterday afternoon and continued through the night, but it remained dry for this morning, therefore limiting the effects of the thaw. Both teams headed into Coire na Ciste, with Phil, Diggy and Devon making an ascent of Thompson's Route whilst myself, Linnea and Andrew climbed No. 3 Gully Buttress. We found great snow ice in a steep groove on the first pitch.

On topping out, we wandered over the summit and down Coire Leis, before making a quick ascent of the East Ridge of the Douglas Boulder, which was great fun, but the route is starting to look a bit sorry for itself now.