Bye to Skye!

Last week was my last week working for Skye Guides, and what a week! I not only met some great people, but I had the privilege of being able to spend some amazing days on the hill with them.

It all started off with a VERY wet day on Sgurr nan Gillean, where I was working with a group of four friends who had been walking in the area and fancied getting onto some more challenging terrain. With fairly constant rain and poor visibility for most of the day it was a hard day to stay motivated, but the guys took it all in their stride and were still smiling when we arrived back at the pub, a great effort!

After a day of drying kit, Tuesday saw me out with Richard making our way towards the In-Pinn. The weather was still a little unsettled but forecast to improve, so we decided to take a longer approach via Sgurr na Banachdich to give the Pinn a chance to dry out. Richard is a keen walker and had covered most of the ridge on previous trips but had never managed to get up the Pinn, so it was great to be able to help him climb one of his final tops.

Starting up the Pinn
Fantastic views over Glen Brittle as the weather finally clears

On Wednesday it was back towards the southern end with Nan, Kevin and Ken, who were well on their way to finishing off the Munros. They had spent the week out with Skye guides climbing the Cuillin munros and our objective for their last day was Sgùrr Dubh Mòr. The weather finally began to play ball, and it was a great day out on the hill with some lovely folk and some great stories!

Ken and Kevin approaching Bealach Coir’ an Lochain

For my last three days work I was out with father and son Malcolm and Luke. Carlsberg don’t do working on Skye but if they did I’m pretty sure it would look something like the three days we had!

The guys had booked in with Skye guides from Thursday to Saturday with the main aim of completing a two day ridge traverse. With the weather looking best Friday and Saturday it was decided that those would be the days to “go for it”, however that left Thursday freed up so the guys decided they would like to spend a day out climbing……Result!
With a slightly dodgy forecast we headed to Elgol for the guys first taste of sea cliff climbing, they had both lead at VD and were keen to second up something a little bit harder, so we spent the day climbing a variety of routes up to VS. With the weather staying dry it was a great start to our three days.

Luke cruising on his first ever pitch of sea cliff climbing
Gearing up for Jamie Jampot.

On Friday morning we found ourselves back on the road to Elgol to catch the 8.30am boat for our drop off to the south end of the ridge, it felt like the beginnings of a proper adventure, and  a great way to start the ridge.

What a way to start the day!
As we ascended to Gars-bheinn, our first top on the ridge, we broke through the cloud and into the sunshine, it was a surreal feeling to be looking out over a blanket of cloud,and you could have been forgiven for thinking you were looking out of an airplane window!
Fueling up in the sunshine on top of Gars-bheinn

As the day continued the cloud started to break up and we had some fantastic views of the ridge as we made our way along it.

The team enjoying some scrambling terrain above Coir a’ Ghrunnda
The traverse of the main Cuillin ridge has to be one of the best mountaineering objectives in the British Isles, with 12 km of continuous scrambling and climbing terrain the time consuming nature of the ground is often under estimated by many parties. It can be as mentally challenging as it is physically, with constant exposure and complex route finding taking their toll.  It was the first time I had ever guided a full traverse and I was certainly glad I had spent so much time on the ridge in the previous weeks, as knowing the line through the more complex sections of ridge was a massive advantage and allowed us to keep moving at a reasonable pace.
Above the difficulties in the TD gap

It is standard to complete the traverse over two days with a ridge top bivi being the norm. When the weather is settled this only enhances the experience, and we were lucky enough to enough a fantastic sunset over the outer Hebrides, a great end to our first day on the ridge.

Sunset from our ridge top bivi

For our second day we were equally blessed with fantastic weather and we were able to move steadily on dry rock, with good views helping to make route finding that little bit easier.

The two days is a massive undertaking, and the guys put in a stunning effort, it was great to see them get to the end of such a challenging route.
In the bag! smiles all round on top of Sgurr nan Gillean.

The three days with Malcolm and Luke brought me to the end of my time on Skye, and was great way to finish things off. I thoroughly enjoyed my time working in such a challenging environment, and I have to say a massive thanks to Mike and Catriona at Skye guides for not only providing me with an opportunity to work in the area but for being so welcoming and supportive (what Mike doesn’t know about the ridge isn’t worth knowing!), their enthusiasm for the Cuillin is infectious and its somewhere I’ll definitely be back.

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