May, June and July over the past four years have always meant Cuillin time for me, and this year is no different. Although the ridge feels like a second home to me in the meantime it's always super inspiring regardless of the weather.
Over the past week or so I've been out with lots of different people tackling various different objectives.
During the week I was out with Ian for Skye Guides showing him all the hardest parts of the ridge, some of the sneaky bypasses for poor conditions and the best line on the ridge in order to attempt a ridge traverse, unguided, next year with his brother.
We had some tricky conditions. First super strong winds whilst we were climbing from the TD gap to In Pinn on Wednesday, followed by strong winds and drizzle on Thursday whilst we climbed the northern three Munros, and finally wind and lashing rain on Friday as we traversed from Sgurr na Banachdich to Am Casteal. A real mix of weather but great for Ian to experience the hardest parts of the ridge in less than perfect conditions so he and his brother go into their traverse attempt fully informed and with the best chances of success. Best of luck!
On Saturday a big group from Peak Meet-Up were out with Abacus Mountain Guides and we managed to do a couple of laps of the Inaccessible Pinnacle for those who had that in their sights. For those that just came for the walk we were rewarded with the clouds parting whilst we were on Sgurr Dearg and some fantastic views.
Sunday was I was out with Chris and Peter, for Skye Guides again, up on Skye trying to complete their remaining Munros and Tops on the Cuillin Ridge. Thankfully the cloud stayed low whilst we were on the In Pinn so Chris didn't have to deal with the massive exposure of the climb, but whilst we were on Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, the second Munro for the day, we got some brilliant views of the surrounding mountains and further afield. A great outcome.
In between all these bits of work on the ridge, Sally and I managed to snatch a lovely sunny day out climbing perfect gabbro slabs at Ardnamurchan, no midges, just pure fun!
With the weather patterns at the moment seeming to be showers in the mornings followed by a slight lifting of the cloud over the afternoon and into the evening I'll be looking to utilise this so that the next few days out on the Cuillin ridge stay as fun and dry as possible.
Today Sally, Niels and I were on Ben Arthur/The Cobbler with a fun team up from various parts of the UK.
The rare diseases team were up on a work / team building trip for a few days. Originally we had discussed hiking up Ben Nevis but chose to climb The Cobbler instead and were rewarded with good weather, fantastic views and a great day out.
Well Done! Hope you enjoyed a fine pint or two at the Fyne Ales brewery after!
The last couple of weeks have been a great mix. A great mix of different activities and work, but also a lot of different weather to contend with. Everything from glorious sunshine and warm rock climbing in Glen Etive, through difficult showery spells trying to go cragging, to snow, hail, heavy rain and strong winds on the Cuillin Ridge on Skye and everything in between. Sometimes choosing the right objective for the weather is the most important factor for insuring a good day out.
John from Mountain Expeditions came up to Scotland for a bit so we hooked up to climb for a couple of days. With awkward showery spells we managed to play around at Glen Shian trying some of the harder, sparsely protected lines after fleeing the rain and midges in Glen Nevis. The following day we climbed the Etive Slab classic, The Long Reach. Didn't notice a particularly long reach but there were quite a few long runouts. A fantastic route!
With much of my work on the Isle of Skye again this summer, I've spent many days over the past couple of weeks bagging Cuillin Munros with clients. Numerous ascents of the Inaccessible Pinnacle and the other fantastic peaks, interspersed with the odd day of sea cliff climbing at Elgol. Whilst working for Abacus Mountain Guides, West Coast Mountain Guides and Skye Guides, we managed to avoid much of the bad weather and enjoyed some brilliant days out.
Though much of the past couple of weeks I've been on Skye, I also snuck in an ascent of Tower Ridge and a quick fun afternoon climbing one of Polldubh's classic climbs, Storm, with it's steep, exposed but juggy second pitch being the highlight.
The past week has been a fantastic mix of mountain activities. The high pressure which seems to occur pretty frequently in May these days turned the West Coast of Scotland into an amazing adventure playground. Within one week we were out skiing on the Ben, climbing in Glencoe and on Ben Nevis and throwing in a few classic mountain scrambles to round the week off.
With slightly damper conditions forecast for the coming week I'll be back out on the Isle of Skye working on the Cuillin Ridge with it's fantastic Munros and scrambles, hopefully interspersed with a few days of climbing classic rock routes when the cloud lifts.
From late 2014 until early 2016 I spent 18 months living in Antarctica working as a Field Guide for the British Antarctic Survey, based at Rothera Research Station. It was an intense and incredible experience including 6 months over-wintering with a small team of 18. I saw amazing places, learnt new skills specific to the job and made a lot of new friends. In my second summer season, I was lucky enough to explore the South Eastern corner of the Antarctic Peninsula along the Lassiter Coast bordering the Weddell Sea.
During the 73 days of this project, BAS Geologist Dr Alex Burton-Johnson (pictured above on one of the many first ascents) and I explored an area containing great ranges of mountains which had never before been fully explored collecting data which I understand he is still in the process of analysing. It was an incredible few months and I still feel very fortunate to have had the privilege to take part in this project. Alongside the samples which Alex collected to further understand the process which this area of the peninsula had undergone during its creation, we also found fossils of ferns on one of the sedimentary rock sites we visited. An amazing thing to find in such an extreme landscape.
They say 'all good things come to an end'. After 73 days in one of the most remote places on earth with only one other person, and 18 months living in Antarctica, I was back in the UK after a week of travel and gearing up to do my MIC Training course at Glenmore Lodge. Fast forward through a lot of work and play across the UK and Alps since returning and again I am heading south to Antarctica. But this time it will be a little different!
April 2nd 2015: I, along with 18 others, having feasted as guests aboard the ship the previous night, waved good bye to BAS's Ernest Shackleton as it sailed north leaving us at Rothera to look after the base over the winter. It was an emotional moment; the excitement of winter as a small group, alone and in charge, the excitement of winter trips yet knowing that 'that's it until next year', no more visitors, no more fresh food, no more projects, no more...
This season, as I wait for my flight south to the Falklands, to meet the Ernest Shackleton again and spend a couple of months assisting sea ice projects from this vessel, I feel like things have come full circle. Time to meet, see, learn, explore and be amazed again.