The warm air mass hung over western Scotland longer than predicted last weekend but, as with most of the north-west, conditions in the Black Cuillin are close to ideal now that the cold snap has really kicked in.. Don’t be deceived by the south facing, low lying Red hills that are seen in the Sligachan web-cam.
Parties out on Traverses are being treated to stunning light effects, crisp neve and hardly a breath of wind.
The forecast remains good right past the weekend although possibly a weak front passing on Sunday afternoon. There are many descriptions available but I’ve produced a brief summary of kit and key obstacles along the Ridge for anyone preparing to have a go- http://www.skyeguides.co.uk/Downloads_01.html
Best conditions are most likely in Coir’ a’ Bhasteir on the Bhasteir face of Gillean. In addition to the classic Pinnacle Ridge (IV,4) many routes have had winter ascents since the last guidebook. Here are the descriptions.
Fifth Pinnacle (The Bhàsteir Face of Sgurr nan Gillean)
This high face gleams like a white jewel in good winter conditions. The aspect and altitude turn it into an outstanding objective with routes of all grades available.
Just a Boy's Game 170m III * (1993)
Although escapes are possible to the left, this is a good route. Start at the ramp of North-West Face Route and gain an icefall. This gives the first of four ice pitches with snow terraces in between, the third being an ice bay. The route takes a fairly direct route to the summit rocks finishing at a pinnacle on the West Ridge less than 50m from the summit.
North-West Face Route 150m II/III ** (pre-1960)
Start at the bottom of Fourth-Fifth Gully.
1. 50m Ascend rightwards up a ramp running above MacLaren's Chimney until it steepens into a chimney.
2. 50m Climb the chimney and move leftwards through a rock band to the buttress crest.
3. 50m Follow the crest to the summit rocks.
MacLaren's Chimney 50m Very Difficult (1911)
A rather loose chimney climbed direct, which lies left of Forked Chimney and near Fourth-Fifth Gully.
Winter: 50m IV, 5 * (2000)
A good winter pitch; finish up North-West Face Route or Just a Boy's Game (200m to the summit).
Forked Chimney 75m Very Difficult (1898)
Start 15m right of Fourth-Fifth Gully. The chimney is very steep and deeply cut, and divides into two about 30m above the scree. Climb the left branch, back and footing past an overhang. The right branch of the chimney has also been climbed.
Winter: 75m IV,5 ** (1999)
An atmospheric winter climb. Follows the main chimney in 3 pitches. Finish up a snow amphitheatre to the West Ridge.
Gingini Chiminee 35m VI, 6 ** (2000)
The line between Forked Chimney and Flutings Climb is sometimes completed by an icicle dripping past the cave.
1. 15m Climb to the cave.
2. 20m Place good Friend protection in the cave roof, then spirit up the delicate icicle starting inside and working out. The difficulties end after 15m. The easy finishing pitches had to be missed due to icicle failure for the seconds.
Flutings Climb 90m Difficult (1919)
To the right of Forked Chimney are three shallow gullies; this climb takes the right one and is reached by a 30m pitch.
Winter: 90m IV,6 ** (1997)
The longest of the three chimneys is shallow to begin and has a leftward kink at half-height. An excellent winter climb at the top end of its grade.
1. 40m Climb steepening and poorly protected mixed ground into the shallow chimney. At its top move L across the kink and go up the deeper upper chimney for 5m to a chockstone belay.
2. 50m Climb the iced chimney to a steep exit, then the continuing snow gully to block belays just below the West Ridge.
Deep Chimney 70m Difficult (1898)
The chimney starts at the upper left-hand corner of a scree shelf on the right of the buttress. There is a large jammed block near the top.
Winter: 70m IV,5 * (2000)
Follow the summer route. Above the large jammed block a finish was taken on the right wall.
There are two parallel gullies starting a few metres right of Deep Chimney.
Doctor's Gully Left 60m Moderate (1888)
The left-hand gully.
Winter: 70m III (2001)
Follows the summer route, starting at the foot of Deep Chimney at a right-trending fault. Two good icy pitches early season. After heavy snowfall the route banks out and will become far easier.
Doctor's Gully Right 60m Moderate (1888)
Climb the right-hand gully.
Winter: 70m II * (1994)
Start at the large snow bay 50m left of Tooth Chimney and climb the gully going straight up to the ridge over three or four enjoyable bulges.
Copyright Mike Lates