A mecca for climbers, there is nowhere else in Britain that offers the kinds of routes that you find on Skye. In fact, most would agree that the Black Cuillin traverse in winter is the single greatest challenge in UK mountaineering. To add to the appeal of the Cuillin, there are sea cliffs and outcrops so numerous that they have an entire Scottish Mountaineering Club guide dedicated to them.
Where do you start?
Well, the reason that Vanessa and I both first came to Skye was for the Black Cuillins. If you are doing your Munros or have any interest in climbing the classic rock routes routes of Scotland, Skye is a must. It’s quite a shock when you first set foot on the main ridge of the Cuillin; there is nowhere in Britain that compares to the narrowness and prolonged exposure. Looking at the map the tops look very close together and you would think it was possible to summit four or five and be back down for a late lunch. Think again. When I first came to the Cuillin I was in a party of very experienced mountaineers, some that had been climbing in Skye for over thirty years – we only managed to climb two summits in a ten hour day.
Route finding can be very tricky, even when with people familiar with the ridge. It is very easy to get distracted by offshoots and then have to retrace your steps and try again on a different route. If you have choice of three it’s bound to be the last one that looks very dodgy that is the way to go. Not only that, but your compass is a false friend on the Cuillin as the rocks are magnetic.
The classic rock climbs on gabbro are not as popular as they once were and most of the climbing interest has moved to the sea cliffs where there are more new routes to be found in the harder grades. Even so, for me the volcanic gabbro of the main Cuillin is what Skye is all about. Vanessa and I climbed the Pinnacle Ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean on a very wet and misty October day when water was running everywhere. We didn’t even manage to get to the final summit and had to rope off in fading light but it was great; a full on mountaineering experience.
For more information about climbing on the island, try Skye Guides