The Cullin Ridge AKA The flight of the Midges.

Scotland is an amazing place with endless adventures to be had.  There are two big problems with Scotland that have meant that my tick list up there (in summer at least) is rather pitiful.  The first problem is it is 9-12 hours away from my home in Devon and the second is the G-damn midges…  They really are spiteful creatures and their persistence and annoyance could only be matched by my partner for this mini expedition,  Emma Crome.  Ever since I’ve been back from Chamonix Emma has been hassling me to go to the Cullin Ridge on the Isle of Skye.  This week I gave in to her incessant nagging and headed up north with the hope to complete this wild and stunning mountain adventure.

We made the drive up from the south which took me 13 hours in total including swinging into Bristol to pick Emma up and a McDonnalds-carbo-loading stop. We got to Glen Brittle at 1.30 am on Sunday morning both feeling pretty wasted already. We managed a few hours sleep before getting up (after a prolonged snooze button session) and starting to get ready for the off. Inevitably we had a few false starts on the way up to the base of the ridge through weariness and this picture paints a thousand words…

LOL

LOL

This half an hour gave me the first real chance to get to grips with what was involved in the ridge and read the guidebook description which spans some 13 pages of the Skye Scrambles guidebook.  I can’t say that I was that mentally prepared for what was involved in the route and I didn’t really know what was involved until this point.  I’d heard it was long, and I knew it was a ridge, but I didn’t realise it was 13km and involved some 4000m of ascent and descent, usually takes a couple of days and covers 12 Munros ( peaks over 3000ft). Ok, so its going to feel more like an alpine route as opposed to a few days scrambling.

On the approach to our starting point (Sgurr nan Eag) the heavens opened which meant our motivation wavered and thoughts of retreat started to creep in.  We had a chat and decided to keep going, agreeing that if it got worse we would go down, but before long we were on the first summit and heading off down the ridge in the swirling clouds.

Heading off on the rather moist ridge on sunday at about 1pm

Heading off on the rather moist ridge on sunday at about 1pm

Emma exiting the TD Gap

Emma exiting the TD Gap. the VDiff climbing here hurt my knee quite a lot and was pretty wet.  not much fun but the toughest part done with..

The way through the mountains.

The way through the mountains.

On the Inpin

On the In pin. Don’t let go!

Higher up on the In pin

Higher up on the In pin, the great stone shoot in the background.

Abseiling off the In Pin

Abseiling off the In Pin

This down climbing to an abseil was greasy and scary!!

This down climbing to an abseil was greasy and scary!!

Settling in for the night

Settling in for the night.  

We settled into an awesome bivi after getting down from the In Pin. Of course I decided to continue with my long standing tradition of never taking a sleeping bag (Eiger, Grandes Jorrasses, Dru) and we shivered one out gazing out over the ocean and watching the setting sun.  It was only dark for a few hours (3 maybe?) and we were soon ready to get going after only being in the pits for about 5 hours.  The next day was just as stunning and we made steady progress along the ridge.

Fun rays of the day and an awesome cloud inversion.

Fun rays of the day and an awesome cloud inversion.

Emma on the Last peak, Sgurr Nan Gillean.

Emma on the Last peak, Sgurr Nan Gillean.

Happy times!!! finished and ready for the pub..

Happy times!!! finished and ready for the pub..

Still one more abseil to get there.

Still one more abseil to get there.

An top notch adventure all in all and a stunning place to visit.  We met a 80 year old man and his daughter on the ridge at the end (I’m sorry their names have eluded me) who thank fully gave us a lift back to Glen Brittle after we had had a few beers and some dinner.  A few was all I needed. Him and his daughter are only a few Munros off ticking the whole lot and I wish them the best of luck!!

I look forward to going back in the winter at some point!

Settling Back Into Blighty

With a near constant barrage of facebook status updates from my friends in Chamonix ticking off major ski descents my FOMO (feeling of missing out) is sky high.  Unfortunately for me the ‘Life of Riley’ caught up with me at the end of this winter and I had to make the decision to head back to the motherland to ‘do some work’.  I’ve been back in the UK for a month now and its not as bad as I remember it!  The weather has been good and I have manged some awesome trips out and about in Devon and further afield in north wales and Scotland.  My climbing arms are getting their life back after what seems like an age without so much as touching a bit of rock to climb on (nearly a 8 month lay off!!).  I even manged to on-sight an E5 at Dunkeld the other day.

Last week I attended an IRATA level 1 Rope access course at Scotts Access Services in Consett, County Durham.  I’ve wanted to do this course for a while and it feels great to have finally completed it.  It was a fun week and I learnt a lot about how the industry works and some more advanced techniques which could prove handy in my day to day climbing. Thanks to the team at SAS and the lads on my course for making the whole week a load of fun!  I would thoroughly recommend SAS to anyone looking to do any of their IRATA tickets.

The training room at SAS in Consett.

The training room at SAS in Consett.

The lads learning how to do a basic haul.

Joe showing the lads how to do a basic haul.

This weekend, as a reward for passing the test I headed out to Lower Sharpnose Point near Bude on the north Devon coast.  This is a crag I’ve wanted to visit for many years and I was not disappointed by the utter quality of the climbing.  It had everything I’ve wanted from rock climbing and the rock and style of climbing suited me perfectly.  I felt so at home swimming up the impending walls that are littered with perfect jugs and cracks with the sun on my back and the sea lapping at the rocks bellow.  I was seriously inspired by the middle fin despite not managing to get a route done on it due to the tide.  I’ll be back there in the not to distant future with my sights set on some of the harder classics of the crag.

Heading down into Lower Sharpnose.  Spot the Climber!

Heading down into Lower Sharpnose. Spot the Climber!

Josh getting ready to show his Rope Access skills to get us to the bottom of the crag.

Josh getting ready to show his Rope Access skills to get us to the bottom of the crag.

Myself nearing the crux of the utterly classic E1 The Smile. A good warm up for the day. Photo courtesy of Heather Ohly

Myself nearing the crux of the utterly classic E1 The Smile. A good warm up for the day. Photo courtesy of Heather Ohly

Josh heading into the Crux of The Smile

Josh heading into the crux of The Smile

Heather Ohly finishing of the Awesome looking Crooked Mile (E4 6a) looking very comfortable.

Heather Ohly finishing of the Awesome looking Crooked Mile (E4 6a) looking very comfortable.

My self on Diamond Smile one of the best pitches of E3 I have ever done.

My self on Diamond Smile one of the best pitches of E3 I have ever done.

A good day had by all, thanks everyone involved.  Now all I need to do is find a J O B! Any suggestions welcome!!