Pabbay and Mingulay

Golden sandy beaches, clear blue water, soaring Golden Eagles, screaching Peregrines, darting and diving seabirds, a noisy seal colony, puking Fulmars, diving Bonxies…these are probably the memories that will stay with me the most when I think about Pabbay and Mingulay. However most of all I’ll remember these islands the most for being pumped out of my mind on some amazingly steep sea cliffs!

Pabbay Paradise

Pabbay Paradise

Pabbay and Mingulay are two little uninhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides, renowned for their sea cliff climbing. The islands were last inhabited in the early 1900’s with Mingulay having a population of around 120 at one point. Today they are uninhabited save for the abundance of wildlife and the occasional climbing team in the summer months. Suffice to say the climbing on these islands is incredible with something to suit everyone (well maybe apart from those with really weak arms) but what makes climbing here so memorable is the wildness, remoteness and beauty of the islands themselves.

The Great Arch on Pabbay. Dave and Donald are two tiny little specks under the Great Roof which they climbed a couple of days later.

The Great Arch on Pabbay. Dave and Donald are two tiny little specks under the Great Roof which they climbed a couple of days later.

So when Team Scotland went about organising a trip out there for June I decided I could forgo Fairhead for one year and go check these islands out. The only slight flaw in the plan was that I had been mountaineering for the previous 6 months and I was climbing with Murdo ‘never gets pumped’ Jamieson who was on the form of his life (actually come to think of it, he’s always on this form). We had four glorious days of weather on Pabbay before we headed across to Mingulay where unfortunately the weather was not so great. Mingulay has some fantastic big cliffs with Dun Mingulay being the star attraction. The route we did, Big Kenneth, was fantastic but unfortunately the marginal weather didn’t really allow us to get on any other routes on this great crag.

Murdo with a smile on his face...he must have been happy that this route made him try a little.

Murdo with a smile on his face…he must have been happy that this route made him try a little.

I’ll be honest in saying that I found this trip to be incredibly frustrating from a climbing point of view as my mind was willing but my body was lacking in the fitness and confidence to get on the routes I wanted to climb! It was made even more frustrating by watching Murdo cruise up multiple E5’s and E6’s without even getting a sweat on! However it was hard to stay frustrated for long when the climbing was so good, the location was breathtaking and it was truly inspiring to watch someone make E6’s look like VS’s.

These islands are truly a fantastic place to visit and the great thing about having been on such poor climbing form this trip is that I have all the amazing routes there to go back for!

Guy and Nona on the Poop Deck

Guy and Nona on the Poop Deck

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Murdo cruising the crux of The Bonxie…this was significantly harder than he made it look…standard.

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Murdo’s words leaving the Bonxie belay were ‘Take your time…but hurry up’ I’ve never seen someone 2nd a pitch so fast, drop his harness and then disappear to find a large hole in the ground…poor hole!

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Looking across to the campsite on Mingulay

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Lounging around at the top of Dun Mingulay waiting for the weather to get in before abbing in… Think now, ab later.

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There was a lot of standing around in a circle with our trousers tucked into our socks on Mingulay playing the alphabet game…all part of a climbing trip.

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Skye

The winter traverse of the Cuillin Ridge back in December had left me blown away with the beauty of Skye and the Cuillin. I was keen to go back in the Spring to explore the Cuillin some more. The only issue was that with such stellar weather and conditions on the ridge in December was it really possible to get much better than that!?

The Cuillin

The Cuillin

Winter dragged on for quite some time in Scotland and even by mid May there were substantial patches of snow on the hills. Rather optimistically I drove North leaving behind my axe and crampons thinking that surely the ridge must be clear of snow…turns out that optimism was somewhat misplaced. Arriving on Skye to strong winds and driving rain I met up with Mike Lates, for whom I was working, and he informed me that an axe and crampons were needed to approach most of the Munro sections…sub optimal!

Over the course of the next few weeks I experienced everything from gale force winds and blizzards to hot, blue sky days. Having only been there on the winter traverse there was a bit of ‘on the job’ learning as the ridge in summer is even more complex than winter!

All seasons in one day

All seasons in one day

The majority of the people who come to the Cuillin over the summer months are there to climb the Skye Munros in their pursuit of ticking all the Munro’s. For most, the Cuillin Munro’s are a significant step up in difficulty from the other Munro’s. Most people seem to put them off for quite some time and usually end up hiring a guide to get them around the Munros on the ridge.

May blizzards!

May blizzards!

I had the privilege of spending some fantastic days with people from a wide range of backgrounds, from surgeons to engineers to submarine commissioners. I often wondered why people would want to go and tick all the Munro’s but when you start to think about the absolutely stunning places you end up and the people you meet along the way you can start to see the attraction (though I do wonder about the lady who was doing her 5th round…). For most, completing the Munro’s on Skye bring them far out of their comfort zones and when you realise you are helping them achieve a lifetime goal then it makes the work all the more rewarding. Saying all that, I have no intention of becoming a Munro bagger!

Every Munro baggers dream or nightmare! The Inn Pinn

Every Munro baggers dream or nightmare! The Inn Pinn

Looking out from Coire a Ghrunnda

Looking out from Coire Lagan

Akihiko embracing (literally) the Inn Pinn experience.

Akihiko embracing (literally) the Inn Pinn experience.

Sheila and Brian looking very relaxed!

Sheila and Brian looking very relaxed!