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 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.
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.
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!