October is awesome and annoying in equal measure. The weather is often all over the place, never really dry and warm for rock climbing, but rarely cold enough for much winter climbing. It's the one in between when flexibility and an open mind are pre-requisites, being happy to embrace all forms of climbing as dictated by the conditions. Mountaineering to bouldering, sport to sea cliff trad climbing; go with the flow. Embrace autumn.
When the sun shines, it's gentle warmth warms the bones if climbers and the wings of butterflies. Choose your crag carefully; even clean, south facing rocks dry out slowly. Enjoy a slow breakfast, slip into the routine of the days, take time to appreciate where you are, its sounds and its atmosphere.
The ring crags at Ardnamurchan bounce back the bellows of the stags in full rut. No other noise disturbs their roars other than the chink of our climbing gear and occasional calls to each other. It seems an empty landscape where the passage of time, beyond the daily rhythm of light and dark, is meaningless. Spending time at Ardnamurchan is like pressing the pause button, like stepping off the fairground ride for a few delicious moments, to restore some kind of balance.
Even in the rain, the gabbro at Ardnamurchan is as grippy as anything. The limit to your climbing will be the condition of the skin on your fingers. Go for a wander; it's impossible not to find great rock and brilliant bouldering. Take a rack and a rope too so you can throw in occasional pitches as well. Go with the flow.
Red, yellow, green and orange leaves on the trees are like nature's fireworks while whole mountain sides turn golden brown behind. Lazy bits of mist hang about in corries and spider's webs hold on to crystal lattices made of dew drops.
Sea cliffs can offer refuge from the biting breeze, a little warmer air and dry rock between the weeps. Just below the main road where unknowing drivers pass by, fights with flared cracks are going on with a sense of adventure beyond its modest scale. Down here, it's just us and fifty seals giving us all their attention and climbing critique. Their wierd wails make it clear where the idea of sirens of the sea came from.
Stars over night give way to a weak daybreak but there is no warmth in the sun. Drips on the tent soak cold into the fingers. The sky is blue and the sun shines straight onto the rock but we each wear three layers plus puffer jackets. It is lunchtime before I take off my second pair of trousers. It's not a time to be pushing the grade. Instead we spot lines that look good and enjoy the movement, the sensations, the sounds and the smells.
It's all about movement on rock. There is little difference between bouldering on 2m high rocks and climbing 200m high ridges. It's all climbing. It's all about focusing on what is underneath your finger tips, underneath the tips of your shoes, and nothing else.
The weather changes again and we shift venues again. The west always seems wilder and there is a lot of wild coast on Skye. For most, Skye is all about the Cuillins, but the coast has a wealth of sea cliffs, coves and caves to explore. Prehistoric rocks and fossils, columns and cracks offer outstanding climbing. John and I have a lot of exploring and climbing still to enjoy!
Castle Ridge (Moderate), Ledge Route
Yir (VS 4c,4a)
Volcane (E1 5a,5b)
Up-Pompei (E1 5b,4c)
Pash (Severe 4b)
Sanna Ferry Ann (V.Diff)
Mjollnir (HS 4b)
Solas (HS 4b)
Creag an Amalaidh (Golspie)
Sprockletop (VS 4c)
Giant (VS 4b)
Stepping Out (Severe 4b)
Shocket (Severe 4a)
Coaster (Severe 4b)
Pistachio (Severe 4b)
Sunspot (VS 4c)
Heavy Duty (VS 4b)
Positive Mental Attitude (VS 5a)
Fancy Free (VS 4c)
Bouldering at Castle of Old Wick
Spantastic (HVS 4c,4c)
Lucy in the Sky (HVS 5a)
Shocks and Stares (HS 4b)
Sonamara (VS 4c)
Baywatch (VS 4c)
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.