Wednesday, 30 November 2016


So I've moved up to Scotland to get more winter climbing done, and finally my days off and good weather have coincided. Two weeks ago I was sinking up to the tits in powder in the gorms. Trying to micro-navigate towards a crag in about 20 feet of visibility when everything just looks white. Well fuck all that, the forecast is actually sunny, and no wind....all I need is for something to be in condition to climb. The Glencoe webcams look promising so after work me and Colin drive straight up the A82 and doss in a car park opposite the Buachaille. Plan is the north buttress, which should go in pretty much any conditions. 

The Buachaille - photo taken back on the February trip

Colin runs ultra marathons and does all kinds of crazy ski mountaineering things. I cycle a few miles to work and back and occasionally slobber my way up a hill. No doubt he could be up and back down this route in the time it takes me stagger to the bottom of it, but the plan is to not rush and just enjoy the day. After skidding up an icy path we start scrambling directly up the buttress, the odd step but mostly steep walking. Snow lying all over the place but it's all unconsolidated toss. It's getting light but the sun hasn't yet appeared above the skyline of mountains. 

Me leading up one of the icy chimneys

We stick a rope on for the chimney system that splits the steep part of the buttress. The holds are icy as hell and there's snow on all the ledges. After two pitches of sliding around and chipping ice off footholds, we think sod it and put crampons on. The climbing isn't hard, just kinda awkward, and every now and then I have to use a tool to make progress. 

Following a pitch as the condition get more wintery with height

After the third chimney we short rope the remaining steep bits then take the rope off and jolly up to the top. The weather is fucking amazing. No clouds, snowy mountains everywhere. We drop into Coire an Tulaich and bum slide most of the way down a narrow gully. A final skid along an icy path leads us back to the road, maybe 5 hours after starting. Colin shoots off up the ski lift at Glencoe Mountain to do some skinning while I sit in the cafe eating cakes.

Moving together near the top of the buttress

International Man of Mystery, and some fat English git

Colin disappears off in the evening to get ready for some exciting sounding job in the Alps for the winter. I go to the Clachaig and stuff my face with food and beer. My plan for the next day is the Aonach Eagach ridge traverse, something pretty spectacular but easy enough for me to solo. Colin tells me not to bother descending the other end of the ridge, just go all the way back along it, more climbing more fun, right! I huddle in my sleeping bag as the temperature plummets and the car ices up.

No doubt the best weather I will have all season now....

I leave early and slog up to the first summit in an hour or so, just as the sun rises. It's going to be another spectacular day. The initial descent is the crux of the whole ridge, a grovelling powdery downclimb, after that it's pure fun climbing over steps and pinnacles, mega exposed. Pretty soon I reach the final summit, still feeling strong. Then I look back at all the ridge I've committed to reversing, and suddenly my legs ache and I feel knackered as fuck.....why am I taking the advice of a guy who runs 100 mile backcountry marathons??? With a weary sigh I start retracing my way back through the various peaks and pinnacles to where I started. Actually fuck it, I'm still feeling good, it's still great fun. I get back to the car 6 hours after leaving. Not a bad start to the winter.

Unfortunately the battery in my ipad died in the cold so no Aonach Eagach photos I'm afraid. I arrive back at the layby and startle a bus full of tourists by taking off my wet trousers and eating a whole pack of pork pies in front of them. Mmmmmmm, pig arsehole, that's what climbing is really all about. Here's hoping for a good winter! 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Jock Rock Jolly

I've done loads of mountaineering in Scotland but never any proper rock climbing. However me and Staples are starting to get pretty bored of all the usual places - North Wales, Cornwall, Peak District - so now it's time for a road trip north of the border. Looking through the 2 cherry picker Scottish rock guides it is fairly obvious that the climbing in Scotland is going to be far far better than any of the shite us English and Welsh brexit cunts have down here...

Keeps the midges out and it's stylish as fuck...

We arrive knackered after the long drive but with enough time to knock out a couple routes on a crag near Dunkeld in the Central Highlands. I go for the first route, some VS, and shamefully get pumped near the top fiddling in gear then lower off again. Staples leads it instead and annoyingly I find the move completely piss on second. To redeem myself I try another route, this one with a steep Boulder problem crux, and cranking through the hard bit I manage to stick my hand in a pocket that's full of slugs. Lovely.

I'm close to saying fuck it, let's just go back to Tremadog or somewhere, but instead we find a layby to doss in and Staples gets on the uri geller. I can't drink anything because I'm still on meds for a tooth infection that made my jaw swell up like the fucking elephant man.

Crag Sodding Death

Next day finds us hiking up to a cliff with the interesting nickname of 'Crag Death'. Famous for its sloping handholds and bugger all gear. Great. We decide to try a classic called King Bee with the direct HVS start. Staples leads this because he was clearly going better than I was yesterday. The climbing is exactly as advertised until the scary as fuck roof crux, which thankfully has actual holds and some gear protecting it. 

Staples leading up the absence of anything positive or secure

My pitch traverses across a steep wall towards an arete. I start edging my way across, fumble in a terribly uninspiring cam, but soon enough my head starts turning to porridge. It all looks the same so I've got no idea where to go, and I'm shitting myself that I'll end up stuck completely off-route with no gear in. I can't bring myself to keep going so it's back to the belay I go. Staples isn't keen on the pitch either so we just abseil off a tree and say a heartfelt fuck you to Crag Death.

The weird sight of Coire Sneachda not being plastered in snow and ice

The vague plan is to spend a few days in the east while the weather's a bit crap, then head west for the remainder of the trip. So we drive north to Aviemore with the extremely optimistic hope of getting a route in Coire Sneachda done in a brief afternoon weather window. Amazingly we walk into the crag in blue skies and sun but clouds are massing to north and starting to come over. Our objective is an amazing looking HVS called the Magic Crack, featuring a huge finger-width splitter on the final crux pitch.

A somewhat rubbish photo looking up the second pitch

The first pitch is pretty wank and badly protected, but it gets you into the good climbing. Staples leads up a finger crack in a slab, traversing into a layback corner. All brilliant stuff but here comes the bloody rain to ruin everything. He carries on because there's gear the whole way up the pitch and our guidebook says probably tat at the belay as well. I pay out rope and curse uselessly at the weather, at god, at the Easter bunny, at fucking Boris Johnson. I bet this is his fault, somehow.

We gamble, push on, and for once are rewarded by the rain fizzling out and the sun coming out again. I rack up for the big crack pitch, set off, and am just fiddling in the first wire when an enormous cloud of midges appears out of nowhere and swarms around my head. The wee bastards. They burrow into my ears, my eyes. I'm frantically clawing them out of my face, climbing fast as I can just to escape the fuckers. Lob some gear in, any good, who cares, just keep going. Despite the wee bastards the climbing is utterly sensational every step of the way to the final belay. We abseil off and walk out feeling pretty damn pleased with ourselves.

The view across Torridon from Diabaig

Have you climbed at Diabaig? No? Well you're missing out because it's the best 'cragging crag' in the world. Without a doubt the best rock I've climbed on as well, you poor bastards.

Funky moves past the holly in pitch one of Route One

The 5c direct of pitch two

We climb two of the classic multipitches, imaginatively named Route One and Route Two. Both routes follow splitter cracks in the steep slab, gear everywhere, perfect friction. I unknowingly lead the 5c direct variation of Route One and find it piss because my feet stick anywhere I slap them. Great stuff.

Sweet cracks on pitch one of Route Two

The amazing second pitch

Perhaps it's inevitable things will only go downhill after Diabaig. The weather forecast is terrible and we spend a couple of days scratching around without getting loads done. We spend a morning at some unremarkable crag outside Gairloch getting midged to buggery, then take a punt further north and find dry(ish) conditions in Ullapool. Here we tick off one of the big aims of the trip and climb on Torridonian Sandstone. Guess what, it's fucking good. Like grit but pinker and not polished.

Amazing Highland sunset

Me leading a cool HVS on Ardmair Crag

Staples chooses the perfect moment to discover he's shite at jamming

More apocalyptic weather is forecasted but we wake up in the middle of nowhere in Assynt and it's not raining. Wind howls across the emptiness but it's actually not raining! We've got two options - tick a few single pitch routes on the Reiff sea cliffs, or gamble on a multipitch on the iconic Stac Pollaidh. We say fuck it, throw together a light rack and start trudging up a track towards the peak. Out to sea we can see huge dark walls of cloud and rain come hurtling in, getting closer every minute. The wind is rising. We have a quick think about our options and decide to leg it up to the summit, do the classic ridge scramble, then at least if all hell breaks loose we've done something worthwhile with the day. This turns out to be a good shout when we reach the summit cairn and it starts pissing it down.

The amazing Assynt landscape

Stac chaps

Looking back at the peak as the waves of rain pass over

The weather sort of goes completely tits up now. The only half decent forecast is back east, so off we go, hoping it'll clear up and we get at least a couple good days in the west before we have to return home. In the meantime the only dry crag we can find is some wank cave in a forest outside Aviemore. I second Staples up a route and know the moment I grab the first hold that it's shit and I hate it. After that I bail on the crux of the crag 'classic' and we fuck off again. Nice to see there's some rubbish north of the border as well, though it doesn't quite compare to the utter toss known as limestone that we have so much of down here...

We really want to get another mountain route done, and fortunately there's a day of good weather forecasted. So we find ourselves making the long approach trudge to a peak called Binnein Shuas where lurks Ardverikie Wall - the best HS in Scotland according to our guidebook. Alrighty then. It's windy as fuck, and the now familiar fronts of ominous clouds are massing on the horizon, but we seem to be in a pocket of relative shelter. After some hellish bog wading we reach the start of the route and get going.

Me on the juggy as balls first pitch

Staples gets the best climbing up a nice flake crack

The first two pitches are really good but it sort of gets a bit scrappy after that. Plus the wind is fucking freezing and keeps blowing clouds across the sun. Luckily the bad weather seems to be sticking to the other side of the valley, so at least the crag is staying dry. Three more slabby pitches see us to the top, then we slog back to the approach path and bugger off to Aviemore again. Probably not the best HS in Jockland but great nonetheless.

Treading carefully through wet streaks on pitch four

Bad weather rolling through the valley

Oh dear. Oh fucking dear. Now it really does go pete tong. Yet more high winds are forecasted for the next day, so we think 'sod it' let's have a few at the Pine Marten bar. I'm off the meds now and have been itching to get wankered for days now. We chin a few cans, polish off a bottle of Highland Park, then wander somewhat unsteadily into the bar and get the pints in. Sometime later an old dude with a handlebar stache is playing folk songs and we're sharing a table with these very nice middle aged ladies. Who keep buying us rounds of whisky, and who, coincidentally, are getting more attractive with every passing hour.

Yes this can only end well

I don't remember very much of what happens next. Everyone starts dancing, I'm blind drunk, next thing I know I'm crouched outside in the howling darkness, clinging onto the wheel of Staples car like it's the one thing keeping me alive. Sometime later Staples arrives, opens the door and we pass out inside. There's this godawful retching noise and I see, to my eternal horrified amusement, the drunk twat puke all over himself, his sleeping bag, and his half of the car. It literally goes everywhere. The stench of it. For about two hours I fight a losing battle against my own insides, before giving up, booting the door open, and hurling all over the verge. Finally I lapse into a merciful dribbling unconsciousness.

Needless to say the hangovers are something biblical. Staples uses about eleventy million baby wipes cleaning his mess up and we spend the whole day shivering in our sleeping bags, a right pair of sorry cunts.
Now I'm afraid it's all downhill. The forecast is hopeless for the whole country but pretty good for the Lake District, so we cut our losses and drive south. We manage one route the afternoon we arrive before we get word that Staples flatmate has seemingly gone AWOL. So he gives pol pol permission to kick the door in and have a look, and it turns out the poor guy is dead in the living room. End of trip. We start driving home right away.

RIP Chris 'Iron' Garside. Miss you chief.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Skeleton Ridge

Skeleton Ridge follows the crest of the Needles

For reasons that I struggle to define I've wanted to climb this crumbling monstrosity for ages now. It's made out of chalk, and therefore slightly less stable than a third world democracy, highly committing, and worst of all you have to go to the Isle of Wight to do it. But it appeals to me in a 'you don't have to be a good climber just fucking stupid' kind of way I suppose. Either way here we are, me and Staples, on the Pile of Shite and ready to climb Skeleton Ridge.

Looking back a couple pitches in

It's a huge amount of faff just getting to the start. Early morning ferry crossing. That's eighty sodding quid straight off the bat. Then we hike down to the National Trust fort thing on the headland and meet with one of their guys. He's really helpful and shows us where to rig all our ropes. We've got 100m of static line, 4 60m half ropes, plus 20m or so in tat. Enough to siege a Himalayan peak.

Pre-placed rope for the final belay

We leave a rope in place for the final belay, which is otherwise non-existent, and another as an initial abseil into a sort of ditch just to get down to the main ab point. Here we find a stake and a chunk of rubble, which we equalise as the anchor. Finally we tie our two statics together, which should be enough to get us to the deck. Just in case it's not the first man in will carry a spare rope to reach the bottom. All that done we sod off back to the cafe to wait for low tide.

After some food and an extremely nervous shit I find myself slowly abseiling down a slabby face of vegetated choss on the southern side of the Needles. Rubble pours down the cliff after me, covering me in chalk dust. I reach the knot, pass it, and finally land on the bay at the bottom. Prussiking back up would be an absolute fucking nightmare. I wait for Staples to descend then we both stagger off along a shingle beach towards the start of the ridge. The ledges beneath the first pitch are still underwater so we find shelter from the sun under a low overhang. We sit there pulling chunks of rock off the cliff with terrifying ease.

Approaching the start of the route

Not in any way worried at the bottom

Eventually we get bored and wade across to a small ledge. I look up at the serrated ridge rising above me, like some prehistoric spine, and wonder if it might be easier to simply walk into the sea with the rack on and save a bit of time.

The superbly protected first pitch - note the tied off screw at the start of the traverse

Instead I start climbing up a vague groove of darker, waveswept rock. There's a good runner about a foot above the belay and that's pretty much it for the rest of the day. Next I reach some toss old peg, clip it anyway, keep shuffling upwards. It gets even better - I find an old borehole, think 'why the fuck not?' and start drilling in an ice screw. With hateful predictability the bastard only goes halfway in, so I just tie it off and begin a long, unprotected traverse on bits of flint embedded in dust, laughing hysterically all the merry way. Somehow I reach the crest of the ridge and a shite belay on, you guessed it, rubbish pegs.

Razor pinnacles lying in wait

Staples follows me up the pitch and just like that we're more or less committed to the whole miserable lot. The usual existential 'what the fuck am I doing with my life' crisis swiftly follows...

Staples leading the easy second pitch

And the joke of a belay at the end of it

The next bit is an easy wander across ledges to the base of a steep pinnacle. This is the crux of the route, and I won't lie I'm shitting myself as I edge along the knife edge crest towards it. A cluster of hilariously awful pegs greets me, I clip every damn one and fiddle a nut into a crack that probably wasn't there ten minutes ago.

Me leading the steep crux arete

Relieved to get it done!

Nothing else to do but go for it. A few pulls on big but crumbling holds, a high step, job done. Absolutely piss. Nowhere near 4c, probably more like 4a. I reach the belay with some relief and bring up Staples. He manages to break off a foothold, the silly twat, an ominous reminder that we can't get too complacent on this pig.

Easy but fun climbing on pitch 4

Pulling holds off on the chossy ramble of pitch 5

I don't know if it's my alpine mountaineering experience, but I'm really not finding this bad at all. Yeah it's a bit loose, not exactly Stanage Popular, but come on. I've heard horror stories but it's just easy rambling on slightly dodgy rock. We breeze across the next two pitches, booting off the odd block, trying not to pull the ridge off by accident, and soon arrive at the final (terrible - who knew?) belay. Now the fun begins.

The last steep wall before the top

Staples already a way above the only gear on the pitch

Gaining the final ride to safety

Staples demonstrating the true elegance of rock climbing

It's Staples lead, and off he goes, up a narrow pinnacle, two pegs after ten feet then bugger all else. He reaches the very apex of the ridge, a jagged fin of chalk mere inches wide, and begins the final death-straddle to safety. That's literally what you have to do - hump your way to salvation. The exposure on either side is ridiculous, sheer faces dropping away into the sea, and the feeling that such a thin bit of chalk really could break off any second under your weight. Staples edges his way along, laughing, sobbing, I can't tell anymore. The ridge eventually widens into the headland, and he disappears from sight. I follow, it's the most outrageously stupid bit of climbing I've ever done. The whole time I feel like I'm about to pitch over sideways, pendulum into a chalky void, end up topped at the bottom.

Me enjoying the knife edge of death up my arse

Looking down at the bay about 90m below me

I can't say it any better than our guidebook; if there's a more spectacular pitch anywhere, you don't want to climb it.

The arete we both shagged to get to safety

Soon enough though I'm riding the last section onto solid ground again and that's the route done. Tourists gape at us from various viewing platforms. They look at us like 'what the fuck are those idiots doing?' and I can't help but agree with them. We're both covered in chalk and pissing ourselves at how crazy the whole thing was. It takes about an hour just to de-rig all our ropes and pack up. We say a final goodbye to the National Trust guys, promise them some shaky headcam footage of us swearing our way up choss, then fuck off to the pub.

Job done, in all its pointless glory

Drinking beer. Now then. Wonder if there's a route up Beachy Head....?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


I've been dreaming about the Cuillin Ridge for years. I've been on it twice in summer and once in winter, never getting close to achieving a full traverse. The ridge is 12km long, and crosses 11 major peaks, dozens of minor tops and pinnacles. A traverse requires something like 13,000 feet of ascent and descent. And the Black Cuillin lie far to the north-west on the beautiful but volatile Isle of Skye. Bad weather can appear out of nowhere, heavy mist cloaking the mountains and turning them into a maze of slippery rock, false trails, dead ends. These peaks are truly alpine in stature and difficulty, all jagged spires and knife edge ridges. The Black Cuillin are, beyond doubt, the finest and most challenging mountains in the country.

But for all this the goal is simple - traverse the ridge from end to end in one continuous push.

The mighty Cuillin Ridge

I'm racing up the country, car loaded with gear and supplies, prepared to stay on Skye as long as it takes to get the traverse done. I cross the bridge to the island and am greeted by walls of cloud, the dark outlines of mountains barely visible. Rain spits upon the windscreen. I arrive in Glen Brittle and bed down for the night. Next morning the rain has stopped so I imediately start hiking towards the start of the ridge - not to climb it though, not yet. My plan is to recce the approach to the first summit in case I have to do it at night. I memorise forks in the path, landmarks that point the way. I must also get mountain fit before I can hope to achieve a full traverse.

Alpenglow on Sgurr nan Gillean, the north peak of the ridge, from the layby I slept in

The more gentle Red Cuillin, which I hiked in to build fitness

The next day brings back the rain, so I hike up a mountain called Beinn Mor Dearg in the neighbouring Red Cuillin, traversing two other peaks to get there, deliberately pushing myself hard up steep paths.

Bla-Bheinn and Clach Glas

Tuesday brings fine weather but I know I am not ready yet. So instead I do another famous ridge traverse of Skye, Bla-Bheinn via Clach Glas. After a steep approach slog up the first peak I enjoy sustained scrambling on wonderfully rough gneiss, occasional harder sections that I climb fast and confidently without a rope. I hate being weighed down the mountains. It takes me about 4 hours car to car, a sign my fitness level is not too bad. The weather is perfect, and from the summit I have a perfect view of the Cuillin Ridge, lying monstrous before me. My god, it's fucking huge. I can't wait to try it.

Clach Glas, Matterhorn of the UK, with Bla-Bheinn looming beyond

Looking up the crux chimney pitch (still piss though!)

Summit of Bla-Bheinn

I'm basically waiting for a weather window now. The next two days it's pissing it down, I read books, drink tea, constantly hounding my parents to text me weather forecasts. On Skye they can generally predict what tomorrow will be like - after that forget it. It seems that a weak front of high pressure is moving in, just enough for me to complete the traverse with a bit of luck. After that it's a grim picture; more low pressure, a whole week of rain. I really can't be arsed with sitting around a whole week, I'll be bored shitless. I've got to make the most of this window.

My initial plan is to start stupid early Saturday morning and smash the ridge out in a day. Hopefully before the forecasted rain arrives in the evening. But I wake up Friday morning to clearing skies, the peaks already starting to break through the clouds. Fucking hell, has the weather window rolled in early? I make a snap decision to start the ridge right now, today. Take bivy gear and get as far as I can this afternoon, leaving me with less to do Saturday in case it craps out early.

Got to be as light as possible. I take - super light down sleeping bag, in waterproof outer bag. This weighs maybe half a kilo. Roll mat. Micro fleece. Hard shell. Helmet. 2 litres of water in my bag. Plus 2 litres to carry in my hand for approach. A malt loaf. Couple of chocolate bars. Map and compass.

I decide not to take a rope. My goal is to traverse the ridge end to end, I will avoid the optional harder bits and trust that I will be able to down climb any required abseils. If I get stuck with no way up or down I'm fucked.

On the summit of Gars-Beinn, first peak of the ridge, long way to go...

Nowhere to go the other way

Ready to begin!

I leave my car in Glen Brittle and start hiking up at midday. Soon the path disappears, and I've no choice but to forge on directly up the grass and scree of the south-west face of Gars-Beinn. It's bloody hard work. I drink most of my spare water. Finally I'm on the top and can get going. The first section is easy scrambling, and I move very quickly to the TD gap, the first real obstacle. There's a hard down climb (my scribbled notes tell me everyone abseils this), then a crux pitch up a wide crack on the other side. I arrive at the top to find abseil slings and a gently overhanging wall. There's no way I'm going down without a rope.

Looking back towards the first part of the ridge

Traversing the corrie to avoid TD gap

I improvise an awkward way off the ridge and skirt around a corrie, climb a chimney, then follow the exposed west ridge of Sgurr Alasdair to the summit. This is the highest peak of the Black Cuillin. The gap was the one section I was really concerned about, and now it's behind me. I've only been going a few hours and I'm feeling strong and confident.

On top of Sgurr Alasdair

Looking back to the high point of the Cuillin

Next I negotiate Sgurr mich Chionnich, again managing to avoid a difficult section by taking a traverse line just below the crest. Now it's a tiring but easy slog up to the top of Sgurr Dearg and the base of the Innaccessible Pinnacle. This improbable blade of rock is the true summit of the peak, and therefore the hardest major mountain in Scotland. I climbed it with my Dad back in 2011, so although it would be nice I decide to leave it this time round. I can't abseil off the top and don't want to waste time and energy on a hard, exposed down climb from the pinnacle. So I carry on, already entering the middle section of the ridge. Evening is drawing in, the weather is still hot and sunny but a cold wind blows across the crest from the east. Still time to go further today.

The Innaccessible Pinnacle

The next section of the ridge

The southern end behind me now

On I go, the ridge is easier now but I find myself tiring. I did wonder what my endurance would be like with so few mountain days in the last few months. The next summit is mostly just hiking, then more scrambling over a series of sub-peaks before I reach Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh. I seem to have come to a dividing point in the weather. I stand bathed in glorious sunshine, but a few meters onwards, blankets of cloud roll over the ridge, the whole north end is completely hidden. I decide to bivy here, where I can lay in the sun, rather than carry on another hour or so and get cold all evening.

I bivied a few feet below the summit of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh

There's a low wall of blocks already built by previous climbers, I make it a bit higher to keep the wind out, then settle down for the night.

5 star mountain accomodation

View from my bivy, the clouds never came any further across

The nights are short here in summer, so I spend a pleasant few hours dozing and gnawing malt loaf while the sun sets. After that it gets cold, and I sleep fitfully, listening to the wind whistling over me. By 3am it's already getting light again, but I decide it's still too cold to start climbing. I lie patiently 'til half four then struggle out of my sleeping bag and get ready to leave.

Beautiful morning cloud inversion

Pointless bivy selfie

Early morning mist on the Cuillin Ridge

The next bit is quite tough in the misty conditions. I should wait longer for the sun to burn it away, but I'm paranoid that the weather window may close earlier than forecasted, leaving me no choice but to retreat. I know I won't get a better chance than this to achieve the traverse so I move on cautiously, checking my map and waiting for the occasional breaks in the fog to show the way forward. There's a section of complex route finding and harder climbing around three pinnacles, then I reach a broad, grassy bealach where some sheep are grazing.

The ominous tops of Bidean Druim nan Ramh

'Basalt staircases' rising above me

The next section, traversing the tops of Bidean, contained some of the most intricate route finding of the whole ridge. I read my notes carefully, and slowly find my way over the first two tops, climbing a series of basalt staircases and chimneys, before reaching the main summit of the peak. I know there is a section awaiting me that most people abseil, and I'm anxious to get this done as soon as possible.

Trying to hide my nerves on top of Bidean

Amazing light phenomenon, I think it's called a Broken Spectre

Horrible wall of overhanging death, note the abseil tat at the top!

I reach the dreaded down climb, and my worst fears are confirmed - it looks fucking awful. There is a nice cluster of abseil tat to lower yourself down in moments, but of course not for Billy no rope here. So I have no choice but to begin a very tenuous shuffle down sloping edges, hands pinching at the cold rock, feet clumsy in big mountain boots. I'm shitting myself the whole way. Trying not to look at the drop below me. A desperate move across a bulge to reach another slab, and finally I'm down, hands shaking, heart racing. But now I feel like there's nothing that can stop me reaching the end.

Looking towards the final section where the ridge kinks back right

The Bastier Tooth rises out of the mist

I carry on to the next summit, third last on the ridge. It's mostly easy scrambling with another tricky down climb that I would rather be abseiling. It's not as bad as the Bidean one though, and I'm soon looking at the final section of the ridge, the peaks Am Bastier and Sgurr nan Gillean. By this point I'm absolutely shattered, my legs are burning with every step. The end is near but I know it will take everything I have to get there. I reach the base of the Bastier Tooth, a steep fang, and just when I think I'm nearly there I can't find a way up the bloody thing.

My notes tell me to scramble down the right hand side and locate an easy ramp to the top. The only ramp I can find is anything but easy, I'm doing hard moves on small footholds, passing clusters of tat where people have lowered off from here. I reach a ledge, arms trembling, but cannot see any easy way to the top. If I commit and get stuck I will have to either wait for more climbers to find me, or try to call a helicopter. It's not worth it. I downclimb, very carefully, and skirt around the base of the peak. Finally some easy scrambling leads me back to crest, to the bealach between Am Bastier and Sgurr nan Gillean. 

Looking back to Am Bastier

I debate going back on myself to tag the summit of Am Bastier but I'm knackered and I just cannot be arsed with it. Sticking to my ultimate goal of the traverse, not individual summits. The final ridge is before me. I'm going to do it. I'm actually going to fucking do it. The weather has cleared at last and it's a glorious day, blue skies and sun, I feel very lucky to be in this position. I climb on.

The west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean, final leg of the traverse

The ridge is pretty mellow scrambling, one section of climbing up a wide chimney. Once I'm up this it's a straight run to the top, only a sudden lightning bolt can stop me now. I crawl through a gap between two large blocks, emerge blinking into light, the summit cairn is right in front of me. Gasping for breath I take the final few steps to the peak. Mountains all around me, the ocean beyond. I look back across 12km of ridge to where I started yesterday afternoon, and can hardly believe that I've done it.

Exhausted but very happy on the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean

The valley I descended into, Sligachan visible at the head of the loch

I stagger back down the south-east ridge and finally arrive at the Sligachan Hotel, where I get happily drunk on beer and fine whisky. Fucking good times.