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A Flying Visit into the Heart of the Cuillin

Skye Wall, Skye, Cuillin
Myself lost in a sea of gabbro on pitch 2 of Skye Wall, belayed by Neil. Photographer: Rebekah Drummond.

Skye Wall lies deep in the heart of the Cuillin mountains. A perfect wall of gabbro riddled with basalt dykes. If traversing the Cuillin ridge presents the best mountaineering challenge in the UK, then Skye Wall proves that it also offers top class rock climbing. For me, it epitomises what Skye has to offer for hard mountain trad. It has it all, a wild remote setting, an immaculate wall, a striking line, exposure, cool moves and just enough protection to make it all possible. The jewel in the gabbro crystal crown.

I found out Rebekah Drummond and Neil Mcgeachy, who had been to try it before, were heading in again. I only had two days off before I needed to go back to work, but the forecast was good and if I didn't take the opportunity now, then I don't know when I'd ever get round to making the slog over. Just to get there proves enough of a logistical challenge. Your options are to either get the boat from Elgol to the end of Loch Coruisk or to walk from the Fairy pools up and over the ridge via Bealach na Glaic Moire. We opted for the latter, which meant we didn't need to be reliant on boat times, however steep scree is not nice with a heavy bag.

Once we arrived we abseiled in and set up a massive top rope on the first two pitches, which weigh in at E6 6b and E7 6b respectively. Having Rebekah and Neil's prior knowledge made a huge difference on knowing where to ab down, what gear went in the route and key beta for the crux moves. Once I had familiarised myself with all the moves and gear, I felt happy leading the bottom pitch. This pitch is pretty straight forward apart from a few moves, which are the hardest individual moves on the whole route in my opinion. A long insecure reach with poor feet.

The second pitch is the money pitch, serious and sustained as it quests up into the black sea of gabbro. By late morning on the second day I knew I could climb it. But the skin on my finger tips was shredded thin and the sun was beating down onto the wall. It would have been to too sweaty to lead there and then. I wanted to wait till the wall was in the shade, this wouldn't happen until 2pm. I was also conscious that I needed to walk back out that afternoon, unpack and repack for a guiding a Cuillin traverse the next day. So I set myself a 4pm cut off to head out. I tried to relax in the shade for a few hours then once 2pm came, I had one last top rope check and racked up the gear I would need (including my first time using sky hooks). I turned my mind off and started up the wall. As with any bold ascent, it's crucial to get into the zone of simply executing the moves and clearing your mind of anything else. It all went very smoothly and before long I was at the top.

I quickly abseiled back down, grabbed my bags and walked back up and over the ridge to get ready for work, feeling very content to have ticked one off the life list.

I am very grateful to Neil and Rebekah who allowed me to tag along, belayed and filled me in on all the knowledge required to allow me to make a quick ascent. I was very glad to hear that a few days later Rebekah also climbed the route. I was hugely impressed by her dedication to train and make the journey in to the cliff on 3 occasions, all while looking after a young family in order to make an ascent of Skye Wall.


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