UKH

FRI NIGHT VID: A Winter Cuillin Traverse

John Fleetwood (aka site user Full Moon Addict) and Adrian Trendall fulfil a long held ambition to traverse the Cuillin in winter. Ultra distance fell runner John, and Skye-based guide Adrian couldn't have picked better conditions for it. Jealous? Us?

"I never set out to do the Cuillin Ridge in Winter – it just sort of happened" says John. "I'd always revered it as something for climbers harder than me."

Given his track record in huge solo winter hill routes, we think John may be being a bit modest there. In January 2018 he pulled off a 50-mile round (20,000 feet of ascent) through the Fannaichs, Fisherfields and the Beinn Dearg group, only avoiding a final traverse of An Teallach due to some full-on conditions (see here). Other notable winter solo trips include his 2013 winter Broxap round, 29 Munros on both sides of Glen Shiel and Glen Affric, and weighing in at around 75 miles and 35,000 feet of ascent.

Despite its far greater technical difficulty, a winter Cuillin traverse seems in many ways easier!

"Since December, Skye has been blessed by an almost continuous covering of decent snow on the tops and an absence of the usual gales, rain and devastating thaws" says John.

"This has truly been an exceptional season on the island with many successful traverses of the ridge including the fastest by some margin [Uisdean Hawthorn's new record]. A trip in February demonstrated that in such conditions it really wasn't something just for the hard climbers, and I determined to come back."

"Having persuaded local guide and founder of All Things Cuillin, Adrian Trendall, to give it a go, we set out a week later. Adrian knows the Summer ridge exceptionally well and I had acquainted myself with about 80% of the Winter ridge, so I reckoned we'd give it a good go."

Their first attempt was not to be, as the weather didn't play ball and after stepping through a small cornice in the whiteout (goggles needed!), it was an early finish back at Sligachan.

"A week and a half later I was back" says John, "and having postponed our departure by a day, we were blessed with what I can only describe as the most perfect of Alpine days."

"We'd determined not to try it in a day so that we could enjoy the best of the light for photography and avoid the purgatorial walk back in the dark. However, we didn't want to drag bivvy gear round and made a cunning plot to persuade friend Nigel and Adrian's partner, Bridgette, to drop some stuff off, Adrian having already left some gear in Coire Lagan. This was definitely a master plan and made for a relaxed trip round."

"We only saw three others on two of the most impeccable days it is possible to imagine and only really needed the rope to abseil. For both of us, it was the fulfilment of a dream. A rare coming together of weather, conditions and opportunity in Britain's very own Alps."



Forums (7 comments)

Good to see the video again, it brought back some fantastic memories.  Showed it to my youngest son so he knew what we'd done whilst he was skiing and all he could say was "That's pretty epic".  He's right!
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