Winter Cuillin Ridge Record for Matt PavittNewsflash

© Matt Pavitt

Matt Pavitt yesterday set a new speed record for a winter traverse of the Cuillin Ridge. His FKT (fastest known time) of just 4 hours 35 mins 17 seconds knocks over 20 minutes from Uisdean Hawthorn's 2018 record of 4:57:07.

Matt Pavitt on the Cuillin  © Matt Pavitt
Matt Pavitt on the Cuillin
© Matt Pavitt

Travelling north to south, Matt started from Sgurr nan Gillean at 10:29, finishing on Gars-bheinn at the southern end of the ridge at 15:04.

In terms of conditions underfoot, the question of what constitutes a 'winter' record is subject to ambiguity. While the degree of whiteness is not perhaps as ethically critical in mountaineering and running as it is deemed to be for hard Scottish winter climbs, the amount and the condition of any snow, ice and hoar will always have a huge bearing on the speed and security of progress on any hill round; and none more so than the Cuillin ridge, which is highly consequential and fiddly winter climbing terrain almost all the way.

Weather on the day was sunny and clear, while the lean but well consolidated conditions on the ground, while unquestionably winter, would have been good for moving fast. However it is arguable that the ultimate conditions for a fast Cuillin winter traverse would in fact be thick neve, which can bank out some of the tricky steps and smooth over rocky uneven ground - a situation that Matt definitely did not have yesterday.

Matt acknowledges that the question of conditions may have a bearing on how the achievement is received by some, and seems reticent about personally calling the record.  

"I'm being very open and honest here as at no point do I want to piss people off or have people call it out as not being wintery enough" he wrote on Instagram.

"So here's my view of the day; I had crampons on from start to end, all tops were included and all climb[s] were done including the TD gap exit. Were things rimed up to typical Scottish perfect expectations for it to be in nick? No, is the short answer. But equally it really didn't feel like summer or rock climbing at all. It was blue bird and had been blue bird for a few days up here, there was lots of ice around, verglace [sic] in cracks and over rocks, surface hoar all the way to MhicCoinnich too."

"I'm putting this out there as not a claim of anything but just as me having a nice day."

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12 Jan

This is a great accomplishment, particularly climbing out of the TD gap direct. I think the other winter solo reports I've seen have bypassed this as being too hard.

12 Jan

Just checked on the link above, and unbelievably that is true.

FKT of the ridge, except the hard, time consuming bits.... natch.

I think this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the challenge, which isn't just about individual pitches - it's about finding your way safely between the summits.

I have a lot of respect for Uisdean for doing it the way he did it, because he made a judgement call based on his own safety, which is what mountaineering is all about - plus he was open about exactly what he did. If anything, bypassing that short, hard section will have inevitably lost him time, as it involved him taking a more circuitous route.

Matt made a different choice, based around the fact he had different conditions, but both of them did 'the Cuillin Ridge'. Tbh, I can't see any two winter ascents of it being the same, as conditions vary so much that no two parties are likely to do it the exact same way.

12 Jan

Are the summer records more prescriptive or is it just a case of doing a particular set of summits?

12 Jan

It's my understanding (I think maybe from Andy Hyslop's book?) that a summer record is 'supposed' to include the famous technical sections, not use the various alternatives. Suppose that's TD gap, King's Chimney and Bastier Tooth.

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