I visited the Cuillin mountain range on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, taking advantage of a trip with friends to scout out potential locations for a mountain running shoot later in the year.
The extremely rocky Black Cuillin is often described as Britain's answer to the European Alps. There's certainly nowhere else in the UK of such a serious mountaineering nature, with sustained difficulties on many peaks needing overcome before you can reach the summits.
The Black Cuillin hills and surrounding area are the remains of a large volcano in Scotland. The igneous and gabbro-covered mountains were first explored in the 1800s (Sgurr nan Gillean was first climbed in 1836) but the big challenge for mountaineers today is a full Cuillin ridge traverse, scrambling and climbing over the 11 Munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000ft high) and their many tops, navigating c.7 miles of complex, narrow ridges with precipitous drops where a slip would often be fatal.
Most mountaineers attempting to traverse the Skye ridge aim to complete it in 2 days, after multiple recce trips, but fit, competent alpinists confident of the route have been capable of achieving it within one day. The record for the Cuillin ridge traverse is held by Finlay Wild, a Scottish GP and fell / mountain runner with excellent climbing and mountaineering skills. Over a period of 5 months in 2013, Finlay first reduced the Skye ridge record to 3 hours, 14 minutes and 58 seconds (beating the previous record holder Es Tressider's time of 3 hours, 17 minutes and 28 seconds) before he ran the ridge, from the summit of Gars-Bheinn to the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean, including 4 climbing pitches up to VDiff grade, in an astounding 2 hours, 59 minutes and 22 seconds.
Finlay also [held] the winter Cuillin Ridge traverse record. Along with Tim Gomersall, he completed an icy Skye ridge traverse in March 2016 in 6 hours, 14 minutes, 7 seconds. (Update - Uisdean Hawthorn traversed the Black Cuillin ridge on 26th February 2018 in just 4 hours 57 minutes to claim the current winter record).
Finlay Wild - Personal blog
Finlay Wild on his new Cuillin record - UKC news article
Video profile of Finlay Wild - Dave Macleod
Scrambles in Skye - J.Wilson Parker (Cicerone Press)
Skye Scrambles - Noel Williams (SMC)
Scottish Geology - Scottish Geodiversity Forum
Tips for Success on the Cuillin Ridge - Mike Lates (Skye Guides)
Skye Ridge miniguide - Andy Hyslop (Rockfax)
Hire a guide for the Cuillin Ridge Traverse
Paul Tattersall (Go Further Scotland) is excellent company. Paul has guided the Skye ridge many times and holds the distinction of completing a double Cuillin Ridge traverse in the same day. You can see Paul in action in Nadir Khan's film, 'The Black Cuillin'.