For climbers and mountaineers, the Island of Skye is one of the most sought after destinations in the British Isles. Opportunities for adventure amongst the mountains, sea cliffs and sea stacks abound, but there is no question that the Cuillin peaks are the main attraction. In summer, the traverse of the Cuillin Ridge is one of the most celebrated mountaineering undertakings in the country, and in winter it is a world-class outing.
So it is no surprise that The Cuillin and Other Skye Mountains, a new large A5 format guidebook by Tom Prentice, initially focuses on how to succeed on this great challenge. Tom does this by outlining the intricacies of the Ridge with a detailed summit-by-summit description illustrated with 23 photo diagrams. There is no doubt, that this is the most detailed description of the Cuillin Ridge ever published, and will be a boon for summer visitors intent on traversing the Ridge, or making reconnaissance trips prior to a successful traverse, whether it be for summer or winter.
Tom has devoted four pages to Ridge planning and tactics. He acknowledges that one-day traverses are frequent, but suggests that for many climbers, a two-day traverse with prior knowledge from previous visits is the surest recipe for success. On sight traverses of the Ridge in summer are still rare, and likewise, few winter traverses of the Ridge occur without prior knowledge in summer.
It would be a mistake to think this book is just about traversing the Cuillin Ridge however. Tom goes onto describe ascents and rounds of peaks throughout Skye (such as the Trotternish Ridge and the mountains of Kylerhea on the east side of the island) as well as the Cuillin. Many of the itineraries are well-known, such as Pinnacle Ridge on Gillean or the round of Coire Lagan, but others are less frequented such as the North Ridge of Sgurr na h-Uamha at the northern end of the range. As Tom notes “Some guidebooks suggest Sgurr na h-Uamha as a potential consolation prize after failing on Sgurr nan Gillean’s South-East Ridge. Be warned – anyone expecting an ‘easier day out’ will get a very nasty shock.” He goes onto to recommend the route should only be attempted in dry condition and many will require the security of a rope.
This first hand detailed experience underpins the quality of information in the book. Tom has spent successive summers on Skye checking all the routes, and taking hundreds of photographs. The result is a beautiful production, which is almost certainly the most detailed illustrated guidebook ever published for the Skye mountains. But in many ways it is the balance of routes included in the book from sub 2000ft Marilyns to major mountaineering undertakings that sets The Cuillin and Other Skye Mountains apart. Whatever the weather, this book presents a choice of rewarding options that will make the long trip to the Hebrides worthwhile. Hillwalkers, scramblers, climbers and winter mountaineers intent on visiting Skye will find it both an invaluable reference and a source of endless inspiration.