Mingulay Climbing Trip Report - 3-11 June
Dun Mingulay “Probably the best crag in the world” – a bold claim*
The genesis for this trip was our somewhat abortive trip to Pabbay in 2022 when we had to leave in a hurry ahead of
a big storm – on our way off the island there was a lot of talk of should we go to Mingulay next year then? And somehow after a beer or two I ended up “volunteering” to organise a trip to Mingulay for spring 2023.
And so June 2023 came around and 20 of us headed to Mingulay for a week to sample the delights of big steep Lewisian Gneiss sea cliffs and the company of many thousands of sea birds.I thought the organisation was all under control, I had corralled 20 feral climbers, got them lined up to arrive in
Oban, booked on a ferry and arranged a boat to take us to Mingulay for a week. Little did I know! On the Thursday
evening before our journey on the Saturday I got the following e-mail
I don’t have good news I’m afraid, our boat had a engine problem last night, which we thought we had resolved, but unfortunately we will have to look a bit deeper into it, therefore we can’t use her for trips.
We have a second slower boat, which I am hoping to have completed the paperwork for tomorrow, but that is not guaranteed.
I’m really sorry about this, hopefully we’ll have an answer before you arrive in Barra, but I thought I’d put you in the picture as early as possible.
Not really the news you want to hear with 20 climbers variously scattered around Scotland, England and Wales all
expecting to head to Mingulay in less than 48 hours. After much shenanigans, phone calls and e-mails I managed to
arrange a ride with the alternate boatman Francis and his daughter Rebecca but he did sting us a pretty penny
(Angus was going to charge us £120 each, Francis charged us £200 each).
The ferry from Oban arrived into Castlebay at 6.15pm on Saturday and we had one drop arranged late that evening
(2 drop offs already booked that evening) and one on Sunday lunchtime. It was a toss up which team go the worst
deal, the Saturday night crew arrived on Mingulay in the dark about midnight at extreme low tide and had a very
exciting time offloading the kit onto seaweed covered rocks (only one box fell in the sea – Chris had salt flavoured
tea bags for the rest of the week).
The Sunday crew didn’t arrive till 2pm and had to lug all their stuff across the beach but everyone still got out
climbing that day. In addition a team of 12 ex-Cambridge climbers arrived so we had a busy island.
The weather in Scotland had been sunny and warm all the previous week and the forecast was for more of the same
and this proved to be correct – long days (it is only dark for about 4 hours at this time of year), blue skies, lots of
sun (even some sunburn) and a lot of amazing climbing.
Mingulay is a reasonable size island 4km by 3km and the majority of the climbing is on the west coast with cliffs up
to 200m high. However it is also very densely populated with sea birds, so a lot of the bigger cliffs were not suitable
for climbing. However there is no shortage of big cliffs that are too steep for many sea birds with incredible
climbing. Between the 20 of us we climbed on, Dun Mingulay (Sròn an Dùin), Boulevard, Arnamul, Creag Dhearg,
Seal Song Wall and Geirum Walls with Dun Mingulay the most popular – to the extent we almost had to book
routes on the crag. Most of the crags are accessed via abseil, some a mere 90m with a lot of it free hanging so even
getting to the start of a lot of routes was mentally taxing. The climbing itself is on immaculate rock, a lot of it steep
with big holds but enough spicy moves and run outs to keep everyone entertained.
Plenty of routes were climbed, some of the highlights being Ray of Light E4 (multiple ascents), The Silk Route E3
(multiple ascents), Call of the Sea E3 (multiple ascents), Big Kenneth E5 (Ed and Sophie), Fifteen Fathoms of Fear
S (multiple ascents), Kraken’s Gullett E2 (multiple ascents), Ossian Boulevard (multiple ascents) and Fulmar Squaw E3 (multiple ascents). We even managed 3 new routes on Arnamul and straightened out the odd existing
route (for those who followed the guide topos not the descriptions which sometimes didn’t match).
Most evenings teams climbed well towards the gloom as conditions were typically best last afternoon / evening
when the sun came around and were heard coming back late exclaiming this was “probably the best route I’ve ever
done” or to repeat this the following day. Even Chris Parkin (Mr Gogarth) was heard to concede the Dun Mingulay
was possibly a better crag than Gogarth and that is saying something.
All too soon, the day of departure arrived and we successfully negotiated the landing craft, boat back to Castlebay, a
welcome shower and a very fine evening meal at the Craigard Hotel (well except for Sophie, Jack, Ed and Neil who
couldn’t get enough of the Outer Hebrides and headed straight off to Lewis).