Jordan Wylie: Essential Kit to take on the Skye Cuillins

#TeamMontane’s all-round adventurer Jordan Wylie headed to the Isle of Skye to take on the famous Cuillins. Discover his highlights and kit essentials… 

Back in August I spent a couple of nights with friends on the Isle of Skye, adventuring up two of the peaks in the Cuillins – the Sgùrr Dearg with its infamous “Inaccessible Pinnacle” (3,234 ft) and perhaps the lesser known, Marsco (2410 ft). Kay Burley, the legendary Sky News presenter joined me for the challenge for an incredible two days on the famous Red and Black Cuillins.

This trip had been on my bucket list for sometime. The Cuillin is unlike any mountain range I’ve experienced before – dark, mysterious and moody looking, but also inviting and full of temptation in equal measure. I’d seen it from the water on my paddleboard expedition around the UK in 2020 and knew I would be back to experience it up close. 

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A unique and special challenge

The terrain is steep scree slopes, rough gabbro rock and smooth basalt, which makes the journey up really tricky in parts. It was very slippery underfoot and really uneven, a bit like climbing in sand at times, which meant my body was working hard to keep my momentum up. The ascent to Sgùrr Dearg took around 5 hours with a very unique and special challenge at the top waiting for us – the “Inaccessible Pinnacle.”

It’s a sheer rock face, which you should climb with ropes and harnesses – but the view from the top and the abseil back down were a well-earned reward. When visibility is great you can see the Atlantic Ocean, the black, rugged mountain range surrounding the pinnacle and lots of Lochs and water features nestled between the bases of the munros, grahams and corbetts.

Skye Cullins Ridge

Fortunately for us, the weather was hot and dry for the climb (a rarity in these parts) – so I had a great view and the ascent was easier than it would have been had it been wet, windy and wild, as it so often is in Scotland. But it put the kit to the test as the heat made for a sweaty hike and  climb.

We stayed at a local Airbnb that had great views of the Cuillin Ridge and Loch Harport and, at the end of our second day of hiking, we finished off our trip with a meal at the renowned Seumas Bar in the Sligachan Hotel (they have over 400 malt whiskeys from every corner of Scotland). I had a cheeseburger and fries and after a long two days of hiking -  it tasted like heaven!

Montane Azote 32L Backpack

The backpack was the perfect size for the 2 day trip. It had plenty of easily accessible pockets for all of my equipment which included ropes and harnesses, maps, water, first aid kit, clothing layers, food and snacks. As the terrain made the climb much more challenging, I was grateful to have a pack that wasn’t too big – but it still carried everything I needed inside it. It was lightweight and perfectly padded – I’m quite broad and it fitted perfectly across my shoulders and the hip padding was a welcome relief for all the twists and turns I made while climbing. The mesh backing meant that it never clung to my back, allowing air to get in, and the toggle at the top of the main compartment meant that I could keep everything in tightly yet still access quickly anything I needed.

For me, the amount of pockets in the pack was one of the top features of the kit I took. It’s really handy to have everything to hand when I need it rather than all muddled up together. When you’re walking a long way, especially in challenging terrain, you need to get to your food and supplements quickly so this was a great feature.

Azote Back packs

Montane Men's Spirit Waterproof

As it was really hot, I didn’t think I’d get the chance to use the waterproof but, true to form on the Isle of Skye, on the second day the weather changed drastically within minutes as we were on our descent. The jacket provided great protection against the wind and the rain, despite being light and thin. When it was stowed in my pack it hardly took up any space and barely made a difference to the weight of my bag. When I had it on, it didn’t make me uncomfortably hot and sweaty and the peaked hood was brilliant at staying on when the wind picked up, with or without my helmet too!

The jacket’s weight was a big win for me. Easy to stow in my backpack and didn’t weigh it down too much which was important as I was carrying ropes and harnesses, so needed the space for those. When the weather is hot, it’s easy to think that you don’t need a jacket but my experience shows that you always need to take one and this is a great option for when you don’t have much space.

Spirit Jacket

Montane Men's Dart Long Sleeve T-Shirt

While I was climbing, I only needed a thin base layer because of the heat. I wondered if it would be too hot because of the temperature on the mountain, but it’s really breathable and wicks away sweat really quickly. As a result, I never felt soggy or uncomfortable with it sitting so close to my skin. I’ll have to ask the people I was walking with about the odour control! But, overall, it was soft and performed well in quite high temperatures (it was around 30-32 degrees). The long sleeves were a bonus to protect from all the midges around at that time of year!

I loved the fact that the base layer was so breathable and never made me feel sweaty and uncomfortable. It can be really hard to balance your temperature when you’re walking in heat – you’re hot anyway and high external temperatures can make you feel really sticky, but I never felt that with the base layer. 

Montane Men's Dart Boxer Shorts

I’ve never tried performance underwear before as I've just always gone with whatever I already have. But these were great. They wicked away the sweat really quickly which was so important in the heat. I never felt like I was uncomfortable or needing to change them. The material is soft and definitely performs better than any regular boxer shorts I’ve ever used before. They’re made from recycled fabric so top marks for sustainability as well.

I don’t think I’ll go back to using normal underwear when I’m climbing (or any other adventure for that matter). These performed in the same way as the base layer – they never left me feeling sweaty and uncomfortable. It’s something I’ve always overlooked on my adventures, but these have made me completely reconsider the underwear I’m choosing when I’m active.

Dart T-Shirt

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Want to hear more from Jordan Wylie? Check out his podcast, where he discusses his trip to Skye, as well the mental health benefits he has discovered from taking a year off social media. 

Looking for the chance to experience this wild corner of the UK for yourself? Why not take on the Skye Trail Hike? Take a look at our dedicated page to find out more.