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Ian ‘Spike’ Sykes features in new film

Posted by Nevis Range on 12th October, 2017

We were delighted to hear that our director Ian ‘Spike’ Sykes, was to feature in the first episode of a six-part film series entitled ‘Elemental Journeys’ commissioned by PERTEX®. Elemental Journeys explores the stories of people whose lives are defined by wild spaces and mountain adventures.

The first episode focuses on climber, writer and founder of Nevis Range, Ian ’Spike’ Sykes, whose life has been shaped by the Scottish Highlands and his experiences in the RAF Mountain Rescue team.

It’s a gritty love letter to the Isle of Skye, from the dark waters of Loch Coruisk to the looming heights of the Black Cuillin.

In 1959, sixteen-year-old Ian ‘Spike’ Sykes left school and, after a short period of work at Leeds University, joined the RAF. Already a keen climber, he signed up on the promise of excitement and adventure and was posted to the remote RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team in the north of Scotland.

The Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye is known for being the finest mountaineering day out in the United Kingdom, a true test piece for climbers and runners. In a remote corner of the island, tucked below the Dubhs in the Coruisk Memorial Hut, Spike reflects on his love of Scotland, his affinity with the wild ridge line, and his memories of the tragic mountain rescue call out that took place over the New Year of 1963.


 “The opportunity to shoot at Loch Coruisk was something I felt strongly about. Visiting the hut by boat, it comes as no surprise that it hadn’t changed much. The first time I had been here was 55 years ago under very different circumstances. At New Year 1962 while I was a  young recruit in the RAF, I had been involved in a call-out to retrieve three climbers who had taken a fatal fall on the Dubh’s, the beautiful mountain right behind the hut. That night it had been a miserable place of sadness for the small party of people waiting here in anguish for news. This time it was different, the hut was spic and span and by the time I arrived the crew had a brew on the boil, sorting out the cameras and preparing their film making equipment. I had been involved in a number of film shoots over the years but this was a bit different and full of nostalgia.

I come from Yorkshire, but I always said you’d have to chain me up to take me out of Scotland.”

Cúchullain was shot in a variety of locations across Skye, from the dark walls of Garbh Corrie to the striking pinnacles of the Basteir Tooth. The film features a running sequence interwoven with a nostalgic interview with Spike and a rendition of ‘The Grand Old Masters’, a folk song written by the late Tom Patey as a homage to his closest climbing friends including Jimmy Marshall and Don Whillans.


Cúchullain – watch the first episode for free on

Photo Credit – Matt Pycroft for Coldhouse Collective