Thursday, 15 May 2014

Cuillin Ridge Day04 - Sgùrr nan Gillean & Bruach na Frithe

Walk Summary
Big day for me today as had to get back on the hill after coming off early two days earlier on Sgùrr a'Mhadaidh. With a rest day yesterday, extra support from the ML and rest of group I was fine and manged a roped descent down a shoulder of volcanic rock and an abseil down Tooth Chimney. Not only that it was pouring with rain and strong south westerly winds. Not to mention improvised winter skills over snow banks which have usually long gone by May in previous years. Because of the wet and wind we had to abandon plans to ascend Am Bastier as the ascent is not only exposed but like soap on the Basalt dikes. A fantastic day and proof I was back on the hill but with the loss of Am Bastier, InPin as well as the two peaks from Day 03 meant I only managed 7 of the 11 peaks. The rest of the group managed 9 though which considering the conditions for the week was a good haul and remarkable achievement for the ML to get us over that many. 
A fantastic week. 

Many thanks to Iain Gallagher ML Kendal Mountaineering Services).

Walk Description 
Setting 

Kendal Mountaineering Services blog page
If like me you are just the average hill walker with no climbing expertise and limited scrambling experience, but have set yourself the target to climb all the Munros. Have you thought about how you will reach the 11 Munros on the Cuillin Ridge, Isle of Skye. From what I have read and now seen you will have no chance unless you know an experienced climber with knowledge of the Cuillins. Iain Gallagher of Kendal Mountaineering Services is just such a man. He has a lifetime of mountaineering experience along with a detailed knowledge of the Cuillins including safe scrambling routes along with entry and exit routes to take the safest option whatever the conditions might be or indeed change whilst out on the hill.

I found his services on line and paid the £425 for one weeks accommodation and 4 days guided walking (scrambling and climbing) in the Cuillins. Excellent value. 4 days guided walking alone could cost you that much. This price really includes food as well, because each member of the group, including Iain, supply a home cooked meal each day, creating a brilliant atmosphere and get together at the end of the day with everyone else in the team.

Team is just what you are part of, supporting each other throughout the day ensuring each and every one of us reaches our own goals as well as at times extend outside your own comfort zone and edge of achievable limits.

A brilliant experience. No kickbacks or commissions, but I cannot recommend this trip highly enough and thank Iain most sincerely for enabling me to extend myself beyond limits I never thought possible. As I have read somewhere "you do not know your limits or what you are capable of achieving  until you start to venture beyond your limits."

Iain provided the opportunity and maintained the safe environment to do just that.

As well as taking copious amounts of photographs he also records the days events on his own blog to provide lasting memories of a trip of a lifetime. Here is his account of Day04 activities on the Cuillin Ridge - Sgurr Nan Gillean to Bruach Na Frithe 

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 15 May 2014
Walkers - Iain Gallagher (ML Kendal Mountaineering Services), Steve Smith, Al Simpson, Helen McD, Don, Alison L
Accommodation - Carbost, Isle of Skye
Start Point - Layby on A863 near Sligaachan Hotel (NG 48380 29754)
Start Time - 09:02
Finish Point - Layby on A863 near Sligaachan Hotel (NG 48380 29754)
Finish Time - 18:32
Duration - 9hrs 30mins
Average pace - 0.87mph
Distance Walked - 8.25miles
Height Ascended - 1251.32metres

Other walks on this trip
2014
May
08th The Tyndrum Handful
11th Cuillin Ridge Day01 - Sgùrr nan Eag, Sgùrr Dubh Mòr & Sgùrr Alasdair
12th Cuillin Ridge Day02 - Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic

13th Cuillin Ridge Day03 - Sgùrr a'Mhadaidh
15th 
Cuillin Ridge Day04 - Sgùrr nan Gillean & Bruach na Frithe

18th Comb Moss

Peaks visited
Munro (282)
Sgùrr nan Gillean (18)
Bruach na Frithe (19)
Murdo (443)
Sgùrr nan Gillean (26)
Bruach na Frithe (27)
Corbett (221)
NONE
Graham (224)
NONE
Marilyn (1218S - 1552E,W&S))
Sgùrr nan Gillean (19S - 90E,W&S)
Hump (2168S - 2976E,W&S)
Sgùrr nan Gillean (23S - 144E,W&S)
Bruach na Frithe (24S - 145E,W&S)
Route
Our days route as plotted on my GPS tracklog.
Please do not think without the necessary experience or knowledge of The Cuillins this is the basis of a route you can tackle alone or even part of a determined group. The contours are simply too close together along with scree, outcrop, boulder and loose rock symbols so arbitrary, that plotting a route from your armchair or even on the ground are just too complex.

More Photographs
Not having a lot of luck with my camera on this trip. Turned on camera to take photos of setting off at start of walk and battery was flat.
Once again I am without my own camera so only photos taken by me are on my smartphone.
Remaining photos taken by other members of group and in particular Iain Gallagher of Kendal Mountaineering Services .


Heading towards Sgùrr Dearg - The Inaccessible Pinnacle shrouded in cloud and probably rain
Click on photograph to view slide-show

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Cuillin Ridge Day03 - Sgùrr a'Mhadaidh

Walk Summary
Summit photo on Sgùrr a'Mhadaidh.
Today was the day I reached and experienced the limits of my comfort zone on the mountain. The highs and exhilaration of the previous 2 days had exhausted my adrenalin and maybe serotonin management to the point where I had to return to safer ground after the first summit. Could it be after 20 years since it was prescribed I am finally realising that I do need to take fluoxetine.
Despite assurances from the ML that I was doing fine and that I could be roped up for more of the ridge walking I just felt it was better for the group if I returned to the car from the next safe point rather than go on and be a burden further on in the walk. Big disappointment for me and I know the rest of the team, but while I have some regrets now know it was the correct decision at the time. As always the mountains will be there another day and I will be back for them. Only Munro for me today; Sgùrr a' Mhadaidh Two more for the rest of the group; Sgùrr a'Ghreadaidh & Sgùrr Sgurr na Banachdich.

Kendal Mountaineering Services blog page
If like me you are just the average hill walker with no climbing expertise and limited scrambling experience, but have set yourself the target to climb all the Munros. Have you thought about how you will reach the 11 Munros on the Cuillin Ridge, Isle of Skye. From what I have read and now seen you will have no chance unless you know an experienced climber with knowledge of the Cuillins. Iain Gallagher of Kendal Mountaineering Services is just such a man. He has a lifetime of mountaineering experience along with a detailed knowledge of the Cuillins including safe scrambling routes along with entry and exit routes to take the safest option whatever the conditions might be or indeed change whilst out on the hill.

I found his services on line and paid the £425 for one weeks accommodation and 4 days guided walking (scrambling and climbing) in the Cuillins. Excellent value. 4 days guided walking alone could cost you that much. This price really includes food as well, because each member of the group, including Iain, supply a home cooked meal each day, creating a brilliant atmosphere and get together at the end of the day with everyone else in the team.

Team is just what you are part of, supporting each other throughout the day ensuring each and every one of us reaches our own goals as well as at times extend outside your own comfort zone and edge of achievable limits.

A brilliant experience. No kickbacks or commissions, but I cannot recommend this trip highly enough and thank Iain most sincerely for enabling me to extend myself beyond limits I never thought possible. As I have read somewhere "you do not know your limits or what you are capable of achieving  until you start to venture beyond your limits."

Iain provided the opportunity and maintained the safe environment to do just that.

As well as taking copious amounts of photographs he also records the days events on his own blog to provide lasting memories of a trip of a lifetime. Here is his account of Day03 activities on the Cuillin Ridge - Sgurr A' Mhadaidh to Sgurr Na Banachdich 

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 13 May 2014
Walkers - Iain Gallagher (ML Kendal Mountaineering Services), Steve Smith, Al Simpson, Helen McD, Don, Alison L
Accommodation - Carbost, Isle of Skye
Start Point - Off road parking opposite Glen Brittle Hut (NG 41170 21567)
Start Time - 09:20
Finish Point - Off road parking opposite Glen Brittle Hut (NG 41170 21567)
Finish Time - 19:10
Duration - 9hrs 50mins
Average pace - 0.72mph
Distance Walked - 7.06miles
Height Ascended - 1521.01metres

Other walks on this trip
2014
May
08th The Tyndrum Handful
11th Cuillin Ridge Day01 - Sgùrr nan Eag, Sgùrr Dubh Mòr & Sgùrr Alasdair
12th Cuillin Ridge Day02 - Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic

13th Cuillin Ridge Day03 - Sgùrr a'Mhadaidh
15th 
Cuillin Ridge Day04 - Sgùrr nan Gillean & Bruach na Frithe

18th Comb Moss

Peaks visited
Munro (282)
Sgùrr a'Mhadaidh (17)
Murdo (443)
Sgùrr a'Mhadaidh (25)
Corbett (221)
NONE
Graham (224)
NONE
Marilyn (1218S - 1552E,W&S))
NONE
Hump (2168S - 2976E,W&S)
NONE

Route
Our days route as plotted on my GPS tracklog.
Please do not think without the necessary experience or knowledge of The Cuillins this is the basis of a route you can tackle alone or even part of a determined group. The contours are simply too close together along with scree, outcrop, boulder and loose rock symbols so arbitrary, that plotting a route from your armchair or even on the ground are just too complex.

More Photographs
Near walks finish,
looking backalong Allt a' Choire Ghreadaidh. Corbett Top of Munro Sgùrr a' Mhadaidh - Sgùrr Thuilm in distance
Click on photograph to view slide-show
Managed my camera today on what is the best day for weather so far. Too bad I did not manage to complete all summits. 
Here are some photos taken by other members of group on summits I did not reach, apologies for no captions.




Sgurr Na Banachdich Summit.
Sgurr a Ghreadaidh Summit.



Monday, 12 May 2014

Cuillin Ridge Day02 - Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic

Walk Summary
The summit party at Eas Mòr falls,
en route to Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic
After yesterdays 11½ hour epic Iain of Kendal Mountaineering Services had read the mood of the group and determined to have a shorter walk today.

The days objective was therefore a little less ambitious (only just) with the first Munro of the day being Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic followed by Sgùrr Dearg and the Inaccessible Pinnacle concluding with Sgùrr na Banachdich if it is not too late.

Although I still trailed  behind everyone else for most of the day I was feeling much stronger than yesterday with the reduced pack weight having dumped winter fleeces and storm shelter which was really duplicated elsewhere within the group.

Walk Description 
Setting off from opposite the BMC Glen Brittle Memorial Hut the day once again started on an easy to follow path which very quickly led to the first highlight of the day - The Eas Mòr Waterfalls.

Continuing on the path and keeping right we were soon passing
Isle of Rùm from Loch an Fhir-bhallaic
Loch an Fhir-bhallaich and marvelling at views to the south towards Canna and Rùm. Soon afterwards we joined the path up Coire Làgan and the route we descended last night from Loch Làgan. Once again we had an early lunch to replenish energy reserves used to get back to where we reached last night. For the more adventurous there is definitely a case to bivvy up on the shores of Loch Làgan to save the 4½ mile and 4 hour hike back to sea level in Glen Brittle then return next day to Loch Làgan. It really puts the scale of the Munros in to perspective. At just over 600m it is mighty close to the magic 2000’ signifying an English Nuttall where in many cases we would have reached our first summit and looking for the next. Here we still had another 1000’ to ascend and the prospect of some scrambling if not a climb before reaching our first summit.



The scale of ascent up days first Munro,
Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic SE of bealach.
Orange man in gully on buttress dead centre ahead.
We resumed our ascent more or less retracing our steps from last night over scree. But instead of veering right to the 1 in 2 slope up The Great Stone Chute we had a gentle ascent across the bottom of An Stac Screes followed by some relatively straight forward scrambling to bring us to the bealach between Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic and Sgùrr Dearg. Here we came across a shallow circular rock shelter where we dumped our back packs for the final ascent to Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic. So far the weather had been favourable but more or less on cue the cloud closed in followed by steady drizzle, the sort that soaks you, resulting in us having to don waterproof tops. Worse still the sort that could abort the attempt on InPin to our left but first we had the final ascent up the dauntingly large buttress to our left and ridge walk along the top of Coireachan Ruadha Crags to the summit. 


Ridge walk on way back from Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic summit
From here it is a grade 2 scramble picking a route around the top of the buttress then crossing the ridge to the other side and an exposed traverse with Coir’- uisg nearly 3000’ sheer drop below. Fortunately the cloud swirling around us obscured this for most of the time, but what I was learning was not to become too hung up about the consequences while at the same time taking the utmost care. Fortunately we were in the expert hands of Kendal Mountaineering Services at all times, who carefully supervised every one along this difficult part. Surely we must be nearly at the summit I thought. But no it was time to get the ropes out for an assisted climb to the final part of the ridge. These Cuillin Munros do not give up their prize easily. Even after the climb there was some more scrambling, but this time up and over slippery wet basalt. Once again we were guided up and along the safest route and reminded to make sure we had firm hand and foot holds before making each move. Not really as difficult as it sounds, it seems natural steps had been created by the geological process active all those millions of years ago, making the summits tailor mad to be climbed. Or at least that is what I told myself.

Back from Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic.
Time for lunch after two hours in pouring rain.
Looks like it may dry up though for attempt on
Sgùrr Dearg and InPin (left)
Finally we get close to the summit and a short walk along an arête brings us to the summit cairn managing to stand upright with a 3000’ drop either side. The feeling of satisfaction and achievement was almost overwhelming but like all summits I reminded myself ‘reaching the top you are only half way there’. Almost on queue, whilst we were taking photos, the weather started to clear and in the warm sunshine the basalt quickly started to dry transforming it into a decent walking surface. Just as well because we now had to do the reverse of what we had just done to return to our bags. By the time we got back to our bags and the bealach the sky had cleared all the rocks were dry and we enjoyed a second lunch bathed in warm May sunshine and the pleasure of views over Rum Eigg and Sleet. While we were on the ridge we had all resigned ourselves to the fact 'In Pin' was off the agenda, but maybe it was not.


Ascent route up Sgùrr Dearg along
west side of An Stac
avoiding wet Basalt where possible
As is often the case the weather on The Cuillins is so difficult to read. Even with the warm sun on our backs suggesting 'In Pin' was back on again, we could see black rain clouds to the north which we were just willing to stay just to the north. However by the time we had descended scree around the bottom of An Stac the sun had disappeared and the wet drizzle had returned. We managed to avoid the basalt dyke up the west side of An Stac most of the time by clinging to its base, however there was one part were we had to traverse the dyke. Fortunately there was the smallest of faults in the rock that gave purchase to our fingertips and small ledge for our boots. Even so extreme care was taken to ensure we had a firm grip or safe footing before making any move across the soapy rock.

Half way up An Stac the basalt was replaced by the more abrasive Gabro leaving the final ascent over rough boulders then a fairly easy scramble to the base of the Inaccessible Pinnacle. By now it had stopped raining but the surface was still very wet from the earlier shower and what is more the cloud was not giving too many clues as to which way it was  heading.


Iain Gallagher of Kendal Mountaineering Services
assessing route up InPin and if the rain is going to hold off.
Note the different weather on the left and
matchstick people on ridge beyond
All of the group thought it was a non starter but Ian was determined to get us up if at all possible. After about 5 minutes of deliberations from all angles surprisingly  Ian gave the nod to put our harnesses on on the basis that the weather had not deteriorated any more giving it an extra 5 minutes whilst we belted up to make up its mind.

So there we all were harnessed up, ropes out and helmets on ready to tackle the Inpin. Unfortunately the weather decided to show its hand, not in an obvious way but in the form of a static buzz that only Ian and one other in the group noticed. That was it - decision made. Get down and off the summit area as quickly and safely as possible. Stuck on an exposed ridge at 3000' is no place to be in the middle of a lightening storm.


Build up of static in the (h)air. 
Forwarning of possible lightening. Time to get off the hill
As we reached Bealach Coire na Banachdich between Sgùrr Dearg and Sgùrr na Banachdich the rain was falling persistently as a heavy drizzle, vindicating the decision not to attempt In Pin. But had the static cleared making it safe to attempt Sgùrr na Banachdich? No was the answer indicated by people's hair standing on end like I had not seen since being plugged in to a Van Der Graaf Generator at School all those moons ago.

We therefore continued our descent down Coire na Banachdich. A fairly straight forward descent you would think, but once again the experience of our ML proved invaluable. The route down from this point is not actually down but to stay as high as you can for as long as you can. The footpath is relatively easy to follow but do not be tempted to take forks to the right too soon for reasons which will become obvious.


Storm clouds and rain over the route home down
Coire na Banachdich. Loch Eynort beyond An Cruachan
Eventually the route opens up but not before we see Loch Eynort beyond An Cruachan and even then we do not start to descend until a clear route without dead ground is visible to the Allt Coire na Banachdich crossing. I certainly would not want to be making the decision on my own about when to descend especially in poor visibility without an experienced guide.

As we cross Allt Coire na Banachdich looking back up at our descent route it is painfully obvious why we did not need to descend too early. The rough boulder fields we picked our way over soon disappear and became hyperbolic curves plunging down to the valley floor. Not a place to be in wet conditions or any other conditions without experience, even with ropes and adequate belays.


Evening treat of sunset beyond McLeod's Tables
from our accommodation near Carbost
After the river crossing it was a 40 minute hike down a well marked path through heather past Eas Mòr Waterfalls and on to the BMC Glen Brittle Memorial Hut and walks end. By now it was nearly 7pm and only just a shorter day than yesterdays epic. Two days, two tough walks both failing to attain a 1 mph pace. I guess you can go faster but for me the terrain and difficult scrambling puts my usual 2 mph pace well out of reach. 

Lesson for the day - Allow plenty of time

Kendal Mountaineering Services blog page
If like me you are just the average hill walker with no climbing expertise and limited scrambling experience, but have set yourself the target to climb all the Munros. Have you thought about how you will reach the 11 Munros on the Cuillin Ridge, Isle of Skye. From what I have read and now seen you will have no chance unless you know an experienced climber with knowledge of the Cuillins. Iain Gallagher of Kendal Mountaineering Services is just such a man. He has a lifetime of mountaineering experience along with a detailed knowledge of the Cuillins including safe scrambling routes along with entry and exit routes to take the safest option whatever the conditions might be or indeed change whilst out on the hill.

I found his services on line and paid the £425 for one weeks accommodation and 4 days guided walking (scrambling and climbing) in the Cuillins. Excellent value. 4 days guided walking alone could cost you that much. This price really includes food as well, because each member of the group, including Iain, supply a home cooked meal each day, creating a brilliant atmosphere and get together at the end of the day with everyone else in the team.

Team is just what you are part of, supporting each other throughout the day ensuring each and every one of us reaches our own goals as well as at times extend outside your own comfort zone and edge of achievable limits.

A brilliant experience. No kickbacks or commissions, but I cannot recommend this trip highly enough and thank Iain most sincerely for enabling me to extend myself beyond limits I never thought possible. As I have read somewhere "you do not know your limits or what you are capable of achieving  until you start to venture beyond your limits."

Iain provided the opportunity and maintained the safe environment to do just that.

As well as taking copious amounts of photographs he also records the days events on his own blog to provide lasting memories of a trip of a lifetime. Here is his account of Day02 activities on the Cuillin Ridge - Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic 


Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 12 May 2014
Walkers - Iain Gallagher (ML Kendal Mountaineering Services), Steve Smith, Al Simpson, Helen McD, Don, Alison L
Accommodation - Carbost, Isle of Skye
Start Point - Off road parking opposite Glen Brittle Hut (NG 41170 21567)
Start Time - 09:20
Finish Point - Off road parking opposite Glen Brittle Hut (NG 41170 21567)
Finish Time - 19:10
Duration - 9hrs 50mins
Average pace - 0.72mph
Distance Walked - 7.06miles
Height Ascended - 1521.01metres

Other walks on this trip
2014
May
08th The Tyndrum Handful
11th Cuillin Ridge Day01 - Sgùrr nan Eag, Sgùrr Dubh Mòr & Sgùrr Alasdair
12th Cuillin Ridge Day02 - Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic

13th Cuillin Ridge Day03 - Sgùrr a'Mhadaidh
15th 
Cuillin Ridge Day04 - Sgùrr nan Gillean & Bruach na Frithe

18th Comb Moss

Peaks visited
Munro (282)
Sgùrr Mhic Choinnich (16)
Murdo (443)
Sgùrr Mhic Choinnich (24)
Corbett (221)
NONE
Graham (224)
NONE
Marilyn (1218S - 1552E,W&S))
NONE
Hump (2168S - 2976E,W&S)
NONE

Route
Not a GPS tracklog, but a rough estimate of our route walked today. I did find room in my back pack for the camera but managed to forget my phone with associated tracking facility.
Please do not think without the necessary experience or knowledge of The Cuillins this is the basis of a route you can tackle alone or even part of a determined group. The contours are simply too close together along with scree, outcrop, boulder and loose rock symbols so arbitrary, that plotting a route from your armchair or even on the ground are just too complex.

More Photographs
Still not appropriate to have a big SLR strapped to me on my utility belt due to scrambling, climbing etc but at lest I have made room in my backpack to carry my camera. So this time 
a number of the photos have been taken by myself with others in more difficult situations when I was busy hanging on or concentrating on staying glued to the mountain provided by Kendal Mountaineering Services and other members of the group.


Heading towards Sgùrr Dearg - The Inaccessible Pinnacle shrouded in cloud and probably rain
Click on photograph to view slide-show

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Cuillin Ridge Day01 - Sgùrr nan Eag, Sgùrr Dubh Mòr & Sgùrr Alasdair

Walk Summary
Typical ridge walk
This was the first day of our 4 days scheduled walking along the Cuillin Ridge. Organised and under the expert leadership of Iain Gallagher of Kendal Mountaineering Services. Advertised as The Cuillin Ridge Traverse, Isle of Skye, there was some kudos to be gained by me telling my friends I was going to do "The Cuillin Ridge Traverse" though my main objective was to bag the 11 Munros that I understood to be out of reach of even the most committed hill walker.

If there was any doubt in my mind about whether I could have reached any of these Munros on my own it would have been eradicated completely on this first day. In fact it was quite the opposite. It made me think if there were any more Munros on the mainland like this.

Walk Description
First picture on first day at start of walk and it is raining
The day started as expected in heavy showers from Loch Brittle beach car park and a strenuous walk more or less from sea level towards Sròn na Ciche and then round up Coir' a' Ghrunnda and steep ascent with some grade 1 scrambling to Loch Coir' a' Ghrunnda. Most of the time I was the back marker partly due to me carrying all the stuff I take in my backpack when out on my own and partly due to me being the oldest in the group, a circumstance I find is happening more regularly these days. Tomorrow I would do something about my backpack, not sure I will be able to do anything about my age though.

2½ hours of tough walking and an early lunch next to Loch Coir' a' Ghrunnda  to replace the energy used gaining the first 700m; all pretty standard stuff so far. The next part was far from standard, for me anyway. After a strenuous scramble we all stowed our bags near Bealach a Garbh-choire before tackling the last third of a mile to the summit. Not really a climb but for me an exhilarating scramble and bit of a ridge walk to the first Munro of the day - Sgùrr nan Eag.


Caisteal a'Garbh-Choire on Bealach a'Garbh-Choire
Only a sub-Corbett Top!
After photos we returned to pick our bags up and continue along Bealach a Garbh-choire and on to the next Munro. All I could see was some massive vertical tower right in front. For an avid peak bagger that goes out of his way to bag every peak in the area was mighty pleased when the scramble took us right and down round the base of Caisteal a'Garbh-Choire. For the anoraks amongst us it is only a sub-Corbett Top anyway.


All ready for first climb of the day
at start of ascent up Sgùrr Dubh Mòr
As we continued down and edged north Iain then stops and tells us to put on our harnesses and helmet. The ascent restarted here and it was to be the first climb of the day and my first climb ever. Everyone seemed to be at ease, so I tried to be the same. After Iain free climbed up 'easy chimney' first checking we had our harnesses on correctly he threw down the rope for us to begin our ascent. It was a fairly short climb but once again exhilarating and for that matter a lot easier than some of the scrambles we had already done. Keeping harnesses and helmet on we continued on to the next Munro, Sgùrr Dubh Mòr nothing to report other than some Grade 2 scrambles where we came together as a team to help each other with foot holds and spotting routes. Once again at the summit more exhilaration and of course photos.


Team work scrambling on way to
Sgùrr Dubh Mòr
Often I say when ascending I would sooner be going up here than coming down. Well that was the case on the way to Sgùrr Dubh Mòr, only trouble was the route to the next summit was back the way we came. Once again Iain drilled us on the team work required and in all honesty the descent was easier than the ascent as was the ascent to the next summit Sgùrr Dubh na Da Bhein [Sgùrr Dubh an Dubh Bhein] which is a 3000' top but not a Munro. It is in fact a Munro Top and a Murdo. Again an exhilarating scramble but somehow I was gradually beginning to feel at home.

The final peak of the day was Sgùrr Alasdair, the namesake of one of our group. Just a gradual ascent just below the ridge around Loch Coir' a' Ghrunnda that was until we passed under Sgùrr Alasdair cliffs where we turned back on ourselves and then had to climb up a chimney. The second and slightly more difficult ascent but for me just as enjoyable. From here it was a bit of a scramble to just below the summit which at 992m is the high point of The Cuillins and of course the Isle of Skye.


Our first sight of Sgùrr Dearg just before descent down
TheGreat Stone Chute
Next was the descent down The Great Stone Chute. By now it was getting late and so we did not have time to ascend the Munro Top Sgùrr Thearlaich, I think we had had enough excitement for one day anyway. So after photos and admiring the view towards InPin we set off down. Probably the most exhilarating part of the day, so we had not had enough excitement? - Approx. 800m descent in less than 500m down one of the biggest screes in the UK. A spectacular setting but believe me there was not a chance of admiring the scenery, just absolute concentration on staying up right on a greater than 1:2 incline and not sliding down the stones that were continually shifting below your feet. Thank goodness for trek poles.


Weather closing in behind the tired group
descending from Loch Làgan into Coire Làgan
By the time we reach the bottom and gathered around Loch Làgan I think it is safe to say we were all pretty bushed. At least we had done all the hard bits for the day. All that was left was 600m of descent and 3 miles walk back to the cars.

Kendal Mountaineering Services blog page
If like me you are just the average hill walker with no climbing expertise and limited scrambling experience, but have set yourself the target to climb all the Munros. Have you thought about how you will reach the 11 Munros on the Cuillin Ridge, Isle of Skye. From what I have read and now seen you will have no chance unless you know an experienced climber with knowledge of the Cuillins. Iain Gallagher of Kendal Mountaineering Services is just such a man. He has a lifetime of mountaineering experience along with a detailed knowledge of the Cuillins including safe scrambling routes along with entry and exit routes to take the safest option whatever the conditions might be or indeed change whilst out on the hill.

I found his services on line and paid the £425 for one weeks accommodation and 4 days guided walking (scrambling and climbing) in the Cuillins. Excellent value. 4 days guided walking alone could cost you that much. This price really includes food as well, because each member of the group, including Iain, supply a home cooked meal each day, creating a brilliant atmosphere and get together at the end of the day with everyone else in the team.

Team is just what you are part of, supporting each other throughout the day ensuring each and every one of us reaches our own goals as well as at times extend outside your own comfort zone and edge of achievable limits.

A brilliant experience. No kickbacks or commissions, but I cannot recommend this trip highly enough and thank Iain most sincerely for enabling me to extend myself beyond limits I never thought possible. As I have read somewhere "you do not know your limits or what you are capable of achieving  until you start to venture beyond your limits."

Iain provided the opportunity and maintained the safe environment to do just that.

As well as taking copious amounts of photographs he also records the days events on his own blog to provide lasting memories of a trip of a lifetime. Here is his account of Day01 activities on the Cuillin Ridge - Sgùrr Nan Eag to Sgùrr Alasdair 

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 11 May 2014
Walkers - Iain Gallagher (ML Kendal Mountaineering Services), Steve Smith, Al Simpson, Helen McD, Don, Alison L
Accommodation - Carbost, Isle of Skye
Start Point - Loch Brittle campsite & car park (NG 40968 20602)
Start Time - 09:05
Finish Point - Loch Brittle campsite & car park (NG 40968 20602)
Finish Time - 20:26
Duration - 11hrs 21mins
Average pace - 0.82mph
Distance Walked - 9.36miles
Height Ascended - 2066.33metres

Other walks on this trip
2014
May
08th The Tyndrum Handful
11th Cuillin Ridge Day01 - Sgùrr nan Eag, Sgùrr Dubh Mòr & Sgùrr Alasdair
12th Cuillin Ridge Day02 - Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic

13th Cuillin Ridge Day03 - Sgùrr a'Mhadaidh
15th 
Cuillin Ridge Day04 - Sgùrr nan Gillean & Bruach na Frithe

18th Comb Moss

Peaks visited

Munro (282)
Sgùrr nan Eag (13)
Sgùrr Dubh Mòr (14)
Sgùrr Alasdair (15)
Murdo (443)
Sgùrr nan Eag (20)
Sgùrr Dubh Mòr (21)
Sgùrr Dubh na Da Bhein [Sgùrr Dubh an Dubh Bhein] (22)
Sgùrr Alasdair (23)
Corbett (221)
NONE
Graham (224)
NONE
Marilyn (1218S - 1552E,W&S))
Sgùrr Alasdair (18S - 89E,W&S)
Hump (2168S - 2976E,W&S)
Sgùrr nan Eag (21S - 142E,W&S)
Sgùrr Alasdair (22S - 143E,W&S)

Route
Our days route as plotted on my GPS tracklog.
Please do not think without the necessary experience or knowledge of The Cuillins this is the basis of a route you can tackle alone or even part of a determined group. The contours are simply too close together along with scree, outcrop, boulder and loose rock symbols so arbitrary, that plotting a route from your armchair or even on the ground are just too complex.
More Photographs
As mentioned earlier I was carrying too much stuff in my pack and did not have room for my own camera. It's usual place strapped to my utility belt was not appropriate with all the scrambling and climbing I was likely to be doing. So other than a few snaps on my mobile, all of today's photos have been provided by Kendal Mountaineering Services and other members of the group.
Our first sight of Sgùrr Dearg - The Inaccessible Pinnacle just before descent down The Great Stone Chute
Click on photograph to view slide-show


Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Tyndrum Handful

Walk Summary
Early morning looking north along a quiet A82 towards
the Munros Stob Ghabar and Choire Odhair
Better known as the Auch 5, I have named this walk "The Tyndrum Handful" from the phrase "...a unique Corbett 'hand'" used in the Scottish Mountaineering Council's (SMC) book - The Corbetts and Other Scottish Hills.

It had not occurred to me that Corbetts, by their very nature, over 2500' and 500' prominence tend to be well separated. It then occurred to me that the 500' prominence makes them Marilyns and my thoughts in the past that any walk with 2 or more Marilyns was a tough walk made me think that this would be a good physical test and well a bit of a handful.

I planned the route based on the SMC suggestion on page 66 and
Beinn Odhar, the days planned first Corbett
from A82 near Auch
considered initially to walk it clockwise for no better reason other than I always seem to do my walks anti-clockwise. Not sure why maybe something to do with my counter-intuitive personality, but this time I chose anti-clockwise because that was the way they do it in the book. By the end of the walk there were a number of reasons, which I will go in to below why anti-clockwise is best.


Walk Description
Beinn Odhar
Walk start point from layby near 315m spot height
on the A82, looking north towards Beinn Dorain
Parking in the layby near the 315m spot height on the A82, more or less where it runs next to the West Highland Rail Line, crossing under the rail line via a cattle creep I was soon heading south along the West Highland Way and the base of Beinn Odhar with the steep sides towering above me. The first decision to make is how soon do you cut off left and head up hill. I decided to stay on the West
Heading south along the West Highland Way
towards Tyndrum
Highland Way as far as I could hoping to find a well worn path up the southern tongue. From the map you can see I went a fair way 
and did not find anything obvious. Other than having a slightly lesser gradient to start you could really have cut off sooner.

Once on the ridge I had intended to head for the fence and follow it to the summit, but somehow managed to drift off to the right, probably because I was looking for the less steep route, but missed the fence altogether. Although I did find the remains of an electric fence it was not shown on the OS 1:25000 map and was further west resulting in me nearly passing the summit
Beinn Odhar summit cairn
on its southern flank hence having to take an immediate left turn straight up to the summit.


On this last part of the climb I did notice some excellent views to the south of the four Munros in the Ben Lui range (a future days walk) and resolved to photograph them from the summit. Unfortunately the first cloud of the day closed in blocking all views and with an associated drop in temperature, other than taking a few summit photos did not hang around any longer than necessary.

Beinn Chaorach
Lochan Choire Dhuib  reappears through the cloud
confirming correct bearing followed from summit
From the summit of Beinn Odhar I could just about make out the next peak of Beinn Chaorach, which was more or less in line with the final ascent route. The cloud closed in again and found myself walking on a bearing to Lochan Choire Dhuibe. As I descended the cloud cleared and as if by magic the Lochan was straight ahead as was Beinn Chaorach.

Even now it did not look too far away but using the lochan to adjust direction of travel it did not take too many steps before the scale of the task in hand became glaringly apparent. Ahead was in excess of a 300m drop to Allt Cumhang and the ascent the other side was nearly 400m and if possible even steeper than the descent. Note to self when planning - if there are a lot of contours expect a lot of ascent/descent!


Cylindrical trig point on Beinn Chaorach,
snow capped Ben More beyond
Decision time again. How far right should I go to avoid the straight up approach along the remains of the electric fence? I could go all the way to Caol Ghleann but that would have added to much distance in exchange for a slightly lesser gradient. So I did all of my traversing on the downward part of the walk heading for a spot where rate of ascent on the other side looked like it was less. Even so it was fairly steep, between 1:2 and 1:3 and no where near halfway up began to tire or at least run out of energy. so out came the protein balls, hot coffee and while I was there the first half of my lunch. Pork pie, hot cross bun loaded with cheese and home-made flapjack. It did the trick energy replenished I continued with a zig zag approach to rejoin the fence and before passing the summit on the right head south  on a gentle(ish) ascent to the summit and cylindrical trig point.

Cam Chreag
Wrecked generator for electric fences we have been
following on bealach near 638m spot height
The descent down Beinn Chaorach was a lot gentler than the one down Bein Odhar. It was also easy enough to navigate following the remains of the same? electric fence all the way to the bealach and wrecked generator for the fence near the 638m spot height.

The ascent was similarly easy to navigate again following the electric fence that has seen better days. It seemed to traverse west/left of the summit around a crag so I took the direct route to the right of the crag.


The 3 candidates for Cam Chreag summit;
cairn, rock or grass mound.
Ben Lui and Ben Oss range beyond
The summit cairn was not all that obvious, just a few flat stones perched on a rock. I am not even sure it is on the high point with a rock a few metres north and a grassy hillock east possibly being slightly higher. Anyway as part of my fastidious nature, I thought I was being insulted when somebody called me that recently, went and touched all three points and photographed the lot together.

Definitely the easiest of the three peaks so far but don't get complacent the next summit in my opinion is probably harder than Beinn Chaorach partly because fatigue is starting to kick in but also because it is the longest walk between summits of the whole walk and whilst the descent is not as steep the ascent up Beinn nam Fuaran needs carefully planning as in places it is steeper than Beinn Chaorach.

Beinn nam Fuaran
Path tends down to right
should really have stayed higher and descended
northern shoulder to Abhainn Ghlas as planned
The descent from Cam Chreag is along the north ridge towards Sròn Phrine. I ended up going over it's nose (sròn) with a view to crossing Allt Mhic Bhaidein near Abhainn Ghlas and approaching Beinn nam Fuaran closer to the ridge from Loch Lyon. The peat hags and groughs that came in to view disabused me of that idea and in retrospect would have been better to stay on the high part of the ridge slightly more to the west all the way to Abhainn Ghlas.

Abhainn Ghlas was easy enough to cross with care though I suspect it may be a different story if there had been more rain or ice melt. After crossing and making a little headway on the ascent I felt it was time for more nourishment so a repeat order of lunch no1 was in order plus a chocolate protein bar. before attempting the main ascent. I tried to pick out the easiest route optimising gradient against distance. Not sure how successful I was because I had to stop for lots of rests and was really feeling extremely tired especially with one more peak to complete.


Beinn nam Fuaran with Beinn Dorain beyond
I did have three exit routes available but they were all against the first three peaks. Once you have committed to peak No4, this peak - Beinn nam Fuaran, the only sensible way home is over peak No5.

Eventually I did reach the cairn just beyond a boundary fence and was rewarded with fabulous all round views including Loch Lyon, the twin peaks of Beinn Dorain looking slightly different from this angle than the conical peak we are all familiar with from the A82, the unusually shaped Munro top Beinn Mhanach - Beinn a'Chuirn and finally, more relevantly the next and final peak Beinn a' Chaisteil.

Beinn a' Chaisteil
Following fence leads to a very steep descent,
think maybe less steep by skirting
further round to the right and the north
Descending the ridge down Cam Chreag the ascent up Beinn a' Chaisteil looked very gentle, but first there was the descent down Beinn nam Fuaran to consider. I am not sure the actual route I took was the best. I had planned to avoid the steepest part of the descent by skirting round to the north, but was influence mainly by the fence on the left and although I did attempt a descent further to the right it was not anywhere near far enough resulting in me being drawn back towards the fence. The bottom line being that I reckon the gradient was close to1:2 requiring a technical approach to the descent using the 5 in contact method. Hands, feet and backside. Great care was needed as it would have been very difficult to arrest a slide, but care was the order of the day and although it seemed a lot more I reckon I was in this position for only about 200m of flat length until the fence turned south and I could benefit from taking a diagonal line across the contours. The Mam Lorn peat hags shrouded the entire bealch and made for a really soggy, but not boggy crossing for a fair way up the other side. The gradient was not too bad only made worse by the fact I was physically worn out, as opposed to the incorrectly used term of exhausted. Steady progress staying on the left side fence and after numerous breaks including another snack for energy the fence came to an end and more or less immediately the cairn appeared just beyond.


Under the West Highland Rail line viaduct over Allt Coralan
That was it, all 5 Corbetts completed in one day, now all that had to be done was walk 4½ miles back to the van. Under the Coralan Viaduct and along a short part of the West Highland Way. A fair way but in retrospect would sooner be doing 4½ miles down hill without any more peaks to climb. 4½ miles from the end in a clockwise direction would have meant 2 more peaks to climb including the big descent/ascent between Beinn Chaorach and Beinn Odhar.

Anyway pleased there were not six Corbetts, five was quite enough and with 15 miles in 12 hours counts as probably one of my toughest walks in a single day. Maybe Day12 of the Pennine Way, 22 miles from Middleton to Dufton takes that prize, but at the moment (the day after this walk) my bones are telling me otherwise. 

Brilliant walk though can highly recommend it. (Anti-clockwise)

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 08 May 2014
Walkers - Steve Smith
Accommodation - By The Way Campsite and Hostel, Tyndrum
Start Point - Lay-by near 315m spot height on A82 (NN 32839 33126)
Start Time - 08:17
Finish Point - Lay-by near 315m spot height on A82 (NN 32839 33126)
Finish Time - 20:17
Duration - 12hrs 00mins
Average pace - 1.29mph
Distance Walked - 15.43miles
Height Ascended - 2123.12metres

Other walks on this trip
2014
May
08th The Tyndrum Handful
11th Cuillin Ridge Day01 - Sgùrr nan Eag, Sgùrr Dubh Mòr & Sgùrr Alasdair
12th Cuillin Ridge Day02 - Sgùrr Mhic Choinnic

13th Cuillin Ridge Day03 - Sgùrr a'Mhadaidh
15th 
Cuillin Ridge Day04 - Sgùrr nan Gillean & Bruach na Frithe

18th Comb Moss

Peaks visited
Munro (282)
NONE
Murdo (443)
NONE
Corbett (221)
Beinn Odhar (2)
Beinn Chaorach (3)
Cam Chreag (4)
Beinn nam Fuaran (5)
Beinn a' Chaisteil (6)
Graham (224)
NONE
Marilyn (1218S - 1552E,W&S))
Beinn Odhar (13S - 84E,W&S)
Beinn Chaorach (14S - 85E,W&S)
Cam Chreag (15S - 86E,W&S)
Beinn nam Fuaran (16S - 87E,W&S)
Beinn a' Chaisteil (17S - 88E,W&S)
Hump (2168S - 2976E,W&S)
Beinn Odhar (16S - 137E,W&S)
Beinn Chaorach (17S - 138E,W&S))
Cam Chreag (18S - 139E,W&S))
Beinn nam Fuaran (19S - 140E,W&S))
Beinn a' Chaisteil (20S - 141E,W&S))
S: Scotland. 
E,W&S:England,Wales & Scotland

Route
GPS tracklog of actual walk


More Photographs
Cylindrical trig point on Beinn Chaorach, snow capped Ben More beyond