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
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
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)
Graham (224)
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)

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

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