Frithe, Basteir and Sgurr nan Gillean
by Ranger » Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:54 pm
Route description: Sgurr nan Gillean
Munros included on this walk: Am Basteir, Bruach na Frithe, Sgurr nan Gillean
Date walked: 22/03/2012
Time taken: 9.5 hours
Distance: 15.5 km
Ascent: 1300m19 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
So - drive up from Aberdeen after work and lovingly packing beloved wife and kid off to in-laws
I got as far as Elgin before passing out in a layby - a couple of hours of semi-sleep later I plough on for a bit, coming to a halt somewhere besides Loch Ness at 2am. Shamefully, the tent stays in its bag and I curl up on the front seats
The Cuillin doesnt rush to come into view even when you get onto Skye but eventually I got to the famous Sligachan and there it was - or almost was, as it was in mist. The start of the greatest spell of March weather to ever grace Scotland and big surprise the Cuillin were dragging their feet
Despite 15 years of Munro climbing this was my first ever taste of the Cuillin close up and my excitement was lined with some trepidation - my Dad had been dragged up the NW ridge of Bruach na Frithe and described it as the most terrifying place he'd ever been - what better route to start with!
I was determined to squeeze as much scrambling practice as possible out of this so-called easy ridge and I certainly got value - sticking religiously to the crest, there was loads of exposed scrambling moves above big drops, especially to the east, with the west flank dropping away pretty sharpish as well. All those guide books that describe this route as a stroll must be following the traverse path!
The mist had been bubbling over from the south all morning and, whilst the ridge had enjoyed fleeting sunshine, disappointingly the summit was in the clouds
After hanging around for 20minutes though In 5 minutes the mists had disappeared Beautiful clear air and crisp horizons... heaven!
With the day suddenly electrified I went flying up Sgurr a Fionn Choire in a burst of adrenalin, some pretty challenging rock steps to scramble up and more good practice. The gabbro rock was making its presence felt on my hands, pure rough sand paper, but unbelievable grip for the boots
Am Basteir and its Tooth are breathtaking from this angle and look impenetrable, I was quite happy to drop down on the north side and follow the scree path below its north face and up to the far col - the short mileages in the Cuillin being a big bonus here
The route up Am Basteir was surprisingly easy considering how it looks from side on - I tried to stick to the crest which took me directly above the 'bad step' a 3m high almost vertical step in the ridge and the terminus of a narrow section of arete.
Now I'd checked this out online before, and seen some pretty detailed pictures of it, including one indicating EXACTLY where the hold - usually hidden from above - is. Indeed, I looked over the edge and could see it! Although the exposure wasnt quite as bad as I'd expected, down climbing was briefly considered and seemed tricky. Instead, I opted to use the 40m scrambling rope in my bag and do a classic abseil I'd practised this technqiue before, but this was the time I'd used it on a Munro!
I found an anchor - just - threaded the rope round it, gave it a few good tugs and went for it, tossing the excess into the gap. Gradually I edged down and in no time - it was only 3 metres - I was down
The remaining scramble seemed a walk in the park, although I gather the basalt slabs I scampered up can be deadly in wet weather.
Back at the bealach, I initially headed east along the ridge just to get the view of Am Basteir that makes it look like a sharks fin
I had flirted with the notion of attempting the West ridge of Gillean, but it had been long since dismissed. Now actually at the foot of it, I thought I'd at least go a brief reccie, a spot of tourism maybe
The next thing I knew I was on a comfortable enough traverse path on the sunny south side, apparently skirting the scrambly crest above - how long would this go on for?! Sure enough I reached the mauvais pas, the ridge leaping in one 4-5 metre vertical step that seemed unclimbable. My path took me through a little gap onto the north side of the ridge where I came upon a worn path which in just a few feet lead me to the bottom of a wide open chimney.
From reading descriptions of the route I recognised this as the spot where one usually abseils down in descent to avoid the old Policeman pinnacle stretch. It was classed as a moderate rock climb, but seemed distinctly climbable, with plentiful holds, and not too long. I was confident I could do it and so thought - why not start it? I did - and 5 minutes later, with one nervy moment before the holds came to sight, I was on top. I darent look down, but could feel I was on top of a rock tower, and had to scramble to get off it as heading back down was not an option! A few moves later I was on easier ground and massively relieved. Above me I could spy two climbers on the summit, which made me feel less exposed and alone, and I had no problem heading up the remainder of the ridge, which was surprisingly no harder than the NW ridge of Bruach na Frithe (though I'd left my insistence on sticking to the true crest long ago!)
With an amazing feeling of relief I reached the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean! The photos can do the talking for what an amazing viewpoint it was...
The two climbers had been up there for a while so headed off giving me some good photo opps and an idea of the route off!
Eventually it was time to head down and tackle a route I'd read a lot of worrying descriptions of, the most "i turned back 50ft from the top" accounts for any route I've read
In the end it wasnt too bad, but definitely requiring care. The first move across the gap, then down the first step in the ridge, were not too bad...
After there was a very exposed move down a slab tilting over the precipitous east face, much care required! Further down the ridge, and after a few more moves down slabs that were a little exposed, I looked back up the western side of the ridge and it seemed more broken and less exposed - if one could have got down that side sooner it might have been less unnerving perhaps?
The rest of the descent was rough and unfriendly with scree and boulders but the path got better and better and eventually I was back into the evening sunshine heading across the boggy moorland wonderfully tamed by the now excellent path. The setting sun was lighting up Sgurr nan Gillean's pinnacle ridge as I reached the Slig, a fine and fitting ending to the day. I was camping opposite the inn so would drop in their for a night cap, but before then I would head to Portree for some good food and refuel for the next day - an even more daunting prospect.....
by Milesy » Wed Mar 28, 2012 1:11 am
- Posts: 1516
- Joined: Jun 12, 2009
- Location: Airdrieland.
by Gavin99 » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:51 am
by Paul_Antonia » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:04 am
by 37lumleyst » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:09 am
Really enjoyed reading your report
by 2dalmatians » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:14 am
by dooterbang » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:15 am
A beauty of a day to be flying solo...although i guess seeing them 2 climbers brought a sense of calm
Been to Skye 4 times and yet to summit a Munro...just wets the appetite.
by Johnny Corbett » Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:54 am
by malky_c » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:17 am
Perfect weather, near enough, and good to see that the East Ridge is doable without a rope. I'd always thought it was, but have only abseiled down that way in the past, never come up it.
by jonny616 » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:24 am
by iainwatson » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:32 am
cant wait to get to sky for some walking,hopefully in the summer,
this has really whetted the appetite!
by Bod » Wed Mar 28, 2012 1:43 pm
by mrssanta » Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:23 pm
by Klaasloopt » Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:06 pm
by colgregg » Wed Mar 28, 2012 5:02 pm