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Sgurr nan Gillean - Scotland 2013, day 2
by clivegrif » Wed Jun 12, 2013 9:52 pm
Route description: Sgurr nan Gillean
Munros included on this walk: Sgurr nan Gillean
Date walked: 05/06/2013
Time taken: 5 hours
Distance: 12 km
Ascent: 966m1 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
After climbing Sgurr nan Gillean the first time, I vowed I would be back. It is just a fabulous mountain, and we had such a brilliant time with all that scrambling and rope dangling – including an abseil where we had just ONE metre of rope to spare at the bottom.
Eight years later I was back but on my own, so it had to be the ‘tourist’ route this time around.
With the weather the way it was it pays to be out early, so having left Trotternish at 5am I was on my way from Sligachan before 6. First I did have to take a few shots of THAT bridge with the view of the 3 Munros beyond.
That bridge by cliveg004, on Flickr
There was only a little dappled cloud over the mountains, and even that was disappearing fast. The very good path speeds the way, it seems much improved from the last time I was here. The new bridge soon came into view, and the path then makes a bee-line for the hill. The route is a delight, always something to see. First there was Marsco reflected in a small pool, then a delightful little waterfall with Sgurr nan Gillean beyond. The path is at a great angle too, you climb almost imperceptibly right up to the point where you meet the mountain itself.
Marsco by cliveg004, on Flickr
Waterfall by cliveg004, on Flickr
3 Munros by cliveg004, on Flickr
The angle increases markedly as you pass beneath the Pinnacle Ridge which soars high above, but underfoot it’s still good going.
Pinnacle Ridge from below by cliveg004, on Flickr
Round a corner to the right and across a flat section before heading up into the hanging corrie below the South East Ridge. The way now becomes much rougher, and interestingly a stream can be heard rumbling away unseen beneath the boulders.
Scrabbly way up by cliveg004, on Flickr
Those with an eagle eye will note that my photo of the way up and the wall at the top of this section has tended towards the right. I got it into my head that I was going to keep following the rubble to the right and then nip up onto the ridge-line fairly close to the final slopes to the summit. Wrong! The proper way is to turn left when you reach the wall, up a shallow gulley, this takes you to reasonably easy scree slopes. I kept going right and found myself getting closer and closer to the bottom of the last, and biggest, pinnacle – not the right way at all. I did find a narrow gulley that obviously did lead up onto the South West Ridge, and so I went for it. Easy at first, but then came across a nasty chock stone that took some negotiating (in other words – precarious dangling not made any easier by the camera bag swinging from my neck, minus the rope I should have been using….), but eventually made it to safer ground.
Pinnacles by cliveg004, on Flickr
The way gets steeper and steeper, and the views more impressive. Next up was the chimney, easy at first but gets steeper at the top – more on that later…. Having made it past that it was now only a matter of yards to the top – but those yards are not far off the vertical! The final wall is very steep and exposed, and it does cross your mind that the return route is in the opposite direction – I personally prefer climbing up to down. The wall tops out in a most memorable way, reaching the summit ridge which is a mere couple of feet wide with a huge plummet into Lota Coire on the other side. This one really tests the head for heights, and the walk along the top of this section of ridge to the summit cairn is almost like being on a tightrope. Fantastic!
The Summit ridge by cliveg004, on Flickr
This has got to be amongst the most airy summits on these Isles, and on a day like today when there was barely a cloud in the sky there are few other places I would rather be. It is absolutely brilliant!
The views across the Lota Coire to the Sgurr Alastair and The Inaccessible Pinnacle are breath-taking, as is the view along the West Ridge to Am Bhasteir and Bruach na Frithe. Hope you like the pictures.
Black Cuillin Panorama by cliveg004, on Flickr
Am Basteir by cliveg004, on Flickr
Across Lota Coire by cliveg004, on Flickr
A view from a hill by cliveg004, on Flickr
Having spent an age just gawping and grinning, it’s time to go. First comes the heart-in-the- mouth descent of the wall – I recall someone calling this the Hillary Step!
Safely past that, the next obstacle is the chimney but I get a rather nasty surprise on the way down. At the top of the chimney is a big boulder, a chock-stone, some 3 feet by 2 feet. It is definitely big enough to squash anyone should it fall. As I begin to descend into the steepest section of the chimney I put my weight onto the boulder and to my horror it rocked forwards towards the chimney (no, I’m not a fat bloater either!). I have no idea how long this thing has been unstable but I wasn’t taking any chances with it, and so decided to tackle a neighbouring chimney a couple of yards to the left. It was a bit greener, and every bit as steep, but at least I wasn’t going to have a ton of rock on my head. The fate of the poor chap who got killed recently on El Capitan did cross my mind.
Once I’d negotiated these two obstacles the way down become much clearer than the way up had been. Scree surfing my way quite swiftly to the top of the proper way onto the South East ridge, and then down the easy gulley into the coire. How on earth did I miss that?
I continued the descent down the rough ground with the subterranean stream, and then round the corner with Pinnacle Ridge above. It was only when I reached the bottom of that section and reached the near level path that I encountered my first other person of the day. I felt I had better tell him about the wobbly boulder, so launched into a Health & Safety briefing for the poor chap, only to find that he too was German! He was most gracious, but I have no idea if he understood what I was babbling about.
The rest of the trip was simply a bimble in the most wonderful surroundings, with blue skies above and the day warming up rapidly.
I got back to Sligachan at about 11.30 and took plenty of time getting changed and making myself a little more presentable. The sun may not be over the yard-arm, but I wasn’t going to miss the chance of a pint in the home of the Cuillin Brewery – and oh yes it was lovely!
Once decorum was restored, it was off to Elgol to try to photograph THAT view across Loch Scavaig. By the time I reached Elgol the clouds were gathering in a most impressive way, so the Black Cuillin were looking suitably ‘Lord of the Rings’!
Elgol Pano by cliveg004, on Flickr
It had been an excellent day, well worth the repeat trip up one of the finest mountains to be found on these islands. And so to bed in the boot of my car alongside Loch Slapin at the foot of Blaven, but what will tomorrow bring……?
by johnkaysleftleg » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:08 pm
by skuk007 » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:15 pm
Hope someone goes up and gives that boulder a kick before I have to do this one
by Lenore » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:15 pm
by foggieclimber » Wed Jun 12, 2013 11:20 pm
- Posts: 1041
- Joined: Aug 9, 2009
by clivegrif » Thu Jun 13, 2013 9:37 pm
I did tell everyone I saw about the boulder, and some of the folk did seem to be regulars on that particular mountain. Hopefully they will have the means to either sort that boulder out safely - it will go a LONG way if it falls - or perhaps it can be stabilised.
The week got even better after this. Watch this space!
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