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Five days in the Black Cuillin

Five days in the Black Cuillin


Postby rockhopper » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:20 pm

Route description: Sgurr Alasdair

Munros included on this walk: Am Basteir, Bla Bheinn, Bruach na Frithe, Inaccessible Pinnacle, Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh, Sgurr a'Mhadaidh, Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr Dubh Mor, Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Sgurr na Banachdich, Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr nan Gillean

Date walked: 22/07/2013

Distance: 56 km

Ascent: 6500m

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Date: Monday 22 – Friday 26 July 2013
Distance: 56km (very approximate)
Ascent: 6,500m (very approximate)
Time: Five days: shortest about 5hrs, longest about 9hrs
Attendees: Paddy, David, Alan, Steve, Graham (1 day), me
Hills: Cuillin munros (12)

I had been thinking for some time about arranging a trip to Skye. Finally took the plunge back in January 2013 when I had a look at some other reports for recommendations and contacted Richard “Paddy” McGuire to enquire about one of his Skye munro courses. He had one running for 22-26 July so I booked myself on it, arranged a nice B&B in Portnalong and started to think about how I could get fit enough for it !

A family holiday in June meant that I had some work to do on the fitness – two weekend walks in July helped a bit and then I was off up to Skye on Sunday 21 July. The weather forecast was looking great for the first day but then was due to go rapidly downhill from then on – forecasts aren’t always correct I hoped.

Not having done much in the way of scrambling in the past (being a walker, not a climber) and having abseiled once about twenty years ago, I was getting more and more apprehensive in the lead up to the week. This turned out to be wholly unnecessary. Paddy’s knowledge of the routes, footholds, handholds, hills etc was incredible – no map or compass needed at all. He showed us where to put our hands and feet when it was needed but also backed off and let us get on with it when he judged us capable enough. This meant, for me anyway, that my confidence increased as the days went on which I’ll be able to take with me on my next hills. I would have no hesitation in recommending Paddy for these hills – there’s no way I’d have attempted them otherwise !

The group comprised the four of us (David, Alan, Steve and me) and Paddy; only David and Alan knew each other already. Great conversation on wide ranging topics as we walked helped by the fact that there was only a twelve year age gap between oldest and youngest.

And so to the hills…….

Monday 22 July

Munros: Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Inaccessible Pinnacle

Met at Glenbrittle car park just before the camp site at 9am.

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Original plan was for the south 3, ie Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr Dubh Mor and Sgurr Alasdair. However, in view of a good forecast for Monday and worsening forecast from Tuesday onwards, changed plans on the Monday morning. Relocated from Glenbrittle camp site to the Glen Brittle Hut setting off somewhere around 9.30 am. Followed the track initially eastwards south of the waterfalls then SE up and past Loch Fhir-bhallaich then up more steeply to the left of a small lochan. From here there was a scree slope up to the bealach.

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Paddy led us up the left edge of the scree which made the going considerably easier - later we could see others heading up the middle of the scree which looked hard. Got to the bealach where we removed our rucksacks; as the ravens have become very adept at opening rucksacks and zips, we moved stuff out of zipped compartments, hid the rucksacks as much as possible and covered vulnerable bits with rocks.

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View to the In Pinn and further round

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Then scrambled up to the top of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich - not having done much scrambling, Paddy being in the lead and giving advice helped immensely and was very reassuring. It wasn’t long before we were perched at the top.

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Views to the In Pinn, over to Sgurr Alasdair and north.

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Then we retraced our steps back down to pick up the rucksacks and headed up over some slabby sections to the foot of the Inaccessible Pinnacle.

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Rucksacks off and roped in.

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Paddy in the lead soloing with the four of us in pairs with two ropes. Held off a few minutes to let three guys through who were walking the full ridge and were soloing up.

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Scrambled up to the first belay point - warm day, very dry rock and lots of hand and foot holds all helped although I wasn’t looking downwards very often ! Brief respite before we moved off up to the top. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would and we were soon at the top.

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Short break again while Paddy explained how we’d get down at the end of the rope (he would be letting us down one by one after which he abseiled down).

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Lunch break with cracking views - it was very hot but we couldn’t really have hoped for a better day.

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Then we headed down the path and loose rocky sections to the Bealach Coire na Banachdich after which we followed the path close to the stream back down, rejoined our outward track and back to the cars for around 4.30pm. My first Black Cuillin hills.

Tuesday 23 July

Munros: Sgurr nan Gillean, Bruach na Frithe, Am Basteir

Joined by Graham, a friend of Paddy’s, for the day. Parked up and met at the MRC hut just up from Sligachan Hotel.

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Followed the path southwards over two bridges and upwards into Coire Riabhach.

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Long slog up until we were close to the foot of Sgurr nan Gillean.

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Weather was still hot at this point but looked as though there were signs of worsening weather to the south.

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Fairly hard and at times tricky scramble up until we got to the top - no need for ropes as we were getting more used to the scrambling and the rock was very dry and grippy. Stopped at the top before heading off.

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Dropped down to the point where Paddy set up a rope for an abseil and lowered us down one by one - he then climbed down an adjacent gap (was very glad we had used the rope).

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Got down to the bealach where we stopped for a late lunch. Watched the worsening weather coming towards us with several peals of thunder - not a good omen.

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When the heavy rain started with hailstones and strengthening wind, we donned the waterproofs and waited a bit. Showing no signs of improving, we reluctantly took a joint decision to hold off on Am Basteir and dropped down the scree and round the bottom of the tooth. Left the rucksacks and started up the scree towards Bruach na Frithe.

Not long after this the weather improved - some blue sky and sun when we had scrambled up to the top of Bruach na Frithe.

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Change of decision at this point - still time to go back for Am Basteir. So, back down to the rucksacks for a drink and some food before going back up to ascend Am Basteir.

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Got to the bit where there’s a short drop and Paddy lowered us on the rope again then on to the summit.

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Stopped for a bit to look at the views - weather couldn’t have been better. It had certainly been a strange day weatherwise.

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Started the descent and again Paddy used the rope to help us climb back up the vertical section.

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Back down the scree to pick up the rucksacks then the very long walkout to Sligachan - we could see it in the distance but it just didn’t seem to be getting any nearer !

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That said, as walkouts go, it must have one of the best views. Good path down after the initial scree close to the Allt. Given the weather forecast we were very lucky in the end - good decision to go to the north end.

Wednesday 24 July

Munros: Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr Dubh Mor, Sgurr Alasdair

Met at Glenbrittle car park just before the camp site at 9am to cover the southern three which were previously planned for Monday. Forecast was a bit mixed so we were expecting rain. Set off just after 9am through the campsite following the path eastwards. Came to a fork and took the southern of the two paths. Further on Steve decided not to go any further and headed back (turned out to be heatstroke) - he had been ill during the night and was feeling very unwell.

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Kept on the path crossing the Allt and skirting round the base of Sron na Ciche before ascending up into Coire Ghrunda through varying rocks and boulders until we were at the loch. Skirted round its south shore and then the scramble up to a point where we could leave the rucksacks.

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With the rain starting and the wind strengthening, we donned the jackets and scrambled up to Sgurr nan Eag.

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Was starting to find it a bit easier especially with Paddy showing us hand and footholds for the trickier parts - still a bit nervous though with some of drops and exposed parts. More photos before heading back down to the rucksacks.

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Paddy showed us the bit for which we were aiming - rather than have an ascent\descent/ascent, we traversed across the scree and rock and then up to Sgurr Dubh Mor (which was to be my 250th Munro) depositing the rucksacks again for the final section.

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Although there was some mist and cloud blowing over occasionally, the weather was significantly better than forecast. The ravens were out and about again so we had to be careful to hide anything away inside the sacks and not leave items in exposed zipped compartments.

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Picked up the rucksacks and set off for Sgurr Alasdair.

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It looked somewhat foreboding but the ever improving weather and great views helped to keep the mind on other things.

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There was one trickier section up through a chimney. Paddy had brought the rope for use in wet conditions as the rock could be slippery and the foot and handholds were more rounded - however, the rope wasn’t needed as the rock was dry.

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Reached the summit of Sgurr Alasdair, weather was perfect and the views all round were stunning.

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Then we set off down to the stone chute after a little more scrambling.

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Sliding and walking in equal measures, we went down the rocks and stones - good fun as long as you can stay upright.

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At the bottom the wee lochan was shimmering in the sun - it was now very hot again so time for more suntan lotion. Helmets off and we returned to Glenbrittle by the path getting back to the cars in a little over eight hours. The day had gone far better than we could have hoped given the forecast.

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Drove back up the road and called in on Steve who had now fortunately recovered and would be able to join us again on Thursday.


Thursday 25 July

Munros: Sgurr a’Mhadaidh, Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh, Sgurr na Banachdich

Usual drive from Portnalong through Carbost.

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Met up at the Glenbrittle Youth Hostel. Steve was feeling a lot better today and joined us again. The weather forecast was suggesting better conditions earlier on then worsening later with the possibility of thunder and lightning so Paddy decided to go clockwise and cover the harder two munros first. If there was lightning later on necessitating a retreat, it would only leave the relatively straightforward Sgurr na Banachdich for another day. Set off just after 9am following the path up into Coire a’ Ghreadaidh.

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Relatively straightforward and we had the odd stop here and there while maintaining a regular pace.

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A bit harder going further up with some scrambling needed before we got up to the bealach just below Sgurr a’Mhadaidh.

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Dropped the rucksacks here for the short final scramble to the top of Sgurr a’Mhadaidh.

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When we were at the top another walker appeared although she had come up from the north.

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Back down to the rucksacks where we met a large group of walkers on their way to SaM. From here on there would be no further sections where we could drop the packs. More scrambling but with the rock staying dry and Paddy pointing out the foot and handholds for the hardest parts we made good progress.

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Past the gap in the rocks and on up to the small summit cairn on Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh.

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We could see worsening weather coming towards us so decided not to stop long and push on.

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The next section required a drop down then a narrow rocky ridge before the ascent to Sgurr na Banachdich.

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Just at this point the rain was starting although fairly light so the rock wasn’t really getting slippery.

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No further photos though as we scrambled up to the top of Sgurr na Banachdich. Group photo in the drizzle with clag all around giving no views unfortunately.

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Dropped down from the summit to have lunch before the walkout via Coir an Eich - over loose rocks and scree which made the going hard and very hot in the waterproofs as the weather was still very mild. Soon decided to remove the waterproofs as we were wetter inside than out. Back to the cars parked at the youth hostel just after 3pm so the walk had taken just over 6 hours. Final walk of the Cuillin ridge munros - in the end the weather had been a lot better than the forecast at the start of the week and we were now left with Bla Bheinn on the final day tomorrow.


Friday 26 July

Munro: Bla Bheinn

Met up at the MRC hut just up from Sligachan Hotel

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Then drove in convoy down to Broadford and round to Loch Slapin car park. Set off just before 10am taking the usual path which winds its way westwards. A little rain on and off but the clag was down and we couldn’t see the hill tops.

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Good path up into the corrie. When it split, we took the right hand fork towards the summit as the left would take us to the south top. Straightforward walk from her with only a little light scrambling needed.

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No views at the top in the clag.

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Had lunch then retraced our steps back down to the cars – back down in approx 5hrs.

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All in all this had been a fantastic five days in the hills – the first time I’d ever been walking more than three days in a row. Granted the distances and ascents each day aren’t onerous, but the scrambling and need to concentrate on each foot and handhold made for a very different experience to most hill walks.

My thanks to Paddy and my fellow walkers for a great week – excellent conversation, team spirit, support and encouragement – an experience I’ll never forget and one I’d recommend to anyone !
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby Meatball » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:40 pm

Cracking stuff as always....
How do you arrange such weather all the time?
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby foggieclimber » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:51 pm

Excellent report Rockhopper. A good read, great pics and lots of familiar views from the best ridge in the UK.
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jul 29, 2013 7:58 pm

What a great (if scary) week - bet that's generated a wee sigh of relief getting them in the bag :)
Wondered when you were going to get round to these ones.
I really don't like some of your pictures - ie the ones with dangles over big drops :shock:
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby dooterbang » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:03 pm

What a way to break your scrambling Skye duck with tackling the In Pinn :shock: 8)

Fantastic stuff and you appeared to have struck lucky with the weather. Reading your report I can see that having a guide gave you confidence...this may be the way I go when I get round to the ridge.

Well it looks like 8 or 9 more weekends should see you to the end of this magical journey, have you a picked out your last one yet...Ben More or Ladhar Bheinn? You planning to compleat before winter?

Now if i get them Mullardoch, Ullapool and Skye Munros done I should be just about level pegging with you...and looking at your munro map would have the same hills to climb.

ps had to laugh at your quip about getting fit :wink:
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby davgil » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:47 pm

Fantastic Rockhopper, that's the way to do it, I'll be referring back to your report when when my time comes for these hills. Well done!!!
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby brpro26 » Mon Jul 29, 2013 9:29 pm

I'm turning a bit green with envy reading this. Looks like money well spent. Great achievement getting them all done in one visit...well 5 days you know what I mean.
Great photos and report...what you gonna spend them on??? :clap:
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby ChrisW » Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:49 pm

WOW, just stunning, I've only just read your Mullardoch Circuit report and really thought it would be some time before I saw another like that.....then along comes another almost immediately (well immediately in terms of me reading 'em anyway)

The photos are spectacular and the outcome of all that effort well worth the investment of both time and money. All in all an Incredible 5 days and timed to perfection weather wise :clap:
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby Bod » Mon Jul 29, 2013 11:30 pm

Wonderful rockhopper, I just loved reading through that. Lot's of great memories for me there, plus equally lot's of new places for me too. Heading back soon is the plan. Well done, looks like you seriously enjoyed yourself :D :D :clap: :clap: :clap:

ps...having a guide and insight to the Black Cuillin is crucial, be it for the whole trip or at least parts of the adventure. I was lucky and still am lucky to have an experienced friend and guide to bounce ideas off and have come along, though he likes to leave me to it for many sections :D

Are you going to be returning for more?
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby Anne C » Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:47 am

What a great report and stunning photos, rockhopper. Never in a month of Sundays will I make it onto most of these,given my vertigo though I've managed the 'easier' ones.But still love reading about and seeing what non-fearties can do! Great achievement. :clap:
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby Bog_Seeking_M1ssle » Tue Jul 30, 2013 2:57 pm

Great report! Looks like a whole lot of (scary) fun! :D
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby gammy leg walker » Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:19 pm

Never one to do anything by half RH and once again you have excelled with this one.

Alan & me used Paddy for the Inn Pin and he was great for us.
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby Bruno » Tue Jul 30, 2013 11:01 pm

First class! :clap:
Paddy sounds a really good guy to have with you on the hill!
Well done - very enjoyable article with loads of great pictures! :D 8)
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby Johnny Corbett » Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:47 pm

Brilliant stuff once again Rockhopper, i guess that's the best way to tackle the Cuillins. Getting closer to compleation. :clap:
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Re: Five days in the Black Cuillin

Postby simon-b » Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:29 pm

Just brilliant, Rockhopper. This has really got me looking forward to Skye; I'd already realised that using a guide would be the way to do it. I bet it feels great to have got these done, although it's an experience to relish, not just 'get out of the way'. Your photos give an excellent impression of what's involved.
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