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Cuillin Traverse – 5 Munro’s then a White flag!!

Cuillin Traverse – 5 Munro’s then a White flag!!

Postby 007iron » Mon May 26, 2014 6:47 pm

Route description: Sgùrr Alasdair

Munros included on this walk: Inaccessible Pinnacle, Sgùrr Alasdair, Sgùrr Dubh Mòr, Sgùrr Mhic Chòinnich, Sgùrr nan Eag

Date walked: 19/05/2014

Time taken: 15 hours

Distance: 17 km

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The conversation of an expedition to attempt the Cuillin Traverse had been ongoing for some time at work and after some deliberation we opted for a two day traverse and a May date in hope to take advantage of the most likely optimum conditions. Two days we figured would be a much better way to enjoy the experience and to enjoy a camp out on the ridge. One of our group, Craig, had a successful previous traverse under his belt whilst myself and Chris were Cuillin virgins!!
The Black Cuillins from Elgol
Sligachan Campsite with Sgurr nan Gillean in the background

We camped overnight in the Sligachan Campsite and following a late change in the weather forecast to our proposed second day we decided on a slightly earlier rise and hoped to be starting our walk in around 5am. This in an effort to get as much as possible crammed into day 1. Rising at 3.45am we were along at Glenbrittle and off on our travels by around 5.15am – Full of enthusiasm and optimism as the weather looked great approaching the ridge from the West.
Our two day option did however mean we were carrying a lot of gear. Rope gear, 2 days food and water and our bivvy stuff made for heavy-ish rucksacks!
3.45am alarm call!!

The walk in was enjoyable over the good path, then latterly fairly hard going making the ascent up the rugged terrain to reach Coir a Ghrunnda. This was our first pit stop of the day but it was just as the sun was rising up from the East which made for some stunning light beaming against the back drop of the ridge. We filled our water bottles and platypus’s from just above the small lochan, then scrambled up to the main ridge itself where we were greeted by some truly stunning vistas along the ridge and of the surrounding Skye scenery. This definitely made all our efforts so far worthwhile.
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Coir a Ghrunnda

A welcome opportunity to dump our sacks (no ravens to be seen!) and make the traverse back to the start of the ridge proper to stand upon Gars-bheinn. The journey South East to Gars-bheinn took around an hour and a quarter and although this was doubling back on ourselves we believed it was better than the trudge along the apparently very wet approach direct from Glenbrittle to the West of Gars-bheinn. Our journey back along towards our sacks and we’d made the summit of our first munro, Sgurr nan Eag (924m). We then retraced our final steps back and gladly found our sack unscathed from ravens that I’d been warned about!

The next target was Sgurr Dubh Mor (944m). This was quite a physical part of the day. The descent from the ridge height to find the Sgurr Dubh Mor route was hard going and route finding itself was not easy. We were following a good guide book but finding the route seemed problematic although with several small deviations we eventually found a possible way up. We possibly lost a little time here and we’d almost even given up reaching Sgurr Dubh Mor and moved on although I’m glad we didn’t as this gave me my first experience to some proper scrambling and exposure.
The weather was still glorious although this was to prove tiring and liquid draining also. We were never intending doing the TD gap in an effort to save time so traversed on the lower West side of the main ridge along the tope side of the scree. This seemed an opportune moment to pop a little further back down the ridge to the topside of Loch Coir a Ghrunnda to top up our depleting water supplies.

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Enjoying a bit of scrambling

Next was Sgurr Alasdair (992m) which we approached from the South. Some great scrambling terrain which was very enjoyable even in the full heat of the day. Had considered getting roped up for some of this section but we seemed to be comfortable with the exposure even though I had little experience of this.
With the fine weather there was a fair volume of climbers to be seen on the ridge. We could see the “In Pinn” in the distance and the queue of people looked to be into double figures.

The next target was Sgurr Mhic Chonnich (948m) but before we reached the summit “Collie’s Ledge” had to be negotiated. I had seen numerous pictures of this and had been a little apprehensive of the exposure. I hadn’t realised the ledge was so long as previous pictures I’d seen gave me the impression is was relatively short. Anyway I managed to negotiate round it fairly comfortably and although there were some seriously exposed sections I held my nerve!!
We then traversed back along to the summit of Sgurr Mhic Chonnich for our fourth munro of the day.


We were now starting to tire after what so far had been a long but epic day. We stopped for some food to refuel the body for what I had been told was one of the least enjoyable parts of the ridge – The ascent up the scree to Sgurr Dearg – Inaccessible Pinnacle (986m). This was indeed to be extremely hard going. I was determined to try and fight the tiredness as the body became very weary climb up Sgurr Dearg towards the “In Pinn” itself. It was so physically demanding every step was gruelling.

The benefit of it now being 7.30pm was there were no crowds or queue’s and we had the “In pinn” to ourselves for what was to be our last munro of the day. Our experienced climber Craig led the way with Chris and I following roped up behind. I had seen so many pictures of this iconic section of the ridge but nothing was to compare to physically seeing it for ourselves. There were two very exposed knarly sections of the climb from my own point of view and although my job involves a lot of work at height I admit to feeling slightly out of my comfort zone here!
The forecasted cloud was now rolling in with now and the temperature starting to drop but still it felt great to have got to the top of what seems regularly be described as the most difficult munro. The pure exposure was an adrenalin rush but I was also looking forward to getting back down. Ropes rigged, we abseiled back down to relative safety again!! Woohoo!

"In Pinn" with the clouds rolling in

By now it was around 8.30pm and we decided it was a good time to call it a day and try to find a suitable bivvy site. We dropped down the West side of the ridge a couple of hundred metres and tried to find somewhere to get us hidden from the now cold wind. With our bivvy site found and our little camp set up we munched our food, had a wee celebratory Drambuie and settled down for the night. We had certainly hoped to have made better progress along the ridge during our day but the tiring heat as well as the slightly heavy rucksacks had possibly slowed our progress slightly somewhat. We knew the forecast for the following day was now not good at all but had only hoped with fingers and toes crossed that the rain would move North a little and possibly miss us.
Unfortunately for us it did not and with gentle rain drops first wakening me at 1am it then rained solid through to 5.30am when we decided that we had had enough and raised a white flag to The Cuillin!!! It felt a little defeatist but the forecast for rain all day and with gear and spirits now dampened it seemed the best decision.

Bivvy site for the night
A very wet bivvy site in the following morning!!

We had a thoroughly superb expedition on the ridge. I had my first real taste of scrambling and proper climbing exposure with and without ropes. The Ridge was a joy. What we did was hard going on the body and very energy sapping however looking back on it I loved it. Superb views, great scrambling, great company and for sure great memories. Anyone who has not been should truly make the effort.
We had dreamed long of a full traverse and a celebratory pint in the Sligachan but in the end we were off the hill by around 8am of day 2 and after stripping down the tents at the campsite it was a full breakfast in the Sligachan Hotel instead! The Cuillin Ridge clearly does not gives itself up easily and for us me the second half of the ridge will unfortunately have to wait for another day……….


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Re: Cuillin Traverse – 5 Munro’s then a White flag!!

Postby mgmt! » Mon May 26, 2014 9:02 pm

well done, its quite a task completing the ridge and you definitely need the weather on your side, im sure you will be back for another try soon.
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Re: Cuillin Traverse – 5 Munro’s then a White flag!!

Postby mrssanta » Thu May 29, 2014 10:03 pm

finish the ridge or not that was an epic day!
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Re: Cuillin Traverse – 5 Munro’s then a White flag!!

Postby GillC » Fri May 30, 2014 4:17 pm

Fantastic trek there. Pity the weather changed for you (we arrived on the 20th and our 3 days planned for the cuillin were a total washout with high wind and rain, wont plan so far ahead next time lol)

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