walkhighlands

Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Sgurr nan Gillean & Am Basteir: more than I'd bargained for

Sgurr nan Gillean & Am Basteir: more than I'd bargained for


Postby Emmanuelle » Sun Oct 19, 2014 7:53 pm

Route description: Am Basteir

Munros included on this walk: Am Basteir, Sgurr nan Gillean

Date walked: 26/09/2014

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 10 km

Ascent: 980m

4 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).

I signed up to do the whole traverse of the Cuillin back in the spring. This was another enticing dish on the Falkirk Community Trust's great menu of walks and climbs. I hadn't been able to make the June iteration of the trip but rejoiced that another opportunity had been made available. I spent the whole summer hoping, nay praying, for good weather :crazy:

After three weeks of warmth and sunshine, the weather decided to break right on time for the trip. But the trip was on nonetheless. There just was no point bringing sleeping bags as we wouldn't be bivouacing on the ridge. It seemed therefore that we would walk up to the ridge everyday but the precise programme was yet to be decided, completely weather-dependent.

On Thursday 25th September we set off from Falkirk around 8am and were at the Glen Brittle Youth Hostel by 1-2pm. As the hostel was still closed for the afternoon and it was pouring with rain, we voted for a wee trip to Portree - tea and cake on the menu. We grabbed some last minute supplies at the coop and drove back to the hostel. We literally invested the place. The other guests must have been really delighted.

Later that evening the programme for the next three days was outlined, based on best forecast (I recommend the Met Office forecast incidentally. Another well known forecaster was predicting 70mph gusts on all summits and driving rain). The scramblers would do Sgurr nan Gillean and Am Basteir by the Pinnacle Ridge on Friday, Blaven by the northern ridge on Saturday and scoot up Sgurr Alasdair on Sunday morning, before the great schlepp back to Falkirk. The walkers would do Bruach na Frithe on Friday, Blaven by the normal route on Saturday and something else on Sunday. Excellent plan. For me this meant 4 new Munros as I had signed up for the trip as a scrambler. :lol:

Our guides were Euan Whittaker and John Jackson. The three scramblers were Gayle, Andy and me. Euan is a young man, a native of Edinburgh and an experienced alpine climber who divides his time between the French Alps, including the beautiful Parc des Ecrins, and the UK. When I mentioned that I was French , he thought I too was an experienced climber. Actually I did walk and climb in the Ecrins, but that was in the summers of 1978 and 1979. That was also when I did my first abseil. This was the start of the quid pro quo situation which was going to unfurl in the course of the next 3 days :lol:

I was pretty excited but also apprehensive. I have done some scrambling on the eastern ridge of Beinn Eighe most notably and along the Aonach Eagach, and I've already done the Inn Pin with a guide but the guy didn't set up an abseil, he simply hoisted us down, to my great regret. I was certainly going to make up for this injustice in the course of the next 24 hours...

We set off early the next morning, dropping off the walkers (Alex and Norrie, led by Nigel) at the path to the Fairy Pools from which they would walk up to BnF. We would meet them at the Sligachan Inn later that day. Harnesses, and all sorts of carabiners and other metalwork, ropes and helmets were donned and we were off. The walk up to the Basteir Gorge was long and uneventful, although Euan and I realised we both knew a twice compleater who some years ago diversified to summer and winter climbing aided by Euan. So the chat diverted us from the trudge. But also I never really saw what was coming... until we got to the bottom of the Pinnacle Ridge and the programme for the day got a bit clearer - a diff climb, 6 abseils and some very exposed walking on wet and slippery basalt :lol: Meanwhile the weather actually surprised us - we got only a couple of strong gusts and one squally shower. The sun shone through holes in the gloam of the thick clouds spotlighting Glen Slig, Blaven, Glamaig and Marsco. It was really atmospheric and magical. But it also fitted the anxiety that was raging inside my head - would I be able to keep up with these experienced climbers, had I taken on more than I could chew, should I have signed up for the walkers' bit of the trip, would I 'lose the heid' in the high places, would I fall and break my back in the abseils. I mean, 6 abseils! I hadn't abseiled since 1979!

I need not have worried. I acquitted myself well until the last abseil - more of that later - undoubtedly expertly guided by Euan and Gayle with whom I was teamed up, John and Andy making up the other team. Team 1 scuttled up the ridge (or at least that's how it seemed to me), whilst I was picking my way up, foothold by handhold, trying to keep the damn rope out of my legs and trying to understand what all the metalwork was for or how to knot the rope to my harness. I just got on with it, and what struck me was how the concentration got me up the three pinnacles, and how the exposure hardly fazed me. The first abseil was a different matter though. Apparently you have to lean back. Yeah sure. But I did and realised it was actually really safe. In 1978 when I did my very first abseil, it was without a belay device - the rope was just fed through your harness and round your thighs. I remember the rope slipping down my thigh to my knee and feeling the terror of letting go. I was only 18, not very strong and not very confident. Thirty six years on, I am quite strong, fit and fairly confident. So I decided to stop faffing and I leant back. My technique was approximate but it got me down safely. The device ensures you cannot fall unless the rope snaps. The worst that can happen is that you end up suspended in mid-air. The worst did happen :lol: but not until the end of the day...

We reached the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean at 1pm, much quicker than I thought we would. None of the Cuillin summits I've already been on is spacious and this one is no exception. Some handshaking all round and off we sped towards Am Basteir along the West ridge. By then the climbing had eased to scrambling and 5 more abseils lay ahead. However the ridge was very airy and arete-like, requiring straddling in places, especially as the wet basalt didn't afford any grip. We had another memorable abseil which I handled really well. The scramble up Am Basteir was short (relative to what we'd just done) and after more handshaking and high fiving on the narrow summit, we headed down, soon finding ourselves at the foot of the Bastier Tooth. The tooth isn't particularly high but it presents as a flat angled slab which I climbed elegantly on all fours. :D The view of Am Basteir and its geology makes it all worthwhile. It is literally a fat pinnacle of black stone with basalt strips encircling it like ribbon. How it got its upright position I don't know but it was baffling and amazing in equal measures. Spending so much time on all fours gave me ample leisure to notice the variety of rock formations on the ridge in ways I hadn't done in my two previous forays up the Cuillin!

Enough of the geological reflexions, back to the last abseil of the day! To get to it, we had to clamber down into a gap in the boulders, leading to a cave which was the start of the abseil (King's Chimney). We had to use ropes which appear to be in position on a permanent basis to hoist ourselves down to the ledge. Then Euan showed us how to start the abseil and he, and then Andy, disappeared over the edge. I memorised the instructions, let John gear me up and I too stood back over the edge, easing myself down the overhanging rock by feeding the rope through the device. But I hit a snag, literally. The belay got stuck in a gap in the boulder and John, after warning me that I might experience some judggering, used some force to unsnag me. Sure enough, I dropped a foot quite sharply. Surprisingly, I coped with this rather calmly, slid sideways to walk down the wall. but then for some reason, my faculties deserted me, they must have gone on a long weekend somewhere relaxing, because I stopped thinking properly. Despite there being a nice flat wall going straight down the 10 m to the bottom, right beside me, I continued on my original line of descent, with only a narrow edge upon which I couldn't get a firm foothold to guide myself down. Very soon after that, I completely lost my hold on this foot-wide edge, leaving me dangling in space. Euan was shouting instructions which made absolutely no sense to me (follow the fall of the rope, etc... eh?). In all that time, I just wasn't processing the presence of the wall to my right. I was too busy trying to work out how to apply all these instructions I'd been given and omitted the simple task of reading the terrain and adapting. ho hum. All I needed to do was swivel round 45 degrees to face this wall and simply walk down. So the upshot of this messy situation is that I hoisted myself down with my legs at right angle from my body, inch by inch, with no wall support. My shoulders were feeling the burn, as were my abs and once I had to shout down that I was stopping for a wee breather. I eventually reached a short wall, which I walked down in a couple of steps, landing smartly on the ledge. Then Gayle abseiled down, in the correct way, facing the big flat wall. Readers, you'll be glad to know that I provided much merriment to my fellow climbers but I was disappointed to have completely failed my last abseil of the trip. It was a beauty and I fluffed it. On the plus side, I stayed calm and exercised my shoulder and ab muscles. :clap:

Once we'd all reached the ledge, we walked along the narrow path to the start of the stone chute in Fionn Coire, and we started our long return back to the mini bus, overlooked by the ridge along which we had travailed all day. We soon reached the Basteir Gorge of which from this side we got a much better look than we had earlier that day and eventually at 6pm we reached the Sligachan Hotel. Everyone was running on ahead so I walked the last 90 minutes lost in my own head quietly pleased with the day's achievements but slightly alarmed that what I thought was going to be an exposed and at times tricky ascent had in fact been a very technical adventure, requiring expert guiding and equipment, which on my own there is no way in a million years I could have dreamt of undertaking.

Interestingly, even the banter was different - people talked about gear at length, climbing gear of course but also makes of clothing which I am not really familiar with, they mentioned routes that I'd never heard of bearing names that were not gaelic and most strikingly drew a sharp distinction between themselves and hillwalkers, a rhetorical device working to assert a different identity but also superior levels of experience and skills, which didn't work in hillwakers or Munro baggers' favour! Climbers are apparently a superior form of mountaineer! pfft! I encountered a similar technique in my research on Master runners, some of whom were careful to distinguish themselves from joggers to assert their commitment and expertise. I felt slightly out of place and that feeling was to remain for most of the next day.

But that's a story for another day.... Meanwhile here are some photies. Here I owe a debt of gratitude to Andy Gifford whose photos these are and whose sharp eye and expertise must be acknowledged. In the rush of the morning, I had forgotten my camera...

Image15197098409_0423ee5777_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15197252318_14cef5b5b8_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15197118839_7d7b9ec228_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15197118839_7d7b9ec228_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15380706951_3b6ee760c6_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15383896595_45dcbdb315_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15383862795_541176bb66_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15383859435_6405b24be0_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15383608092_4eee728b5e_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15383593762_76b8fe2ef9_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15380711491_5956a74f60_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15360915076_889f72b7c7_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15380720451_0481af4d37_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
ImageGlen Slig pano by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15383896595_45dcbdb315_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15383583842_567158dda2_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
ImageAm Basteir by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15380748831_12aa9bae22_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15360851396_a210853315_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15197252820_30d56fe889_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15197246300_7a09456ef9_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Image15197256750_046b888f91_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Dangling...
Image15197261590_beaee30d2b_z by emmanuelletulle, on Flickr
Attachments

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Last edited by Emmanuelle on Mon Oct 20, 2014 9:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Emmanuelle
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 140
Munros:282   Corbetts:29
Grahams:2   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:3   
Joined: May 1, 2013

Re: Sgurr nan Gillean & Am Basteir: more than I'd bargained

Postby Beaner001 » Mon Oct 20, 2014 9:46 am

Wow, looks amazing :clap:
Can't wait to sample the Cuillin :)
User avatar
Beaner001
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 743
Munros:234   Corbetts:26
Grahams:3   
Sub 2000:5   Hewitts:2
Wainwrights:1   
Joined: Sep 17, 2013
Location: Aberdeenshire

Re: Sgurr nan Gillean & Am Basteir: more than I'd bargained

Postby gaffr » Mon Oct 20, 2014 12:49 pm

A fair day out on the hills for October. :)
Was that King's Chimney/Cave route ( the other King's Ch. is on Sgurr Mhic Choinnich) that you folks were descending from off Basteir? I recall on my first visit to this end of the ridge ascending by this route in the 60's and having to pull out much debris to get through at the top. :)
User avatar
gaffr
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1623
Munros:281   Corbetts:203
Grahams:33   Donalds:14
Sub 2000:11   Hewitts:25
Wainwrights:11   
Joined: Oct 25, 2009
Location: Highland.

Re: Sgurr nan Gillean & Am Basteir: more than I'd bargained

Postby Emmanuelle » Mon Oct 20, 2014 6:03 pm

gaffr wrote:A fair day out on the hills for October. :)
Was that King's Chimney/Cave route ( the other King's Ch. is on Sgurr Mhic Choinnich) that you folks were descending from off Basteir? I recall on my first visit to this end of the ridge ascending by this route in the 60's and having to pull out much debris to get through at the top. :)


Yes, I should've said in my report - it was King's Chimney. Very exciting route!

Hopefully I'll sample the other King's Chimney when I get round to doing Mhic Choinnich, hopefully next spring.
Emmanuelle
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 140
Munros:282   Corbetts:29
Grahams:2   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:3   
Joined: May 1, 2013

Re: Sgurr nan Gillean & Am Basteir: more than I'd bargained

Postby The Rodmiester » Mon Oct 20, 2014 7:04 pm

Sgurr Alasdair is the tallest at 992m. Great photographs by the way, pity about the wet conditions, next time fingers crossed.
User avatar
The Rodmiester
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 3377
Munros:107   Corbetts:194
Grahams:45   Donalds:13
Sub 2000:74   Hewitts:3
Wainwrights:1   
Joined: Aug 15, 2012
Location: Carnoustie

Re: Sgurr nan Gillean & Am Basteir: more than I'd bargained

Postby AnnieMacD » Mon Oct 20, 2014 9:02 pm

Fantastic report, Emmanuelle. I'm happy everything worked out for you - my heart was in my mouth while you were dangling on the rope! I'm sure you ended up a much more confident climber/scrambler though.
User avatar
AnnieMacD
Walker
 
Posts: 789
Munros:25   Corbetts:15
Grahams:13   
Sub 2000:8   
Joined: Jun 25, 2013
Location: Applecross

Re: Sgurr nan Gillean & Am Basteir: more than I'd bargained

Postby Emmanuelle » Mon Oct 20, 2014 9:21 pm

The Rodmiester wrote:Sgurr Alasdair is the tallest at 992m. Great photographs by the way, pity about the wet conditions, next time fingers crossed.
The Rodmiester wrote:Sgurr Alasdair is the tallest at 992m. Great photographs by the way, pity about the wet conditions, next time fingers crossed.


So it is! That will be the next story...!
Emmanuelle
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 140
Munros:282   Corbetts:29
Grahams:2   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:3   
Joined: May 1, 2013

4 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).



Walkhighlands community forum is now advert free

We need help to keep the site online.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by setting up a monthly donation by direct debit?



Return to Walk reports - Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: aaronmccarthy, PeteR, poff, Sunset tripper, the bearded wanderer and 55 guests