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Weasel's Cuillin Tops Adventure

Weasel's Cuillin Tops Adventure

Postby weaselmaster » Sat Aug 22, 2015 10:01 am

Munros included on this walk: Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh, Sgurr a'Mhadaidh, Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Sgurr na Banachdich

Date walked: 14/08/2015

Time taken: 16.25 hours

Distance: 40.8 km

Ascent: 3899m

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I'd taken a week off work to further my Tops progress. I had 5 Tops left on Skye - Sgurr Thearlaidh, Thormaid, Banachdich Central and Greadaidh South plus Bla Bheinn's SW Top to do. Having consulted with knowledgable persons on WH I had decided I was far too much of a jessie to try the Tops on the main ridge myself, so had re-enlisted the help of guide Bill Strachan (Scotch on the Rocks Guiding) who'd more than assisted myself and sick kid when we did the harder Cuillin Munros last year. We arranged to meet at the Glen Brittle Hut at 8am on Friday for the first of two days of Skye excitement.

I drove up after work on Thursday, with the weather steadily improving as I went Northwest. Stopped off for a chippie in Kyle then crossed over to Skye. The sun was shining! Views down the Trotternish hills were fabulous, the sea still as silver. Oh, if only it would stay like this for the morrow. Headed round to Glen Brittle campsite, took my usual spot by the sea and pitched, enjoying some late evening sunshine with enough breeze to banish the midges. The Cuillin had fluffy blankets on their tops and looked, for a change, almost benevolent.

ImageP1090403 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090405 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090406 by Al, on Flickr

Friday morning and I marched along to the Hut to meet Bill. Weather was dry, although the hills were draped in clag from about 500m. Bill had decided we'd go up into Coire Banachdich, do its Top, then head to Thormaid, past the Teeth and onto Greadaidh then skip across to Mhadaidh if there was time via An Dorus. Sounded a good plan! Unlike last time we'd met, I had no nerves about going up, comfortable that Bill would have me safe. We headed up towards Window Buttress and turned north under the crest of the ridge below Sgurr Dearg, picking out a faint path that took us to the crest in about 2 hours. Clag was down but the rock reasonably dry and it was highly enjoyable picking my way across the narrow sections, roped where necessary. Made the first objective, then a wee bit of a scramble up to the main summit of Banachdich. Cut round and down under a buttress then up to Thormaid. Back onto the ridge crest, where if I remember the sequence correctly, we passed the Teeth then came to a narrow section of the ridge on Greadaidh that required hands on the ridge crest whilst moving obliquely below. Much fun! All too soon we'd reached the summit of Greadaidh, romped past the wart and down towards Eag Dubh where we met Paddy Mcguire with a couple of clients, then down to An Dorus. I was pleased to feel much more confident when moving on the rope than I had last time around. Nipped up Mhadaidh since we were so close by then had a scree run down Coire Ghreadaidh and were back at the Hut in six and a half hours. Typically, the sun emerged as we walked the last few hundred yards. I felt fit and still buzzing - did think of going off to do Bla Bheinn then realised it would take an hour just to drive there, so maybe I should not! Returned to the tent, felt all my energy drain away and ended up going for a snmooze in the afternoon :lol:

The wee triangular pool marks the start of the ascent to Bealach Coire a'Bhanachdich
ImageP1090408 by Al, on Flickr

Bill on the crest
ImageP1090410 by Al, on Flickr

Approaching Banachdich Central Top
ImageP1090411 by Al, on Flickr

One down!
ImageP1090412 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090414 by Al, on Flickr

On to Thormaid
ImageP1090418 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090419 by Al, on Flickr

The Teeth
ImageP1090422 by Al, on Flickr

On to Greadaidh
ImageP1090424 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090425 by Al, on Flickr

Nice narrow bit
ImageP1090428 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090432 by Al, on Flickr

Greadaidh South Top
ImageP1090431 by Al, on Flickr

Sunny on the way down :?
ImageP1090440 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090443 by Al, on Flickr

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Bill was leaving plans for Saturday a bit vague. Thearlaich was the only Top remaining to be done, and the one I was looking forward to least, given what I'd read about slippy slabs of basalt. The forecast suggested a fair day, with cloud lifting and mostly dry - of course it turned out nothing like that :lol: We set off from the campsite and walked up into Ciore Lagan, making good time to the base of the Great Stone Chute. Met a dad and his lad of maybe 10, looking to "go up something" and Alasdair was suggested as the most straightforward option from here. Set off up the Chute, keeping to the right side under the cliffs. Last time I'd been up here if was after having descended the An Stac screes, so it was much easier this time round having fresh legs, as it were. By the time we reached the bealach between Alasdair and Thearlaidh the rain had started - great! Nipped up Alasdair first - just one wobbly bit at the beginning of the ascent where the rock was slippy and the fall was considerable. Then back down to the bealach and time to get roped up.

Still dry at this point...
ImageP1090445 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090447 by Al, on Flickr

Going up the Stone Chute
ImageP1090450 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090452 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090453 by Al, on Flickr

Top of Alasdair
ImageP1090455 by Al, on Flickr

Me looking a bit apprehensive about the next bit
ImageP1090456 by Al, on Flickr

Thearlaich summit across from Alasdair
ImageP1090457 by Al, on Flickr

We dropped down to the SE of the bealach and looked a long way down to Loch Coire a'Ghrunndha. Bill set off up Thearlaich, belayed the I followed. This was harder than yesterday, good holds but so slippy and treacherous. About half way to the summit the rain started pelting down. I knew this would make the rock like glass and did feel a bit apprehensive. We got to the summit, looked across at Alasdair, pleased to see that the dad and his lad had made it.

Dropping down towards Coire a'Ghrunnda
ImageP1090458 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090459 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090461 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090463 by Al, on Flickr

Nearing summit Thearlaich
ImageP1090465 by Al, on Flickr

made it!
ImageP1090467 by Al, on Flickr

The dad and his lad on Alasdair
ImageP1090469 by Al, on Flickr

Now it was decision time. I had ticked my Top, and the weather was horrendous - should we just go down? Hell no - up for some adventure. So how's about going on towards Mhic Coinnich via Collie's/Hart's ledge? But if we did so it would need care. Oh, yes please :roll: So we headed north off Thearlaich along a narrow and unpleasant slab, putting boot edges in a linear crack and knowing that the consequences of a slip would be unfortunate. Some sharp scrambles down to Collie's ledge, which wasn't as difficult as I was fearing ("after all, some guy rode his bike along it" quoth Bill :wink: ) although the rain streaming down over everything didn't add to the experience. Bill suggested there was an awkward bit coming up before we got to Mhic Coinnich, just after we passed by King's Chimney, but it wasn't too bad, a slabby descent round an outcrop then down to the right. From there it was straightforward onto the summit of Mhic Choinnich, much of which I remembered from last time. Then down to the An Stac screes, a fast descent and Bill graciously allowed me to stop and have a bite of lunch at the lochan, where there were droves of tourists come to see "the lochan" and being underwhelmed by the view of it in dense clag.

Coming off summit Thearlaich
ImageP1090470 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090471 by Al, on Flickr

I think this is looking towards Collie's ledge
ImageP1090473 by Al, on Flickr

onwards to Mhic Choinnich
ImageP1090475 by Al, on Flickr

wee awkward bit
ImageP1090476 by Al, on Flickr

Image20150815_114215 by Al, on Flickr

Up to Mhic Choinnich
ImageP1090477 by Al, on Flickr

Sun comes out again...
ImageP1090481 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090482 by Al, on Flickr

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Back down to the campsite and again the weather clears as we are on our way out from the hills. A cracking day's adventure and many thanks to Bill for making it possible and enjoyable. We parted company, he back to his family, me off to the Slig for a bit of proper nosh. Another pleasant evening where I was able to sit and read my book outside ("Scrambles in the Alps 1860-69" by Edward Whymper) then a rainy night followed. I was up early to get packed and head off to Bla Bheinn. I had looked at doing the SW Top when I climbed Bla Bheinn last time but was put off by the scrambly nature of it (being unused to such things a couple years back) and also being majorly hungover (it was at the infamous WH Skye meet :lol: ). I had decided that I'd ascend by the SW shoulder from Kirkibost, which meant I'd go directly up the SW Top first, and could consider whether to add the Munro Summit when I got there. It took ages to drive round towards Elgol, even at 7am, but finally got to the parking place and geared up. The clag was down to below 400m and the rain had started long before I got in sight of Camusunary. A red-spotted rock marks the start of a boggy track off to the right, down towards a waterfall. Bla Bheinn loomed out of the clag ahead of me. I lost the path after crossing the river and headed up steep grass slopes on the south of the mountain, aiming for an obvious cleft in the ridge. I was surprised to come across a first class track as I gained height, and followed this thereafter.

Start of the walk
ImageP1090485 by Al, on Flickr

Camasunary bay
ImageP1090487 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090488 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090489 by Al, on Flickr

The shoulder of Bla Bheinn poking out the mist
ImageP1090490 by Al, on Flickr

Visibility was poor, less than 10m. Climbing the mountain this way revealed a much greener, vegetated hill than coming up by the usual route, but terrain became rockier as I gained height and great chasms would appear every so often out of the mist - not somewhere you'd want to get lost in the fog. Several boulderfields to cross then the summit was reached. Rain is heaving it down by this point and I'm rather miserable. I can see no sign of the main summit and decide that in these conditions, and on my own, it would be foolish to try and pick out a route. Going down is far trickier than ascending, as there are a multitude of paths through the scree, and it is really easy to get put off-route, with gullies opening up in the clag barring progress. A bit of re-ascent is needed til I find my original line then it's a wet plod back down. The rain stops as I get to about 500m and I stop for some lunch on the lower shoulder of the hill, looking out over Camusunary bay. The path back to the car is mobbed with an assortment of through-hikers (look Spanish, miserable, including one dude that's walking in bare feet with a giant rucksack, whilst his girlfriend totes a vanity-sized pack) folk going to the "beach" at Camusunary and a group of Sikh walkers playing music out of a boom-box. Once again it's sunny as I'm on my way back to the start and I'm starting to think that Skye doesn't want me on its hills :lol:

ImageP1090491 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090492 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090493 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090494 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090496 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090500 by Al, on Flickr

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I had planned to drive to Shiel Bridge, camp there and head up The Saddle for the two Southern Tops the following day. I drive to Broadford to top up on fuel and food, check the weather forecast and see with a mix of delight and disbelief, that the next 2 days are to be sunny. oh, Mullardochs, here we come!
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Re: Weasel's Cuillin Tops Adventure

Postby ancancha » Sat Aug 22, 2015 11:57 am

That looks fabulous, great report and photos :clap:
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Re: Weasel's Cuillin Tops Adventure

Postby Doghouse103 » Sat Aug 22, 2015 3:04 pm

We had the same weather at the start of that week Alan, rain and clag with no view. Enjoyed your report and photo's, hopefully next time the weather gods will be with us!!!! :) :)
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Re: Weasel's Cuillin Tops Adventure

Postby LeithySuburbs » Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:30 pm

Well done on that you big softie :wink: . The scramble up to Thearlaich is one of my favourite parts of the ridge but we had the fortune to do it in perfect summer conditions (in November - such are the vagaries of the Scottish weather :? :lol: ).
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Re: Weasel's Cuillin Tops Adventure

Postby dav2930 » Sat Aug 22, 2015 10:11 pm

Challenging conditions for two exciting sections of the Cuillin Ridge - fine effort! :clap: Impressive photos despite the poor visibility. The traverse of Greadaidh is one of my favourite sections, though it's been a good few years since I was up there or on Thearlaich. I would certainly never have gone up in those conditions! You were entirely justified in hiring a guide. Great report weaselmaster. :clap:
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Re: Weasel's Cuillin Tops Adventure

Postby weaselmaster » Sun Aug 23, 2015 10:17 pm

Thanks for the comments,guys.
An enjoyable experience with a guide - too much out my comfort zone without :lol:
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Re: Weasel's Cuillin Tops Adventure

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:56 pm

Looks wonderful, even in the clag.

But I much prefer it in the sun :lol:
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