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Black Cuillin: Banachdich to Mhic Choinnich (May 2007)

Black Cuillin: Banachdich to Mhic Choinnich (May 2007)


Postby malky_c » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:57 pm

Munros included on this walk: Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Sgurr na Banachdich

Date walked: 12/05/2007

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 11 km

Ascent: 1100m

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Munros included: Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Sgurr na Banachdich
Date : 12/05/2007
Time taken: 6 hours
Distance: 11 km
Ascent: 1100 m
Weather: Drizzly with low cloud turning to warm, clear and sunny 8)

Oh well, another retro-report. This was my first (and last) trip back to the Black Cuillin after Munro compleation. A friend had use of a house in Carbost so a week-long meet was organised, with all sorts of people from my old university mountaineering club turning up at various points. I had managed to get a long weekend out of it, so headed over from Inverness on the Saturday morning. After meeting some old friends in the Sligachan, a group of us (me, Will, Sarah, Danny and Janine) headed down Glen Brittle. The weather wasn't looking over promising, with lowish cloud and some drizzle, and we didn't really have much of a plan, other than Janine, who needed to bag Sgurr na Banachdich and Sgurr Alasdair in preperation for her final Munro.


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This gave us a target of sorts, so we started the day by heading into Coire a' Ghreadaidh. We split off onto the spur of An Diallaid on the right, which runs up towards Sgurr na Banachdich. While not the most interesting route on the Cuillin, it provides one of the easiest going ways onto the main ridge, with only a small amount of scree, and lots of short grass. Steep it certainly is, but probably a relief to people who find the Cuillin overly imposing.

As we approached the shoulder to the west of Banachdich, the cloud began to lift. Overhead things were still grey, and most of the ridge was in the cloud, but there were suddenly views out to sea! We could also see our summit. It now looked like the day might actually turn out to be worthwhile.

Looking out to Rum:
Image

On the shoulder below Sgurr na Banachdich:
Image

To date I've had a good run in the Cuillin. I've definitely had bad days when it was impossible to work out where we were, but I've had enough visits to give most of the classic scrambles a good look, and have consequently been up a lot of the summits twice or more (still missing the Dubh Slabs, mind). Today was a continuation of the relaxed theme, with us still undecided whether to NE or SE once on the main ridge.

NE to Sgurr Thormaid and Sgurr na Ghreadaidh:
Image

In the event we chose SE, and reached the summit of Sgurr na Banachdich just as the surrounding peaks were clearing of the cloud. This is definitely one of the most straightforward Munros on Skye, with no exposure and barely the need to put hand to rock at all (at least by our approach) There are some nice scrambly bits over the southern tops of Banachdich, and we did a mixture of this and the easier traversing path to the west side of the ridge. Getting up to Sgurr Dearg from Bealach na Banachdich is always a bit of a slog, with loose ball-bearing like scree, and by the time we were on the summit, we were back in the cloud with the Inn Pinn looming ominously out of the mist. I tend to find these conditions make it look even scarier, as it looks bigger.

E ridge of the Inn Pinn:
Image

Anyway, we hadn't packed a rope, and none of us felt the need to go up it again, so we dropped down towards An Stac. I'd done this once before in the winter (report), and found it to be a bit on the alarming side, however I thought it would be a doddle in normal summer conditions. I was wrong. While it wasn't particuarly difficult, it was still rather unpleasant, being wet slimy slabs covered with yet more ball bearings. Like in the winter, a lot of it was done on our backsides.

Ball bearings and slabs:
Image

Janine was going to leave us after Sgurr na Banachdich, leg it back to the car, drive down to the campsite at Loch Brittle and leg it back up Sgurr Alasdair via the stone chute. We convinced her that this was the barmy Munro Fever taking over, and she'd be better sticking with us. However, at the bottom of An Stac, she decided to go for it, giving the fun of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich a miss by dropping down into Coire Lagan to get into the stone chute from there. Strangely, none of us fancied joining her and left her to it :lol:

During the descent adjacent to An Stac, the weather had cleared up a treat and the sun was now out. It looked like the rest of the day was going to be very enjoyable indeed. The rest of us now headed on toward Sgurr Mhic Choinnich. Again Will and I had had some interesting times on this section of the ridge in winter conditions, and had ultimately turned back at the steep rise to the summit ridge. In summer it was another straightforward scramble, leading us to the exposed summit ridge.

The col before Sgurr Mhic Choinnich:
Image

Back to An Stac:
Image

I've heard people say that they have found Sgurr Mhic Choinnich to be the hardest of all Skye Munros, but this hasn't been my experience. This might well have something to do with the weather, which was great on both occasions (my first visit to this summit had only been 11 months previously). Some of the nastiest situations on the Cuillin are due to veins of slippery basalt which run through the ridge at points. While the gabbro gives a lovely firm grip (too good at times - a week in the Cuillin can result in stinging hands and shredded boots!), the slightest bit of moisture on the basalt practically turns it into a bar of soap. Being dry, I haven't really noticed whether there is any basalt on Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, but I'd imagine there is.

While the scrambling on the ridge is never difficult (in the dry anyway), the drops on either side are somewhat large, and it is very narrow. Still, once on the summit it feels like a great achievement. We were all pretty chuffed as we hadn't expected this when setting out, so we had a good long lounge around the summit. Views onto the next section of the ridge (Sgurr Thearlaich) were impressive, and I sat trying to work out where the alleged easy line up it went. My dad had sworn he'd been able to descend all the way from Sgurr Thearlaich to Bealach Mhic Choinnich without any massive difficulties, but on my visit 11 months previously, we had had to set an abseil up on one section. I still couldn't see a line.

Coire Lagan:
Image

Thearlaich and Alasdair:
Image

Danny and Will on the summit of Mhic Choinnich:
Image

One of the most interesting features of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich is Collie's/Hart's Ledge, which traverses round the west side of the ridge and provides a simple (but jaw droppingly exposed) line to Bealach Mhic Choinnich. This is where we headed next. We reversed the top section of our route of ascent and picked up the ledge at a slight steepening. It isn't that obvious so you have to look out for it. Now I'm kicking myself for not taking any photos of the ledge (and in general for not taking as many photos as I would now), as it looks horrifying from this point. However in summer conditions, it is an easy amble, with the odd point where you need to step over a gap. I'd imagine in banked out snow it could be much more challenging, and there may even be a case for abseiling directly from the summit down King's Chimney instead. A short downclimb at the end leads you to Bealach Mhic Choinich. I had to try a couple of ways to lower myself down this, as I could feel my shoulder (weakened by a few dislocations) straining to pop out of its socket! Taking my weight at a slightly different angle did the job, and I got down no problem.

We decided we'd had enough fun at this point, so opted to drop down from the col towards the stone chute. This line takes a loose rocky gully, and isn't a exactly a barrel of laughs, but it's par for the course on the Cuillin really. A group of us had tried ascending this in the winter a couple of years before, but got beaten back by extreme cold and strong winds funneling spindrift up the gully. This time was decidedly nicer than that!

Looking back up the rubble to Sgurr Mhic Choinnich:
Image

Sgurr Dearg:
Image

Finally down in Coire Lagan, we met Janine, who was pretty chuffed as she had successfully got to the summit of Sgurr Alasdair, and now had only Sgurr Ruadh at Achnashellach to go for her compleation (this actually happened about a year later, but since she lives down south that seems fair enough!). Strangely, although she'd done a lot of rock climbing in the past, and was a pretty competent scrambler, the last few Cuillin summits seemed to be quite a bugbear for her.

Coire Lagan:
Image

We had a leisurely break in Coire Lagan, enjoying the afternoon sunshine and amazing surroundings, before heading back down to the Glenbrittle MCofS hut, site of many parties and great weekends in the past. It was then a short walk up the road to the car.

Looking back into Coire Lagan:
Image

A stop on the road home - Bruach na Frithe, Sgurr an Fheadain and Bidein Druim nan Ramh:
Image

Carbost was a great spot to be based actually, with easy access to both Glen Brittle and Sligachan, and more importantly a decent pub! I think we headed there next (although that might have been a different night, I can't remember now).
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malky_c
 
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Re: Black Cuillin: Banachdich to Mhic Choinnich (May 2007)

Postby ianaird » Sat Apr 30, 2011 9:08 am

Great stuff Malky, the Dubh Slabs are a must though, a great day out. One of my best last year along with pinnacle ridge up onto Sgurr nan Gillean, have you been up pinnacle ridge?
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Re: Black Cuillin: Banachdich to Mhic Choinnich (May 2007)

Postby malky_c » Sat Apr 30, 2011 11:32 am

Cheers!

Done Pinnacle ridge - it was a blast. Was hoping to do the Dubh Slabs this easter, but that's not going to happen now. The other summit that I'd forgotten about that I haven't done was Clach Glas. You done that? It looks to me like the most difficult summit in the Cuillin.
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Re: Black Cuillin: Banachdich to Mhic Choinnich (May 2007)

Postby monty » Sat Apr 30, 2011 11:50 am

Old report Malky but well worth posting. Great photos of an area I have't been to yet. Me and Danrun hope to do the cuilin as a ridge walk but thats for the future. :D
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Re: Black Cuillin: Banachdich to Mhic Choinnich (May 2007)

Postby malky_c » Sat Apr 30, 2011 11:58 am

You planning doing it in a oner? That's still an ambition of mine, but haven't managed yet. I've been over there two years in a row with the intention of trying, but both times we wasted the good weather at the start looking at bits we hadn't done, and getting in some practice with the ropes. By the time we were ready to do it the weather had gone downhill and we were knackered!

If you have someone with you who knows the ridge well, best to just get on and try it as soon as the weather is right. That's my 2p anyway!
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Re: Black Cuillin: Banachdich to Mhic Choinnich (May 2007)

Postby monty » Sat Apr 30, 2011 12:03 pm

Yep, its gonna be dependant upon weather conditions. Its ambitious but Danrun is taking the lead on this one. :D Hope I survive :lol: :lol: Its only at the planning stages at the moment.
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Re: Black Cuillin: Banachdich to Mhic Choinnich (May 2007)

Postby chickadee » Sat Apr 30, 2011 12:56 pm

The scenery is just so beautiful. I've been reading about the Cuillin in recent days and in awe of anyone who attempts these imposing mountains. It must be an amazing experience.
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Re: Black Cuillin: Banachdich to Mhic Choinnich (May 2007)

Postby ianaird » Sat Apr 30, 2011 8:21 pm

malky_c wrote:Cheers!

Done Pinnacle ridge - it was a blast. Was hoping to do the Dubh Slabs this easter, but that's not going to happen now. The other summit that I'd forgotten about that I haven't done was Clach Glas. You done that? It looks to me like the most difficult summit in the Cuillin.


Ye Clach glas is a cracker, we come up over Sgurr nan each onto clach glas then onto Blavin, fine going up but major exposure coming over the top, guys were doing it unroped but we were roped up which im glad off. In training for doing the full ridge traverse in a day at the moment so hopefully will get a good weather window towards the end of may.
Enjoy the slabs when you get to them :thumbup:
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