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A return to the ridge: Bruach na Frithe and Am Basteir
by malky_c » Mon Jul 23, 2018 10:56 pm
Munros included on this walk: Am Basteir, Bruach na Frithe
Date walked: 13/07/2018
Time taken: 6 hours
Distance: 13 km
Ascent: 1200m2 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).
Time: 6 hours.
Weather: Warm and sunny.
It's been far too many years since I've been on the main Black Cuillin ridge proper - aside from outliers Garbh-bheinn and Sgurr na Stri, probably over a decade. However walking into Coruisk and crossing the ridge with Alan (Owdjockey) a couple of weeks earlier made me question why that is, and I felt a return to the ridge was in order.
This isn't even what I had planned for the Friday of the WH meet - I had just arrived by the morning ferry from Harris and was contemplating a couple of Marilyns somewhere, or perhaps Garbh-bheinn and Belig at a push. Then I thought 'why not Bruach na Frithe?' the summits on the main ridge were clear and in the sun. When would I next get a similar opportunity?
After shopping in Portree for the weekend, I parked up at Sligachan and was finally on my way shortly before midday. I decided to head along the Sgurr nan Gillean tourist path before gaining the spur to the west and then crossing over just below the Bhasteir Gorge. Some easy scrambling led me onto the NE ridge of Sgurr a' Bhasteir, which was a much more solid and pleasant ascent than either of the northern corries in the vicinity. As I didn't have a guidebook, I couldn't remember which of these northern ridges I had always wanted to do - this one, the N ridge or the NW ridge of Bruach na Frithe? Turns out it was the one on Bruach na Frithe, but this made for a good alternative.
Heading for the northern Cuillin
Marsco and Bla Bheinn
Sgurr a' Bhasteir
Up the Basteir Gorge to Sgurr nan Gillean
Start of Pinnacle Ridge
Gillean and Pinnacle Ridge
On the NE ridge of Sgurr a' Bhasteir
A quick stroll along the arête took me to the scree contouring Sgurr a' Fhionn Choire, then onto the eastern ridge of Bruach na Frithe. I would have stopped on Sgurr a' Bhasteir, but once up there I could see cloud moving in over the southern Cuillin - damned if I was going to let it get to me before reaching the summit!
Coire a' Bhasteir and Pinnacle Ridge
Pinnacle ridge in profile
Red Cuillin from Sgurr a' Bhastier
Am Basteir and Sgurr a' Fhionn Choire
Sgurr nan Gillean
Basteir and tooth from Sgurr a' Bhasteir
Final ascent onto Bruach na Frithe
Once on Bruach na Frithe, it became clear that the northern end of the Cuillin were unlikely to disappear any time soon. Perfect for an extended break then, and a chance to admire the next section of the ridge south, which always looks great from here.
Basteir and Gillean
Basteir and Gillean pano
SW along the ridge to Bidean Druim nan Ramh
On Bruach na Frithe
Bla Bheinn from Bruach na Frithe
Summit of Bruach na Frithe
Back to Sgurr a' Bhasteir
Basteir and Gillean
I descended the way I had come for the top section and moved easily up onto Sgurr a' Fhionn Choire. There was a secondary purpose to today's walk, and that was to scout out the 'Lota Corrie Route' onto the Basteir Tooth, that being the most awkward Munro Top that I have yet to climb. I fancied I could see the route - a broken grassy terrace leading diagonally towards the Tooth across the southern face. However it was much further down than I had realized, and I didn't really feel inclined to drop all the way down to see it up close. No doubt I'll be back at some point for an attempt. Instead I dropped down the loose northern face of Sgurr a' Fhionn Choire, chatting briefly to a couple of ridge traversers. They were moving fast, and looked to be in good time - it was only mid afternoon, and they just had to find Naismith's route up Am Basteir before completing the traverse on Sgurr nan Gillean.
Am Basteir from the summit of Sgurr a' Fhionn Choire
Having just watched a previous pair make a bit of a hash of Naismith's route, I was glad I wasn't attempting it - it looked steep! As there was still reasonable time available, I decided to carry on to Am Basteir itself by the more straightforward eastern ridge. This would be a good exercise for me, having gradually lost my scrambling mojo over the last 12 years. Am Basteir isn't an especially hard summit to reach, but it does have some loose scrambling and a bit of intricate route finding in order to stay off the more difficult stuff. If I could get up and down it on my own, it would boost my confidence a bit.
Northern face of Am Basteir
You have to drop a fair way round the base of Am Basteir on rubbishy scree to reach the eastern ridge, which reminded me why I don't visit the Cuillin that much. If you aren't on airy scrambling, then you're sliding around on crappy scree.
Sgurr nan Gillean from just above the Bad Step on Am Basteir
Then up more crappy ledges on the southern face of Am Basteir. I met a couple of women descending here who were glad that I was on the route - it meant that they had correctly managed to find their way back down! I was also glad that they had just skipped out the Bad Step on the ridge as it meant that I was also going the right way to avoid it. Except - immediately after passing them I went up too soon and found myself at the top of the step - oops! I knew it was only a one-move wonder, but hadn't been on it since about 2005 so couldn't remember what the move was. Instead, I carefully retraced my steps a bit and found other ledges contouring lower down to avoid it.
A few more easy moves and I was on the summit. As the cloud was moving in on the highest summits, I didn't hang around and retraced steps back to the Step. In ascent I was pretty sure it wouldn't be a problem, and sure enough, despite being a bit exposed, it took me seconds to get up it, and back down to the col under Sgurr nan Gillean.
Sgurr a' Fhionn Choire from Am Basteir
Then it was down the scree into Coire a' Bhasteir, where for whatever reason I again decided to cut across the gorge (above it this time to join the Sgurr nan Gillean path. A meander down past the lovely blue pools of the Allt Dearg Beag completed the day - an enjoyable trip down memory lane and a reminder to spend more time on the Black Cuillin even if my head for heights has deserted me since my early twenties. There's plenty of places that can be visited without doing really difficult stuff on them!
Pinnacle Ridge from below
Marsco and Glen Sligachan
Time to head for the bunkhouse at Portnalong for the meet.
by Alteknacker » Mon Jul 23, 2018 11:09 pm
by weaselmaster » Mon Jul 23, 2018 11:20 pm
The route from Lota Coire to the Tooth isn't very pleasant, a lot of loose stuff to contend with, although getting up the tooth itself is easy peasy from there.
by malky_c » Mon Jul 23, 2018 11:30 pm
Alteknacker wrote:Gasp of surprise! I hadn't you'd been up in more or less the same area as Dougie and I on the Friday - either we somehow didn't discuss it, or I must have drunk too much .
I think we discussed the bit where I'd spotted your car in the carpark at Sligachan but not managed to find you in the bar...maybe we didn't talk too much about where I'd got to though