A Walk Across the Rooftops - Winter Cuillin!
by Jaxter » Fri Feb 14, 2020 4:08 pm
Munros included on this walk: Sgùrr nan Eag
Date walked: 13/02/2020
Time taken: 10.25 hours
Distance: 20.04 km
Ascent: 1341m19 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).
When a window of decent weather opened up Wednesday night into Thursday we knew we had to get out – we tossed around a number of plans before settling on Beinn Dronaig bothy, until at about 10pm Malky had a daft idea. Winter Cuillin – game on
We arrived on Skye in time for a wee leg stretcher up Sithean a’ Bhealaich Chumhaing above Portree before driving down Glen Brittle and setting up camp for a relatively comfortable night. An early start the next morning saw Malky making breakfast
Breakfast on the go
We drove a short distance down the road and parked up outside the campsite; a few minutes later we were booted heading off on another adventure
Lookiing out to Canna
Sgurr na Banachdich to Sgurr Alasdair
The campsite was deserted as we walked through and picked up the correct path around the hillside – as we gained height the views opened out spectacularly down the bay towards Canna and Rum and the Western Isles
The path climbed steeply across the bottom of Coire Laggan – the bottom of the great stone chute just visible
Looking into Coire Laggan
It was a good path but there was plenty of ice around to slow us down, and some dodgy moments as we were much more interested in looking at the views than at our feet
Isle of Rum
It was tough work (what isn’t on Skye!) but we were glad of the workout to warm us up! We followed the left fork of the path which would take us higher and into Coire a’ Ghrunnda and were rewarded with views of our target – Sgurr nan Eag
Ahead to Sgurr nan Eag
The sun was up properly now and it was beautiful looking over the sea to Ardnamurchan in the distance
Looking over Soay
Rum and Eigg
We climbed higher and were eventually into the lower coire – looking upwards we could see a lot of ice which we decided to worry about when we got there But it was just incredibly beautiful – I had a feeling my mind was going to be blown several times today
A very icy Coire a' Ghrunnda
The snow wasn’t too deep and the path was easy enough to follow up the left hand side of the coire – I found a camera battery which I picked up in the hope that Facebook would help me reunite it with its owner! Looking back I loved how the sun was hitting the ice!
Looking back down the coire
The snow and ice features were remarkable though!
As we climbed I thought I heard a dog barking, but it seemed unlikely, however we soon saw a couple of guys (and dog!) heading down towards us. We assumed they were on their way up and hadn’t been able to get through but it turned out it was Adrian from All Things Cuillin and Brian who had been up for a summit bivvy the night before and told us we would get through the frozen waterfall easily enough with crampons. They were also the owners of the camera battery – easier to return than I had thought!
Adrian & Brian on the way down
Following their footprints made route finding easier and we made it to the base of the waterfall without too much difficulty, although sometimes I wish I had longer arms and legs
Malky showing how easy it is for tall people
What fresh hell is this!
Malky and a big slab of ice
We decided to put the crampons on and axes out and see what we could manage
Here we go....
Icy hand-holds & concentration face!
It wasn’t pretty – in fact there was a lot of undigfified stuff and I was definitely well out of my comfort zone but after some false attempts we managed to pick our way up to a ledge, over a pile of rocks, scramble up a snowy crack and then clamber up another pile of ice. Sounds easy right? We had made it, but we were definitely up for finding a different was down
We clambered our way across more snow and ice and we were into the corrie for real – again my wee mind was a bit blown away by it – spectacular just doesn’t quite cover it!
Arriving at Corie a' Ghrunnda
Looking back from the lip of the coire
South Uist hills
We had a little bit of a breather and a brownie before continuing
Relaxing on the beach
Continuing around the side of the loch most of the edges were frozen making for easy walking, except the bit that Malky decided to walk on of course
Loch Coire a' Ghrunnda & The Caisteal
Sgurr Sgumain & Sgurr Alasdair
We began the climb up to the bealach – apparently there is something of a path here in the summer but we couldn’t see it so just muddled our way up. There was nothing difficult but the soft snow and ice of the rocks made some of it pretty awkward. It was worth it just for the view back though – the weird hexagons on the loch were really cool!
Loch Coire a' Ghrunnda & Sgurr Alasdair
Time for a breather - looking back to Canna
It had taken almost 3 hours to make it into the coire so we felt like we were making rapid progress now However looking ahead there were more things to slow us down “Oh we’ll need to get around that somehow” Malky mentioned casually….
The ridge ahead
Don’t look down!!
Looking back down to the loch
We had made it – we were on the ridge! Looking across to Bla Bheinn all the difficulties and scary bits were so worth it!
Views to Bla Bheinn
Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn (henceforth to be known as Do-Dah Bheinn ) and Sgurr Dubh Mor – hills for another day, perhaps!
Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn & Sgurr Dubh Mor
We set off along the ridge – Malky a lot more confidently than I, not unexpectedly as he’d been all over the Cuillin in winter in his youth
"It's easy, honest!"
Icy rocks making hand-holds difficult for short people
It was awkward but not as bad as it had looked, and we managed to cross around the big lump of rock. However, being the Cuillin ridge nothing was ever going to be easy and it was just one thing after another. There was nothing stylish about anything I was doing but we were making progress.
A brief reprieve
Here we go again...
After a nerve-racking but not actually difficult climb we were at the summit of Sgurr nan Eag and just wow, the views were insane
Sgurr nan Eag summit pose (sort of!)
The ridge opening out
The Red Cuillin & Bla Bheinn
Ahead to Gars-bheinn
Although the summit was tiny we dropped off the wee pinnacle to a nice flat “plateau” area behind it where we could duck out of the wind and enjoy the views while we had some lunch – it was about 1.30pm and we had been on the go for well over 4 hours
Soay, Rum and Eigg
Beinn Mhor & Hecla on South Uist
Gars-Bheinn with Loch Nevis behind
Fighter jet above Loch Coruisk
Jaxter on Sgurr nan Eag (almost!)
When we arrived Malky was all for just trying to find an easy way off but after I’d spent ages messing around with my camera and we’d had some food and a rest he decided we should go for it – we had plenty of daylight and head torches. I was relieved – I wanted to stay high
Loch Coruisk & Bla Bheinn
Despite looking a bit mental this descent was probably the easiest thing we’d done for about 4 hours
The easy bit
Looking back up
Sure there would be some awkward bits but the way ahead looked pretty ok – it was time for sticking to Plan A (first time for everything )
Ahead to Gars-Bheinn
Looking out to Rum - sun burn was a definite worry!
When we reached the bealach we looked back up – everything on Skye is so BIG
Looking back up what we'd just come down!!
Sgurr Alasdair & Sgurr Dubh Mor
Bruach na Frithe, Am Basteir & Sgurr nan Gillian
We began the climb up towards the next point on our route – Sgurr a’ Coire Bhig which was initially pretty straight-forward (compared to the rest of the day anyway )
Views back from the ridge
Soon things became trickier and we had scary looking pinnacles ahead of us – we dropped a little to avoid them but this led us on a bit of a white-knuckle ride of a traverse on loose snow and rock and bits of grass. The bright sun was starting to melt bits of ice which were dropping off above us and it was only a matter of time before it brought some rock down with it.
At one point I told Malky I was above 3000 feet above my comfort zone – he helpfully told me to shut up and get on with it With axes out we were more confident and climbed back up to the ridge where there was still a bit of dodging about but we felt much “safer”
Looking back to Sgurr a' Choire Bhig
The views were still worth it!
Stopping for a photo
From here it looked like a fairly straight-forward walk to Gars-Bheinn – although it’s never as easy as it seems we were able to actually walk for a short distance
Malky heading towards Gars-Bheinn
Wee window to the Northern Cuillin
I’d been so keen to get out to Gars-Bheinn because I thought it would have views of the whole Cuillin ridge (which would be blocked by Sgurr Dubh Mor from Sgurr nan Eag) and it seemed I was to get my wish – a steep but easy climb to the top and we could see all the way along – just stunning!
The whole range
Rum and Eigg
It was the most incredible viewpoint
Skye - Black Cuillin & Red Cuillin
Red Cuillin & the mainland hills stretching out
Views to Loch Hourn – Sgritheall to the left, Ladhar Bheinn to the right
Loch Nevis with Ben Nevis on the skyline
Sgurr na Stri looks fairly insignificant from here but you can see the Bad Step
Sgurr na Stri
Looking out towards Eigg with the Ardnamurchan peninsula and Ben Hiant behind
Eigg and Beinn Hiant behind
It was a steep descent from Gars-Bheinn but there wasn’t anything especially difficult. We both wanted to get to the end of the ridge so carried on, but it was good to know that from here we could drop off at any point, not that it would be enjoyable
Looking back along the ridge
The ridge was much wider and less difficult most of the time here which made it more of a walk – my brain was a bit overloaded and was glad of a bit of a reprieve
Malky leading on
A basalt dyke
Descent from Gars-Bheinn
Finally we were at the end of the ridge – looking back it was hard to tell how we could have got down some of the sections! But we had done it, all we had to do was get back now
Views from the end of the ridge
Soay and Rum
Loch Coruisk, Red Cuillin & Bla Bheinn
Looking straight down to Loch Coruisk
Looking across Ben Meabost to Sleat
It was time to get going – we had a long way to get back and the next section was probably going to be horrible
Last look at the ridge
Once we had wound our way through a few crags it wasn’t as bad as we had expected – we tried to stick to the runs of snow where possible which the crampons were useful on (they were very annoying on the wee rocky sections in between mind )
Sun dropping behind Canna
We started traversing to the right using the runs to snow to help and looking back up we could see crags that would have made dropping off the ridge earlier a bit awkward!
Looking back up to crags
Unfortunately the sun dropped into low cloud which destroyed any hopes of a magical sunset but it was pretty spectacular as it dropped above Canna
The sun dropping
Last light on the Sisters of Kintail & Beinn Sgritheall
Now the gradient had eased and there was little snow the crampons finally had to come off. We dug the head torches out too as we would be needing them before too long!
There were bits of faint path here and there but the ground wasn’t too bad at all here and we were making faster progress than at any point so far today (Malky’s watch told us we had done 9 miles in 9 hours – so 1 mile and hour )
We decided to drop down to dodge away from these slabs dropping around Coire an Laoigh – we didn’t want to be stuck amongst them in the dark
Sgurr nan Eag
Rum & Soay
With the light failing we dropped a little further and were on the path – it was pretty squishy at this point but at least we knew it would lead us home. Fortunately it soon improved and it became more of a march to get back.
There’s something really exciting about finishing in the dark – it always makes the day feel like more of an epic We could see a couple of torches coming out of Coire Laggan too.
Head torches on!
Showing off my lumens
From here nothing was difficult, but it did feel like a long way – I hadn’t felt this tired in a long time and was really glad that I wasn’t having to drive home Back at the car I did remember to stretch out before we set off. I’m sure Malky wouldn’t be very complimentary about my chat on the way home but who’s he to talk
But what a fabulous day – definitely one to remember
by dav2930 » Sat Feb 15, 2020 12:28 pm
by brpro26 » Sat Feb 15, 2020 1:20 pm
by litljortindan » Sat Feb 15, 2020 2:38 pm
by Graeme D » Sun Feb 16, 2020 10:03 am
by Beaner001 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 11:00 am
by R1ggered » Sun Feb 16, 2020 4:48 pm
by Silverhill » Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:22 pm
by Collaciotach » Sun Feb 16, 2020 8:17 pm
by Jaxter » Mon Feb 24, 2020 1:17 pm
dav2930 wrote:That's a very impressive walk to have done in winter conditions. Well done you and Malky. Cracking report and pics
I think if I’d realised how difficult I might have vetoed it he made it sound like a walk in the park
Graeme D wrote:Stunning photos! Not a bad outcome at all for a stupid idea!
Don’t say that, you’ll just encourage him
by Keefers » Tue Mar 10, 2020 4:35 pm
Well done. What a trip. Thank you so much for sharing
by dogplodder » Tue Mar 10, 2020 4:45 pm
These photos are awesome.
by Alteknacker » Tue Mar 10, 2020 5:08 pm
by Mal Grey » Tue Mar 10, 2020 7:29 pm
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