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Cuillin extravaganza

Cuillin extravaganza


Postby BlackPanther » Wed Feb 18, 2015 7:15 pm

Route description: Sgurr na Banachdich

Munros included on this walk: Sgurr na Banachdich

Date walked: 14/02/2015

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 8 km

Ascent: 939m

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Since climbing Sgurr na Banachdich for the first time in 2011, we always fancied re-doing it in winter conditions. Not only is it the easiest Cuillin Munro but it also offers great views, as it's situated bang in the middle of the ridge. Hands are not needed (unless one wants to make the ascent more difficult :wink: ) at least in summertime. We had our first winter experience in the Cuillin last year, with Bruach na Frithe and we were not afraid of Banachdich. It would be a repeat but who cares. We have run out of easy options and I wasn't going to risk Sgurr nan Gillean in February :?
Most couples celebrate Valentines in a restaurant, flowers, a glass of wine and a nice supper, but we are definitely not an ordinary couple, so for us sweating up a steep slope seemed more appropriate :lol: :lol:

Saturday morning greeted us with thick mist and we could see very little as we drove west through Glen Shiel. But luckily, we left the mist behind as soon as we reached Kyle of Lochalsh :D Isle of Skye greeted us with amazing blue sky and surprisingly little snow on the hills:
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We expected we wouldn't be alone on the hills and as predicted, the parking area by the Youth Hostel was busy:
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A purrrr-fect morning for meowing :D
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We knew the route and felt pretty confident we could manage it, especially that there wasn't much snow higher on the ridge. The mountains looked almost bare... After some deliberation we decided to leave ice axes in the car, but took crampons and spare warm tops. Mountain forecast suggested gusts up to 50mph later in the day and we didn't fancy getting frozen on the summit...
We opted for the standard route up the Munro, no crazy scrambling ideas this time:

Track_SGURR NA BANACHDICH 14-02-15.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


The initial stage is very easy and on a well trodden path leading into Corrie a Ghreadaidh. The sun was quite strong as for February, soon we stopped to strip the outer layers and I grabbed my camcorder... Peace and tranquillity, this movie will be called :lol:
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We left the main path after about a mile and followed another, fainter one up the slopes of An Diallaid. From below, the approach looks rather grassy:
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...and as we reached the bottom of Coir an Eich, we entered the shadow zone:
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We spotted two groups of walkers in front of us, but didn't bother to chase them. We had plenty of time and on a day like this we wanted to savour the mountain rather than rush up it...
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There are two ways up Sgurr na Banachdich, either follow the shoulder of An Diallaid or go straight up the corrie. Having tried both routes, I must say going up An Diallaid is much more pleasant.
Steep and rocky, but in the Cuillin it's typical:
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An Diallaid from below:
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Looking back west to Glenbrittle and the blue sea beyond...
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Half way up the shoulder there is a rocky overhang, where we stopped for a short break and some pictures:
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Kevin and Sgurr Thuilm:
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Just below the top of An Diallaid the route turns south towards the summit of the Munro, but we didn't have to hurry, so we took a short detour to the edge of the cliffs and spent another 10 or 15 minutes faffing about with our cameras :lol: So far, we didn't encounter any snow whatsoever, which felt a bit disappointing. I expected some crampon challenge, but... ehhh.... One can't have everything.
The straightest way up to the Munro can be seen here - no hands needed:
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A few snapshots from our photo session on An Diallaid - we lost the track of time!
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Sgurr Thuilm:
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Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh, looks scary :? Still to be done :shock:
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Gulp!
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Looks more like April than February! I guess the warm weather of the last two weeks has taken its toll and we may have an early spring. Bit of a shame, if that's the end of winter, we didn't have any opportunities to use crampons and ice axes this year. And we were obviously not going to use them on Sgurr na Banachdich today:
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All right, too much time wasted! Time to get back to business and reach the summit - which in my case meant... looking for optional scrambling wherever possible :lol:
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The ridge of Sgurr nan Gobhar. This one is said to be a good scrambling route, but we were put off by the final descent to Corrie an Eich, about 200m down very steep scree shute. Better to save knees for the summer...
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We kept going up the slope and eventually we came across some snow, just a few patches and several ice covered boulders, but the could easily be avoided by traversing slightly to the left. All in all - piece of cake.
Looking down - where is the winter gone???
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Some wintry feeling just below the summit, but no need for crampons. The snow was soft enough to kick steps in it:
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The main disadvantage of this route - the best views only appear when one reaches the very ridge, but they are so stunning that all the pain and sweat get quickly forgotten:
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Zoom to Isle of Rum:
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Kevin spotted people on the ridge of Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh and of course he couldn't resist a few zooms in that direction, too:
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Fun and games :D Hope I can do this one, too... In summer months, of course.
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The Red Cuillin snowless:
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We couldn't be bothered to wear crampons for the last 20m or so of ascent and managed to kick comfortable steps in the snow. We met other groups just starting the descent - it looked like we were going to have the summit all to ourselves which was good news. The top of Banachdich is very small with big drops on both sides. Wow, very impressive, especially in winter time. Also very dangerous, as all rocks were covered in ice. We double checked every step to make sure we didn't end up in Loch Coruisk...
Summit pose - no change in stats but our first Munro in 2015 bagged!
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Below our feet, the vertical drop down to Coire na Banachdich. Could give an inexperienced walker a good rush of vertigo!
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Now to the extravaganza :D
The first time we climbed this top, the cloud was hanging just above the ridge so we didn't get the full extent of the views. This time, what a change. The best pano is, of course, south towards Sgurr Dearg and Sgurr Alasdair and they are perfectly in-line with the narrow ridge of Banachdich - simply stunning.
Died and gone to heaven, perhaps... Worth every drop of sweat, just to see this:
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Some zooms to the tops:
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The Great Stone Shute. I remember the experience: two steps up, one down. And it didn't feel nowhere near as steep as it looks here:
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The In Pin - just the very top of it:
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The magic land again...
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Loch Coruisk, Blaven, Sgurr na Stri and the mainland mountains in the distance:
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Zoom to Sgurr na Stri and the loch:
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Eastern panorama, from Blaven to Marsco:
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Zoom to Garbhein, one of my favourite hills on Skye:
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Back to Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh and Sgurr Thormaid:
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A happy man :D The best possible gifts for Valentines Day: bright sun, blue sky, rocky ridges :clap:
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I was reluctant to pack up...
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...but it was getting late. We started the descent eventually and took it at snails pace - we didn't want to leave this magic world as long as the sun was shining... Yes, the wind was getting stronger, but we had enough spare tops to keep us warm. For a short time, life was simple - just us, the hills and the distant views. How can one NOT love Skye? Is there a better place to spend holidays?
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Icy cliffs:
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We retraced our steps down the grassy shoulder of An Diallaid:
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As we reached the main path, we turned around and noticed that the cloud was now pushing in from the mainland:
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We heard a loud noise and spotted the rescue helicopter flying along Glenbrittle. I hope it was just a training flight and nobody was injured:
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Waterfalls on the way down:
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This route can be done in 4-5 hours easily, we took 5 and a half but it has to be said, we spent a lot of time faffing about. The day was near perfect and who would want to go down too quickly in such conditions? Meow! :D

We had fantastic time even with less snow than expected, the climb still had a wintry feel to it and we were glad that we picked Skye rather than any mainland hills (they clouded up much earlier). I'd certainly recommend Sgurr na Banachdich as a winter walk for anybody who (like me) finds the more difficult Cuillin peaks well beyond reach in snowy conditions. As for me, I'll wait a few months before tackling the harder stuff on Skye. Sgurr nan Gillean next on the list. I'm having nightmares already :lol: :lol:
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby wilkiemurray » Wed Feb 18, 2015 7:23 pm

Great photos and report. Looked like a fab day- got a real urge to head back to the Cuillin this year ! :clap:
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby Collaciotach » Wed Feb 18, 2015 9:51 pm

Nice one and good timing without the snow being to thick :clap: :clap:
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby scoob999 » Wed Feb 18, 2015 10:51 pm

Superb Pics BP :clap:

Just wish I stayed a bit closer :( never tire of seeing the area :D
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby onsen » Thu Feb 19, 2015 9:15 am

Double thumbs up.. :thumbup: :thumbup: Great outing.
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Thu Feb 19, 2015 10:09 am

Great report and stunning photos BP, as always. :clap: :clap: Your photos of the great stone Shute are amazing, I hated coming down it, but if it was as steep as it looks here I'd never have done it :shock:
You're right about Skye, it's a magical place.
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby Sarah86 » Thu Feb 19, 2015 1:41 pm

Great report and such wonderful views. I agree with you, no need to rush back down when you can enjoy the wonderful views.
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby roughwalker » Thu Feb 19, 2015 7:26 pm

Beautiful place, great weather and stunning photo's :thumbup:
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby dogplodder » Fri Feb 20, 2015 12:53 pm

Enjoyed that - you've inspired me to add it to my to do list! :D
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby mamoset » Fri Feb 20, 2015 10:29 pm

Nice pics depicting a great angle of the Cuillin them panth :clap: .
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby Alteknacker » Fri Feb 20, 2015 11:31 pm

Some great pics there, just proving (as if it needed proving) that this is the finest place on earth. Plan to take my brother round the ridge this year.... If these pics don't motivate him, nothing will!
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby simon-b » Sat Feb 21, 2015 10:33 am

Great report and pictures, BP, and a fine day for such a climb. I'm quite surprised not to see more snow. Next month, I'm heading for Mull, so if the thaw carries on like this, the A' Chioch - Ben More ridge I'm hoping to do might not be in winter condition. I see you've done a few on Skye already, so had a good taste of what's to come if you go for the rest of those Munros. A group of us are heading out there in May, aiming to get them all with a guide if the weather lets us. So I took an abseiling course yesterday, and am really glad to have got that under my belt. I'm sure you're looking forward to returning to these mountains, especially if you get such clear conditions again.
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby rockhopper » Sun Feb 22, 2015 12:01 pm

superb, BP - great photos as ever and what a cracking day for it - nice enough in summer but so much better with some snow - cheers :)
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby litljortindan » Sun Feb 22, 2015 3:10 pm

Great pictures.
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Re: Cuillin extravaganza

Postby spiderwebb » Sun Feb 22, 2015 7:37 pm

Great pics BP, nothing wrong with repeats on Skye and as you say many of the summits are easy enough :D
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