A damp walk around the Duirinish peninsula

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Attachment(s) Date walked: 14/07/2018
Distance: 32.1km
Ascent: 1520m
Views: 24

Pinnacle Ridge in the sun

Munros: Sgurr nan Gillean

Date walked: 13/07/2018

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 11.2km

Ascent: 1029m

For me (having arrived on the Thursday), this was the second day of the WH meet. The weather looked set fair for another day as good as yesterday.

This is the sight that had greeted me as I'd arrived at Sligachan the previous evening...
Image20180712_215419. Oh yes, oh yes, OH YES!

The following day began earlier than planned at about 05.00 when a young woman camped not far from me insisted on talking loudly to her partner in a high whining voice, almost without interruption, until well after 07.00.

But the bad adrenaline soon dissipated on contemplating this beauty.
Image20180713_103755. Just the sight of Sgurr nan Gillean when it's like this is sufficient to set the heart pumping and blood racing...

LeithySuburbs arrived just after 10.00 at the Mountain Rescue Hut at Sligachan, where we'd agreed to meet for a scramble up Pinnacle Ridge. A bit of reading in the SMC's "Skye Scrambles" suggested we were in for a good day :D .

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ImageSMC Pinnacle Ridge Route.

ImageApproximate route taken (obviously not my pic - we had no snow!!!)

ImageApproximate route taken.

We followed the standard path from Sligachan and then branched off west up on to the shoulder above Coire Riabhach. There's a path that's quite easy to follow more or less up to the point at which the shoulder meets the cliffs, when we traversed slightly down and along the base of the first pinnacle.

Image20180713_114711. Looking ahead just before we started traversing to the left. Truly lip-smacking :D .

Image20180713_120913. LS on the traverse. Like me, clutching his copy of the SMC guide, as we try to locate the start point...

Image20180713_121000. Hard to know whether to focus on the rock, or on the views! This is looking NNE towards Sligachan, Glamaig centre pic.

We'd intended to get to the start point suggested in "Skye Scrambles", but were surprised to reach what seemed to be the start point rather more quickly than we'd expected, and started climbing there. Only to realise when we reached the top of the first pitch, about 30m up, that we'd headed up too early, and were in fact not yet at the start :oops:.

Image20180713_122247. LS at the realisation point!!

Image20180713_122437. So we had to continue our traverse to get to the "official" starting point...

We commented to one another more than once on the scramble how reassuring it was to find that others made similar navigation errors....

Then we got started on the scramble proper. Initially we followed the SMC route - "...ascend a grassy groove and broken rocks." but soon just ad-libbed, following whatever rock face looked tasty and doable (fortunately both LS and I have the same attitude to routes described in guide books, he because he likes the best routes, I mainly because I find I can never follow the guide book descriptions... :D ).


Image20180713_125350. Looking more or less east towards Loch a' Choire Riabhaich.

Image20180713_125803. ...and north from the ridge, close to the summit of the First Pinnacle.

Image20180713_125818. Ahead lots of attractive looking rock - high friction Gabbro, with plenty of good holds.

Image20180713_125915. From well up the ascent of the First Pinnacle, looking back at the shoulder we first ascended before traversing round to the start of the climb to the first pinnacle.

Image20180713_125936. Portrait of a scrambler on ascent of the first pinnacle... :D. If I recall correctly, this is taken in the gap between the First Pinnacle and the start of the ascent of the Second Pinnacle.

Image20180713_132001. Looking back the way we've come. It can be seen that there are easier and more difficult routes - plenty of choice to suit the appetite and preferences of any scrambler.

I have to say, we do have a whale of a time....

Image20180713_132226. A someoneelsie around the top of the Second Pinnacle, looking somewhat west of north.

Image20180713_132305. Looking back down the ridge. Again, it's easy to see that there are many route choices.

Image20180713_132514. The west faces of Bla Bheinn, Clach Glas and Garbh-bheinn looking quite superb from here.

Image20180713_1332145. LS is most impressed with my slick and sophisticated scrambling style - making full use of knee holds, friction shuffles, foot jambs and the like :D . (He doesn't laugh too loudly...)

Image20180713_133719. Ahead the Third Pinnacle.

Image.20180713_134752. Looking back at the summit of the Second Pinnacle (RHS), on the way up the Third Pinnacle: the ridge stretches out and down to the right, while ahead the Coire a'Bhasteir Gorge is revealed to dramatic effect.

Image20180713_134814. Getting close to the top to the 3rd pinnacle - great scrambling on good rock. As regards route choice at this point, the SMC guide gives 2 options: Traverse of the Third Pinnacle (Mod with 22m abseil **), and Traverse of the East Face (Grade 3 *). Of the former it says: "A good thread belay slightly to the left allows an exciting abseil to be made into a narrow gully. This leads down to the gap before Knight's Peak. Experienced climbers may prefer to down-climb from the summit at Difficult standard (by either the left of right-hand arete), but this is probably more time-consuming." We decide to take the traverse of the Third Pinnacle - we have rope and gear with us for an abseil if we decide against a downclimb.

On reaching the summit of the Third Pinnacle we take a very leisurely lunch break, and enjoy the vista before us.

Image20180713_140507. Absolutely stunning views from the third pinnacle - this looking east, with Marsco centre pic, Glamaig to the left, and Bla Bheinn and friends to the right. (click on the image for a larger view, and right click, "view image" for an even larger view)

But eventually we have to consider how we're going to get down into the cleft.

Image20180713_145819. As suggested by the SMC Guidebook, there do seem to be 2 downclimb options; but it's not very easy to see how tricky or otherwise they are, even viewing them from the opposite side of the gap. Specifically, it's hard to assess what the hand/foot holds are like. The route we can see on the north side seems to have very little in the way of holds for the last 4m or so; and it's not a place you'd want to slip down those 4m! The route on the south side looks better, with blocks and cracks that look like they would afford good holds; but it's difficult to assess the whole of the route. Moreover, it's vertical so difficult to assess foodholds from above during a downclimb; and there is another large drop from the bottom of the pitch into the bottom of the cleft.

After a quarter of an hour or so of study, I decide that I'm going to abseil the route. LS agrees, since we have the rope with us.



Annoyingly, once we're down, viewed from the bottom, the north side face does look eminently climbable (it's not clear on this pic, but it runs about 4m to the right of where LS is abseiling - and this pic is a bit misleading - both the south and north routes are close to vertical). But neither of us regrets the decision: we could have started a downclimb and come unstuck....

Climbing out of the cleft is not especially challenging. There's an obvious ledge leading to the right, after which there are plenty of options on good rock to get up Knight's Peak.
Image20180713_153650. This pic is looking back at the groove we abseiled down - it's roughly centre pic. The bottom of the cleft is not visible, being obstructed by the topography of Knight's Peak. The downclimb we realized was doable is on the RHS of the groove.
Just for a short while a bit of cloud forms...

Image20180713_153706. Turning our focus away from the scrambling for a moment, there's another fabulous view of the Coire a'Bhasteir Gorge...

Image]20180713_154054. LS on one of the summits of Knight's Peak - essentially the end of the tricky stuff (although see later for a slight hiccup, when we misjudge a straightforward descent for something more difficult).

Image20180713_154213. There's a bit of a scramble from Knight's Peak to descend into a gap, before climbing up towards SnG.

Image20180713_154753. On one of the Knight's Peak summits.

On the descent from Knight's Peak we see youngish couple descending the Sgurr nan Gillean side. We chat briefly as we pass, and it transpires that they've done the ridge, and are completing it by a descent of Pinnacle Ridge :roll: . RES-PECT! Pretty impressive fitness!

Image20180713_161053. Looking back at Knight's Peak during the climb out of the gap ...

Image20180713_161506. ...and ahead to the route to Sgurr nan Gillean.

Image20180713_161530. Again, looking back at Knight's Peak from the small high point above the gap, on the way to the SnG summit.

Image20180713_161514. It seems that helmets can be taken off for a minute :D .

After this it is a pretty straightforward walk to the summit of Sgur nan Gillean, with just a little Grade 1 scrambling on the way.

As we sit on the summit enjoying the views and savouring the afternoon's experience, a couple of guys completing the ridge traverse arrive, and we have a bit of a blether. They're clearly pretty experienced climbers.

Now LS and I have a discussion about which route to return to Slig by. LC favours the Eastern Spur, whilst, recalling that, when doing the main ridge, I'd found the return to the bealach between Am Bhasteir and Sgur nan Gillean quite straightforward and this way looks to be a fair bit shorter than the Eastern Spur route, I prefer returning via this bealach and Coire a'Bhasteir. The two climbers are heading back to the bealach to pick up their sacs, so we go with them. This proves to be a mistake, because they're ahead of us, and when they get to the normal downclimb area, they decide it is too difficult, and descend instead by a horrible loose gully. Regrettably we don't check their assessment, and as we don't like the idea of the loose gully, and I'm not confident in my recollection of exactly where I descended a few years ago, we decide to abseil. But, as with the ab off the Third Pinnacle, when we get to the bottom we find that there are 3 gullies quite close to each other (one of which we have abseiled down), and each is easily climbable :(.

Image20180713_172831. LS descending the first gully.

Image20180713_174744. Looking back towards Knight's Peak on the descent through Coire a'Bhasteir to Sligachan.

Image]20180713_183516. One of the many waterfall pools on the Allt Dearg Beag - amazing water colour: a kind of light turquoise blue, which unfortunately doesn't show up especially well on the pics. We're both pretty hot in the blazing sun, and the temptation to take a dip is quite strong.... .... but so are the cultural attractions of Portnalong, so we continue on down...

When we get to Sligachan we see the 2 climbers we descended Sgurr nan Gillean with trying to hitch a lift back to Glen Brittle, and I offer to take them. Unfortunately for LS, my car is further down the road, and they get into his car rather than mine :shock: . He suggests I go on and get a large jar of mineral and vitamin-rich liquid ready in Portnalong, while he does the detour to Glen Brittle.

So, investigating Portnalong, I duly locate a suitable establishment of cultural, architectural and historical interest...
ImageTaigh Ailean Hotel.
... which happens to serve vitamin and mineral-packed beverages, and we are able to rehydrate and restore our bodily chemical balance....

A brilliant route, a brilliant day. Many thanks to LeithySuburbs for the company!

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Comments: 10

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This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Date walked: 31/05/2018
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User avatar
Location: Effete South (of WIgan, anyway)
Activity: Scrambler
Pub: The Bell, Trysull
Mountain: Cuillin Ridge
Place: Glen Brittle
Gear: Compass
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Ideal day out: Heavy ridge walk with plenty of scrambling and height gain - eg Welsh 3000ers, Wastwater Circuit, Cuillin Ridge
Munro rounds: 50

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