Sharpen Your Crampons for Bruach na Frith

Route: Bruach na Frithe

Munros: Bruach na Frithe

Date walked: 04/02/2018

Distance: 13.2km

Ascent: 868m

This was our third ascent of Bruach na Frith and our first visit to Skye in the winter. The weather was almost perfect with plenty of winter sunshine and very little wind. The snow line started at about 600m and was immediately well consolidated. Despite the mountain being well banked out with snow, higher up there was just a thin top layer of snow over very hard Ice. Despite the good weather and snow conditions,and Bruach na Frith being the easiest summit on the Cuillins, the route still felt quite challenging and exposed.
We followed the standard walkers route up and down with a slight diversion to miss the steepest ground on our descent.
The Route

Setting out from the small lay-by at 08:30 we did a slapstick act as we stepped out onto the tarmac which was deceptively icy after the hard frost :lol: . The good path made for an easy walk in, even avoiding the ice, which covered every puddle and smooth rocky surface.
The first treat of the day was the sun rising between the Red Cuillins,
Sun Rising Behind Red Cuilins

and snowy summits against the blue skies.
Pinnacle Ridge

I have to confess to paying very little attention to the waterfalls and pools of the Allt Dearg Mor, I was too busy focusing on the white mountains and the route ahead. As the path wound upwards we encountered the first traces of snow, with some patches being hard enough to require step kicking, but it was the views of Fionn Choire and Am Bastier that really set the heart racing.
Fionn Choire

Bruach na Frith was also looking imposing
Bruach na Frith

We followed in the footsteps of two walkers in front of us, deep into the Choire and the steps they had kicked across the steeper sections of the path made our life a lot easier :D.
Walking into Fionn Choire

At the back of the Choire we stoped to put on crampons and ensure our ice axes were readily to hand before the steep ascent. In summer conditions we would be probably slipping and sliding up the loose scree, but today it was snow laying over ice, shimmering in the sunlight and unbelievably beautiful.
Back of the Choire

The smaller crags, as well as the scree and the boulders were all hidden under the deep snow but as we gained height their was only about an inch or so of snow on top of very hard Ice. I was very pleased we had sharpened our crampons, and they seemed to grip well, but the spike on my ice axe was just bouncing of the ice. Given the level of exposure and the super slippery surface we were soon daggering our way up :roll:. This made for a slow and tiring ascent, but it seemed the safest way to manage the conditions. Following the footsteps in the snow, which in turn followed the line of the path we progressed slowly but steadily towards the ridge, trying not to think about the decent.
Daggering Our Way Up

My calves were burning and I was getting spasms of cramp in my thighs, but eventually we reached less steep ground and it felt safe to stand upright.
It is very easy to stop thinking about the route you are taking when following footsteps, and I am fairly sure we climbed higher up Sgurr a Fionn Choire than was absolutely necessary :lol: as we had to descend down onto the summit ridge.
The Summit Ridge

The main section of the ridge was narrow but straight forward walking, although the rocky outcrops did pose a bit of a challenge with the snow obscuring any bypass paths or obvious ways to tackle them. There was an exposed bulge to squeeze pass and a further exposed step to negotiate, but fortunately the difficulties were short lived.
Rocky Step

My other half went down the step first and kindly cleared me a little ramp to traverse along :D.
The top was now in sight a good view of the north west ridge and some brave climbers making their way along it.
NW Ridge Bruach na Frith

I don’t think I have ever been so happy to touch a Summit Cairn. I am not sure if it was the sense of achievement, the relief at still being in one piece or the just the sheer wonder of the situation that was behind my grin.
12:45 On The Summit

The air was still and the sun was shining but the Cuillin Ridge was looking moody, surrounded by swirling clouds.
Balmy Weather

Rime on the Trig Point

Cuillin Ridge

We were anxious about the descent and it was tempting to make a quick turn around but after all the effort it seemed a crime not not to linger and soak up the atmosphere 8). So we put the kettle on,
Summit Brew

chatted to the climbers who had now arrived on the summit, admired the view,


and eventually thought about the descent. Studying the map at home we had identified a less steep route on the Choire wall and decided to have a closer look at it.
First we had to negotiate the rocky steps
Back Along the Ridge

which were just as exposed in reverse, :wink: .
Shortly after the rocky section we scanned the slopes for a decent route.
Looking for the Descent

We spotted the line we were looking for and it looked manageable, especially as many of the crags were banked out with snow, so we began to zig zag our way down. If the snow had not been so well consolidated I think this slope may well be prone to avalanche and there was a steep section, including a traverse which we daggered along backwards but the difficulties were less sustained than on the ascent and we made it down with our nerves still intact.
Still Steep but Manageable

Now I Can Breathe


With the difficulties behind us it was a pleasant walk out, but by the time we reached river crossing it was 16:00 and we had not eaten all day so we stopped for a break and to muse over our adventure.
Enjoying Noodles and a View

Our dalliance also meant that we finished our walk as the sun was setting and reached the road at 17:30.
Setting Sun

A day I will remember for a long time to come, both for its beauty and its challenges.

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Comments: 4

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Activity: Mountain Walker
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