Skye Cuillin Munros - Guided 4 day course

Route: Sgùrr Dearg and the In Pinn

Munros: Inaccessible Pinnacle

Date walked: 28/09/2021

Thought I’d try and write this up as a single report - describing a guided four day course in The Cuillin
Hopefully our experience helps anyone that's been thinking about booking.

I spent a long time considering this course, reading the description year after year.
Wondering how difficult it might be (to walk up on to the ridge four days in a row)
Unless we were extremely lucky and found four days of high pressure and sunshine :wink: , how would we dry our gear etc, etc.

In 2019 we even went on a recce trip - managed to summit Bruach na Frithe and Sgurr na Banachdich (both days wet with zero visibility.)
We also found out that the sun seems to come out in Skye when you're back down off the hill :), so drying the waterproofs is OK, but the midges in May :roll:

Great, two days in a row was achievable (so hopefully four would be OK), and after our first acquaintance with The Cuillin (an equally inspiring and frightening mountain range) it was just a matter of choosing a course

We all know what happened next, but forward on to the last week of September 2021.
The course was booked and it was time to set off for Skye :D
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Day one

Meeting in the Glen Brittle car park on the first day all the walkers had the same look on their faces.
It was probably a mixture of nerves, excitement, and a sense of relief that there were nine of us (accompanied by three guides) and whatever unfolded over the next four days, we were going to be in this together.

Would we really be able to summit all 11 Munros in four days?
A quick introduction, safety brief / gear check, and we were about to find out

Note of thanks:
Thanks very much to the three guides that looked after us for the four days :clap:

Thanks very much to everyone in the group for sharing the photos (Wouldn't have these special memories without you) :clap:

Intended route
Sgurr nan Eag : 'peak of the notches'
Sgurr Dubh Mor : 'big black peak'
Sgurr Alasdair : 'Alexander's peak'

Actual route

Sgurr_nan_Eag_Sgurr_Dubh_Mor_Sgurr_Alasdair.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Heading up into Coire a Ghrunnda
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Fantastic first views of Loch Coire a Ghrunnda
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Views from Sgurr nan Eag
Soay (closest) Eigg and Rum on the horizon
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Heading back down

Heading towards Sgurr Dubh Mor
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Our next target
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Traversing around to pick up the route to Sgurr Alasdair
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The first of many scrambles for our rope team
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The top of The Great Stone Chute
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Looking back at The Great Stone Chute

Day one - notes:

A fantastic experience with a bit of everything thrown in.

As soon as we made it up on to the ridge we were met with painful hailstones in the face :?

Most of the day could be classed as 'atmospheric' - They say this is the best way to experience The Cuillin - glimpses of fleeting views are so much more special than the blue sky days :wink: - think I agree

Later in the day there was a suspicion of possible claps of thunder.
Our guide was worried, we would have to get off the ridge to safety if that was the case.
A chat with the other groups and fortunately nobody else had heard it. Possibly The Cuillin playing tricks

We learned that Basalt is very slippery when wet, and Gabbro provides a much better grip.
Also don't stand on any moss or lichen that's brightly coloured (It'll likely be slippy)

The original nine walkers split up into smaller groups of rope teams.
Everyone got the chance to use a harness and helmet (some for the first time.)
We'd learned a bit about scrambling grades one, two, and three - and managed to climb a chimney or two 8)

The biggest relief was finding out that no matter how steep The Great Stone Chute looks in photos, it is actually possible to walk down it :D, but you'll probably end up with bits of small scree inside your boots :?

Day two

Back at Glen Brittle again, everyone is buzzing after yesterday.

The walkers set off at pace and two words you can hear on the wind from every conversation are 'In pinn' :shock:

Intended route
Sgurr Mhic Choinnich : 'Mackenzie's peak'
Sgurr Dearg : 'red peak'
Sgurr na Banachdich : 'peak of smallpox or milkmaid'

Actual route

Sgurr_Mhic_Choinnich_Sgurr_Dearg_the_Inaccessible_Pinnacle_Sgurr_na_Banachdich.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Walked into Coire Lagan and up the An Stac screes
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Views from the Bealach back to Coire Laggan
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Gearing up point for the out and back to Sgurr Mhic Choinnich
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Viewpoint high up on Sgurr Mhic Choinnich
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Looking over towards Sgurr Dearg / An Stac
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Several of our teams descending Sgurr Mhic Choinnich
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Sizing up the Inn Pinn
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Waiting for the lower off
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Views back at The Great Stone Chute
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Day two - notes:

More scree - Walking up the An Stac scree this time - a good tip from the guides was try and walk with silent feet. It was a joy to watch the guides on scree, very little disturbances. We didn't find it quite as easy, but definitely improved our scree technique by the time we got to the top :)

There had been so much focus on the In Pinn, it wasn't until we looked back at photos of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich we realise that it might have looked a bit of an intimidating prospect if we'd have stopped to think about it

Thinking back, being on a course like this is significantly different to being in the hills on your own.
There aren't the opportunities for half hour stops if you want to watch the world go by. etc.

The guides are constantly thinking about keeping everyone's temperature right, adjusting layers, briefing the next section, gearing up for the next bit, keeping energy levels up - keeping moving. etc

You learn to have a quick bite to eat and drink, as you're putting on your harness / adjusting layers etc.
Everyone stopping and doing the same thing at the same time allows the team to be efficient

Having said all that, before we knew it - we'd scrambled our way up Sgurr Mhic Choinnich without really realising what we had achieved.

Sitting on the summit our guide had recalled the story of the original mountain guide, John MacKenzie, and explained that the mountain had been named after him.
Meaning "Mackenzie's Peak" in Gaelic, an honour indeed, and you could tell that our guide takes a lot of personal pride following in his footsteps.

So, next up we were off to the Inn Pinn - via a really enjoyable scramble up the slabs around the back of An Stac.
It was wet but you could choose your boot placements accurately, weaving between patches of Gabbro to pick out the best grip.

We soon arrived, and after a short wait it was our turn to set off climbing the In Pinn.
The great thing about being on a rope of two or three is that you summit together - as a team.
We managed to find quite a windy day for our shot. :shock:
It wasn't until we set off from the intermediate belay ledge and stood up on the ridge proper we realised how windy. Again being in a three really helped the team deal with the exposure and the wind
Before we knew it we were at the lower off point and back down on the ground safely 8)

Day three

Sligachan end of the ridge this time. Our cars were arriving at the layby one at a time. The heavens had opened. The meet was arranged for 8 o'clock but there was a bit of reluctance to get out of our cars. The forecast was constant heavy rain. It already felt like this day in the hills could be in the balance :(

Intended route
Sgurr nan Gillean : 'peak of young men or gullies'
Am Basteir : 'the executioner'
Bruach na Frithe : 'slope of the deer forest'

Actual route

Sgurr_nan_Gillean.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Crossing the bridge - water levels look a bit high!
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Sgurr nan Gillean and Am Basteir in the distance

The pinnacles

Coire a Bhasteir

Day three - notes

It had been raining for an extended period leading up to our day at the Sligachan end.
We were only 20 mins away from the cars and you could tell that this area couldn't really handle any more rain water.

The footpaths were submerged in places. Tall stepping stones at fords were deep underwater. It was at this point that the group paused to stop and think about options.

Stick with the planned day, and see how much we could get done? or retreat and save this end of the ridge for a sunnier day. :?

The majority of the group retreated back to the cars, dried off and had a fantastic day at the new indoor climbing wall.

A couple of us thought we would go up to the ridge and have a look :think:

We made our way on up to Coire a Bhasteir heading for Bealach a Bhastier and our planned route up the west ridge.

At this point the really heavy rain had stopped and there was a slight breeze helping us to dry off

We made it on past the slabs to the right of the Basteir gorge and safely up on to Bealach a Bhasteir

We then had an enjoyable climb up tooth grove with the crux move at the top (an airy step out past the arete)

The remaining scrambling was enjoyable taking us through keyhole window and onwards up to the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean

Descent involved being lowered off down tooth chimney

Back at the bealach and another decision had to be made. Head on up to Am Basteir or call it a day :?
Around that time it started raining heavily again and heading down felt the right thing to do

It was maybe 90 mins since we had been at loch a bastier but the water levels in this upper coire seemed to be significantly higher. We were going to have to try and cross the stream upstream of the loch this time

Managed to pick our way through and got to a good vantage point on the slabs at Sgurr a Bhasteir. It was a joy to watch our guide in action at this stage, surveying the moor below and looking for options for us to get across safely

The route that had been chosen from the elevated position proved to be a good one.
Managed to cross ok, but having said that - closer to the cars - we were forced to wade through a section that had burst the banks at Allt dearg Beag

Day four

Back at Glen Brittle again, the two groups catching up on how the two different days had played out

Everyone seemed relieved that we could be back together as a group and finish the course as one big team

Intended route
Sgurr a'Greadaidh : 'peak of torment/conflict'
Sgurr a'Mhadaidh : 'peak of the fox'

Actual route

Sgurr_a_Ghreadaidh_Sgurr_a_Mhadaidh.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Walking up into Coire a’Ghreadaidh
d50Walking up into Coire a’Ghreadaidh.jpg

Gaining height

An dorus and Eag Dhu
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Sgurr a'Greadaidh
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Descending Greadaidh using the 'Cuillin crouch'

Down climbing back into an dorus facing inwards
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Sgurr a'Mhadaidh
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Sgurr a'Mhadaidh - One last chance to experience the driving rain
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Last scree slope

Group pic
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Day four - notes:

During the fourth day we all noticed that there had been significant improvement in our technique.

We had learned how to move across the various (wet :lol: ) slabs, scree, gabbro, basalt, grass, moss etc.

It was a really enjoyable final day, and most of the group talked about missing the excitement of heading into The Cuillin the next day

Final thoughts

We learned some simple Gaelic during our week on Skye that will be useful going forward
Sgurr - Jagged Peak
Eag - Narrow gap or notch
Dubh - Black
Dearg - Red

Scrambling upwards is instinctive - everyone managed really well
Coming back down isn't so easy, but we learned a few techniques to help:
The 'Cuillin crouch'
Full body friction - AKA 'the bum slide' :lol:
Down climbing - facing in (backed up by rope)
The abseil

Route finding in The Cuillin is extremely difficult
The guides are amazing at picking the safest way up and back down

I'm sure that part of the reason we enjoyed ourselves so much, was that we weren't having to worry about route finding

Learned a lot about layering - 'Be bold start cold' was the moto

Not being too hot during the pull up seemed to help with the breathing. Adding an additional layer just before needing it (topping out on to the ridge - or walking in wind)

Walking poles are essential - especially for steep downhill sections and crossing fast flowing water, but they can sometimes be a burden.
You'll get to realise when you want them out of your hands.
Holding them both half way along the poles, in the downhill hand was a compromise.

There is no such thing as waterproof gloves - You just need to be good at wringing them out :wink:

Mobile phones and cameras aren't easy to get out of pockets from under your harness :?

So coming back to the question at the start:

'Would we really be able to summit all 11 Munros in four days?'

Not quite - but we gave it a really good try :D

The good news is, we get the chance to come back and experience the ridge again 8)

All in all, this was an experience that will live long in the memory

Got the chance to meet and enjoy the Cuillin with a fantastic group of people

Really enjoyed spending time with the three guides as well

Just about to leave The Cuillin and the sun comes out :wink:

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Comments: 8

Beinn a' Ghlo 3 - out and back

Attachment(s) Munros: Bràigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain, Càrn Liath (Beinn a' Ghlò), Càrn nan Gabhar
Date walked: 15/08/2021
Distance: 23km
Ascent: 1625m
Comments: 6
Views: 508

Ben Lawers 7 from Invervar (including summit camp)

Attachment(s) Munros: An Stùc, Meall Garbh (Ben Lawers), Meall Greigh
Date walked: 01/07/2021
Distance: 33km
Ascent: 2000m
Comments: 2
Views: 505

Kev R

Munros: 78

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Trips: 3
Distance: 56 km
Ascent: 3625m
Munros: 7

Joined: Jan 14, 2018
Last visited: Nov 21, 2021
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