Southern Cuillins- Over land and sea

Route: Southern Cuillin and Coire Ghrunnda

Munros: Sgùrr Dubh Mòr, Sgùrr nan Eag

Date walked: 02/08/2021

Time taken: 13 hours

The Cuillins

Visiting Skye was a rather last minute decision, mainly due to the incredible hard time to find a campsite. The Isle of Mull (first plan) was completely fully booked when I inquired a week prior and the Glenbrittle campsite had the advantage of being large and not taking bookings.I knew we had to be there early if we wanted a space and so we left at 6am on Saturday morning. Just as well as by 11:30 when we arrived a queue had already formed...mental! :shock:

We got lucky and got a space for the next 3 nights and after the anxious drive up (I am so glad when international travel is allowed again without restrictions) I was finally able to relax while setting up the tent. The remainder of the day we spend relaxing and had an early dinner in Portree.

The black Cuillins from the beach

Having taken up snorkeling as a hobby as well as hill walking means that checking the weather now involves wave height, tides, wind direction, as well as the normal mountain weather forecast. On a plus side, if I meet anyone up the hill who needs to know when the next high tide is ...I know the answer. 8)
Sunday turned out to be the better day for a hill walk, while we kept Monday for a snorkel day.

Looking up towards the black Cuillins the usual awe filled my heart. Probably the most feared group of mountains in Britain, but also one of the most exciting ones! 4 years have passed since I completed the Cuillins with my friend and now was the time to return. Thinking about the last time I did them, I hoped that this time I could complete the first 3 southern ones. My memory was a bit sketchy, but I thought it should be possible.

Kevin and myself set up at 8:30am during the next day and I was soooo looking forward to finally climb a Munro again! During the complete year I have just done Corbetts and even though I loved them, returning to the Cuillins was just another league.

From the campsite we followed the great path towards the starting point. It was a cloudy day, cloudier than the weather forecast has suggested, but the views were great. From Coir a Ghrunnda the path started to climb and a black wall of rock towered above us. I touched the rock and a smile crossed my face...gabbro...the best rock for scrambling!

The path up next to Coir a Ghrunnda

We continued along the path and saw a couple and single walker further below. Taking our time we climbed higher and higher until we reached the first scramble of the day. We climbed up the rock face and soon stood in front of the lovely lochan Coir a' Ghrunnda

Looking back towards the island Soay and Rum in the distance

The lochan and the path somewhere ahead

Filling up our water bottles at the lochan (last place to do so) we discussed the way up. The great book 'Skye scrambles' suggested two routes, but as Kevin was keener to get to the bealach first, we took that one. Again getting to the bealach is pretty easy (one just need to cross a massive vertical bolder field) but most rocks are pretty solidly wedged in place, so that it was not difficult. From the bealach the first views across the Cuillins were spectacular and we stayed for a while just to take it all in. Just as beautiful as I remembered it. From the bealach we started the climb up towards Sgurr nan Eag. At first it was easy, but not realizing it at that time, we took the direct way up and at some point totally got stuck.

The climb up from the lochan

The way up...note there is a path toward the right, which we totally missed

Kevin who had never been to the Cuillins and minus a scramble on the Curved Ride, had no scrambling experience, looked at me with a question mark and asked...where is the path? Trying to explain calmly that there isn't always a path and that route finding is the way forward, did not help and I could feel that he was getting anxious.

One of the easier climbs

The views are always a great excuse to stop

Not wanting to panic him any further I asked him to stay, while I searched for a better way up. With a route found we continued up. Sgurr nan Eag is one of the easier Munros of the Cuillins, but it should not be taken lightly. Slowly we climbed further up, Kevin did great and at least he felt at ease with the scrambling. When we finally reached the bealach it was an easy walk until we reached the summit. First Munro done or the day! :D

Summit views

Towards Loch Coruisk

For the return we stuck to the left hand side and here I recognized a sleeping platform I had taken a photo of the last time. Finally we seemed to have found the route. My enthusiasm was soon gone, when I stood on a ledge with a large drop....ok might have missed the route again :roll: :lol: . Returning for a while we spotted 2 other walker further below on a obvious path...how did we missed it? Scrambling down an easier rock face , we were soon back on track. Staring off I had really hoped that I would have remembered more of the route, but I guess the past 4 years had left bigger gaps in my memory than I thought.

Myself and the Cuillins

On the way back down

One of the sleeping platforms

Back at the bealach we walked towards Sgurr Dubh Mor, but I could see that Kevin was rather less than enthusiastic. 'I think I am done in' he told me. To say that I was disappointed was an understatement. I did not wanted to push him into something he wasn't happy doing, but I also knew that once you are on the ridge, it's just scrambling. I suggested a break and something to eat to get his energy level back up. In my mind I was frantically trying to find a way to convince him to carry on, to at least the second Munro. Help came when we met Peter. :thumbup:

Peter more rock climber than walker passed us and as usual we had a chat. A brief chat turned into a longer chat and when the question came up where we were heading next , Kevin replied that we would be heading up the second Munro. Seems that Peter was the one I needed to convince Kevin to carry on :clap: . I had to try hard to hide my surprise and happiness and a massive grin. :D

We followed Peter who took the lead until he started climbing up Caisteal a Garbh-choire. I held Kevin back with the words...I don't remember this from the last time. Looking around I spotted a faint path to the right around the rock. In the meantime Peter shouted (from a vertical cliff face) this is not too bad, just come up. :shock: I shouted back that we would stick to the path and meet him later (just as well)
Walking around the rock face, was indeed the path and when we reached the other side, we saw Peter standing on top of the rock, while a 20 m vertical cliff face separated him from the ground. Gulp. :shock:

He shouted down to us, if we could see a route down? We looked, but no! A set of left ropes higher up suggested that an abseil was the only way down. 'Hold on' Peter shouted while he had a look around. We both felt that we could not leave him and stayed while feeling helpless.

He appeared again and shouted that there was no way for him to get down and that he needed to abseil. We asked him if he wanted up to wait and he agreed, as he did not abseiled in ages and was a bit anxious. My mind raced- how we could help if something happened?

Peter on the way down

Shouting back words of encouragement, we waited for Peter to get his kit organized. It took a while and he informed us that the kit left to abseil looked rather old. I think at that stage we felt all equally anxious. Peter wasn't happy, but equally there was not other way down...'I should have followed you' he shouted down, while he attached his ropes. At the end he did it with ease and the old kit was ok... :clap:

On the way towards Munro No 2


Looking back towards Sgurr nan Eag

With him back on solid ground we continued. Peter soon was way ahead of us, I could see that fitness wise Kevin was struggling, but he did well and even though the second Munro has much harder route finding, I did not struggle and we did not encounter any dodgy bits. When we finally sat on top of Munro number 2 the views towards Loch Coruisk were amazing. Pointy mountain tops, deep gullies, black cliff faces, rock which shreds your hands. The Cuillins as feared as they are, are also the most dramatic place you will ever visit. Just like the sea, you don't need to fear the Cuillins, but you will need to respect them a lot and while you do, you will have a marvelous time.

Peter on the way up to the second Munro

From Sgurr Dubh Mor looking towards Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn (which you have to climb first)

Views from the summit

Just beautiful

Towards the northern Cuillins

The In Pin

Crossing the lochain again

Spotted a lovely dragon fly

With some sadness I looked over to Sgurr Alisdair. I would have loved to climb it too, but I knew that Kevin was done in. Instead we made our return journey back down to Loch Ghrunnda. As a parting gift Kevin left Peter with our remaining water, which enabled him to continue and climb the In Pin (as he messaged us after)
The return took forever as we took lots of breaks, but there was no rush as a ready made bed (and a beer) waited for us in the tent.

On the way back

Welcome view of the campsite


During the next day we woke with rather sore legs. Corbetts certainly don't prepare you for the Cuillins :crazy: :lol: . Brittle Loch looked inviting and was basked in sunshine. The thought to snorkel in cold water was actually really appealing and thanks to using a different muscle group, it's a perfect activity after a long day in the hills. :thumbup:
Having never snorkeled in Loch Brittle before, we had no clue what to expect. However 3 years of snorkeling in Scotland has left it's mark and I am getting quite good in picking sea routes.

The bay itself was as expected really uneventful. Very shallow and the seabed is covered in rocks, sand and sea grass.

The snorkel out ...rocks, sand and sea grass

1 km out towards the sea, kelp starts to appear. I snorkeled along the coast and was amazed how clear the water was. Lately I have snorkeled in the Clyde and after the latest algae bloom (which left the water turquoise green) , the visibility is like pea soup.

A wrasse further out at sea

Here on the other hand the visibility was amazing that I was able to spot huge brown crabs in a depth of 6-7 meters without an issue. I dived down to pick one up, not as easy as you think, as the claws of the brown crab could easily crush or break your finger. They are however magnificent creatures and upon inspection, I released them back to the seabed.

DSCI5815 copy.jpg
Found a brown crab

Close up

Further out towards the sea huge shoals of juvenile fish and sand eels dashed below me. Fish are so curious, as when you float motionless they will come very close to inspect you and even seek shelter below your body.
Lots of juvenile fish

Closer towards the coast beadlet anemones in brilliant crimson red, scattered the rocks, their tentacles moved by the current picking up plankton from the water.

A beadlet anemone

The difference between the sea and the mountains could not be any more different, but both provide a feeling of freedom, which is magical. I swam and snorkeled for nearly 3 hour before returning to the tent. On the last stretch a sea trout without a care in the world continued to swim next to me for a while, before dashing away . In shallow water I stood up and looked over the sea towards the Cuillins. Basked in sunshine they looked inviting and magnificent. I will be back I promised, while taking my fins off and walked slowly towards the shore....remembering the Runrig song and humming it quietly 'Over land and sea, as I walk along these shores, I am history within. As I climb the mountainside, breaking Eden again.

Over land and sea - The Cuillins

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User avatar
Location: North Ayrshire
Occupation: HR
Activity: Munro compleatist
Pub: The one which serves beer
Place: Sutherland
Gear: My walking boots
Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ1000
Ideal day out: Overnight camp on a mountain and some scrambling
Ambition: See the world
Munro rounds: 1

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Corbetts: 34
Grahams: 7
Donalds: 8
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