Sgurr Mhic Choinnich & Sgurr Alasdair via Collie's Ledge

Munros: Sgùrr Alasdair, Sgùrr Mhic Chòinnich

Date walked: 14/08/2020

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 10km

Ascent: 1100m

My last Munro experience was on Sgurr nan Gillean in September - almost a full year and in that time, I had started a dream job, Martha had started school and a pandemic was in full flow. What a year of highs and lows. A rollercoaster of every emotion was in there - happiness, fear, trepidation, pride, anxiety, profound love - and all that before we got to bloody Covid-19. The pandemic coincided with what can only be described as dream weather. But it was a nightmare not being able to get to the hills. All this was changing and the weather gods had aligned to give me a great opportunity at overcoming my Skye fears of the Cuillins. Since Sgurr nan Gillean, I had promised my wife I'd hire a guide for the last few tricky ones. I had used Jonah Jones back in 2012 for the Inn Pinn and I was impressed by his no-nonsense approach - he got the job done and inspired confidence. So it was I agreed to meet with Jonah (postponed from March) on August 14th 2020 to combine Sgurr a Mhadaidh to Banachdich. I had left Kylesku at 0330 and it was a long drive to Skye, with many deer on the roads and tiredness as my companion. I got to Glen Brittle for 0800 and not long after Jonah arrived. He got out of his car and abruptly announced "So, Sgurr Mhic Choinnich & Sgurr Alasdair!" - this wasn't in the script. I reminded him of my intended route but he just said that as this was a good day, we'd crack these two instead. I wasn't going to argue with him! But neither did I think I'd have the head for this, if I could scarcely handle Sgurr nan Gillean.

We left Glen Brittle and stormed up to the loch in Coire Lagan, which was still enshrouded in mist. We took a breather at 1800ft and he said to keep to the left of the An Stac screes, otherwise it would be tough work. I could sense that the sun was trying to burn off the mist and as we walked and climbed higher, the cloud dissolved leaving me staring at the behemoth of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich 1000 feet above; "eh, it looks bigger in real-life, Jonah". He chuckled. Already I was thinking how the hell would I be able to go from that big peak in the sky over to that other big pointy peak in the sky - on Skye. When we got up to the bealach, the sight that lay around us was one of the best I've ever witnessed - a full inversion of all the major peaks poking through the cloud - even as far as Rhum. Just incredible and I was in awe of my situation. It's possibly the best view I've ever experienced in all my hill days.
Cuillins pano
Cuillins inversion - over to Banachdich and beyond
Back to the Inn Pinn - eight years ago we climbed it
To Sgurr Alasdair and Thearlaich

We took on some water, got the harnesses and helmets on and began the final assault up on to Mhic Choinnich. I was very glad that I could follow Jonah up this - I wouldn't have had a clue. Before long, we made it up on the small summit and to the cairn. I daren't ask how we were going to connect the ridge but Jonah just said "Collie's ledge, bit of a climb after that; round a corner and a down-climb - you'll be fine". Now, I'm very lucky in owning Gordon Stainforth's Cuillins book and I was desperately trying to remember what Collie's Ledge looked like - it didn't sound particularly wide - ledge would suggest a narrow 'path'. A likely drop of 1000 feet to the corrie floor, I thought. Anyway, without time to **** myself, we carried on back to where said ledge was and he said to just follow him and if I wanted to look down, I could. I did but rather than freeze, I just accepted that this had to be done and carried on. The mist most likely hid where I'd die if I fell - perhaps overly dramatic. We made it round the ledge and we roped up, before we did some exposed climbing. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Jonah is a very charismatic and honest man - his stories of his time in the Marines (and out of) were both fascinating and tough to listen to. We can never comprehend the sacrifices these folks make - and how they have to adapt to civilian life after it. A sense of purpose can be the difference between life and death. I was extremely grateful to have lived the life I had and to have kept good physical and mental health. We spoke about the latter and it was refreshing. We need the hills to remind us of what we are. They give us a sense of purpose.

Eventually, we began the last climb up on to Sgurr Alasdair and once at the summit, the view out to Gars-Bheinn was also sublime.
To Gars-Bheinn and Sgurr nan Eag

Munro no. 262 and possibly one of my most memorable - or was it Munro 261? We down climbed after a cuppa, cooled off and then began the descent down the Giant Stone Chute - it looked steep but we got down in quick time and took a breather and soaked our heads in the loch. From here, it was an easy and hot descent back to the cars. What a superb day - not sure it can be beaten, Huge thanks to, in my opinion, the best guide in Skye.

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User avatar
Location: Glasgow
Occupation: Epidemiologist
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