Monday 1 October 2012

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip. September 15th - 22nd. Day one.

Well, it was excellent that we have been able to return to the fantastic Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye this year. Kendal Mountaineering Services offer bi-yearly trips to attempt a traverse of the ridge each May and September. Unfortunately the planned visit in May did not come off due to a lack of interest but Iain did find enough people to make the September trip viable.

In photo one we have (left to right) Martin, Zoe, Carl & Les who had all come together to attend this week long course offered by Iain. Martin & Carl had found our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip by searching on the internet, Zoe through a mailshot and Les via our thread on the Outdoorsmagic website.
The weather for day one was looking somewhat iffy - a westerly wind  gusting up to 55mph, cloud and showers - all making for a not great package of conditions for being at up to 3000 feet up on a precipitous ridge.

The great thing about the package offered by Kendal Mountaineering services is the flexibility offered through guiding for only for out of the six days available - meaning that we can make use of the four best days and with Iains extensive knowledge of the ridge he can pick the most suitable section to do depending on the weather.
So, as everyone was keen to get stuck in to some Cuillin Ridge action, Iain decided that we should tackle the north end of the ridge with it being possible on a decent day to get from Sgurr nan Gillean to Bruach na Frithe without too many problems. As it turned out, the weather was very much better than forecast.

The whole of the north section was free of cloud as we walked in from Sligachan (photo one) to Coire a' Bhastier and once on the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean, the anticipated wind never appeared. Sgurr nan Gilleans West Ridge from the Bealach a' Bhastier is pretty much a grade two scramble although the start up Tooth Chimney is a Diff climb made more interesting in the wet. This route to the summit is also relatively short.

Photo two shows the team at the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean with, incredibly, a clear view to Bla Bheinn beyond! What a good omen! Photo three shows the team "stacked" at the top of Tooth chimney ready to abseil down one by one to join Iain at the easier ground below.

Having left the vehicles at the Sligachan Hotel at 08:45, it was around 14;30 before we had put Sgurr nan Gillean behind us and were back at the Bealach a' Bastier. Am Bastier is easily done from the bealach via the East Ridge (grade II) but is largely composed of layers of basalt all sloping down into Lota Coire so care has to be taken and good route finding essential. There is one "Bad Step" on the crest of the ridge not easily avoided but easily dealt with in terms of safety by a short rope or long sling. Anyway, Iain got the team to the summit and back down without difficulties despite a few heavy hail showers.

Back at the bealach, there is a short descent back into Coire a' Bhastier before one ascends to the Bealach nan Lice under the imposing north face of Am Bastier passing the Bastier Tooth en route. Passing under Sgurr a' Fionn Coire soon brought us to the trig point at the summit of Bruach na Frithe - our final top of the day and third Cuillin Munro. Cloud prevented us from getting much of a view down into Coire Na Creiche at the head of Glen Brittle, but here it was obvious that Iains plan for the day had been a good one as there was a strong westerly roaring across the NW ridge of Bruach na Frithe - clearly, through our plan, we had been sheltered from this wind for most of the day.

Our way out was to descend into Fionn Choire (photo four) and having crossed the Allt Dearg Mor about a kilometre below the Bealach a' Mhaim follow the footpath back to Sligachan. During this walk out we had sunshine and showers and a lovely rainbow before all enjoying a beer in the "Slig". It had been a successful start to our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip with better weather than we though we would get and for Martin - his first ever climb & abseil.

You can view the rest of the photos from our first day on the Cuillin Ridge traverse here - enjoy!

Reports from days two, three & four to follow.

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