Thursday 29 May 2014

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip, May 2014. Day three. Sgurr A' Mhadaidh to Sgurr Na Banachdich.

As per the MWIS Forecast, the third day of our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip dawned bright and sunny. The first photograph is of the northern end of the Cuillin Ridge as viewed from the road from Carbost to Glen Brittle - stunning!

A few hours later, photo two was taken in the upper part of Coire a' Ghreadaidh as we made good progress towards the notch in the ridge known as An Dorus (the door) our next entry point on to the Cuillin Ridge.

Group members from left to right are Donald (Don), Al, Steve, Helen and Alison.

As today was going to be the best day of the week, Iain decided that this was the day to attempt the Sgurr a Ghreadaidh to Sgurr na Banachdich Traverse. The crest of Sgurr a Ghreadaidh is one of the most exposed and trickiest sections of the ridge to complete and is best done in calm, dry conditions which is what we had today. Doing the route - this time from a north to south direction would give us a chance to attain Sgurr na Banachdich - often regarded as the mid point of the ridge and the Munro summit we had been unable to do the previous day due to the weather.

Photo three was taken from the Summit of the next Munro to the north of An Dorus - Sgurr a Mhadaidh. From here the view is looking south towards Sgurr a Ghreadaidh (big snow patches below the summit).

Right behind our group is the summit of Sgurr Dearg (in cloud) and just left of the group - the summits of Sgurrs Thearlaich, Alasdair and Sgumain.

From here we dropped back down to where we had dumped our bags and then dropped into the narrow slot that is An Dorus donning helmets & harnesses in readiness for the climb out of the gap on the Sgurr a Ghreadaidh side that should be done roped.

At An Dorus, one of our party - Steve, decided not to continue with us along the Sgurr a Ghreadaidh/na Banachdich traverse considering that he was already at his limit. We waited as he descended An Dorus to safer terrain before continuing on-wards up the climb, past the Eag Dubh (The Black Cleft) and The Wart, arriving at the Summit of Sgurr a Ghreadaidh (photo four) in very good time.

Here, we enjoyed lunch out of the cool breeze on the east side of the ridge with stunning views down into Coire Uisge and Loch Coruisk. What a great day it was!

Photo five shows our route along the Sgurr a Ghreadaidh arete from the main summit. There is a south summit which must be attained before a gradual descent is made towards the bealach where one starts to ascend to the next summit - Sgurr Thormaid.

Getting from the north summit to the south involves a descent to a col and then either a tricky ascent up a notched, polished and exposed part of the ridge (the crux of the route) or a rightwards traverse to gain a chimney leading up and avoiding the exposed section; although using this route also involves considerable care! Once at the south summit, a gradual descent is made - at first on the airy exhilarating crest though after a few hundred metres it is possible to gain a path which follows along below the crest on the west side of the ridge. Beyond the circular stone shelter avoid the next bit of arete by traversing under it's east side and beyond - the summit of Sgurr Thormaid is quickly reached. A more exposed scrambling descent on Thormaid's western flank leads to easier ground and further scrambling up a scree filled couloir leads to the summit of Sgurr Na Banachdich.

The five of us managed to put the Sgurr a Ghreadaidh/Sgurr na Banachdich Traverse behind us in under two hours - but the conditions really were superb. Warm sunshine, friendly dry Gabbro and Basalt and only a light westerly breeze were our companions on the route - with stunning views for miles in all directions. Iain spent the afternoon gazing hard beyond North Uist for St Kilda - yes you really can see it on a clear day despite it being some 80 miles distant from where we were! You couldn't see it today unfortunately.

Photo six was taken by Alison and shows Iain with Don, Al & Helen - plus the southern end of The Cuillin Ridge, pretty much most of which we had already done.

Photo seven sees us all on our  descent route back to the vehicles at  Glen Brittle Youth Hostel down Coire An Each. This route, whilst being a little arduous in descent or ascent is one of the easiest ways on to the ridge and the summit of Sgurr na Banachdich. For the masochists amongst us the alternative is an ascent or descent via the ridge/spur of Sgurr Nan Gobhar seen above the group. During his first traverse of The Cuillin Ridge - a two day affair done during the Summer of 1990 Iain & his climbing partner went via this route when going to Sgurr na Banachdich to dump water for their planned 2 day traverse of the ridge and whilst he has been that way once since isn't planning to do it again!

It had been a lovely warm dry day and down in Glen Brittle it was positively hot! As usual, when getting towards the end of a day on the Cuillin Ridge ones feet start to complain vociferously about being contained in boots all day and were were all rather hot and a bit sweaty.

We had started the day by following the Allt Coire a'Ghreadaidh up into the corrie and shortly after setting off Alison had noted a pretty looking deep green pool full of bubbles - just like a Jacuzzi! On the way back she couldn't resist diving in for a swim; and the other three followed suit. They were all a bit braver than Iain though who merely cooled his feet off instead, it was a really good idea though!

Iain is seriously considering taking wet suits etc for the next trip and offering gorge walking in an off day for his next group as the gorge upstream of the Youth Hostel looks like a great venue for this activity - Gorge Walking in The Cuillins!

No comments: