Thursday 29 May 2014

Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip May 2014. Day Four, Sgurr Nan Gillean to Bruach Na Frithe.

After our great day out on Day Three of Our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip, we decided to have a day off. Doing three consecutive days on the ridge is more than enough for most people - especially as all three so far had been in excess of nine hours! Also, the weather was forecast to be wet on the Wednesday, so it was an ideal chance to take a break.

According to the MWIS Forecast, Thursday would be the better day to organize the groups final guided Cuillin Ridge day as Friday was forecast to be very windy - with rain arriving from the south west early in the afternoon.

Thursday was a cloudy day as can be seen in photo one. We knew it was unlikely that we would get decent views of the ridge and we didn't throughout the day. We went to the northern end of the ridge to attempt to gain the Munro summits of Sgurr Nan Gillean, Am Bastier and Bruach Na Frithe. We started by walking in to; and ascending, the South East Ridge of Sgurr Nan Gillean - known as "the tourist route". We had cloud and light rain along the way and a cold south westerly breeze as we approach the summit of Sgurr Nan Gillean (photo two)
We didn't hang around on the top of Gillean. No great views of nearby Blabheinn or the ridge laid out to the south west for us today! Instead, it was rather cold & miserable as we descended the west ridge passing through the window en route and then taking time just below to rope everyone down a shoulder of unusual volcanic rock which is rather smooth and appears almost to be a type of conglomerate.

Today, this section was slippery and not a place for scrambling unroped (photo three) although Iain was happy to solo down it after having gotten the group down to safer ground.

Continuing down the West Ridge on the Lota Coire side - one eventually arrives at the point where the ridge narrows right in at the point where the gendarme used to be above Tooth Chimney. Most guides do here exactly what we did and that was to set up a stacked abseil from the big spike at the top in order that everyone can abseil safely down Tooth Chimney to the ledge (or rather snow bank in this instance!) at it's foot. Photo four sees Steve as he abseils towards Iain.

A stacked abseil involves the guide setting up the abseil rope from an anchor and attaching all clients to the abseil rope with their belay plates attached, but extended away from them by means of karabiners and a sling. The idea is that clients are safely attached to the abseil rope and cannot fall whilst waiting to abseil. The guide descends first and then holds the tails of the rope to prevent subsequent abseilers from plummeting whilst they descend. By using this method, everyone safely descended Tooth Chimney, pulling the rope down afterwards was very hard work though!

Once at the foot of Tooth Chimney, it is an easy walk out the the Bealach a' Bastier - the col between the West Ridge of Gillean and the next Munro Summit - Am Bastier. Am Bastier is an airy exposed arete sloping steeply down to Lota Coire and not great in the wet, so Iain decided to avoid it today. Instead, we descended under the north side of Am Bastier and ascended towards the Bealach Nan Lice. Photo five sees us ascending one of a number of large snow banks on our way to the Bealach Nan Lice - winter skills training! Once at the bealach, we were at the summit of Bruach na Frithe within ten minutes and this marked our final Munro summit and final summit of this particular Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip.

Due to the sheer volume of old Winter snow Iain could see in Fionn Coire, he decided that the best thing to do was to return by way of the snowfields and descend into Coire a Bastier and make our way out from there back to the Sligachan Hotel from where we had started the day.

As we descended into Coire a Bastier, the weather started to clear and the cloud lifted to reveal Glamaig and the Red Cuillin, Loch Sligachan and distant Raasay. Looking back up into the upper corrie the Pinnacle Ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean came into view.

Back at "The Slig" we discovered they had no such thing as free Wifi so that Iain could check the MWIS Forecast for Friday to ascertain whether or not it might be possible to give the group an extra day attempting the Inaccessible pinnacle. So, it was in & straight back out again to head for the Old Inn at Carbost where we spent our beer money and Iain could discover that it would not, after all, be fit for an attempt on the In Pin the next day after all.

Friday would therefore be another rest day before we all had to depart the cottage on Saturday morning; and, in fact, two of our group chose to depart south on the Friday morning. The rest of us remained in the area and spent a great final evening in the Old Inn in Carbost before reluctantly departing Skye on Saturday morning.

Without doubt the May 2014 Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip was a success. OK - we didn't manage a complete traverse of the ridge and missed out on gaining two of the Munro summits, but our group were very happy with what was achieved during the week and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Iain must thank them for playing a big part in making it another successful trip to Skye & The Cuillin Ridge and for working well together and providing each other with lashings of great food - and plenty of beer!

Our next Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip will take place between September 6th & 13th 2014 and there are still 6 places available on this trip at a cost of £425 for seven nights self catering accommodation and four days of guiding on the Cuillin Ridge included as part of the fee. An absolute bargain and a great experience - contact us to book your place now. We look forward to working with you on Skye.

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