Tuesday 9 June 2015

Skye May 9th - 16th 2015. 7 nights self catering accommodation & four days guiding on The Cuillin Ridge.

Time to catch up! May has been so busy we are well behind with our Blog updates. Anyway, here's the first of many you'll receive over the coming days.

Our trip to Skye was rather tougher than usual this time. Iain arrived on Skye on a lovely sunny day only to be aware that the next day would be the complete opposite. Indeed, that evening, he told the five clients booked on this trip that Sunday would be a day off as the forecast was lousy. However, on Monday, we did attempt to walk in to Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh and Sgurr a' Mhadaidh as the forecast was slightly better - less rain, but pretty windy still. Photo one shows the group (left to right) Mark, Andrew, Vicky, Doug and Darren on our walk in to Coire a' Ghreadaidh on Monday morning.

However, two hours later, we were heading back out of Coire a' Ghreadaidh again having made it as far as Coire An Dorus where the gusts of wind were trying their best to knock us over. The cloud never cleared the ridge although we did, at one point, get a brief view of the notch of An Dorus. It was pointless trying to get on to the ridge in such conditions and indeed, it would have been dangerous to attempt to do so.

Photo two shows the wind blowing a waterfall back uphill in Coire a' Ghreadaidh on our walk back out. We were back at the vehicles by 1pm. The members of group went off to do their own thing in the afternoon. Iain went to climb the impressive hill of Preshal Mor in Glen Talisker in the afternoon. You can read about that here - it is well worth doing on a day off!

The forecast for Tuesday, was, if anything, little different to Monday - similarly strong winds forecast and showers. Iain got up at 7am and looked out of the window at the cottage where the cloud was down to 50m above sea level and the rain was blowing horizontally past the windows. It was definitely not a ridge day! We were now on day three and from Iain's perspective, this Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip was not going well so far!

However, the forecast for the Wednesday was looking fab; and the complete opposite to the foul weather we had experienced over the last three days. No wind, blue skies; and warm conditions.

We made the decision to rise super early and left the cottage at 6am - setting off from the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut at 06:30 with our sights set firmly on ascending the Inaccessible Pinnacle. Iain started roping the group across this - the most difficult Munro to attain in The Cuillins at 10am; and photo three is taken shortly after mid-day when had had successfully gotten the whole group up and down it. Now this was more like it!

We had deliberately gotten up so early so that we could achieve the objective of an "In Pin" traverse. Also, we needed to get some mileage in on the Cuillin Ridge to make up for the lack of progress over the previous three days.

Photo four sees the group on top of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh at around 17:30 later that day after we had traversed from Sgurr Dearg all the way to this Munro top and undertaken some of the most exhilarating scrambling the Cuillin Ridge has to offer en route. Indeed, the Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh Arete should not be undertaken in wet & windy conditions as it is a seriously exposed knife edge - but today it was fine. We arrived back at the vehicles at 19:30 - so had put in a 13 hour day to do all of this, but it was undoubtedly worth it!

Thursday was also looking to be as good as Wednesday and so once again, we got an early start; although Iain asked to make it an hour later due to the length of the previous day.

We left Glen Brittle Campsite at approximately 7:30 and by 11:30 - had reached to the top our first Munro of the day - Sgurr Nan Eag. The views all around were stunning and we could see for miles in every direction including Ben Nevis in the east and all of the outer hebrides - but not quite as far as St Kilda on this occasion! Photo five was taken looking down into Coire a' Grunndha as we made our way from Sgurr Dubh da Bheinn to Sgurr Alasdair at around 3pm.

Today was a perfect Cuillin Ridge Traverse day, still and hot - if anything, a little too hot, but we weren't going to complain about that! We cracked on along the ridge travelling over Sgurr Alasdair - the highest summit on the Cuillin Ridge and this only left us needing to get to Sgurr Mhic Choinnich to "link" to the section of ridge traversed the previous day.

However, the section from the Great Stone Chute over Sgurr Thearlaich and around via Collies (Hart's) Ledge is serious scrambling and not to be undertaken lightly. Getting to the Bealach Mhic Choinnich alone calls for the rope to be used for lowering on two serious down-climbs. However, the group were up for it and we were one member down as Vicky had decided not to join us today. Photo six sees the group on Collies Ledge at around 6pm with another hour of scrambling over Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and down to the floor of Coire Lagan before things eased off; and then, we still had over an hour's walk back to the cars.

Another long, but worthwhile day!

So that was two good days in the bag. Eight out of the eleven Munro tops gained and half of the Cuillin Ridge Traversed. However, we were now only left with one guiding day and if the group wanted to get the Munros at the northern end of the ridge, there was no way, unfortunately, that we would be able to traverse the section of ridge from Sgurr a' Mhadaidh to Bruach Na Frithe as well.

We started from the mountain Rescue post near the Sligachan Hotel on Friday morning with cloud already covering the top of the ridge and in the knowledge that the forecast deterioration in the weather was going to start earlier than we had originally expected. Iain hoped that he might just have time to get the group over the more difficult summits of Am Basteir and Sgurr Nan Gillean before the weather broke. Sadly, this was not to be the case.

By the time we reached the lower part of Coire Bhasteir, we were being buffeted by gusts coming from all directions and Doug & Vicky decided to turn around there. Two hours later, after we had given up any hope of safely attaining the summits of either Am Basteir or Sgurr Nan Gillean, we discovered that Doug & Vicky were just ahead of us as we approached the easier summit of Bruach Na Frithe (photo seven).

The final photo from this post about our May 2015 Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip sees the group as we headed out of the lower part of Coire a' Bhasteir in the pouring rain. On a positive note, we all went on to enjoy a great evening in the Old Inn at Carbost to celebrate the achievements  of the week.

Was this Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip a success? Well, we had three and a half days of poor weather out of six days available to the group for guiding but really made good use of the two & a half good days that we had covering sections of the ridge that are often avoided and also getting all five up and down the Inaccessible Pinnacle. Nine out of the eleven Munros available to be "bagged" were summited. So, all in all, Iain feels that reasonable success was achieved although we never guarantee a complete traverse due to the changeable nature of Skye weather conditions.

This group however, were able to get a real feel for what the Cuillin Ridge is all about - the technicality and demanding nature of the undertaking, the exhilaration and challenge of the exposure and the continuous scrambling and climbing up and down. It's hard work! We do tell you that, but undoubtedly worth it for what you will feel and what you will see on a good day; and that is a view of some of Scotland finest mountain scenery and the jewels in the ocean that are the Western Isles and Outer Hebrides.

We are hoping to run our second trip to Skye this coming September. The dates to put in your diary are Saturdays 5th - 12th and we really want to go - so get booked on! The cost is still only £450 for seven nights self catering accommodation and four days guiding on the Cuillin Ridge. After this May's trip - we already have one booking for next May from a gentleman who was grateful for Iain's assistance on the Sgurr Na Banachdich/ a' Ghreadaidh Traverse so we must be doing something right! :-)

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