Tuesday 16 May 2017

Guiding on The Cuillin Ridge. Monday May 1st, 2017. Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh to An Caisteal.

At the very end of April, Iain travelled to the Isle of Skye to work with returning client Steve Smith and his mate Jon Glew. Iain first worked with Steve in 2014 on Skye during our annual Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip. Steve returned to us again last year to be guided up Pillar Rock in The Lake District - now that was a great day out!

In 2014, there were a number of Munro Summits on The Cuillin Ridge that we had been unable to get Steve to the top of. And Steve & Jon's objectives on this trip was to attain them all. The first photo sees Steve & Jon on top of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh - our first Munro of the day.

As luck would have it, this week coincided with the start of a long settled period of weather which was just what we needed - particularly for this particular section of The Cuillin Ridge which rarely gets traversed during our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trips - there's a very good reason for that!

Travelling from Sgurr a' Mhadaidh to the summit of Bruach Na Frithe is a very long day and the subject of sustained technical difficulties. In photo two Steve & Jon can be seen on the rock climb up on to the summit of the the 2nd top of Sgurr A Mhadaidh - just one of four difficult sections to be passed on this section of the ridge and all are beyond the realms of scrambling in terms of difficulty!

We had started out from Glen Brittle Youth Hostel at 08:30 on this day and reached An Dorus by 11am. As Steve wanted to climb Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh too, Iain decided to fit it in on this day to cut down the length of the following day - not something we would normally do, but deemed necessary on this occasion.

By the time we had gone up & down Ghreadaidh, crossed back over An Dorus; and dealt with the four tops of Sgurr a Mhadaidh, it was around 2pm before we reached the Bealach Na Glaic Mhor (photo three).

After a late lunch, we then set off to tackle the next challenge on this section of the Cuillin Ridge - Bidein Druim Nan Ramh. This has three summits (South Central & North) all of which have to be crossed unless you avoid the whole lot by traversing the screes below the western face. Getting across the gap between the south & central tops involves dealing with a tricky down-climb. Getting up on the central summit is grade 3 scrambling and then getting off that involves a seriously exposed descent to the first abseil station (photo four).

There are two abseils into the gap between the central & northern tops. The second one is less difficult to get to but is overhanging towards it's base. It is with relief that one climbs up to the north top and continues on towards An Caisteal, but beyond that that summit, there is further tricky down-climbing and an abseil into the gap between An Caisteal and Sgurr Na Bairnich - it is only once you've passed this place that you can really start to relax!

By the time we had disposed of that last difficult section, the time was 5:25pm and we were looking at a late finish. This was not something Iain wanted in view of tomorrow's plan. So, we left the ridge at this point and headed down the scree into Coire Na Tairneilear (photo five) on our way to Coire Na Creiche which is in all reality, the very head of Glen Brittle.

We had started off the day with a cool and steady breeze on the ridge, but by the early afternoon, this had completely died away and the walk back out was fairly baking hot!

The final photo from our first day out shows the section of ridge we had traversed in it's entirety. The four tops of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh are visible right of centre in photo six and just right of those - Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh can be seen peeping over the top of the ridge linking Sgurr a Mhadaidh & Sgurr Thuilm. Bidein Druim Nan Ramh is hidden behind Sgurr an Fheadain (the cone shaped peak split by a big chimney - Waterpipe Gully), An Caisteal is the peak to the left of that. The stream in the foreground is the River Brittle on it's way to Fairy Pools - fortunately these days (or not - depending on your point of view!) there is a very good footpath all the way to the Fairy Pools Car Park at the head of Glen Brittle - the only "sting in the tail" is that the final bit to the vehicles is uphill!!

We arrive back at Steve's van at 7:30pm. A long but satisfying first day on The Cuillin Ridge.

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