Skye Ridge Traverse

Last Friday evening myself, Tony and Lisa drove to Glen Brittle with the view of doing the Cuillin Traverse: 11 Munro’s and about 14km of scrambling and climbing, with very little access to water. We walked up from the campsite heading in to the corrie below Gars-bheinn to bivvy before heading onto the ridge Saturday morning.  At the head of the corrie we came across a large loch, I turned to Tony and pointed out that I didn’t remember seeing a loch on the map.  At which point Tony took a moment to contemplate, turned and said, ‘Well where the f***’s this then’. At which point we consulted the map and found we had walked in to Coir a’ Ghrunnda instead! Myself and Lisa both blamed Tony as he had the map in his bag.

The Bivvy (Shiver Bivvy 1)

At the loch we all got our kit out to bivvy, which combined made about enough kit for 1.5 people to bivvy. I had a sleeping bag and survival bag and was using a rope as a ground mat, Lisa had the same but a thermarest and Tony didn’t have a sleeping bag and made do with a silk liner. With the wind blowing hard the temperature wasn’t much above 10 degrees and we all had a cold night. Shivering at 6am over the stove waiting for our breakfast to cook, still with the cold wind none of us had got much sleep.

Saturday

We made our way up to the ridge and left our sacks to head over Sgurr Nan Eag and Gars-bheinn and the start of the ridge proper. On the return to our sacks we discovered that the ravens had been at them looking for food. They had eaten everything! My entire lunch for that day and Lisa’s dinner. The only trace left, some lettuce and rappers. They had eaten 2 ration packs, about 50 of Tony’s dried apricots, muesli, 2 sandwiches, a bagel, 2 flapjacks, 3 chocolate bars, 2 cereal bars and a 100g bar of chocolate. Stunned, we worked out that we still had enough food between us to get through the 2 days.

We carried on and made our way first to the outlier of Sgurr Dubh Mor and then back onto the ridge proper and then out to Sgurr Alasdair. With the scrambling getting more interesting we ab’ed into the TD gap and I led out up the polished open crack to get out the other side. We then continued and Tony led up King’s Chimney (VDiff), which is a great pitch of climbing. Route finding was getting a little trickier and we had to descend off the ridge proper and then up to An Stac. This is one of the finest sections of the ridge with simple route finding on good rock all the way to the summit. Where you pop out meters away from the Inn’ Pinn’, our next obstacle. With 2 teams on the Pinnacle and another 3 waiting at the bottom we arrived and realised that we would have an hour wait! So we pulled ‘Traverse rights’ and roped up and moved together pass all of them. All we had to do now was ab down the other side. All done in about 15 minutes, good job.

With time on our side we headed along to Sgurr na Banachdich and the more technical tops of Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh and the col of An Dorus where we had thought about bivving. Arriving there we found that it wasn’t a good place to bivvy, with no water and exposed to the still cold wind. So with hardly any water between us we headed to the next available spot on the other side of Sgurr a’Mhaidaih with its complicated 3 tops. We climbed a steep wall to get up the first top, then another for the second and finally traversed to get onto the 3rd and then a long decent down to the bivvy spot. By this point we had been going for 12 hours.

Second Shiver Bivvy.

Arriving at the bivvy we saw an orange bag filled with water bottles, jackpot! But they were all empty. We looked over the south side to see if we could see any water, none. We then looked over the north, I heard some water but wasn’t sure if it was way down the corrie, and then I spied a shimmer about 50 meters down. Tony confirmed and we took all the bottles and filled them all from a pool smaller than a tea plate in amongst moss using Tony’s platypus tube. We walked back up with 23 litres of water. With 2 ration packs between the 3 of us we had dinner and then went to sleep (or laid down at least), I decided enough was enough at 5am and woke the others by cooking breakfast and we were off before 6am.

Sunday

With the wind still blowing and the sun not yet up to give any heat we headed for the most complicated 3 tops of Bidein Druim nan Ramh. With steep walls to climb and very exposed, consequential, slabby down climbs, made worse with having numb hands. We then ab’ed off the steeper section and climbed back out making our way towards Bruach na Frithe over some massive chasms about a meter wide and 100 meters deep. The next target was Am Bhasteir and the Tooth. We were aiming for the Lota Corrie climb (mod) and thought we had found it, but hadn’t. Tony soloed up a gully and half way up realised that it was a lot harder than a Mod and found lots of ab tat where other people had done the same. I then led up to get the rope up so we could both ab off. It was probably about Sever climbing on loose dirty rock. With that behind us we descended further and found the actual climb, which was pleasant with a good steeper section near the top. One peak to go, Sgurr nan Gillean. We left our sacks again, but out of food by this point I didn’t worry, and headed up, climbing the chimney and then squeezing through 2 blocks to pop out onto the summit. We had done it! 5 hours after leaving the bivvy we were at the top of the last peak. All 3 of us were very tired but completely elated.

With an ab back down the chimney and with a decent down Bealach a’ Bhasteir we were back at the van in 8 hours. From the first bivvy to the van our total moving time was 20 hours, not the quickest but we took in the 2 outliers and climbed all the main technical sections and soloed the rest. Tony had the good thinking to put some beer in his fridge, and it was the best tasting beer. It was a mini epic of a trip, made slightly harder by the wildlife and the lack of map reading, but we are all really ecstatic that we achieved the traverse of the Cuillin ridge. So with an evening’s rest it was back to work on Monday.

Photos to follow.

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