Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Inaccessible Pinnacle
Sgurr na Banachdaich, Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh & Sgurr a' Mhadaidh
Thursday 11th July 2013
Weather/Conditions: Calm, hot day, incredible visibility. Nice muted sunset over the northern couple summits.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 14.5km / 1800m / 11h 45m
Accompanying: Alone first two Munros, then with Liam and Jo-Lynne on the InPinn and Banachdaich. Then myself for the last two.
Sgurr Alasdair & Mhic ChoinnichIt was hot for the walk up into Coire Lagan. I held a pace, keen on reaching my first Munro, Sgurr Alasdair. Liam was going to meet me on The InPinn (Munro #3) and he would be joined by Neil (depending on whether his vertigo let him) and a woman we'd met in the campsite called Jo-lynne, a Yosemite climber living a semi-nomadic lifestyle. She was in Glen Brittle on a long cycle from Scotland down to Italy, eventually.
The Great Stone Chute on Sgurr Alasdair has to be one of the most turgid ways to reach one of the best Munros. Every single step, bottom to top was on shifting, energy-sapping scree, save for a couple bits where I could get on solid rock. But it didn't last too long; I soon dropped my bag at the top of the Chute and shot off up to the summit of Sgurr Alasdair; a scramble not as exposed as I'd remembered and a hell of a lot of fun. What a place!
Sgurr Thearlaich was missed out entirely: last year I spent a couple hours and a couple abseils getting lost on this tiny section. So back down the Stone Shoot, I went and up another gully called Bomb Alley, whose name sums it up essentially. I got onto Collie's Ledge, straight across to the ridge of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich (#2) and up to the summit without any hassle.
In Pinn next.
Inaccessible PinnacleThe Inaccessible Pinnacle holds the title for being the most difficult Munro to reach in terms of technical climbing. It's the only one where you'll probably need a rope to climb. The mountain upon which it sits, Sgurr Dearg, appears as a whaleback by Cuillin standards. Yet this enormous fin is stuck on the side of the mountain, vertical on both sides, c. 40 metres high, a couple metres wide and rising above the summit of the main mountain by a good number of metres. You can get right up to the base of the Pinnacle barely taking your hands out of your pockets, but this last part requires some climbing.
Liam and Jo-lynne were nowhere to be seen on top of Sgurr Dearg. I tried soloing the V. Diff (rock climbing graded) steep side of the pinnacle (in boots no less... it didn't work out) and hung around, wondering how long I'd have to wait. But no worries; they soon appeared over the ridge, plodding on up towards the summit. It was on.
The plan was for Jo-lynne and I to climb the Pinn by it's east ridge (a Moderate - which in rock climbing terms means really easy) and abseil off the west side as is standard. We waited a couple hours (!) while two parties were on the Pinnacle, then I set off on the lead, clocking that sun steadily sinking in the sky.
The conversation before-hand was hilarious in it's spontaneity:
Jo-lynne: "The route is 60m? How long is your rope?"
Jo-lynne: "Oh ok, so we'll simul-climb? I'm solid (moving on rock)."
And so I had my first experience of simul-climbing (Google it if you're wondering) at the top of the In Pinn, my last gear placed some 10m below. Hmm. One of the wildest moments on the pinnacle was trying to clip the rope into a nut at leg-height, holding on, the rope arcing way, way below out of sight. Wild. And fun, too.
And then, by chance, Nathan Adam, a guy I met through the internet, who eventually moved to Skye to be closer to the mountains (some dedication) came soloing up the East Ridge with his dad. A complete coincidence. We got some snaps, and then all abb'ed off the Pinnacle, allowing Jo-lynne to belay Liam up the west side. And thus Liam got the Inaccessible Pinnacle too.
Sgurr na Banachdaich to Sgurr a' MhadaidhTime was ticking onward, and after (something like) four hours around the Pinnacle, I was ready to move on, over to Sgurr na Banachdaich for my 200th Munro, and then leaving Liam and Jo-lynne here for my last two; Ghreadhaidh and Mhadaidh. The company had been brilliant, but in that funny way I also appreciated being let off the leash and be allowed to prance off along the Cuillin on my own, on a knife-edge ridge I'd never done before. The ocean on one side, Coiruisg on the other. The sun cast warmth over the Outer Hebrides, I could see the north-west mountains all opened up - many now done, and many more not. The dividing line was at Glen Shiel. Here I was on the edge of it all, on this 3000-foot ridge above the sea. The mountains weren't technical enough to be of concern; it was all just good fun.
With Sgurr a' Mhadaidh done, I was off down into the coire, back to Glen Brittle, feeling very much at ease with the world and happy to have knocked off a large bit of the ridge. One day I'll go and do the entire ridge traverse, Gars-bheinn to Gillean.
The sun sunk as I plodded down the path to the glen; the black gabbro turned to crimson above. Back in the glen, I only had to walk down the road for five minutes before a car packed with folk took me the remaining km's down to the campsite. I cooked up a curry, Jo-lynne cooked some 'rot'. (take all the food you have, throw it in a pot and heat: in this case, rice, chopped onions and carrots and Dolmio sauce) Sleep came easily.
It was a challenging day, but the day's unknowns proved not to be an issue and I had a great time. One of the real highlights, for sure.
3 Cuillin to go.
Sgurr Mhic Choinnich
Sgurr na Banachdaich
Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh
Sgurr a' Mhadaidh
(0.00) 10.35am Glen Brittle
(1.55) 12.40pm Sgurr Alasdair
(2.50) 1.25pm Sgurr Mhic Choinnich
(3.33) 2.08pm Sgurr Dearg
(5.35) 4.10pm Started up InPinn
(6.25) 5.00pm Inaccessible Pinnacle
(7.25) 6.00pm Sgurr Dearg (left)
(8.15) 6.50pm Sgurr na Banachdaich
(9.35) 8.10pm Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh
(10.10) 8.45pm Sgurr a' Mhadaidh
(11.38) 10.13pm Road
(11.45) 10.20pm Glen Brittle Hut, pick up