Bruach na Frithe & Am Basteir
Friday 12th July 2013

Weather/Conditions: Cloudier but still dry.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 13.6km / 1150m / 6h 20m
Accompanying: Alone

I always mean to get early starts, but it never seems to happen. Oddly, I awoke to the sound off the tent fabric rustling. Air was in motion. A quick peek outside the tent door revealed thick mist in the bay of Glen Brittle. Dread was my first emotion. I'd wanted good conditions to finish the Cuillin, now we'd had a week of sun, and to think the weather was about to change before I finished them? I lay awake, tense, feeling that the weather was on the change. I still had some Cuillin to complete and I'd heard on the grapevine that a front was on it's way.

So I got up and gave dad a call. That told me what I needed to hear: no, a front wasn't arriving today as some had suggested (chinese whisphers, no doubt) and suddenly the pressure was relieved. Just light cloud and sun for the next few days. Phew.

The Glen Brittle camping was coming to a close today. It was my last day on the Cuillin, Liam was heading back to Glasgow and Jo-lynne was off to Harris. We all met up again at Sligachan and saw each other off. I packed my bags and began up toward my final three Cuillin; Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Basteir and Bruach na Frithe. The walk to Gillean was long; I can see why people coming off the traverse talk about Sligachan never arriving! Oddly, the kilometres don't stack up on the map, yet on the ground they seem endless. The Cuillin seem to have this effect in general.

I'd brought a small rack of climbing gear to pre-empt any difficulties. I was sure Am Basteir and Bruach na Frithe would be fine, but I wasn't so sure about Gillean's West Ridge, which seemed to have a reputation for difficulty.

Up close, it wasn't great. There are a series of chimneys stacked together that join the West Ridge. Depending which one your take, a couple of pinnacles have to be negotiated to reach easier ground above. I started with the chimneys.

I went for the obvious option first; a broad gully, about 20m high and polished as hell. I climbed up, down and across in every direction to get comfortable, but I couldn't get over the final bulges to reach the ridge. In the end I gave up, wondering if I should wait for someone to arrive who might know better. Normally I would be able to climb those gullies, but not alone, and not without the protection of leading.

I remembered Hamish Brown saying; "in the Cuillin there's usually always an easier way". So after twenty minutes of bumming around in those chimneys, I climbed back down to safe ground, had a search around, and in an instant; found the correct gully: a couple of metres to the right.

It was easy, I was on the West Ridge in minutes.

But the pinnacles remained, and they stole my thunder almost as soon as I'd got it back. They seemed lacking in holds, awkward and more than anything, horrendously exposed. Again, something I would do with a rope, but not alone. I sat for ten minutes for a think. Nobody was coming that I could get a belay from; I decided quite firmly that it was time to move on from Sgurr nan Gillean. It would have to wait. I'd return later.

Yesterday, I'd been so confident after knocking off 6 Munros in a sitting. Yet the Cuillin had a sting in the tail, and Gillean's West Ridge beat me. Interestingly, I chatted to a guy afterward who mentioned he was happier on the West Ridge pinnacles than he ever was on the In Pinn. For myself, it's the opposite way around. I think I was feeling a bit too uncoordinated today to be hanging around above death-drops.

I headed to Am Basteir, which turned out to be easy, despite looking absolutely incredible. Stony slabs led me to the summit, perched on the edge of a void great enough to make your toes curl. I had a quick scramble down toward the Bhasteir Tooth; drops and exposure everywhere. What a place.

But I turned back around to the summit and traversed under Am Bastier's north face. In light of all the excitement, Bruach na Frithe was an easy slog. Walking never feels quite as fun once you've been climbing! I was glad to get this nipped for for it leaves just Gillean to be done on the Cuillin.

I headed down to Sligachan to meet dad, sun-warmed and feeling quite content. Gillean was behind me, still unclimbed. In the past, this continuing loss on schedule might have got me down. But it's happened enough now that I know not to let it. There are always opportunities to make the time back, and so I'll probably combine it with Beinn Sgritheall later on.

Back at Sligachan, dad and I headed to Dornie to stay in a B&B for a couple of nights. Although one part of me wishes not to have to go back to Skye, another part is in love with the Cuillin and I'll be happy to see them once more before finally moving on into unclimbed northern regions.

360° Panorama

Am Basteir
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 11.55am Sligachan
(3.20) 3.15pm Sgur nan Gillean high point
(3.55) 3.50pm Am Basteir
(4.38) 4.33pm Bruach na Frithe
(6.20) 6.15pm Sligachan
Uploaded: 2019-02-14