Sunday, June 21, 2009

Skye; The Cuillins: Sgurr nan Gillean (191), Am Basteir (242) and Bruach na Frithe (200)

Walk date: 16/06/09
My Munro #'s: 179, 180 and 181

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Skoor nan geelyan - peak of the young men - 964m
Am Bastar - meaning obscure - 934m
Brooach na freea - slope of the deer forest - 958m

Weather - dry but windy, cold when exposed.
Team - with guided group.
Other hikers: a few but quiet.

Paul P and George Skye Trip 2009 - Day 3 (Tuesday)

Having done the In Pin, we understandably thought that the main difficulty for the week was over with, but we hadn't considered the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean. With the chance of another fine, or at least dry day, our guide decided to take us on the other 'hard day'. Despite it being referred to in this way we really couldn't get as excited about it as we had the infamous In Pin, but that was before actually seeing it in the flesh!

Setting off from the Sligachan Hotel and heading toward the Cuillin ridge via Coire a' Bhasteir (with impressive views of the Pinnacle ridge to our left) we were soon stood, roped up again, having climbed up a good scrambly chimney and facing the prospect of three relatively easy but extremely exposed moves which lay between us and the west ridge of Gillean.

The moves were necessary to progress us past two pinnacles; the first had to be skirted around on thin footholds, then there was a step across to the second with big drops continuing beneath, and then a climb up the side of the second! There's something distracting about looking for a place to put your foot and seeing a drop of some few hundred feet on either side of it!

Just the description from the guide was daunting enough, and Paul and I gave each other that 'what the hell?' look, but with Jeff, 69 and Enid, 63 setting off in front and making good, albeit cautious progress, it wasn't the time for two supposedly hardy young(ish) lads to hesitate. It was definitely more daunting than the In Pin, but again with the rope for security and the reassurance from the guide we were soon past it and sitting securely beyond the next few boulders. Apparently the route used to be even harder when a boulder called the 'Gendarme,' stood there blocking the way!

The rest of the way was fine although it did include some rather polished stone at one stage with little chance of stopping if you mistimed the rather precise 'path'. From the summit our guide did point out the 'tourist route', which ascends up the south-eastern ridge and apparently doesn't go beyond a decent scramble; it ends with what looked like quite flat ground, but ground extremely exposed down both sides. It seemed like something I would be up for in dry and not too windy weather, but anything else would require a cancellation!

We retraced our steps down the west ridge but abseiled down the next chimney (Nicholson's) over from the one we climbed up, thus avoiding the exposed moves again.

Next up was the formidable looking Am Basteir. Earlier in the day we had watched some hikers attempt the ridge crest toward the summit only to abandon its exposure including the notorious 'bad step' from which deaths have occurred. Fortunately, our guide knew of a fantastic 'avoidance route' to the south side which joins onto the crest just after the bad step. With this route the progress was actually easy although it should be mentioned that the peak is still sharp and that this is no summit for much of a gathering!

We then returned to Bealach Basteir and skirted around the base of Am Basteir and the fierce looking tooth to rejoin the ridge and stroll onto Bruach na Frithe. After the excitement of the first two peaks of the day, Bruach na Frithe was almost disappointing. Anywhere else it would be a fine peak but it is very much in the shadow of its neighbours here.

With the avoidance route on Basteir, that and Bruach na Frithe are fine peaks for the non-technical hiker, but Gillean from the west (and certainly along the pinnacle ridge!!!) should not be attempted by anyone not comfortable with big exposure. It is not a peak for attempting without prior knowledge either as the actual route looks insane as it is. Being in a group, taking advice and doing reconnaissance are all recommended. Having said that I am up for making a cautious trip along the tourist route in future having seen reportedly its worst part. Watch this space!

A good looking morning for the Northern 3:
The Pinnacle ridge is not for the beginner:
The Red Cuillin looking good as we climb:
Am Basteir in the middle with the tooth on its right:

Knight's Peak on the Pinnacle ridge:

It's getting rocky now! Gillean's west ridge:
Just before the climb, no more path!
Here we go again:
Jeff and Enid lead the way again:

After the exposed moves, with Basteir behind:

No rest for the wicked:
That's a long way down:
The guide (foreground) bringing more up:
Steve and Andrew share the relief:
Back to a good path:

Abseiling back down off Gillean:

The guide doesn't need ropes:

Resting on Basteir:

Basteir and the tooth from below:

Bruach na Frithe was a flat top in comparison:

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Blogger chrissie_allen said...

Wow George! That is incredible.
Soooo many potential hazards! Phew.
You look remarkably "at home" in the pics- you really enjoy this munro lark huh! Intrepid! A fabulous post as always.

13 July 2009 at 12:22  
Blogger George said...

These peaks are just a little 'out of home' for my liking, but they are definitely exhilarating! Ta muchly!

14 July 2009 at 17:04  

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