Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Central Cuillin - A Round of Coire a' Ghreadaidh

Sunday 3rd June

Distance: 10.5km; Ascent: 1250m; Dry, cloudy but clear with a chill breeze; with Mark & Shona

Waterfalls on the Allt a' Choire Ghreadaidh
I write this whilst supping a particularly appropriate ale considering the day's walking: Black Cuillin from the Isle of Skye Brewery, which just happens to also be one of my favourite Scottish beers!

After yesterday's late finish, as you might expect we weren't particularly swift at leaving the campsite this morning!  However we still managed to drive round to Glen Brittle SYHA and set off walking shortly after 9am, after having bagged one of the last remaining parking spaces nearby.  The sky was mainly overcast as we followed the good path along the south side of the Allt a'Choire Ghreadaidh, which here flows through an impressive gorge complete with many waterfalls.

The path was busy this morning, presumably due to the settled weather, and we could pick out several groups ahead of us high up in the corrie.  We continued, crossing and re-crossing the burn a couple of times to reach a point where the corrie split into two upper sections.  The right-hand upper section of Coire a' Ghreadaidh was very impressive with bare rock as far as the eye could see!  However our way lay onwards and upwards into the left hand section; this is named Coire An Dorus and is also an impressive corrie, in which quite a bit of thrift was growing.

Coire An Dorus
We now left the main route up through the corrie to An Dorus as we were planning on scrambling up the NW ridge of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh.  There was a bit of a worn line zig-zagging up the scree slopes, which we followed before taking a route up through rock via some slanting ramps to emerge on the ridge.  Upon looking at the ridge we decided that it would be sensible to get the rope out and move together up the exposed route.  Mark set off first, with Shona in the middle of the rope and I brought up the rear. 

Looking down the NW ridge of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh to Sgurr Thuilm
Our route up the crest of the ridge was excellent and had plenty of exposure, mainly on the Coir' a' Mhadaidh side.  And as I was at the back of the rope, I had ample opportunity to admire the fantastic views from our situation, especially back down the ridge towards Sgurr Thuilm.  Higher up the ground eased and after dispensing with the rope, we scrambled up to the summit of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh (Munro).  It was now very definitely lunchtime, it being after 1pm, so we had our picnic by the spectacularly situated cairn whilst admiring the excellent views on the rest of the Cuillin.

Summit cairn of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh
Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh from the north
After feeling suitably re-fuelled we descended south, picking a route to the right of the crest down loose rock and scree slopes with good views towards our next objective of the day.  Soon we approached An Dorus, the door, the notch in the ridge above Coire An Dorus that forms the easiest route up our first two Munros of the day.  This required a few metres of tricky scrambling to down climb into the notch, where there appeared to be a bit of a traffic jam due to the busyness of the day!

We scrambled out of An Dorus on the southern side by some more tricky moves to establish ourselves on the North-North-East ridge of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh.  We continued up the pleasant ridge and soon the sun showed itself :)  After passing the large impressive rock known as "The Wart", we soon reached our second summit of the day: Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh (Munro, HuMP).

On the summit of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh
Interesting plant on Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh
The exposed summit was busy with another group, so we decided that it would be best to push on rather than trying to find space to safely stop for a break here.  Therefore we continued south along the ridge with good views back towards the northern Cuillin.

Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh and the northern Cuillin
This section of ridge was quite exposed and tricky in places as we made our way toward the south top of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh (Munro Top) and then on down the south ridge to reach reach a pleasant broad dip in the ridge, which even had some areas of grass!  This was clearly a popular spot to bivy on the main ridge traverse as evidenced by the rudimentary stone circle shelters.  We stopped here for a bite to eat whilst admiring the extensive views over to Bla Bheinn and Loch Coruisk, and beyond to the mainland.

Bla Bheinn and Loch Coruisk
After suitable refreshment we began our ascent of Sgurr Thormaid.  Apparently there are three teeth on the ridge, which can be avoided if necessary.  However we only noticed two of them, which suggests that we actually scrambled over the first tooth!  We scrambled on upwards and soon reached the summit of Sgurr Thormaid (Munro Top).

The summit cairn of Sgurr Thormaid
We scrambled down the SW ridge of Sgurr Thormaid to reach Bealach Thormaid.  From here our route onwards was easier than the ground we had covered in the last couple of hours, and after ascending scree slopes and easy scrambling we reached the summit of Sgurr na Banachdich (Munro, HuMP) at around quarter to five.  The views from up here were superb in all directions, across to Rum and other islands as well as the rest of Skye itself.

On the summit of Sgurr na Banachdich
Loch Brittle from Sgurr na Banachdich
This peak was my final Munro on the main Cuillin ridge and we spent quite a while on the summit admiring the excellent views before beginning our descent via the western shoulder.  We dropped down into Coir' an Eich where we picked up a vague path back down to the Allt a' Choire Ghreadaidh and thence back to the car, where we arrived at around 7pm.

It had been another excellent day out on the Cuillin ridge and after dinner on the Sligachan campsite we headed over to the pub for some celebratory ales and whisky.  Around sunset I went outside to capture the following shot of the Red Hills at dusk, before returning inside to finish my whisky and then retiring to the campsite for the night.

The Red Hills from Sligachan
Update 02/07/12: Post date updated to actual date of this walk (N.B. originally posted on 23/06/12)

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