First Visit to the Cuillin – 2nd Peak – Bruach na Frithe

25 05 2011

Thu 19 May 2011 Added my photos at end of post now I’ve got them back – Richard’s are the ones within the post…

Thursday was our leaving day from Skye and we frustratingly still had only one Cuillin peak under our belts due to the awful prevailing weather. However, the day dawned fine and we could see from the B&B window that the Cuillin were nearly ‘out’ – it was still extremely windy however. I told Richard we really ought to try to at least bag Bruach na Frithe – he was quite keen as he didn’t really want to leave the island with just the one summit bagged either, and he isn’t even a bagger.

We were again in Glenbrittle for about 0930 where we parked at the ‘Fairy Pools’ carpark without really noticing what it said – we kept wondering why people were setting off towards Coire na Creiche but soon turning back – it wasn’t until we arrived back at the car and someone asked us where the Fairy Pools were we got out the map and saw them! They look worth a visit on the next day on Skye when the weather isn’t suitable for the peaks – I’m sure there’ll be plenty of those…

We booted up and set off up the path to the Bealach a’ Mhaim, the pass to Sligachan. It was a good path but more or less immediately we came to quite a large burn crossing. Now Richard hates burn crossings and instantly decided this one wasn’t for him, despite there being a few rocks sticking out of the water. Before I could show him a route across, he’d gone off down the Fairy Pools track to cross much lower down. I was across dryshod in about 5 seconds and then had quite a wait while he plodded back up the hill to join me! I hoped we didn’t meet many more large burns…


Impressive view on the way to the pass

We were going very well up to the pass and making great progress when it started to rain. We thought that was probably going to be it for the day but luckily, after about 15 minutes or so, it passed without us getting too drowned – we had set off with our waterproofs on though. We reached the pass in quick time and found a man walking very slowly in front of us – he turned to face us and I could see he wanted to ask us something. I was thinking he was going to ask me something like whether he was on the right path for Sligachan but it turned out he’d lost a hearing aid in the gale the day before and was looking for it. We didn’t fancy his chances! We said we were just about to turn off for the route up into the Fionn Choire so weren’t likely to see it unfortunately.

We took the slight path which heads up towards the corrie but it pretty soon disappeared. I knew we just had to follow the burn up so we plodded on upwards. The wind was from the south-west so I was hoping our route would be pretty sheltered most of the way by Bruach na Frithe’s North Ridge – it occasionally was. The lower reaches of the burn were situated in some spectacular gorges which I decided to investigate and photograph on the way back down – nothing much stops me on the way up! Due to the wind being so obnoxious and gusty, we decided to keep as near as possible to the north ridge of the peak to gain more shelter from it and so moved away from the burn and just went up the grass immediately below the ridge.

We soon reached the height of the corrie lip and traversed across towards it – much helped by the wind. The corrie is a very pleasant green spot and the sheep were sensibly hiding in there. We could see that our path would be across the far side of the corrie though so headed across back into the wind. When we reached the far side we kept getting knocked about by the gusts very badly and I worried that Richard would soon back out. I trudged on determinedly ahead and told him that it was probably so bad because it was blasting round the corrie walls, as winds tend to do, and that things would probably calm down when we either reached the back wall or at least by the col. The path re-appeared on the far side of the bowl and headed up the fairly gentle slope.

I could see the back wall of the corrie had quite a few areas of crag and it looked like the scree would be very steep, although it was obviously not anything like as far to climb as it had been into Coire an Eich on Sgurr na Banachdich a couple of days earlier. As we ascended further though, I saw that the back wall was very easily angled and that we were making very rapid progress up it on the now excellent path. I looked behind and saw another figure on his way up the start of our track – great, I like as much company as I can get on the hills. In what seemed like very few minutes, we were at the Bealach nan Lice. This is where the guide books say everything bursts spectacularly into view at once – I’m sure it did but, being me, I was only interested at that point in our route and so didn’t really look anywhere else except across to our peak.

There was, as promised, a great path (or several paths) under the huge rocky boss of Sgurr a’ Fionn Choire. We picked a lower one in case the wind blasted us over the edge on the ridge itself. In a couple of minutes we were directly under the east ridge of Bruach na Frithe. I was querying at this point whether it was actually our peak and had to get the map out to do some orientation checks as it looked a lot narrower than the pictures I’d studied previously had suggested!


Bruach na Frithe from Bealach nan Lice

My altimeter and the features on the map all pointed to it indeed being our peak and our route up it so I set off up hoping the wind, which had been absent since reaching the bealach, wouldn’t suddenly make a re-appearance. The ridge was nothing like as narrow as it looked however and turned out not to be worrying at all. We got to a rocky section which we assumed led to the summit and clambered upwards, however, as we got towards the top of it, we could see it wasn’t. I looked left to see whether we could get off it that side as I was starting to gather you couldn’t continue straight ahead. Richard went up to the top of it and confirmed we indeed couldn’t. I confirmed we couldn’t really get down to the left and he looked down to the right and said we couldn’t get off it that way either.

We re-descended the rocky section and found there were scree paths either side. I asked Richard if he’d seen the summit and he said he had and that it wasn’t far. We chose the left-hand scree path and continued up. It was just starting to look unpleasantly steep down on my left into the Lota Corrie but the path was okay – I still decided I’d have a look at the path on the opposite side for the descent though.


Bruach na Frithe summit ridge

After clambering across another slight rocky peak, the summit ‘pole’ hove into view. I’d read there was plenty of room to relax at the summit and had been doubting that on the approach but when we reached the concrete pole, it was surrounded by a nice low wall that someone had built and was indeed quite a roomy place – great! I posed for a photo hugging the concrete pole like I was terrified but happily I wasn’t really. Richard’s digital camera had been given yet another set of brand new batteries so it decided it would work for a while so he took quite a few photos.


Terrified (not really) on Bruach na Frithe

The cloud was coming and going but occasionally we got great views in all directions – the direction of Sgurr nan Gillean’s west ridge and Am Basteir being the most spectacular. I could see climbers on the lower part of SnG’s west ridge and, to me, it looked far easier than the normal ‘tourist’ route and less steep. I could see they were tackling a chimney just above the bealach but, given a rope, I’m sure that could be easily dealt with and I know I’d prefer to be in a groove or chimney to being on the outside of a sharp corner as you are on the normal route!


Sgurr a’ Fionn Choire, Am Basteir & Sgurr nan Gillean West Ridge


Bruach na Frithe south ridge

We had a short break and stood up to leave just as our following walker arrived. He was a very nice German guy and we had a short chat. He too commented on having a little trouble finding the way to the summit after getting waylaid on our earlier rocky peak. He told us he was going to contour below Am Basteir and descend into Coire a’ Bhasteir. He’d come up from Sligachan so I suppose his route made sense – we were happy to just take our ascent route again on the way back. We left him on the summit and set off down the Fionn Choire side scree path. Pretty soon I decided we were too low and that the higher path would have been better so we reascended more or less to the summit, went over the low rocky peak and then chose the next path on the left – much better. As soon as we’d passed below our problematic rocky peak we went back onto the ridge to continue our descent back to the bealach.

We chose a higher path under Sgurr a’ Fionn Choire and stayed quite a while on the Bealach to explore. What a stupendous area! Am Basteir and its famous Tooth were mostly out of the mist and we were watching some climbers on the summit trying to descend towards the Tooth – they didn’t seem to be getting very far – but then I suppose climbing’s quite a slow game really compared to walking, especially down-climbing. They looked tiny and Am Basteir looked huge – much more tall and vertical than I’d imagined. We didn’t really get to see the West Ridge of Gillean again unfortunately.


Am Basteir and The Tooth


Bealach nan Lice to Blaven


Me ‘admiring’ Am Basteir


South from Bealach nan Lice

The German guy joined us on the bealach and asked where we thought the path went under Am Basteir. I said that, so far as I knew, the only route was on the south, or Lota Corrie, side. He said his guide book suggested the Coire a’ Basteir side. I looked that side and frowned – I couldn’t see a way off – it looked far too steep. But then I realised that, as usual, I was staying well back away from the apparent drop – I’d obviously have to get nearer to see properly. As I cautiously approached the edge, I could see there was indeed a path headed to the root of Am Basteir – it looked fine actually – better than the other side. He headed off.

We settled down for a break on the bealach – I kept getting up to check how the German guy was getting on – he didn’t seem to be having any problems. We eyed Sgurr a’ Fionn Choire quite a bit and I was sure I could see quite sensible routes up it – however, we decided it wasn’t worth it in case it was windy up there. Instead, we decided to scramble up the peak we’d been sat under for our break. There was a set of easy slabs or a nice, narrow gully – Richard picked the slabs and I squeezed up the gully. We were soon at the top where we got great close-ups of Am Basteir and the Tooth – it looked really scary from there! I was also eyeing up the peak of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir as it looked quite nice but, worrying again that the wind might hit me there, I decided not to bother so we just set off for our descent after I had one final check on the German guy. He was well on his way down into the corrie.


Sgurr a’ Fionn Choire – beautifully banded rock


Our Scrambling Peak (left)


Am Basteir and The Tooth from our Scrambling Peak


Checking on our German Friend

The scree was slightly looser on our descent but certainly wasn’t worrying, in fact, I quite enjoyed it. We met two guys and a woman just entering the corrie and they were worrying about the buffeting from the wind. They were really relieved to hear that it was only bad in the corrie and that things were fine once you reached the back wall and the bealach. On the way back down the burn I took quite a few photos of the superb gorge system – very spectacular indeed! Of course, you’ll again have to wait for my prints to be developed and scanned for those. We both decided this had been our favourite peak of the two we’d done due to the fantastic views around Bealach nan Lice.

Our walk back from the pass was pleasantly sunny so we peeled off our waterproof layers so we could air a bit. We were lucky to have had just the one shower on the whole walk as we found when we reached the car. As soon as we’d got our boots off, the wind increased to gale force again, it became freezing cold, dull and the showers started again.

Statistics: 7 miles, 2772 feet of ascent, 5 hours
My photos:


Fionn Choire


Gorge system below Fionn Choire
Richard admiring the gorges…


Last look back from top of pass

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8 responses

17 08 2011
Colin Gregory

Great series of pics, Carol. Bruach is a favourite of mine with exceptional views north and South along the ridge. I agree with David Blaven and Sgur nan Eag are doable its whether you can pull yourself away from the magic of the Loch in the coire that is the problem!! with plenty of time and daylight it is well worthwhile completing the rest of the ridge to Gars Bheinn for a view that will live with you forever. Mind you the 2000ft or so descent down the Southern slopes to regain the path to glen Brittle can be a bit of a grueller!!

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18 08 2011
mountaincoward

Hi again, I was debating whether I’d be able to get along the ridge to Garsbheinn but am not sure I’d descend the steep scree slopes at the end (in fact, I wasn’t even aware that you could!) So that would mean I’d probably have to make my way back along the ridge and it looks quite narrow so I’ll probably have had enough. In fact, I may well have had enough by the time I get up Sgurr nan Eag! I don’t seem to be getting much braver unfortunately 😦
Carol.

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20 06 2011
bob

Some very nice photos carol.The ridge always looks bigger and more dramatic in mist.If you get the rest on calm sunny days its not that bad,only a few wild bits here and there.I admire your dedication these past couple of months as the weather has not been that great.
I,ve been doing festivals myself as the oldest swinger in town.I like to stay dry and warm nowadays 🙂
bob.

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26 06 2011
mountaincoward

I’ve just had two weeks of much better weather in Scotland and got quite a bit more Munro-bagging done 🙂 Had to be pretty dedicated though as they were mainly very remote Munros or very long and hard days and I was on my own for them this time as Richard has hurt his knee and I couldn’t get anyone else to come at short notice 😦

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1 06 2011
David (magicdin)

Getting into Coire a’Ghrunnda is quite straightforward now
Easy to follow path on west side of burn – only one wee steep bit just before lochan
Coire headwall is boulderfield with some scree but you can follow faint paths
If you still view WH have a look at my TRs from April last year
Coire na Banachdich is IMO the hardest for route finding

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1 06 2011
mountaincoward

Thanks for that David. I’d heard you went up high on the left hand side but the descriptions weren’t very reassuring – yours is much better 🙂

I have periodic access to Walkhighlands – Mr. Webster has banned anyone at my place of work access to view the site (around 2000 people I think LOL) but I can still get on at home so I’ll have a look next time I’m logged in at home thanks. After my quick look at Coire na Banachdich, I have to say I couldn’t see any easy-looking routes up the bottom half of the corrie – the top half was invisible…
Carol.

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26 05 2011
David (magicdin)

Well done Carol – The Cuillin aren’t too bad after all
Once you get used to the rock and scrambling you will be able to do the rest
Hopefully in good,dry weather – makes all the difference
Blabheinn and Sgurr nan Eag are similar in difficulty to the two you have bagged
David

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21 10 2014
mountaincoward

Hi David,
well, those two Cuillin weren’t too bad after all but I’m pretty sure, looking at the rest of them, that I’ve only really scratched the very easiest bit of the surface! I’m okay with scrambling, just not the exposure, and there looks to be just sooo much of that in the Cuillin. It’s gonna be the big drops and narrowness that’s gonna get to me unfortunately. You’re right it will have to be good, dry weather though.

Hoping to possibly go round to Bla Bheinn in a couple of weeks on my next visit to Glen Shiel. I’m suspecting I can do Sgurr nan Eag too but I don’t think I’ll be keen on the steepness on such loose-looking stuff. I’m rather hoping that what I’m seeing in the pictures is boulders rather than scree! I’m also worrying about all these comments in the guide books about the difficulty of actually getting into Coire a’ Ghrunnda!
Carol.

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