The Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye is without doubt one of the most prized mountaineering objectives in the British Isles. The 12km ridge line is like nothing else in the UK and much more akin to something you might find in the European Alps. During the course of a full ridge traverse you will ascend approximately 3000m, summit 10 Munros (or 11 if you make the de-tour our to Sgurr Dubh Mor) and undertake rock climbing pitches up to Severe standard, interspersed with almost continuous scrambling between grade 2 and grade 3.
A standard traverse in summer conditions is undertaken from South to North. The exact starting point can vary and many people begin their traverse from Sgurr Nan Eag - the Southern most Munro on the ridge while others choose to start at the very beginning of the ridge on Gars-bheinn. The journey along the ridge also has many variations and some of the harder sections can be skipped if a party is moving slower than anticipated or encounters less than perfect weather conditions or even "traffic jams" on some of the notorious bottle neck sections.
Skye, and in particular the Cuillin Ridge, have played a huge part in my development as a mountaineer and as a mountaineering instructor. I did my first season of work on the Cuillin in 2011 for Mike Lates and his company Skye Guides. Working on Skye was initially a pretty steep learning curve but every day out provided fresh challenges and taught me something new. Many of the skills I perfected on Skye have helped me while working and playing all over the world; from the Arctic to the Antarctic.
Skye definitely holds a special place in my heart and the other week I finally got the opportunity to share it with Mairi! The weather all over the UK seemed to be perfect and we had a couple of days free before my Dad's 60th birthday so we made a dash to Skye!
By far the best way to traverse the Cuillin is by starting in Elgol and taking a rib across Loch Scavaig to the foot of Gars-bheinn. By starting this way you avoid the long slog in from the Glen Brittle campsite to Coir' a Ghrunnda and then having to double back on yourself to reach the start of the ridge. We booked a drop off with AquaXplore on the Wednesday morning and began our 2 day traverse.
We spent the night bivied near to the summit of Sgurr na Banachdaich and completed the second half of the ridge on Thursday - finishing at the Sligachan Hotel. The next challenge was to work out how to get back to the van which we had left at Elgol...we decided we would have some food before worrying about such trivial matters! We couldn't believe our luck when just as we were finishing our meal Niels (who we had only met the previous day in Elgol!) came and offered us a lift back to the van - thanks Niels!
This was my 4th full summer traverse of the ridge and Mairi's first. It was strange to think that only a couple of months ago I made a winter traverse - Scotland is amazing!