21--26 Oct 2004 Isle of Skye/Cuillin Hills Record (by Masa)

[Japanese / English]


Isle of Skye/Cuillin Hills/North Cuillin, Outer Cuillin etc.
Masa (ULMC)
21/10/2004 -- 26/10/2004 (5 nights, 6 days, 3 full active days)
  1. 21/10/2004 Leicester ..(by train).. Glasgow (Stay in a hostel)
  2. 22/10/2004 Glasgow ..(by bus).. Sligachan (camping)
  3. 23/10/2004 Sligachan ... Side of Bhàsteir Gorge ... North-East ridge ... Sgurr a' Bhàsteir (898m) ... Bruach na Frithe (958m) ... Sgurr a' Fionn Choire (930m) ... Bealach nan Lice ... Bealach a' Bhàsteir ... Sligachan (camping)
  4. 24/10/2004 Sligachan ... Bruach na Frithe East ridge (retreat at the height of 800m) ... Am Màm (407m) ... Sligachan (camping)
  5. 25/10/2004 Sligachan ... Cleir Sron a' Bhealain ... Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach (651m) ... Bealach Mosgaraidh (540m ish) ... Beinn Dearg Mhór (731m) ... Bealach na Sgairde (400m ish) ... Sligachan (camping)
  6. 26/10/2004 Sligachan ..(by bus).. Glasgow ..(by train).. Leicester
Camping (At the campsite next to Sligachan Hotel)
  1. 21/10/2004 Sunny, then Shower
  2. 22/10/2004 Cloudy, then Shower, sometimes Cloudy
  3. 23/10/2004 Cloudy
  4. 24/10/2004 Cloudy, then Rain
  5. 25/10/2004 Cloudy sometimes Shower, then Shower sometimes Cloudy
  6. 26/10/2004 Cloudy


Cuillin Hills in Isle of Skye!
Allegedly that is the place to go for any mountaineerers in the UK. It is THE place for scrambling in the UK. The main ridge traverse will take 12 hours for well experienced and fit people; or possibly it will take two days.

Arguably this time of the year is the worst season to go; it tend to be wet, the daytime is short, and there is neither snow nor ice. But, who cares? I have got some paid holidays left, which I have to use by the end of this year, and now it is a sort of off-peak season for my work. Above all I have recovered from my injury, now.

Although I talked to my climbing mates, no one seemed to be able to join my plan, presumably due to the time of the year. This means I can thoroughly enjoy my solitary time there. The worst season has a strong point; least number of peaple are expected to see!

Then I arranged the train and bus tickets from Leicester to Sligachan, the heart of Isle of Skye or the main base for Cuillin Hills. At that time I took into account the possible delay of the public transportation, and set some margin in the schedule. However I did not know how much it would actually delay...

1st day (21/10): To Glasgow

The train that I had booked should depart at 7:29. But as usual, it was delayed, and finally, canceled. I had to wait for another hour for the next train. Good Lord, the margin that I set would be just enough for this delay, I would be able to catch the bus from Glasgow to Isle of Skye --- unless another train does not delay, which in fact did...

I ended up staying in a hostel close to the station in Glasgow on this day.

2nd day (22/10): Glasgow -- Sligachan

At reception of the hostel in the morning:
Me " It isn't raining outside, is it?"
Receptionist "No, it never rains in Scotland!"
I had not known that.

After 6 hours bus trip, I finally reached Sligachan.
Me (To the bus driver) " Do you know where the campsite is?"
Driver "Campsite? (What is this guy talking about?!) Just over there. (It's so obvious! Why can't you see it?!)"

--- Because no other camper is there..., which is good!

And I found that the office of the campsite looked closed..., which is bad. But I did not worry. Both the guide book and someone at the travel information centre in the Skye said that it is open until the end of October. It is all right that the office is closed, however it looks inconvinient that the toilettes next to the office looked also closed. So I went to Sligachan Hotel next to the campsite, asked, and found that the campsite had been actually closed at the end of September... Fortunately the hotel kindly let me use their toilettes and water tap, and above all I was allowed to use the campsite. Anyway no wonder that there was no other camper...

3rd day (23/10): Sgurr a' Bhàsteir, Bruach na Frithe, Sgurr a' Fionn Choire

I got up at 5 o'clock. The weather looks fine. Although there are clouds in some areas of the sky, I can enjoy beautiful constellations of stars. Just before 6 o'clock, I set off, finally, after a day's delay. It is a so much joy.

Today's objective is the North-East ridge of Sgurr a' Bhàsteir, and then up to Bruach na Frithe and Sgurr a' Fionn Choire on the main ridge of the Cuillin. The ridge climbing is a Grade 1 scramble, and the guidebook says that it is one of the best routes for beginners of Cuillin scrambling. I would enjoy the good view of the main ridge as well as scrambling itself, if the weather allows. Bruach na Frithe is the only summit in the Cuillin, which boasts the triangullar pillar. Sgurr a' Fionn Choire provides a short scrambling section with Grade 2/3, which seems to be easily escaped by a Grade 1 route, if desired.

There is an established path somewhere close to the beginning of the scrambling section. In the dark I appreciated that I had confirmed the starting point of the "established" path in daytime yesterday. The path runs along the river. I could sometimes see small fells, which are beautiful. After crossing over a lot of fords, and after the sunrise, I reached a point of the beginning of scrambling.

The view to the Bhàsteir Gorge is also fascinating. I imagined that it would be enjoyable to do water climbing in the Gorge (Yes, I missed water climbing in Japan, though I can enjoy different sorts of climbing here). A disappointing thing is that the summit and the main ridge were covered with gas. Only once I could see the Pinacle Ridge --- it was fantastic! Because the chance was rare, I could appreciate it more.

The scrambling itself was easy and enjoyable. It was unfortunate (or usual?) that there was nearly no view from the summit. I wished there had been! The ridge near the summit is narrow and you could enjoy the view in the both sides of the ridge.

After a bit of rest, I headed for Bruach na Frithe. I once traversed a snow slope, using kick steps. It was totally unexpected but enjoyable, although I realised, only after the traverse with kick steps, that my boots were vulnerable to invasion of snow, being different from proper winter equipments.

There was actually nothing special in Bruach na Frithe, except that I noticed that my compass was influenced possibly by a magnetic distortion caused by the rocks there! Although it was mostly covered with gas, I could certainly enjoy the view a few times when the gas was cleared for a moment. It is Cuillin!

Next, I headed for Sgurr a' Fionn Choire. The scrambling section (Grade 2/3) looked a bit nasty. Thus I took my harness, rope and climbing gears, and began playing around. It was only after I reached the first ledge that I found the certainly easier route on my left. Anyway I enjoyed a Difficult route. It's good, isn't it?

Now, I began to decend via Bealach nan Lice, went along the cliff of Am Bàsteir. This was the only time in today I saw people, who were walking on the ridge of Sgurr a' Bhàsteir. I dropped by Bealach a' Bhàsteir, decended again towards the end of Pinnacle Ridge, where I was going to traverse east to get to the path west to Loch a' Choire Riabhach.

However I found the route which I had planned to head for was too steep when I reached the end of Pinnacle Ridge. So I chose a broad crest just east to Bhàsteir Gorge, heading the north. It has started raining, it is a bit misty, the trace is very vague or non-existent, anf moreover the path of my original plan is always easily seen down from my place in the right-hand side. The current route forward looked a bit steep, although the map says it is not, then somehow, I decided to turn right, seeking for the route to the path of my original plan. I thought I can decend most of the places anyway. It is scrambling.

Up to the moment everything had been all right. However this turned out to be the definite mis-course. The gradient of the slope would be all right if rocks were dry. But the reality is that there are numerous water currents, which flow down to the river underneath. Accordingly the rocks are very wet and mossy.

The first bit was all right. The second bit was, too. But it was getting more difficult gradually as I headed. Now I would say that I should have retreated, even if it means I climbed up again. However I can see the path in the front, unfortunately, and somehow I decided to continue. In the middle, I found that I had come nearly along the countour, ie., horizontally. It shocked me, for I needed a decent to decend (of course!).

After much longer time and much more energy than I had planned to use, I finally reached the path. I was so relieved, and I appreciated my early departure a lot. I did not use my climbing gears in this decent. In that sense it was not extreme for me. But it was a wrong course and unpleasant experience.

Afterwards, I opened the book again (how come I had not done it while I was in the route?), and found that I had misinterpreted the explanations for some reason. Alas!

4th day (24/10): Bruach na Frithe (retreat), Am Màm

Originally I had planned to do bivvying somewhere on the ridge this night. But I had been exhausted the day before unexpectedly. So I decide to choose an easier route. The north ridge of Bruach na Frithe (which I reached the day before), a long, good-viewing, exposed grade 2 scrambling.

I again left the campsite before 6:00, having learnt from the experience the day before. I avoided the direct route, which departs at a point closer to Sligachan on the path, to the crest, but chose the direct crest route from Bealach a' Mhaim, which is supposedly more popular for the climbers from Glen Brittle.

However, the route is again unclear. I ended up zigzaging and finally reached the likely route --- anyway the ridge is the ridge, you could not miss it. (In fact I later on found out that my interpretaion of "the crest" in the guidebook was wrong. There is a vague and fairly steep route.)

As I climbed up, I found that the wind is occasionally very strong, and I had to stop even on a broader ridge, a non-scrambling section. Can I go on into more severe scrambling sectino? Maybe not. Retreat? Umm... So I took my bivvy tent and had a rest inside to wait for the possible easing of the wind. I felt the wind was slightly easing after nearly an hour's rest. I stood up and headed again. However, before long, I realised that the wind is not easing, and strong --- dangerously. I gave up at the 800m point and decended the route, which I had come along. While I was resting, a group, possibly a father and his son, passed over me. They also gave up and started decending. I came across another two groups climbing while I decended. I do not know what they did afterwards, but it was certainly a bad day for scrambling...

I arrived at the path at Bealach a' Mhaim at half twelve. So I decided to climb Am Màm, which is the closest mountain from there. It took only 10 minutes to get to the summit. But at least I climbed a mountain today!

5th day (25/10): Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach, Beinn Dearg Mhór

Today is the last day for climbing. Again the weather looks very cloudy, and quite possibly it will rain. It is not a day suitable for hard scrambling. I have already reached the main ridge of the Cuillin. Then today's aim does not have to be Cuillin. Taking advantage of staying in Sligachan, have a try of Red Hills, the outer Cuillin, which is located east of the main Cuillin.

The first goal is Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach via Sron a' Bhealain and north-north-west ridge. I found that the route is really muddy and marshy. To make the matter worse, it soon started raining. I once allowed mud to invade inside my boots. As soon as I arrived at the summit, it got foggy. It means I had managed to see something before it got foggy --- lucky! Indeed I could see the sea from the summit.

When I arrived at the next summit, Beinn Dearg Mhór, via Bealach Mosgaraidh, it was quite foggy. My original plan was scrambling down (Grade 1) the north east ridge, but I gave up the plan --- it was too difficult to find the correct route in this foggy situation. If I made a miscourse, I might end up in a very difficult situation. So I simply head down north-west to Bealach na Sgairde. Simply? No, it wasn't. It is neither ridge nor crest. There is no distinct feature in the route, and it was quite foggy. I set a direction of my compass, and headed down the steep hill, relying on the compass. After I reached the col, Bealach na Sgairde, I looked back and found that there is a possible trace, and that I had followed a part of the trace, and it was not too bad. In any case I have succeeded in navigation in a fog. Enjoyable!

My original plan was to head for Glamaig, the highest peak in this Red Hills, via the south-east ridge (Grade 2/3). However I had spent too long time already (it was 10 to 2). So I chose to decend via Coire na Sgairde. The guidebook says that you can reach Bealach na Sgairde via Coire na Sgairde from Sligachan. It means, of course, I can trace the route in the opposite way. A problem is that the guidebook says nothing about how to reach Coire na Sgairde, whereas there is no established route or path in the map. Neither can I see any route down from Bealach na Sgairde.

The route leading to Coire na Sgairde must basically follow the river Allt Daraich. However, it looks a proper river in the map; there may not be any fords, which one can cross over. So I took the right-hand (east) side of the river in the sheep field, following presumable sheep traces. In fact I had expected to meet a path somewhere in the route, as long as my navigation is correct. The reality was that I had not met or seen any human paths until I reached the main road along the coast. It means that I enjoyed going across the sheep field and further natural Scottish marshy field. In a way it was a primitive and enjoyable experience!

Then I finished this last evening in the Skye, having a sophisticated meal in Sligachan hotel.

6th day (26/10): Go home

There are not a lot to say left. The bus to Glasgow was punctual, but trains were delayed as usual --- too usual!

As a whole, it was very Scottish: continuously raining, marshy, gloomy. However, it was what I had anticipated in a way. Very Scotland. Then I appreciated a slight good luck within the bad weather. If it had been shiny and less windy..., yeah, it would have been better, of course. But, maybe it would be too much hope for Scotland in this season. At least I did a lot of climbing, walking, marsh-crossing, camping, etc. And, as I had expected, I saw very few people in mountains. I saw no one on the last day. Good solitary time.

I enjoyed myself, Scotland and Cuillin a lot, and above all I came home safe. That is what matters.

Time Table

21-26/10/2004 Cuillin Hills: Time Table
Time Action Alt.(m) Temp.(degC) (double pace)
(Leicester → Peterborough → Glasgow)
07:29 train → canceled
08:10 Leicester 11
08:16 Leave Leicester
via Peterborough
Glasgow (25 min delay)
21:30 Go to bed at EURO hostel
(Glasgow → Sligachan)
06:00 Get up
06:20 Leave hostel
07:00 Leave Glasgow by bus
13:00 Reach Sligachan, set up Tent
15:30 To Sligachan hotel for tea
18:30 Dinner at Sligachan hotel
22:30 Go to bed 11 (in tent)
(Sgurr a' Bhàsteir, Bruach na Frithe, Sgurr a' Fionn Choire)
05:00 Get up 7
9 (in tent)
05:52 Start 8(s)
05:58 Sligachan hotel cross road 290
06:12 Bridge (in the path) 500
06:22 Ford 39(a) 238
06:30 Ford 200
Ford 61
Ford 140
06:40 Ford 58(a) 100
06:47 Ford 69(a) 163
06:53 Ford 91(a) 265
Fall(left) 110
Big Fall(left) 121(a) 100
07:13 Cross roads (go right) 184(a) 350
07:21 Ford 222(a) 314(214?)
rest (kill light) 6
07:38 Start
07:46 Fall 240
Ford 47
08:00 two Fords 352(a) 430
Ford: Cross roads? (go left) 50
08:10 Ford 387(a) 125
08:23 Right before Gorge 455(a) 6
rest (wear helmet) (Pinnacle Ridge seen)
08:32 Start
08:42 Turn right (a bit flat place) 540 240
09:34 Sgurr a' Bhàsteir 895(a) 5 1191
10:00 Start 898(a)
10:13 End Ridge 867(a) 295
10:32 Bruach na Frithe 956(a) 5 460
(camping possible) 958(s)
10:35 Start
12:16 Sgurr a' Fionn Choire 933(a) 6
(Play at west cliff)
12:29 Start
12:38 Bealach nan Lice 885(a)
13:03 Bealach a' Bhàsteir 827(a) 700
13:12 Start
13:44 wear raincoat 586(a) 932
15:07 Cairn on the path 315(a)
15:23 End marshes 243(a)
15:40 Highest in the path 264(a)
rest (rainbow seen) 280ish
15:55 Start
16:14 Bridge (cross roads) 106(a)
17:03 Campsite -5(a) 11
19:30 Dinner
22:30 Go to bed
(Bruach na Frithe (retreat), Am Màm)
05:08 Get up 9
05:50 Start 8(s)
06:12 Bridge (in the path) 24(a) 721
06:33 Corss roads with car road
right before Bridge
48(a) 431
06:37 Depart right from car road 112
06:47 Fall 60(a) 243
06:50 Ford 80
07:03 Ford 110(a) 484
07:10 Fords 135(a) 209
07:20 Ford 168(a) 295
07:35 Fords 222(a) 7 490
rest (kill light)
07:50 Start
08:00 Ford 273(a) 305
08:09 Ford 293(a) 300
08:20 First Cairn 328(a) 280
Many Cairns (every 50m)
08:40 Bealach a' Mhaim 362(a) 6 545
rest (next to Lochan) 344(s)
08:56 Start
09:28 Wide flat place 513(a) 916
rest (5min)
09:46 Steep slope start 613(a) 333(233?)
10:08 right before scramble 750(a) 425
rest (in bivvy tent)
10:55 Start
11:05 Give up 801
11:48 Cairn at flat space 526(a)
12:14 Path (Bealach a' Mhaim) 342(a) 1090
rest 344
12:32 Start
12:43 Am Màm 410(a) 7 407
rest 407(s)
12:52 Start
13:03 Path (start raining) 332(a) 9 604
Cross roads to Crest(east) 297(a) 255
14:49 Campsite 8(a) 1758
17:30 Dinner
21:45 Go to bed
(Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach, Beinn Dearg Mhór)
05:00 Get up 10
07:02 Start 8(s)
07:14 Start footpath 5(a) 400
07:20 Cross roads (Gate) (marshy) 20(a) 200
07:43 Fall 44(a) 453
07:55 Go over fence (kill light) 49(a) 55
08:07 rest (wear rain-trouser) 65(a) 230
08:18 Start
08:37 Solid ground; seepen 110(a) 576
mis-route (alt. 220m ish), windy
09:11 Back to right route 300(a) 941
09:30 Sron a' Bhealain 408(a) 457
rest (misty) 429(s)
09:44 Start
10:17 Two Cairns (flat place) 501 979
10:29 Start (exchange gloves)
10:53 Main ridge (Cairn) 632(a) 5
rest (mist cleared) 643(s)
10:58 Start
11:08 Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach 651(s) 251
11:18 Start (get misty)
11:37 End ridge 601(a)
11:55 Bealach Mosgaraidh 496(a) 430
12:35 Beinn Dearg Mhór 728(a)
12:45 Start (foggy)
13:09 Cairn (sometimes strong rain, wind) 583(a)
13:49 Bealach na Sgairde 425(a)
14:20 rest (10min) 279(a)
14:55 Cross river from Glamaig 187(a)
16:02 Main road (A87) (near Quarry) -26(a)
16:30 Campsite -33(a)
17:20 Dinner at Sligachan Hotel
19:20 Back to campsite
21:35 Go to bed
(Sligachan → Glasgow → Edinburgh → Peterborough → Leicester)
05:05 Get up 5
07:45 Leave campsite
08:19 Leave Sligachan (by bus)
14:25 Glasgow (2min delay)
14:45 Leave Glasgow (by train)
15:44 Edinburgh (9min delay)
16:00 Leave Edinburgh (by train)

Altitude: (a):altimeter, (s):set altitude with the value, Else:value read from the map.
Altimeter: ALTA watch by Silva.
Temperature: Thermometer.

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