Isle of Skye - Black Cuillin Traverse

Course Overview

The Isle of Skye has a very special magic all of its own. The views from the main Black Cuillin ridge are truly magnificent and enhanced by the sea of the Inner Hebrides. On a good day it is not unusual to see the whole of the Hebrides (The Long Island) laid out on the western horizon from Barra to Lewis, whilst to the south east the unmistakable hump of Ben Nevis might also be visible. This is without question the most rugged and extensive high mountain ridge in the British Isles and would provide a logical continuation from the Fort William based ridge scrambling weeks for fit people with a knowledge and experience of rock climbing and simple rope work and abseiling.

Course Details

Costs: £600 (1:1) £680 (1:2)

Ratio: 1:1 or 1:2

Dates

Choose your own dates. The traverse is two days and May into early June and September tend to best for a traverse attempt as it's pre and post midge season!

Description

As a mountain range the Black Cuillin of Skye is a unique challenge to mountaineers in the British Isles. The whole ridge is around 13 km in length plus 7 km approach and descent and never descends below 726 metres. In its length there are some twenty peaks of 914m (3,000ft) of which eleven achieve ‘Munro’ status. Traversing the ridge in a single outing involves around 3,000 metres of ascent
Unrelenting effort, considerable exposure and technical scrambling (sometimes without a rope), plus abseiling and simple rock climbing are the order of the day. Because of this the traverse is not recommended to people who only consider themselves to be moderately fit ‘hill walkers’.
To achieve success on a traverse attempt, ALL of those taking part should be both fit and capable of sustaining two hard days which involve 11kms (13 hours) on the first day and 9 kms (9 hours) on the second day.
 
Overnight kit needs to be carried as well as a sleeping bag, waterproofs and gloves, hat and spare clothing, food and water and a rope. A typical traverse rucsac should weigh no more than 9 kgs (20lb). This reduces as water (2 litres) and food is consumed and we can provide advice on kit on booking.

Note: A traverse of the main ridge over two days with a bivouac is only attempted with individuals or pairs who know each other, on a private guiding basis in order to achieve the greatest chance of success. 

Doing the ridge in one day is a significant undertaking and presents a challenge which is unique in the UK. The amount of stamina and fitness and agility required is massive.  


This feedback will be of interest to future guests considering an attempt on the ridge:


..."The single biggest reason for our inability to complete the traverse was Guy and my lack of climbing technique - our responsibility - period. It was interesting that I genuinely feel that I could now solo up the Inn Pin that is the measure of the progress I felt I had made in just two days. So the biggest bit of advice is get out and do some practice of real scrambling situations. A wall is a great place to learn, it just lacks the real experience required. Guy and I had hugely underestimated just how much technical climbing was needed. If we had known I suspect we would have ensured that we had done more time on the wall training.

I also think that a substantial amount of time was lost in learning about clove hitches etc i.e. away from the stuff we had learned about knots on the wall (the straightforward double figure of 8), so a simple questionnaire re knots to clients undertaking the challenge would help appreciate the likelihood of success.

One double-edged sword was the explanations of the knots and the bits of equipment. Both Guy and I felt you could have been a bit more fascist (against your easy-going nature I do appreciate - lol) in terms of your instruction - at the time I felt we didn't need to know why we were doing things, just to get them done, on reflection I did learn a lot and will be banked, again though it cost time.

From a personal point of view I was grateful to be allowed to solo more on day 2 as you appeared to have confidence in me earlier than you did in Guy. That was very weird in as much as I have always considered Guy the better technician, discussing it with Guy afterwards he was disappointed with that too and felt that we could have been trusted with more solo work. Ultimately that's your call as the expert and we have to trust your judgement, all I would say that I am a believer that people learn quicker and better if mentally they are happy to be stretched and both Guy and I have such a growth mindset, so it may be worth gauging how much of a challenge a client is prepared to face say on the approach. As I say it's your call and safety must be a priority."...

In summary, we gave it a decent shot; we just bit off a wee bit more than we could chew.

Hope that helps

Best regards

Paul.

Check Pauls blogspot for more

 

Kit Requirements

Mountaineering Kit List

Boots

Boots
A fairly flexible pair of boots with good lateral stiffness and well kept vibram sole are okay for hill-walking , scrambling and simple rock climbing (Skye Ridge). They should have a high ankle to provide support.

Climbing Belt
A simple climbing waist belt and karabiner are adequate, but bring a harness if you have one.

Helmet

Helmet
Essential for parts of the course

Rucsac
A medium volume rucsac is best (50/55 litres). Try not to use an 80 litre back-packing sac. They are heavy!

Waterproof Jacket

Waterproof Jacket and Trousers
Essential

Gaiters
Could possibly be of some use at times.

Map/Compass

Map/Compass
Essential. The map should be made weather-proof. A guide book can be very helpful on Skye...’Scrambles on Skye’ by J.Wilson Parker, (Cicerone Press) is a reasonable book, and comes with some maps. The O.S. 1:25000 map, Outdoor Leisure Series No 8, Cuillin and Torridon Hills, is worth buying. For Ben Nevis and Glen Coe, a sheet 41 - 1:50,000 O.S map is okay plus ..'Scrambles in Lochaber'..by Noel Williams (Cicerone Press).

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit
For blisters, headaches, midges and sunburn!

Sleeping Bag

Sleeping Bag
This could be a light-weight 2/3 seasons bag and would be used on a bivouac if attempting the main Skye Ridge Traverse.

Bivouac Bag
If you have a Gore-Tex bag bring it along, otherwise a large poly survival bag (500gauge) is adequate.

Food for Bivouacs
This should be lightweight and include packet soups, biscuits, dried fruit, energy bars and dehydrated meals for two days on the Skye Ridge.

Small Stove

Camping Mat-KFS-Small Stove
For bivouacs on the Isle of Skye, if attempting a ridge traverse or camping.

Water-bottle or bag
Essential to be able to carry a litre of fluids at least.

Fleece jacket

Personal Clothing
This should be warm and include mitts/gloves/socks, woolly hat, breeches or track-suit trousers and two light-weight fleece tops. Personal preference will largely dictate this area of equipment. Shorts, floppy hat, sun specs and trainers might also be useful!! A cheap pair of garden gloves would be useful for folk wishing to protect their hands from the very rough rock on the Isle of Skye!!

Food
For people who are self-catering, you can either bring most of your food with you or shop in Portree for fresh goods. Portree has all you will require for buying food plus a number of places to eat out in the evenings.

Recommended reading
Two books are recommended as follows: ( Available from climbing shops)

1) Modern Rope Techniques (Nigel Shepherd)
2) Handbook of Climbing (Fyffe & Peter)

Accommodation

  • £10.00 per night (Camping)
  • £16.00 per night  (Independent Hostel)
  • £28.00 (B&B)

Based at either Sligachan, Portnalong or Carbost, all types of accommodation are available. Please ask for more details of prices to suit your style of accommodation.

Croft Bunkhouse and Bothies
Croft Bunkhouse provides a good base for the budget-minded mountaineer exploring the Cuillin ridge. There is a good pub nearby with fine bar meals.
Visit the website: Croft Bunkhouse

Sligachan Hotel
The Sligachan Hotel is a famous mountaineers hotel, fifteen minutes drive from Portree. A wide selection of good beers and whisky are complimented by an excellent range of bar food, from breakfast to evening meals.There is a campsite and Bunkhouse/Hostel just over the road.
Visit the website: Sligachan  Sligachan Self Cater

Waterfront Bunkhouse
The Waterfront Bunkhouse in Carbost is a good spot to stay. close to the famous Talisker Whisky distillery, the village of Carbost also has a variety of B&B's plus the Carbost Inn, which is next door to the bunkhouse and overlooks Loch Harport sea loch.
Visit the website: The Old Inn Carbost