THE CUILLIN RIDGE                                                                           INTRODUCTION                                    reached Bruach na Frithe and we opted
                                                                                                                                            to bail out from there. The following
                                                                                                                                            week I persuaded another party, similarly
                                                                                            Many myths abound on how to succeed
Tips for success by Mike Lates                                                              on “the Greatest Mountaineering
                                                                                                                                            wet and dejected to dig just a wee bit
                                                                                                                                            deeper. We skirted Am Bastier and the
                                                                                            Challenge in Britain.”                          Tooth and were on top of Gillean in less
                                                                                                                                            than an hour. The celebrations were not
                                                                                            These are based on the experiences of
                                                                                                                                            in the least bit tempered by the bypass,
                                                                                            individuals with wildly different fitness
                                                                                                                                            so small was the significance compared to
                                                                                            levels, climbing skills, familiarity with the
                                                                                                                                            the achievement of completing a Cuillin
                                                                                            Cuillin and luck with the weather
                                                                                                                                            Ridge Traverse.

                                                                                            This document is an attempt to give a
                                                                                            broader insight for aspirants of different      WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE?
                                                                                                                                            The challenge is simply to traverse the
                                                                                            My first attempt was a failed winter            Cuillin Ridge in a continuous style. The
                                                                                            Traverse at Easter in 1987. As a team of 4      reward is an intensely satisfying blend of
                                                                                            we had hardly lost sight of the Sligachan       hard physical and mental work mixed with
                                                                                            Hotel before having to admit defeat after       some of the best scenery in the world.
 Blaven View of Ridge                                                                       two hard days and one very unpleasant
                                                                                            night.                                          The Cuillin is a cirque formed by a huge
                                                                                                                                            extinct volcano that erupted about 70
The Cuillin Ridge Traverse - Britain’s        The most highly recommended are Skye          When I first moved to Skye I adopted the        million years ago. Subsequent weathering
finest mountaineering challenge               The Cuillin by Harvey’s Maps and an           lightweight approach (see appendix c.)          and erosion has left the Cuillin Bowl split,
                                              appendix at the end of the superb book        with reasonable success, being on the           down almost to sea level, by Glen Sligachan
                                              The Cuillin by Gordon Stainforth.             spot whenever the weather turned good.          that runs essentially north to south.
Twenty-two peaks lie in a continuous                                                        For a period I prophesised that “ if you
chain stretching over twelve kilometres.      Introduction                                  can do it 2 days with a bivvy pack you can      The Main Ridge lies on the western side
They create the Cuillin Ridge Traverse-one    • What Is The Challenge?                      definitely do it in a single day.”              of Glen Sligachan and forms the “Great
of the finest and longest Alpine-style        • What Grade Is It?                                                                           Traverse” which is the classic route.
rock-climbing routes in Europe with over      • How Long Does It Take?                      Rapid reappraisal of this advice became
4000 metres (13,000 feet) of ascent and       • Preparation                                 necessary when friends and clients arrived      The “Greater Traverse” continues by
descent. The Cuillin Ridge Traverse is        • The Expedition                              with restricted time available. Weather         crossing Glen Sligachan at sea-level then
arguably the finest climb in Britain.         • On Route                                    watching developed into an obsessive            re-ascends the eastern Black Cuillin to
                                              • Conclusions                                 habit in order to identify the optimal time     finish over Clach Glas and Blaven. Being
Mike Lates has been a mountain guide on       • Appendices                                  to start, snatching success between bouts       about twice as long the Greater challenge
Skye since 1995 and has completed more                                                      of westerly gales. It became obvious that       is not often undertaken.
than fifty Traverses including a Greater      a Is the Ridge the finest climb in Britain?   an overnight bivvy was necessary more
Traverse and two in full winter conditions.   b The Route                                   often than not. The starting point, where       The Ridge Traverse most closely resembles
He sheds light on many of the most            c The Style                                   to aim for overnight shelter and which          a huge Alpine rock route. Great demands
frequently made mistakes and suggests         d What to carry                               route options to take were all affected by      are made on route finding, fitness, climbing
dozens of practical solutions.                e Time Schedule                               the timing of the magical weather               ability, rope-work and teamwork. Ease of
                                              f Weather Forecasts                           window.                                         escape makes the level of commitment
Maps and route descriptions are not
                                              g Short-roping                                                                                for such a huge route comparatively small.
included as a large number of these are                                                     An early lesson for me was the difference
                                              h Miscellaneous Good Practices                                                                It is only this factor that undermines the
available from well-stocked climbing                                                        between failure and success. One party
                                              i Common reasons for failure                                                                  Ridge’s potential status as one of the
shops and, increasingly, on the internet.                                                   were suffering badly by the time they           biggest classic mountaineering routes in

01                                                                                                                                 02
 Complex Route ofinding North of An Dorus      Ideal Bivvy!                                                                                                                     Cuillin Magic

Europe. Weather conditions are frequently        avoidable. Three abseils normal in              HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?                        PREPARATION
as harsh as they are on mountains with far       good conditions.
higher elevation. Skye is at the latitude of   - Descent. 6km, 900m of descent.
57 degrees north!                                Scrambling (300m) then rough walking.           Although the record for the Traverse is       Prior planning prevents poor performance.
                                                                                                 less than 3.5 hours it is worth remembering   Everything from getting the right partner,
Sadly the ease of escape also makes the        For those with little experience of Alpine        that this is the same as the record for       practising together down to how many
Ridge one of the most frequently “failed-      climbing grades it is possible to think of        ascending and descending the Matterhorn       karabiners to carry should be thought about.
on” routes in the world. The commitment        the lower grades as largely equating to           from Cervina! (Also circa 3000m.)             It’s a good excuse to get together with
to succeed must be strong for all members      scrambling grades used in the UK up to                                                          your climbing partner for a few beers at
of the team throughout an attempt. As with                                                       The following times are based on clear        home or, even better, a day out in the
                                               grade III (grade 3 or Moderate). In the
all great climbs it gives a heightened sense                                                     dry weather conditions for a well-balanced    hills together.
                                               Cuillin, as with the Alps, there are many
of achievement denying oneself the easy                                                          team of 2 with suitable fitness and
                                               sections that include down-climbing at
way out, especially on such a long route.                                                        climbing experience.                          Find a climbing partner of compatible
                                               the same grades.
                                                                                                                                               fitness, ability and drive that you fully
                                                                                                 - Approach. 2-4 hours depending               trust your life with.
                                               To most Brits there is then a notable leap
WHAT GRADE IS IT?                              in standard at Grade IV. It can require
                                                                                                   on starting point.
                                                                                                 - Traverse. 9-16 hours.                       Have a practice day on a scramble in
                                               significant rock climbing skill with confidence
                                                                                                 - Descent. 2-3 hours to sea level.            Snowdonia, the Lake District or Scotland.
A British rock-climbing grade is simply not    at the British climbing standard of Very
                                                                                                                                               Descend the same route for a more realistic
applicable to the Traverse. It is an Alpine    Difficult. On the continent these pitches
                                                                                                 One Bivouac is normal                         assessment of your abilities. Carrying a large
route in terms of the terrain; exposure and    tend to be either bolted or pegged to such
                                                                                                                                               pack adds even more reality to the exercise.
techniques needed and should be graded         a degree that even those with little              A word of caution
accordingly. The following summary should      climbing skill can force their way up. No         If an Alpine route has a guidebook time       Practice moving together on a short rope.
give an experienced alpinist a good idea       such luxuries exist on the three main climbs      of 12-20 hours with one bivouac normal        You will definitely benefit from it in the
of what is involved:                           on a Ridge traverse and all protection            I treat it with the utmost respect. If it     Cuillin and on forays to the Alps.
                                               must be placed by the leader.                     involves 4000 metres of ascent and 4000
- Approach. 7km 900m of ascent.                                                                  metres of descent I start training hard.      Studying photographs and compiling a
  Rough walking,                               The TD gap and Naismith’s Route are,                                                            time-schedule will prove very useful when
                                                                                                 If of the route is along exposed ridges
- Traverse. 12km. 3000m ascent and             arguably, both grade V. Confidence                                                              the time comes (see appendix e.)
                                                                                                 I know my head is going to be fried by
  3000m descent! Scrambling over               leading routes of the British Severe
                                                                                                 the end. Nobody that I know has ever
  exposed terrain grade I, II and III. Three   standard is recommended for climbs
                                                                                                 completed a Ridge Traverse and thought
  pitches of rock climbing at grade IV, all    of this standard.
                                                                                                 it was ‘easy’.

03                                                                                                                                    04
                                                                                                 tenuous to follow but crampon scratches           in the morning. Breakfast is far easier to
                                                                                                 are increasingly common.                          digest after about an hour of the route
                                                                                                                                                   has warmed you up. It is worth waiting
                                                                                                 If you have the bivvy gear consider taking        for the rock to dry on some occasions
                                                                                                 a proper break with a brew after 5 or 6 hours.    however. I’m sure that overnight dew is
                                                                                                 It does marvels for morale and can help           greasier than normal rain!
                                                                                                 everyone to do a couple more crucial hours.
                                                                                                                                                   On first attempt make your priority to
                                                                                                 Bivouac north of Banachdich if at all             get to Gillean! Appendix b. has a large
 Looking Back to the Bivvy                                           Short Roping                possible. An Dorus is, time-wise, halfway.        number of timesavers that can make the
                                                                                                 An ideal bivvy is open to the stars and           difference between success and failure.
                                                                                                 Northern lights etc but there is a huge
THE EXPEDITION TO SKYE                          weather. However, always keep a close eye
                                                                                                 benefit to be gained by finding some              Dream about a big session in the hotel on
                                                on the weather as it changes very rapidly
                                                                                                 overhanging shelter if rain is likely. Keep       the way down but be aware that you will
                                                and you don’t want find yourself looking at
Weather watching will be the main pre-                                                           eyes peeled toward the end of day one.            probably be asleep after the first pint!
                                                the cloud-free Cuillin from 50 miles away!
occupation of a well-prepared team. Ideal                                                        Many folk carry a light tarpaulin
conditions are most common when the wind        ON ROUTE
is coming from an easterly direction (from                                                       Water is not as difficult to find, as myths       CONCLUSION
northerly round to south-easterly.) If strong                                                    would have you believe. Carrying too much
wet westerlies are forecast consider staying    Day 1                                            water is as common a cause for failure
                                                                                                 because the rucsac weighs too much.               Success! Congratulations. What do you
on the Mainland until a change appears.         Conserve energy on the uphill approach                                                             fancy on your next trip?
                                                unless the weather window is very tight.         Carrying a cup makes collecting from
The best idea for many teams is to research                                                                                                        Failed? Most of us fail at first attempt. I
                                                This is the longest continuous ascent with       small run-offs possible in many places.
crucial sections of the Ridge. Most of                                                                                                             spent a torrid night in an orange sac and
                                                your packs at their largest. Eat and drink       Lets face it it’s not often that it hasn’t
these are classic routes in their own right.                                                                                                       down bag on a tiny snow ledge and took
                                                regularly. Carry no water until the last         rained in Skye in the previous 24 hours!
Again use the chance to practice moving                                                                                                            3 hours to climb 100 metres in a blizzard
                                                river is crossed.
together on a short rope.                                                                                                                          the next morning. The hot sun came out as
                                                                                                 Most commonly I descend (with caution)
                                                Keep moving at a steady pace. Take on            with all the bottles in an empty rucsac as        we descended and stayed for the next 3 days.
Stashing food, water and bivvy gear is a
                                                food and water when rope work slows the          far as necessary. It is rarely more than a
good idea only if you can guarantee                                                                                                                What went wrong? What went well?
                                                pace naturally. Check progress against your      40-minute exercise if a bit of intelligence
reaching the stash and relocating your                                                                                                             The Ridge won’t fall down; learn from your
                                                schedule regularly. If you are behind by         is used. Ideally you make this collection from
equipment. If it is fine enough weather to                                                                                                         experiences and come back better prepared.
                                                a significant percentage adjust your route       directly below your bivvy site taking enough
consider stashing equipment it’s usually
                                                to avoid the rock climbs (see appendix b.)       to cook, brew tea and still leave 2 litres each
fine enough to be starting the attempt.                                                                                                            Currently I estimate that less than 10% of
Many teams often waste a good window                                                             for the following day. (Carry flattened           parties setting off to attempt the Ridge
                                                There will always be a weaker team member.
of weather by stashing gear only for the                                                         empty containers for this purpose!)               succeed. This document is my attempt to
                                                Help out climbing partners who are struggling.
weather to close in for the rest of their       Even just transferring a bottle of water can                                                       change attitudes, provide information,
                                                                                                 Eat and drink as much as possible overnight.
trip. Litter from teams that have failed to     make a big difference to someone’s balance.                                                        and improve that success rate.
                                                                                                 Don’t worry about having to get up for a pee-
find or reach their stash is commonplace.       Conversely- accept help if you are slowing       this is time to replace calories and rehydrate.   Some of my ideas will be controversial,
Please label them with dates for which          down the attempt. Moving roped together
they are to be used and make every              can remove a lot of stress in weaker             Day 2                                             even taken as provocative, but they are
attempt to remove them yourself.                members of the team if done properly.                                                              borne out of fourteen years of
                                                                                                 If day one was too slow and you are behind        concentrated experience and, undeniably,
If the attempt is immanent keep crucial         If lost, the best advice is to climb up to       your schedule consider stashing the bivvy         obsession.
kit dry, rest and carbo-load then set off       the crest above- the chosen line for most        gear for collection over the next few
as soon as the weather improves.                people traversing in good weather.               days. Make a good note of its location and        In my humble opinion the Cuillin Ridge
                                                Descending the crest can be enough to            make sure it can’t blow away.                     Traverse is a strong contender for the finest
There are some wonderful coastal crags on                                                                                                          climb in the British Isles. I would like to
                                                bring you back below the cloud level or
Skye if the mountains are holding bad                                                            Often I get up and go after one brew              see it given the respect that it deserves.
                                                generally to easier terrain. This can be

05                                                                                                                                        06
                                                                                                 the sky and landscape. The western              Approach from Loch Scavaig. 2 hours.
                                                                                                 horizon is dotted with islands each with        Base yourselves near (or in) the JMCS hut
                                                                                                 its own mystical appeal. High peaks are         on the shore or take a boat in from Elgol.
                                                                                                 spread as far as the eye can see back           Aesthetically this is the most satisfying
                                                                                                 across on the Scottish mainland to the east.    start and is significantly shorter.
                                                                                                 The quality of light is legendary and really
                                                                                                 has to be seen to be believed. It is possibly   Many people choose to start at the first
                                                                                                 due to Skye being at the latitude of 56         Munro, Sgurr nan Eag or even the TD Gap.
                                                                                                 degrees north. The Northern Lights              I consider this a practical decision akin to
                                                                                                 (Aurora Borealis) can frequently be seen        taking a lift in the Alps rather than cheating.
                                                                                                 although not so easily in mid-summer when       Conditions may lend themselves to a purer
                                                                                                 the sky never really gets dark. Traversing      Traverse on the next attempt.
                                                                                                 through the night during these halcyon
                                                                                                 periods is certainly not unheard of.            Others choose to start by the Dubhs
                                                                                                                                                 Ridge or even via the Cioch.
                                                                                                 Climbing in such an awe-inspiring arena
                                                                                                 is a privilege not on offer in many other       For a north to south Traverse
                                                                                                 parts of the world.
                                                                                                                                                 Reach Bealach na Lice via Fionn Coire
APPENDICES                                      Technical difficulties requiring rope-work
                                                are limited to half a dozen key obstacles        One attraction is that a Cuillin Ridge          from the head of Glen Brittle in 2 hours.
                                                when weather conditions and climbing             Traverse is, technically, well within the       Fill up with water 100m below the Ridge.
a Is the Ridge the finest climb in Britain?     ability are suitable.                            grasp of many mountaineers who consider         Start on Naismith’s route, traverse to
b The Route                                                                                      themselves as lower-grade climbers.             Gillean and then return to packs by
c The Style                                     The recommended summer direction goes            Equally, aspirants are not as committed         turning Am Bastier on the Sligachan side.
d What to carry                                 from south to north because a wonderful          when traversing this 3000 metre climb,
e Time Schedule                                 smooth rhythm can be achieved.                                                                   A Breakdown of Sections
                                                                                                 as they would be if ascending a vertical
f Weather Forecasts                             Interestingly this doesn’t seem to work          route. Similar routes in the Greater Ranges     South end from Gars bheinn to Bealach a’
g Short-roping                                  in the opposite direction.                       tend to be technically harder, far more         Coire an Lochain. Easy scrambling. (2 hours)
h Miscellaneous Good Practices                                                                   committing and with difficult access.
i Common reasons for failure                    Route finding is one of the biggest joys                                                         “Coire Lagan” from the TD gap to the
                                                of climbing with all the emotions of fear,       The Cuillin Ridge Traverse is a truly a         In. Pinn. Rock climbing, abseiling,
                                                trepidation and relief compounded into           dream route but doesn’t give itself up          route-finding and exposure. (3 hours)
appendix a – is the ridge the finest            both micro and macro-navigation. The             easily. Many a climber has spent years
climb in Britain?                               Great Traverse gives over 12 km of this          piecing the Traverse together before            Southern mid-section from In. Pinn. to
                                                wonderfully absorbing and intense                finally achieving their dream.                  Mhadaidh. Easy scrambling with exposed
                                                stimulation.                                                                                     ridges. (3 hours)
Justification for such a grand accolade
cannot be made purely with statistics but
3000 metre routes are very rare even in the
                                                The sheer length of the route and its            appendix b – the route                          Northern mid-section from Mhadaidh
                                                challenges offers indulgence on a scale                                                          to Bruach na Frithe. Hard scrambling,
Alps. The biggest attraction is undoubtedly     unrivalled in the British Isles. The lowly       Starts                                          navigation, abseiling and exposure. (4 hours)
the joy of so much continuous high              altitude just serves to disguise the fun that
quality climbing.                                                                                Approach Gars bheinn from Glen Brittle.         North end from Bhastier Tooth to Gillean.
                                                the Cuillin offer, leaving them wonderfully
                                                                                                 3 hours.                                        Rock climbing, route-finding and hard,
                                                quiet for those who love their solitude.
Most of the climbing is of the simplest,                                                                                                         exposed scrambling. (2 hours)
purest and most exhilarating form, following                                                     Go via Coire Ghrunnda to keep dry feet
                                                At its best standing on top of the Cuillin
the crest of an obvious narrow ridge. There                                                      and fill up with a lot of water only 100m       The Rock Climbs
                                                is akin to perching on a crown that lies in
is a need for hands and total concentration                                                      below the crest of the ridge. Involves
                                                a bed of jewels. The Isle of Skye is encircled                                                   Thearlaich- Dubh (TD) gap. 20 metres.
but rarely a rope. In dry conditions the rock                                                    going out and back but with no packs if
                                                by the clear Hebridean seas that reflect                                                         UK grade Severe. (Alpine grade IV/ V)
is of the very highest quality. As with all                                                      done cleverly.
                                                and enhance the already vivid colours of
good routes the interest is continuous.

07                                                                                                                                       08
Reminiscent of many Ogwen valley                Take slings for 2 thread runners and 3 good                                                      To return to Coruisk descend the Tourist
traditional polished routes. The Gap            spikes. There are a number of medium/                                                            Route then descend between Sgurr Beag
succumbs most easily to those adopting          large sized nut placements.                                                                      and Sgurr nan Uamha to the floor of Glen
a fighting approach. An un-nerving “pop”                                                                                                         Sligachan. (3 hours). (Dropping into Harta
is unavoidable on the crux manoeuvre.           Bypasses                                                                                         Coire and crossing the Druim nan Ramh
Luckily this is no worse when carrying          Too many teams have failed as early as the                                                       in a more direct line is a painfully
a rucsac.                                       TD Gap when they have become embroiled                                                           frustrating “short-cut.”)
                                                in queues at this notorious bottleneck.
Take five slings for three thread runners                                                                                                        From Gars-bheinn a rapid scree run still
                                                A 3-hour hold-up is not unusual with both
and two spikes, one of which forms a                                                                                                             exists before a long wet section eventually
                                                leaders and seconds struggling often
solid belay.                                                                                                                                     allows the new footpath to be picked up
                                                followed by a frustrating bout of sac hauling.
                                                                                                                                                 below Coir a’ Ghrunnda. (2 hours)
Kings Chimney. 25 metres.                       This seriously compromises chances of
UK grade Difficult. (Alpine grade III/IV)       completing the Traverse.
                                                                                                                                                 appendix c – the style
A beautiful corner climb that finishes across   To bypass the Gap across the top of
a steep slab, which becomes the crux in         Coire a’ Ghrunnda and traverse Sgurr                                                             The most effective method is to be open-
wet conditions.                                 Alasdair takes only 25 minutes and keeps                                                         minded right up to the point at which the
                                                                                                  Off Balance with Bivvy Pack
                                                the crucial flow going. (Saves 1- 3 hours)                                                       forecast is good. The list of approaches
Take 3 slings for threads and good spike                                                         Bidean Druim nan Ramh. Undoubtedly the          below is not complete and my opinions
belay. A few medium-sized nut runners           Other timesaving bypasses include:                                                               on their merits are purely personal. My
                                                                                                 saviour of many a flagging attempt. A
also protect the route.                                                                          scree/boulder descent on the Glen Brittle       favourite approach is to walk out to the
                                                An Garbh Caisteal. You should certainly
                                                                                                 side followed by a short rise to Bealach a      south end in the evening, bivvy, leave the
Inaccessible Pinnacle, east ridge. 70 metres.   down climb this on the N. W. corner rather
                                                                                                 Harta. (Saves 2 abseils and well over an        gear and do the whole ridge lightweight
UK grade Moderate. (Alpine grade II/ III)       than get into abseiling unnecessarily as
                                                                                                 hour of time.)                                  the following day.
                                                many do. Alternatively bypass the Caisteal
Only one awkward move but the route             in under a minute on the Coruisk side                                                            The one-day push. Favoured by the
                                                (saves 10 or 20 minutes.)                        Collie’s route onto the Bastier Tooth rather
is always very intimidating. If pitching the                                                                                                     soloist there are not many teams competent
                                                                                                 than Naismith’s. Despite an initial 150m
route take care to avoid the rope snagging.                                                                                                      enough to enjoy this experience. Generally
                                                Sgurr Dubh Mor is not on the main Ridge          descent Collie’s route allows a team to
Good belay at 30 metres.                                                                                                                         the last few hours become a blur of
                                                and should only be done if you are               avoid roping up and pitching towards the
                                                                                                 end of a hard day. Very often my preferred      exposure and dehydration. If you are both
There are at least 7 good spike runners.        moving well and wish to bag all of the
                                                                                                 choice. (Saves 25 minutes.)                     competent and exceptionally fit it has a
                                                Munros. Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn is both
                                                                                                                                                 lot to be said for it.
There are more abseils possible than the        traditionally and logically the peak to
one from the fixed chain. Use imagination,      include. (Saves over half an hour.)              Descents
                                                                                                                                                 The full-scale bivvy approach. “A good
cooperation and courtesy to avoid queuing                                                        Fastest is usually to leave packs at Bealach    way to ruin the best scrambling in Britain”
at busy times.                                  Collies Ledge instead of Kings Chimney- one      a Bhastier. Go up then back down the West       someone once said. Carrying a huge rucsac
                                                classic route exchanged for another.             Ridge of Gillean before a fairly direct         makes flowing movement and balance very
Naismith’s Route. 35 metres.                    (Saves up to half an hour.)                      descent to Sligachan. (2.5 hours)               difficult to maintain. This approach is often
UK grade Severe. (Alpine grade IV/ V)
                                                Bypass An Stac. Good for giving the brain a                                                      needed, however, to get around awkward
                                                                                                 Continuing over and down the Tourist Route      weather windows. Very often I leave the gear
A serious and exposed route to                  rest if not the legs. Not my favourite dodge.    is less technical but the way is not easy to    at the bivvy site to get back on schedule
undertake at a late stage of the Traverse.
                                                                                                 find in mist. It also goes away from the        for day two.
Good protection is difficult to arrange         In Pinn. Should not be avoided. Queues
                                                                                                 hotel/beer to start with. (2.5 hours)
until after the crux move.                      should give priority to Ridge parties but
                                                only if you are soloing or moving roped                                                          The lightweight bivvy approach. Only
                                                                                                 Descending Pinnacle Ridge is class itself.      recommended for the balmiest of summer
Rope drag and communication is a problem        together. Ascending the short side or            It is possibly even better than in ascent but   nights when there are very few hours of
if attempted in one pitch. A good belay can     South Crack and then setting up your             certainly only for teams still feeling really   darkness. Wet weather and long nights
be arranged by traversing 10 metres round       own abseil is often quickest and least           good. (2.5 hours)                               often send many teams shivering back
from beneath the huge overhang to a large       frustrating way around large numbers.
ledge on the south face.                                                                                                                         to base at dawn.
09                                                                                                                                      10
                                                appendix d – what to carry                     Shared
                                                                                               -   Route Description
                                                Equipment List                                 -   Harvey’s map of the Cuillin
                                                                                               -   Compass and whistle
                                                This equipment list should be reduced          -   Small personal first aid kit
                                                greatly if a bivvy is not going to be made
                                                or if the forecast is very good. Minimise      Climbing Gear –
                                                weight by shaving down rock gear (see          Based on steady VS leader standard
                                                The Rock Climbs in appendix b.) and very
                                                careful calculation of food requirements.
                                                Keep the sac compact, with radical             Personal
                                                removal of emergency clothes and rations.
                                                                                               -   Harness with a cows tail attached
                                                My opinion is that a GPS is close to
                                                                                               -   Belay plate plus one screw gate,
                                                useless in the Cuillin. Photography should
 Sleep Happy!                                                                                  -   prussic loops plus screw gate              Clean cooking with gas
                                                not be a high priority as it wastes valuable
                                                                                               -   Helmet
                                                time. A good digital camera will weigh
The pre-stashed bivvy approach. This great      nothing and allow quick snaps to be            Team                                          Water
sounding idea relies on too many factors        turned into masterpieces at home!
                                                                                               -   40 metres of lightweight single rope      Carry 2 litres maximum at any one time.
in all but the best of weather periods.         Many teams end up with duplication of
                                                                                               -   5 sewn slings (240cm) with krabs          Fill up as high as possible on approach.
Reaching the gear and recognising where         pen-knives, first aid kits, contact lens
                                                                                               -   3 nuts on rope/dyneema with snap gate     Carry capacity to collect extra for the
it was stashed are critical to success.         solutions etc. All this preparation can be
                                                                                               -   3 or 4 wires to cover other sizes         bivvy and following day. Tube from camel
Predicting how far along to pre-place           carried out (with a pair of weighing scales)
                                                                                               -   3 or 4 extenders with krabs not sewn in   packs work well as a siphon for collecting
the gear is also a gamble.                      at home.
                                                                                               -   1 friend with snap gate                   from small sources, as do mugs.
North to south traverse. Logistically works     Worn                                           -   Abseil tat- 3 @ 3 metres
well as it can all be done from Glen Brittle.
Technically more demanding and doesn’t          - Man made fibres, not cotton.                                                               A varied supply is needed for 24 hours of
                                                - Trousers not shorts                          Additional Equipment for Bivvying
flow well with more abseils and rope-work                                                                                                    effort. There will be quite a lot at the
required. Too easy to give up before            - Base layer, light fleece,                                                                  start- good motivation to eat lots on the
reaching the “Summit” of Gars Bheinn            - Well broken-in, light to medium              - 2-3-season sleeping bag with man            approach but don’t get carried away!
by bailing out in Coire’ a’ Ghrunnda               weight walking boots                          made filling
                                                - Good socks                                   - Gortex bivvy bag                            On a 2-day Traverse I will typically
My favourite approach is to walk out to         - 30-50-litre rucksack preferably with         - Sleeping mat long enough to reach           consume:
the south end in the evening, bivvy, leave         detachable frame and no side pockets          head to hip                                 - 6 sandwiches
the gear and do the whole ridge                                                                - Plastic mug                                 - 2 packets crisps (salt)
lightweight the following day.                  Carried                                        - Penknife and spoon                          - 20 dried apricots
                                                                                               - Spare underwear and dry socks               - 4 chocolate bars
Most commonly I take a boat in, carry bivvy     - Waterproof jacket and trousers
                                                                                                                                             - 6 cereal bars
gear for day one, then decide whether to        - Hat and 2 pairs of gloves
                                                - Spare fleece (not as well as bivvy           Team                                          - 3 Mr K Angel Slices as snacks,
leave the overnight gear or not.                                                                                                               “pudding” & breakfast
                                                  gear though!)                                - Small gas stove with 2 pans max
                                                - Head torch in good working order. (new       - 2 Lighters                                  Overall I aim for a mix of savoury and
                                                  batteries, no spares)                        - Single Malt Whisky of your choice.          sweet about 50:50. Treat yourself to
                                                                                                 I subscribe to the school of sleep          lightweight luxuries and don’t take just 20
                                                                                                 benefits outweighing a wee bit of           cereal bars.

11                                                                                                                                       12
Main meal                                     appendix f – weather forecasts                  appendix h – miscellaneous good                Research the Ridge
I prefer as much quick-cook pasta as
                                                                                              practices                                      The best recipe for success is,
possible with various sauces & meats.         I get every forecast possible (then I                                                          undoubtedly, to learn it intimately before
One pan used also used as a shared            choose the best!) and try to make my            Choose your dates                              making an attempt. Unhindered by a
plate.                                        own interpretation. My schedule ideally                                                        heavy pack a competent aspirant can
                                                                                              Weekend trips are not long enough for most
                                              takes in all of the following:                                                                 cover, and learn, most of the Ridge in 2
Brews                                                                                         and rarely justify the huge journey to Skye.
                                                                                                                                             long days. Good visibility is highly
                                              Sunday                                          A week gives you the best chance of a
A half litre kettle with sealed lid stays                                                                                                    recommended to make recognition of
                                              11-30 Country file or Landward 5 day            suitable weather window. Mid-summer
clean & boils fast. Tea, coffee and hot                                                                                                      key navigation features easier. It’s worth
                                                    forecast. BBC.                            allows climbing around the clock in good
water all taste better with the addition of                                                                                                  noting that these days are often far more
                                                                                              weather so extends the chances of getting
a sugar and whisky!                                                                                                                          pleasurable than the Traverse itself with
                                              Daily                                           a window that lasts long enough.
                                                                                                                                             less pressure, less gear and no fixed goal.
                                              07-55 Highland forecast on BBC Radio
I aim for a mix of savoury and sweet                                                          Research the route
about 50:50. Treat yourself to lightweight
                                                    Scotland- the most reliable for the                                                      appendix i
                                                    day by far                                You will need
luxuries and don’t take just 20 cereal
                                              18-20 Grampian TV Weather                       - Harvey’s map of the Cuillin. (1:12,500
bars.                                                                                                                                        Common Reasons For Failure
                                                    flick to BBC1 national                      enlargement of the Ridge.)
Pot noodles make suitable bivvy food if       18-50 Heather Weather. BBC1 Scotland            - Route description. Widely available in       -   The climbing team
they can be fitted in and only require hot    19-10 Radio Scotland forecast for                 guidebooks and also on-line.                 -   The weather
water.                                              hill walkers                              - Photographs and diagrams of the              -   Navigation and research
                                              22-30 latest satellite pictures on BBC1 and       intricate sections of the Ridge.             -   Fitness
High-energy gels and bars are good but              Grampian following national news          - Take note of escape routes, bypasses         -   Tactical approach
need to be supplemented with ‘desirable’                                                        and water sources.                           -   Rope-work
snacks.                                       Long-term forecasts should only be used
                                              to plan the ideal build-up to an attempt.       Fitness                                        Treat your choice of partner much as you
appendix e – time schedule.                   It is crucial to weather watch in all but the
                                                                                                                                             would for an Alpine route- don’t encumber
                                              most settled of periods.                        Levels of fitness are hard to quantify but
This is a reasonable schedule for an                                                                                                         yourself with any combination of unfit,
                                                                                              runners tend to have the best gauge of
experienced team with no previous             I mainly use the MWIS and Metcheck                                                             nervous or inexperienced partners. Don’t
                                                                                              where their fitness lies. A runner capable
knowledge of the route but with dry           Internet sites.                                                                                invite all your mates- the lowest common
                                                                                              of completing a marathon in less than 4
clear conditions. It assumes the carrying                                                                                                    denominator always dictates how slowly
                                                                                              hours probably has a good enough level
of manageable bivvy packs and does not        If you’re not confident in the forecast do                                                     the party will move. Two is the ideal
                                                                                              of fitness.
include time spent bivvying. It also gives    something else. A washed out traverse is                                                       number; larger parties exponentially
a good guide to maximum times for any party   a horrible, often scary experience.             Practicing at home                             decrease their chances of success.
attempting the challenge in a single day.
                                              appendix g – short roping                       Moving across a boulder-strewn beach,          The weather
Approach. 3 hours                                                                             balancing along kerb stones or a kiddies
                                                                                                                                             Don’t get confused by the rumour that
Arrive TD Gap. 5 hours                                                                        adventure playground is more suitable
                                              The black art of moving together on a                                                          you can climb on gabbro in the wet. It
Arrive In Pinn. 8hours                                                                        training than indoor climbing walls for a
                                              short rope is the best technique I have                                                        may be applicable to the steady controlled
Arrive An Dorus. 11 hours                                                                     Ridge Traverse. Find out what affect a big
                                              ever learnt in climbing. The “one off, all                                                     movement up a rock climb but not moving
Arrive Bealach na Glaic Mor. 12 hours                                                         pack and wet conditions make to your
                                              off” vision must be overcome with some                                                         at speed on a continuously exposed and
Bealach a Harta. 13 hours                                                                     ability.
                                              lateral thinking and plenty of practise.                                                       narrow ridge for 12 kilometres.
Bruach na Frithe. 15 hours
                                              It is an ancient technique that served          Pack your ruck sack together and before
Sgurr nan Gillean. 17 hours                                                                                                                  Guidebook times for the Traverse are based
                                              the Victorian climbers well on routes that      you leave home. (See appendix d.)
Sligachan hotel. 20 hours                                                                                                                    on good weather conditions- dry rock and
                                              many of us still dream about. Another
                                                                                                                                             clear visibility. Prior knowledge of the route
                                              download will be available soon with
                                                                                                                                             can get around the problems of navigation
                                              details of how to practise and improve
                                                                                                                                             but wet rock seriously affects everyone.
                                              your technique.

13                                                                                                                                   14
As a sweeping generalisation wet rock takes    Tactical approach
twice as long to move across as dry rock.
                                               Details of the route and route-choices
The crest of the Ridge does, however, dry      along the way are well documented.
almost immediately after rain, which           Many put the emphasis on taking the
makes a traverse in showery conditions still   “Purist’s” line, often with a tone that is
possible.                                      akin to cragging, where success by any
                                               other means is considered as inferior or
Ideally choose to ‘go for it’ when dry         cheating. The reality in mountaineering is
weather is forecast and the tops are clear     that staying alive and using extreme
of cloud. Look for a weather-window of         cunning to succeed is both prudent and
24 hours or so. Easterly winds tend to be      normal behaviour.
drier than westerlies. (see appendix f.)
                                               For me the primary objective is to reach
Navigation and route finding                   “the Summit” of the challenge. If
                                               conditions have been treacherous but
Time wasted on route finding is hard to        Gillean is still reached many more
catch up and very draining. There are          difficulties have been overcome than
huge numbers of tempting false lines and       during a Traverse in perfect conditions.
the right line is often the least likely       The “Summit” is generally accepted as
looking option. There is no substitute for     Sgurr nan Gillean (if traversed from south
knowing the route intimately before            to north) or Gars bheinn (going north to
attempting the full Traverse. This research    south.)
is not only important but great fun, a
factor that is often overlooked in a rush      Rope-work
to tick the Ridge.
                                               There are actually only three pitches of
Fitness                                        roped rock climbing and four abseils
                                               involved in following the recommended
Ascend and descend 4000 metres of              route from Gars Bheinn to Gillean. Many
mountain in a 24-hour period. This is not      people resort to abseiling sections that
a level of physical output that can be just    should be down-climbed and pitching on
“dredged” up on the spur of the moment         scrambling terrain. Generally this is
and has to be worked on by most people.        because of nerves in one or all members
                                               of the team.
Carrying a large Rucsac is bearable on
good footpaths but balancing along the         The correct technique to adopt for such
narrow crest and climbing steep rocks is a     situations is to move roped together
totally different proposition, both hard       which is not a common practise in the UK
work and very nerve-wracking.                  but is normal in the Alps and Greater
The mental fatigue created by total
concentration for the duration is another      Learning this black art should be done in
factor often underestimated.                   advance not during your attempt.

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