Skye Cuillin

At 12 kilometres long, with 3,000 metres of ascent and 11 Munros, the Cuillin Ridge offers the most challenging mountaineering journey, not only in Scotland, but all of the UK.

While not for the amateur or those wearing flip-flops, (yes, it’s been known!), a competent hill walker who’s well equipped, with the right gear, good navigational skills and not forgetting a head for heights should be able to enjoy a scramble on Skye!

Jon Jones, Head of Mountaineering at Glenmore Lodge, has stayed at Skyewalker Hostel many times when working as a mountain guide for the National Outdoor Training Centre. Below, he has kindly listed a few of his recommendations for walks for different weather conditions/abilities, lots of useful info on what equipment you’ll need as well as tips and hints on how to get the most out of your Skye adventure.


Top three scrambles

1. Sgurr Nan Eag to Sgurr Dubh Mor via Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda – Grade 2 scramble
2. Coire Lagan round: Sgurr Alasdair (highest Munro on Skye), Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and the Inaccessible Pinnacle (Sgurr Dearg) – Moderate Grade rock climb
3. Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh to Sgurr na Banachdich via Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh – Grade 3+ scramble


The top three not so taxing (or poor weather) alternatives

1. North-east ridge, Beinn Dearg Mhor (Red Cuillin) – Grade 1 scramble
2. The Spur, Sgurr an Fheadain – Grade 2 scramble
3. Bruach na Frithe via Fionn Choire – Easy Grade rock climb


Equipment List

Technical climbing equipment
• Harness, helmet, belay device and prussik
• 1 x 16ft sling with pearshaped karabiner
• 2 x 8ft slings with pearshaped karabiners
• 3 x 4ft slings set up as quickdraws with 6 snapgate karabiners
• Wires sizes 2 – 9
• Rockcentric size 7 – 8 or a Camalot 2
• Some spare abseil tat


Personal Clothing and Equipment

• 35-litre rucksack
• Scrambling boots
• Lightweight waterproof top and bottoms
• Map, compass, GPS, phone and guidebook
• Headtorch
• Clothing that’s warm, lightweight and easy to vent
• Sun hat, sun cream, canvas gloves and warm hat
• 45m rope


Bivvy Kit

• Lightweight summer sleeping bag
• ½ – ¾ length foam mat
• Small lightweight gas stove with small cylinder and lighter
• Small pot with tinfoil lid, mug and spoon
• Toilet paper and plastic bag
• Plenty of bivvy style food, such as boil in the bag meals
• Plenty of food for the hill and water


Tactics for a complete traverse of the ridge

Single day attempt
If you are a fit hill runner and a competent climber with a good head for heights, and have some prior knowledge and good weather, then bingo – the ridge is yours! If you fall short of any of these essentials and are just a mere mortal then a two-day trip is required.

Two-day trip (expedition)
Doing the ridge in two days requires the same kit and tactics as if attempting a two-day alpine route with a lightweight bivvy. For this experience to be comfortable you want the weather to be dry and, if possible, should organise an equipment drop the day before your attempt. Give yourself 12 hours for the first day and eight to 10 hours for the second. Any faster is a bonus. So what to drop at the bivvy? Basically everything you don’t need for the day. See equipment list below left.


Top tips and handy hints

• Remember that whatever kit you stash at your bivvy site will need to be carried with you the next day, unless you plan to go back up to retrieve it after you have finished (bad idea).
• Remember to stash the food that you want for day two at the bivvy. This saves carrying two days’ hill food on the first day.
• Also, stash plenty of evening food so you can munch to your heart’s
content all night. You need the calories down your neck – read the labels on your bivvy food, as some only have the same calorie content as a Mars Bar!
• Drink, drink, drink. Most people fail on the ridge because of dehydration, and it doesn’t have to be warm and sunny for you to become dehydrated. Make sure you start the hydration process a couple of days before. I always try to drain two litres of water on the walk into the ridge in the morning. Fill up at the high spring and drink another couple of litres. This then leaves me a couple of litres to my
bivvy site.
• If you wake up in the night feeling thirsty then drink; keep a water bottle with you so that even if you’re feeling lazy and exhausted you can slurp away.
• High energy bars and gels work great in the day, just make sure you have tried them beforehand so you know whether you like them or not – some do have an acquired taste!
• Whatever guidebook you use, copy and laminate the sections on the ridge so you don’t have to carry a full weight book with you.
• If the weather is wall-to-wall sunshine then dump the waterproofs, make sure you have a good sun hat and take extra suncream.
• Take plenty of Compeed blister treatment. As soon as you feel a hot spot starting on your foot then slap some on.


Maps and guides

To finish off, the only advice I have left is which maps and guidebooks are of best use when on Skye. I find the waterproof Harvey Superwalker map of the Cuillin far superior to any other and using it in conjunction with the Rockfax miniguide to the Skye Ridge and the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) Skye Scrambles guide gives you an excellent resource. So get out there and enjoy! Have fun and be safe.

Not that it’s often required, but for your information, the hostel is equipped with a drying room for wet gear!

More information on specific walks can be found at www.walkhighlands.co.uk 

All the weather information you need for the hills can be found at www.mwis.org.uk

More information on mountain safety can be found at www.mcofs.org.uk