/ Sgurr Thearlaich

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Kevin Woods - on 09 Oct 2012
Did a bunch of the Cuillin a couple days ago, Sgurr nan Eag to the Pinn. It was my first time in the range altogether and my mind is completely blown. There was a lot more walking than I expected, but eeks it's rough.

Anyway, traversed Thearlaich from Alasdair to Mhic Choinnich and it's this section with the abbing that I wanted to know what other people had done or advise.

My confusion comes because all the route descriptions seem to mention one abseil.


After the initial rooftop section off the summit, we were quite close to Choinnich, and came to a cliff edge. There was some ab tat scattered around, but not actually wrapped around anything. The only abseil blocks appeared broken and a bit unstable. To the right (east) side there was a slab sloping downward, rooftop like. We downclimbed it with a belay, a short, slabby, maybe Mod? Felt more technical than normal, especially with a long drop to Coruisg at the end. This brought us to the continuation of the ridge.

On for 30-40m we were nearly right beneath Choinnich, and arrived at what seems to be the real abseil. So we abbed this, all was fine.

But that top bit with the sloping slab confuses me - has an ab anchor broken, is it solo'ed, pitched, ... etc.
Cuthbert on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:

You can do either - down climb or abseil.
Andy Nisbet - on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:

Most folk don't go that way, which is awkward to downclimb, but descend slightly earlier on the Glen Brittle side before returning right to the col. It's quite hard to find the best line but easier once you know it. This is also easier on the way up. So there may not be a regular abseil point. The description I use doesn't mention an abseil.
ScraggyGoat on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:
As Andy has mentioned its not the normal, however it was the way I first did it, but scrambling all the way to the beleach (i.e. without the final abb). Unfortunately there have been several nasty falls from this ground.

The way Andy describes follows the roofline almost to its end, then drops slightly to the left on a vague path, before following a rightward trending ramp back towards coruisk and then scrambling down to the bealeach. The benefit that in the dry it is just a scramble with no rope work required. Sometimes there is abb tat at the top of the ramp.

This route is complicated by serveral false lines from the vague path leading down to cliffed ground above and to the right of the stoneshoot, sometimes with abb points above a huge drop. So in short if your looking at a huge drop you've gone wrong.
Mark Collins - on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to ScraggyGoat:
> As Andy has mentioned its not the normal, however it was the way I first did it, but scrambling all the way to the beleach (i.e. without the final abb). Unfortunately there have been several nasty falls from this ground.

I remember it well, 2 decades ago when I scrambled that section also. One of the scariest bits of the ridge for me, and will be forever etched in my memory.
ScraggyGoat on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to Mark Collins:
Nearly two decades ago for me too. I remember thinking it was good value, and lapped it up. Been back to the Cullins multiple times but have never repeated this and a few other errors.

Keeping meaning to, with a rope however, just to see how full of youthful immortality (and stupidity) I was!
malky_c - on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods: Interesting - I've long been unsure where this bit of the route goes. I think we abbed down a shallow slab on the Coruisk side, which could well be what you did as well, but there was no second abb, so maybe not.

At the time we were looking for a route on the Glen Brittle side, as this is what most guidebooks advise, but couldn't find anything that looked doable.

On a different occasion, my dad swears him and his mate found a way down here that didn't require roping up or abbing at all. That surprised me as he was even less adventurous than I was at the time, so I can't imagine he did any difficult dowmclimbing. I'd love to know where he got to.
ScraggyGoat on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to malky_c:
I know a cunning 75 year old, whos mentioned more than once that he found a route involving no roping or abbing, but also had hardly any scrambling, and this was on the Coruisk side!!

A exploratory day when dry and clear I think, too much strawberry jam potential otherwise.
Kevin Woods - on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to malky_c:
> (In reply to Kevin Woods) abbed down a shallow slab on the Coruisk side, which could well be what you did as well

Sounds a lot like our top bit. But the ab below that was very obvious so maybe not.

I think it needs a revisit on a long sunny day.
Kevin Woods - on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods: Also good to hear there are several options available.
Prof. Outdoors on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:

Gordon Stainforth's excellent book The Cuillin gives very good desriptions of 3 routes off Thearlaich.

The "normal" route described by Andy previously.

The descent of the slabs which are described as insecure and polished.

He also decribes a third way which I think the Rockfax mini guide to the Skye ridge also describes. Think I have seen guides take people that way. It is, with traffic, slowly becoming more obvious.

From Rockfax - Descend the roof-like section on the right-hand side.
Look for a notch in the ridge before the final lumpy
section. Cut off right down a ramp which leads round
to the bealach. (Stainforth book mentions traverse, open corner and then short exposed wall as a 3S downclimb but only if the best line is followed.)

The normal route as described by Andy is probably the most commonly used route. I have downclimbed the slabs as mentioned, probably moderate, which did not require an abseil but this is definitely the most unnerving of the three.

The Cuillin is wonderful.

Jamie B - on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:

I've abbed both of the bits you described, but the first time I went down that way I was able to sniff out an unroped descent on the Glenbrittle side. However I think I may have just got lucky as I never located it again.
Andy Nisbet - on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to Prof. Outdoors:

The rockfax description sounds the same as mine except I don't understand the "Descend the roof-like section on the right-hand side" bit. But there certainly is a notch and you go right down it. But you've initially turned left (Brittle direction) so right just gets you back in line towards the col
drunken monkey - on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to Andy Nisbet: I've followed the rockfax guide description every time. (Down the Coruisk side)
Had a look at the Brittle side and it did not look nice at all, even though saw faint tracks leading that way plus abseil tat.
Andy Nisbet - on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to drunken monkey:

It's not unpleasant but I might have a look your way next time. You keep learning new ways in Skye.
Prof. Outdoors on 09 Oct 2012
In reply to Andy Nisbet:
I might not have been clear enough in my original post.

The rockfax/Gordon Stainforth descent makes its way down the Coruisk side. In other words you do not drop into the wider notch of the "normal most used" route. Page 163 of Gordon's book does make sense. Location of the cleft at the start of the wide promontory is key. Route then goes right down traverse line.

It is quicker than the route on the Glen Brittle side.

Mike Lates - on 10 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:
PHOTO (not brilliant) - http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=148450

DESCRIPTION- SMC Skye The Cuillin (2011)-
Descending Sgrr Thearlaich (Grade 3/Moderate) to Bealach MhicChoinnich is a
major cause of problems with a choice of two descents bypassing the steep
northern end on either side. Two abseils are often used by teams unable to locate
the scrambling descents. The eastern bypass traverses down diagonally right from
a small shoulder immediately before the final promontory, 100m before the final
steep nose. Two 10m sections of Moderate climbing have to be descended. On the
Coire Lagan side a well trodden gully gives a false line 50m before the steep nose.
The best line is just 10m left of the nose by a square-cut notch that leads to steep
slabs. A delicate traverse beneath the nose leads to a loose gully, which is
descended. When level with Bealach MhicChoinnich a final chimney leads down to
broken ground which is crossed to the Bealach.

CORRECTION- The eastern bypass IS THE BEST AND traverses down diagonally right from a small shoulder immediately before the final promontory, FIFTY METRES before the final steep nose.
On the Coire Lagan side, AT THE SAME POINT ON THE RIDGE, a well trodden gully gives a false line.
The best line ON THIS (LAGAN) SIDE is just 10m left of the STEEP nose by a square-cut notch that leads to steep slabs.
Gordon Stainforth - on 10 Oct 2012
In reply to Mike Lates:

That diagram is very useful, once you have got the orientation (initially v confusing!) I still find it amazing that the easiest way is on the Coruisk side - which I never did. I tried it in the other direction, from the Bealach Mhic Coinnich and got myself into very scary trouble. I reversed with some difficulty (v insecure, shelving rock climbing) and serious heart palpitations.
Fredt on 10 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:

Twice now I've found the notch/gully that goes down right wards on the Coruisk side at the start of the rooftop section, go down, not far, then contour left to the bealach. A tricky mantle shelf on a step halfway along I recall.
steveth - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods: I found myself in exactly this position earlier this year. In the end we did the double abseil which was satisfyingly direct at least. However, as we prepared the second ab a guide with two relatively inexperienced clients appeared behind us and downclimbed a greasy-looking corner a few metres to the right of our first ab line (as seen when looking back at them.) They then went down a series of ledges on the Glenbrittle side and traversed into the notch before M C. He made it look very straightforward. (And he gave us back our krab from the first ab!)
malky_c - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to Mike Lates: Thanks for posting that. Looks like plenty of people struggle to find the best route here, so I may find that useful in the future.
Mike Lates - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to malky_c:
The truth is that there are no "right" routes just lines that are easier than others. I use the Coruisk bypass 90% of the time. The Lagan side can be preferable when rocks on that side are dry and easterlies are wetting the Coruisk option.
I used the top abseil anchor in winter 2 years ago (50m reaches Bomb Alley & easy downclimb into Great Stone Shoot) so went back to examine it the following spring. I agree with the OP about the state of the top abseil point. The flakes most commonly used are perched/laid on the slab and need to be treated very delicately; I won't be opting to use them again.
All these variations are the attraction; when everything is going well with dry rock, good vis, confident climbers etc it is a pleasure to explore. In poorer conditions the attraction is the challenge to find any line & keep safe.
The fact that I still need to do corrections to the description of a section of the Ridge that I have crossed hundreds of times shows just how intricate the route finding can be. This applies to the whole range and, taking this as a positive, guarantees a lifetime of adventures for all of us!
Cameron94 on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods: Well if someone is up there soon and is taking the scrambling descent it would be worth popping along to the first ab point, myself and Kev Woods left 3m of tat and a hms which is up for grabs if someone beats me to it.
Kevin Woods - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:

All this response is amazing. But it's gonna take a while to digest :) Not a bad thing.

I want to find a reliable scrambling route through this section. Seems cruel to be able to travel Gars-bheinn to Sgurr Dearg (and probably Mhadaidh?) without a rope bar one small section.
Kevin Woods - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to Cameron94: I'm going to buy me some ab tat!
Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to Mike Lates:

As a matter of interest, Mike, how many times have you done the ridge?
Andrew Barker - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:

Another vote for the Couruisk side.The notch at the end of the rooftop descent is fairly obvious but easy to miss. My dad has an extensive home-made list of notes for the Cuillin from many visits and the south-north Thearlaich descent section reads as follows:

"Keep to crest after summit, apart from one gap passed on right hand side, until a broader slightly craggy area is reached. Easiest route follows a small descending path to the right of the crags across slabs to an easy 5m crack. Descend crack (which is worn and can be a bit wet) and progress further round to the left to an exposed corner with a sloping slab and few handholds at which point route drops down slightly to the right, for about 10m, on stone covered ledges, with a final steeper descent, before traversing left to bealach. Easy to follow in reverse."

I've climbed up the end of the nose before when going in the other direction but the rock all seemed a little untrustworthy. I'm not sure I'd climb down it.
malky_c - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:
> (In reply to Kevin Woods)
> Seems cruel to be able to travel Gars-bheinn to Sgurr Dearg (and probably Mhadaidh?) without a rope bar one small section.

Well you can obviously drop halfway down the stone chute then re-ascend the less obvious scree run to Bealach Mhic Choinnich without any real scrambling, but it seems like a bit of a cop-out.
Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to malky_c:

... you mean miss out Sgurr Thearliach altogether? That would be a total cop-out because it's one of the most important summits on the ridge.
Kevin Woods - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to malky_c: Was in Cotswolds (buying a new sling), and had a flick through the Skye Guide. Ooft I need to buy this one. I noticed the Bomb Alley route, though. As you say though will better to go over Thearlaich.
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Nath93 - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods: Mikes book is a bit of a bible really. So much useful info in it, really good investment !
Michael Gordon - on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to above:

I don't think it's too bad just going down the slabs, diff maybe?
Cameron94 on 11 Oct 2012
In reply to Kevin Woods:
We did the slabs with the back up of the rope, I would do it again without it next time though. mod-diff maybe.

The guidebooks Skye the Cuillin or Skye scramble's are cracking we books to help out on the ridge. Filled with awesome route's aswell obviously!

Ps. Glad you got some tat haha

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