/ Sgurr Sgumain to Sgurr Alasdair
I have successfully climbed Alasdair from here via the 'Bad Step', but I had approached from Coir a' Ghrunnda.
Just wondering if I could do the same from Sgurr Sgumain summit, and at what scrambling grade?
I can find no mention in any guidebook I have.
It was a long time ago but I think it is easy.
Off top of my head from 19 years ago: quite tricky (II/III?) scrambling from Sgumain to col (trickiest bit avoided, unobviously, on the Coire Lagan side). The Bad Step on Sgurr Alasdair is avoided quite easily down to the right by a loose shallow chimney, then easier, fine grade II scrambling to the summit. This is feasible in descent, but very exposed. The easiest descent is down the Great Stone Shoot to Coire Lagan.
> Off top of my head from 19 years ago: quite tricky (II/III?) scrambling from Sgumain to col (trickiest bit avoided, unobviously, on the Coire Lagan side). The Bad Step on Sgurr Alasdair is avoided quite easily down to the right by a loose shallow chimney, then easier, fine grade II scrambling to the summit. This is feasible in descent, but very exposed. The easiest descent is down the Great Stone Shoot to Coire Lagan.
To be honest, I prefer the Bad Step to the chimney, its only a couple of moves, and the climbing is better above than on the chimney.
My descent from Alasdair will be down the other side and over Thearlaich.
Anyone with more recent memories of the descent from Sgumain?
(No offence Gordon, but I'm as old as you so know what memories are like!)
SMC Skye Scrambles guidebook says Grade 2/3 scramble.
I remember the Bad Step on Alasdair being very hard indeed, not a scramble at all: a short overhanging wall of shiny basalt, followed by a sloping leftward hand traverse and a final tricky mantelshelf onto rubble. About 4c technically and very strenuous. I took a party of novices up it, and several had a lot of trouble following, even on a very tight rope. I may not have gone the right way, of course, but everything else looked harder.
The easy loose chimney down to the right was nothing at all. Little more than a grade I scramble.
> I remember the Bad Step on Alasdair being very hard indeed, not a scramble at all: a short overhanging wall of shiny basalt, followed by a sloping leftward hand traverse and a final tricky mantelshelf onto rubble. About 4c technically and very strenuous. I took a party of novices up it, and several had a lot of trouble following, even on a very tight rope. I may not have gone the right way, of course, but everything else looked harder.
Hmm, not my recollection. From the bealach I did a short traverse on the Coire Lagan side, then a steep smooth wall with small but square holds, two or three thin moves, then it eased quickly above. I remember looking round a long time for the best option, and I've done this twice now, and it was definitely the same solution each time.
I've done the chimney once, but still prefer the (my) Bad Step.
Interesting. The way I went was definitely slightly overhanging, and very committing above a nasty landing.
I did it the way you described the first time Fred. The loose traverse, followed by the wee blocky scramble. Since then, I have taken the chimney several times, which is easier I think, though the ground you come on to isn't as nice. I may well cut back left after the chimney next time to get more on the crest resulting from the 'step', which as Gordon says, is hard.
No help on the OP though, sorry.
Yes you can. I did it twice (many years ago). I can't remember what I thought about difficulty, but the first time I was on my own in poor weather, the second time with a very nervous partner who managed it unroped (and later that day insisted on a rope for Collie's Ledge). So probably something like grade 1/2.
Both times I backed off the Bad Step and went via the chimney.
There's a 25m slight descent from the summit cairn before reaching an obvious nick from where there are 3 option:-
Easiest is dropping leftward on the Coire Lagan side by slabs, a bit slick in the wet but not bad after first couple of meteres, for 50m to gain the top edge of the scree slopes; grade 2 with use of butt). Traverse this easily for 100m to reach the pinnacles in Bealach Sgumain just before the re-rise to the Bad Step.
Better but harder both to climb & find is the fine narrow crest heading direct from the nick. Ascend a few metres then descend the crest direct (very very greasy in the wet!) until just before the impassable steep drop. Turn this on the R, Coire a' ghrunnda, side by a 15m descent, exposed descending traverse around ledge to below the impasse, slight re-rise up a 5m slab then finally round to the pinnacles; great fun when dry at grade 2/3 as Noel says.
3rd option is to turn this crest on the Ghrunnda side all the way. Drop R from the nick for 10m before following a fault around to the left. This immediately leaves you at top of a steep chimney which has to be descended for a few meteres before regaining the traverse line that joins the "normal" direct line after 50m. Very intimidating 2/3.
Gordon's memory of the Bad Step (or mauvias pas- bad way!) is not wrong. To his description I'd add the lack of easy anchor for belaying, no gear, single finger swap while on impending wall and real barn-door feeling. There is a solid anchor above to belay from which is a good job as 50% of the folk I take there come off! It is also possible for fingery wall climbers to stick more to the crest on the left which is a lot more in balance but still bold. Option round to the left is a loose nightmare.
Finally, worth saying that the SW Ridge of Alasdair approached by either the chimney or Mauvais pas is on of the finest in the Cuillin, even if the blocks look highly improbable at times!
-Dropping down the Coire Lagan side took us along the top of a steep slab. This was in winter conditions with some decent ice and snow cover to get crampons into. This looks much more intimidating in summer conditions, but may be deceptive.
-Dropping down and traversing on the Coire a Ghrunda side looked straightforward, but the most difficult bit is on a basalt dyke. It started raining here and TBH I felt less at ease than on the winter descent.
Thanks to all for the information.
Now that it seems feasible to get from Sgumain to Alasdair at a solo scrambling grade, what would your recommendations be for the best (as in most pleasant) way to get to the summit of Sgurr Sgumain from Glenbrittle?
The most pleasant way of all would be via Coire Lagan, Arrow Route, Cioch Slab, and Integrity.
Almost equally good would be up Coire a' Ghrunnda, over the TD gap, summit of Thearlaich, summit of Alasdair, down the chimney, up Sgumain.
Quickest would be just to trudge up the Glenbrittle ridge of Sgumain, i.e. Sgurr na Ciche.
Sgumain Stone Shoot (really more of a scramble than a 'walk') is the easiest. The Eastern Gully of Sron na Ciche, even by the Collie's Route (mod) up the left side of the slab is as bit more than a scramble (very exposed and insecure in one place - many would prefer a rope here). The diff Slab Corner may seem less scary, more secure option for many people, Near the top of the Eastern Gully you can break out pleasantly onto slabs on the left, iirc.
Just make sure you don't try to avoid the difficult chimney, go off route in the mist, do some decidedly scary stuff, end up going in the wrong direction, avoid the TD Gap by accident without noticing, descend down the wrong side of the ridge and end up spending a rather uncomfortable unplanned night in some spare bunks in the Coruisk hut. Not that that happened to me in the company of one of a Promising Young Alpinist (sometime of this parish) or anything...
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