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ISLE OF SKYE

There is nowhere in the world like the Isle of Skye and in particular its magnificent Cuillin Ridge, cutting through the island from Sligachan in the north to Glenbrittle in the south.

There are 6 Top 500 Summits o the Isle of Skye.

1  Sgurr Alasdair                             3,257 ft

2  Inaccessible Pinnacle                 3,234 ft

3  Sgurr nan Gillean                        3,167 ft

4  Blaven                                           3,046 ft

5  Garbh-bheinn                              2,650 ft

6  Glamaig                                        2,542 ft

I will never forget the first time that I drove from Broadford to Sligachan in 1975. As we rounded the corner at Sconser, the Cuillin swung into view, brooding under grey cloud, their summits in the cloud,  a view that every keen walker and climber should see.

Each walk probably deserves a chapter in this book but I have picked out the round of Coire Lagan which traverse three Munros, two of which are Top 500 Summits.

1. Round of Coire Laggan

Sgurr Alasdair                                3,257 ft

Inaccessible Pinnacle                  3,234 ft

Sgurr Mhic Coinnich (Munro only)   3,310 ft

For those who do not fear heights, the round of Coire Lagan may be the best mountain walk in Britain. Certainly it is hard to think of anything better. We completed the round in 1989, having hired a guide for the day. Unless you are experienced rock climbers a guide is a must, not only to allow an ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle, but also to lead you round the circuit and the tricky route finding past Sgurr Mhic Choinnich. Secondly good weather is best to showcase this circuit in its true glory. The start point is Glenbrittle, where there is a Youth Hostel and places to camp.

We joined our guide at Glenbrittle. The first part of the walk is straightforward. Follow the path east from Glenbrittle House to Loch an Fhir-bhallaich, then climb the west shoulder of Beinn Dearg continuing east and finally north east to the summit. Now the fun starts. At the south side of the summit a huge rock, some 80ft high, overlooks the summit. This is the Inaccessible Pinnacle, first climbed by the Pilkington brothers in 1880. It is the hardest Munro, and one of only two, possibly three that Sir Hugh Munro failed to climb.

Our Guide took us south east down the ridge keeping the Pinnacle to our left. At the bottom of the east side we roped up. The climb is graded moderate/difficult, not that hard by rock climbing standards but it is very exposed. Certainly the rope was necessary and reassuring. We climbed carefully up the longer east side, a rock climb of one hundred and fifty feet. Then we were on the summit, looking down on Sgurr Dearg where there were now about thirty people sunbathing and watching the action. Our Guide now tied the rope to the boulder near the summit and we abseiled off the short but more difficult west side.

Abseiling off the Inn Pin
Abseiling off the Inn Pin

After climbing the ‘Inn Pin’ the route continues south east down the ridge, past the Inn Pin again and past An Stac. An airy and exposed ridge is then followed to the summit of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, named after the mountain guide, John Mackenzie. Our Guide then helped us to find Collie’s Ledge, a terrace which avoids King’s Chimney, a very difficult rock climb. Collie’s Ledge allows access to the bealach between Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and Sgurr Thearlaich.

Sgurr Mhic Coinnich
Sgurr Mhic Coinnich

The round continues south over Thearlaich, a Munro Top, and then down to the top of the Alasdair Stone Shute, a steep scree slope which gives access to this part of the Cuillin ridge from Coire Lagan. After ascending Sgurr Alasdair, the highest point on the Isle of Skye, return to the top of the Stone Shute and make your way down to Coire Lagan. From Coire Lagan, we made our way back to Glenbrittle, tired but exhilarated after a great day.