The Black Cuillin of Skye.
Eleven summits that represent he most technically challenging of the 282 Munros and for many baggers, the highlight.
It’s fair to say that there is nowhere else quite like it in the UK. More akin to the jagged peaks of the Alps than the green mountains of Scotland.
Success in summiting these peaks comes down to four key factors:
- Scrambling / easy climbing ability
- Head for heights
- Organisation / planning
Much has been written about these peaks, however I wanted to share my two cents on what I think gives the highest chance of success on these special mountains.
Cuillin days are big days. With long walk ins and walk outs, heavy bags and a lot of steep terrain physical fitness is key. While many Munro days are longer and cover more distance, it is easy to underestimate what is needed to be successful on Skye. Remember this: you can never be too fit! After all, the aim is to enjoy the days and the fitter you are the easier it will be to have fun in the Cuillin. It’s best to have a number of large days out elsewhere under your belt before your Skye Munro days and to have been in the hills regularly in the run up to your trip. While general cardio fitness is good, nothing really compares to hill specific fitness, so get out…..a lot!
Scrambling / easy climbing ability
It will be of benefit to have had some scrambling / easy climbing experience before coming to the Skye Munros. Much of the terrain is Grade 3 scrambling and even a bit harder. There are bypasses and ways round some of the most challenging parts but much of the technical terrain is unavoidable. You will have to complete a moderate graded rock climb to summit the In Pinn for example. A bit of experience with scrambling, easy climbing and abseiling goes a long way with feeling comfortable in the Cuillin. I would recommend having done the Aonach Eagach, An Teallach and Liatach (including the scrambles) and possibly more before coming to Skye.
Head for heights
As well as the technical aspect of movement over steep and challenging terrain there is also the mental factor. On the Cuillin Ridge even the easier parts include exposed terrain. The mountains rise up out of the sea at some alarming angles of steepness and if you’re more used to expansive mountains this can come as a bit of shock. This is a hard thing to prepare for but the best thing is to start on easy scrambling terrain, and choosing simple routes with elements of escapable exposure. In this way you can test your head and build up a level of familiarity with the type of ground you are likely to encounter.
Organisation / planning
Route finding is notoriously challenging on the Cuillin Ridge. Also knowing what to pack, how much to carry, what kind of equipment you will need and what sections can be linked easily are some of the considerations that will impact your success. There are some excellent guidebooks out there as well as other great sources of information, or you can take some of the stress out of it by using a guide. Either way, do your research and prepare hard!
Cuillin Munro courses
For most Munro baggers I recommend a 4 day Cuillin Munro course. On a 4 day Munro course you'll travel over 50km and climb and descend over 4700m, much of it on graded scrambles. This is normally a good balance of being cost effective, relatively quick, it gives flexibility to make the best of the weather and most importantly it's enjoyable!
My courses tend to break down like this:
Day One: Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr Dubh Mor and Sgurr Alasdair (8-10 hours, 15-16 km)
Day Two: Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Sgurr Dearg (the In Pinn), and Sgurr na Banachdaich (7-9 hours, 11-13 km)
Day Three: Sgurr a Mhaidaidh and Sgurr a Ghreadaidh (6-8 hours, 9-10km)
Day Four: Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Basteir and Bruach na Frithe (8-10 hours, 14-16 km)
These days give maximum flexibility and can normally give a high chance of success. Of course the weather plays a role in deciding which order to do the days in and sometimes not all 11 ridge summits are reached. This also doesn’t include the outlier Blaven, which can be included as a fifth day. In general if certain peaks have to be left off the list I try to ensure it’s the less technically challenging ones, in the hopes that by the end participants will feel confident to tackle the remaining peaks unguided.
If you want to know more about our availablility for guiding in the Cuillin, or dates of upcoming Munro courses get in touch below.