Thursday, 30 May 2013

Eagle's Gully and the NW Ridge of Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh

The North-West ridge of Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh (Mod/Diff)
Eagles…they have been a very prominent feature of my time here on Skye. Some remarkable and surprising close-encounters has made me even more fascinated with these winged beasts and their contribution to the character of the island. Fitting then that my first ever gully climb on Skye would be "Eagle's Gully".

I've climbed lots of buttresses in the last few weeks, but I am a sucker for routes with  really narrow and exposed aretés…and no-where does narrow and exposed as good as the Cuillin. But why not mix things up a bit and try something new?

I don't think I'd ever climbed a summer gully route before this morning, usually avoiding them totally unless filled with ice and snow. But a 2-starred gully route with a name like "Eagle's Gully", as a direct start to a narrow and exposed Moderate/Difficult ridge to a summit…that was enough to persuade me.

Eagle's Gully (Grade 3**) is the left-most of the two gullies on the right hand side

 Looking up inside Eagle's Gully

Coire a'Ghreadaidh

Where was the slime and moss and broken rock? Surely gully routes in summer aren't supposed to be pleasant? I guess it was inevitable it couldn't all be like that, and the slime and broken rock did make its appearance but not enough to stop Eagle's Gully from being an enjoyable direct start to my main route of the day.

Sgurr Eadar da Choire is one of the obscure but impressive Cuillin peaks that is looked at often but probably doesn't see many ascents. From the top of Eagle's Gully the summit tower looked intimidating and it involved some pretty exposed slabby moves to gain the highest point, from which the route ahead leads directly to the summit of Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh.

The start of the summit tower to Sgurr Eadar da Choire

Starting the gendarmes

"Fairly nerve-racking" is the guidebook description for taking the NW Ridge (mod/diff) crest directly to Ghreadaidh. I can see how that is justified…some extremely narrow gendarmes have to be tackled on rock that was sometimes pretty suspect. But I loved it, an unfrequented and varied mountaineering route to the summit known for having the narrowest sections of the main Cuillin ridge.

Some very exposed and narrow gendarmes mid-route

Sgurr nan Banachidich
The Southern Cuillin from Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh

This evening I am sunburnt and satisfied after the last few days. Who would have thought it was snowing here only a short while ago?


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