Mike Lates Skye Guides
It’s not the technical climbing that makes traversing the 22 peaks such a legendary challenge, although the 20-mile round crosses plenty of grade 3+ territory and takes in three (avoidable) Severe grade climbing pitches. No, the real reason why so many attempted traverses end in failure is the enormous physical and mental toll posed by this Alpine-style epic.
“4,000 metres of ascent and descent would make for a very big mountain walk, but the Traverse is definitely climbing not walking,” says Mike Lates, who has been a mountain guide on Skye since 1995 and completed over a hundred successful traverses. “Although technically simple, the situations are uniquely serious in the British Isles and drain nervous energy from even top-notch climbers.”
There’s a reason why hill folk are queuing up to put themselves through this gruelling challenge – and that, quite simply, is because the Cuillin Ridge is one of the best mountaineering routes in Europe. Remote, sustained, serious and with fantasy views over mountains and sea, this is scrambling at its most thrilling”
I have been lucky to so the ridge a few times in one day many more with a bivy and once with my dog a two day epic. It is an incredible place to be and as the finest mountaineering day in my mind in the UK.
INFO normal people – 3 HOURS TO START OF RIDGE – 9-15 HOURS POSSIBLE ON RIDGE 3 HOURS OFF LAST SUMMIT.
Record top to top by Finlay Wild –
On Sunday 16 June, Finlay set an impressive time of 3:14:58 – coming in just under Es Tresidder’s 2007 record of 3:17:28. The times for speed attempts are measured from Gars-bheinn to Sgurr nan Gillean, the southernmost to the northernmost summit on the ridge, and the ‘rules’ include doing all the main climbing pitches on the Traverse.
Amazingly, Finlay ran a time of 3:10:30 the week previously – but in an impressive show of discipline decided it didn’t count because he’d failed to touch the summit cairn of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, despite passing 10 metres from it.
For his successful attempt Finlay had no support on the ridge, which meant soloing all the graded pitches. He downclimbed the spots that are usually abseiled.
Finlay’s split times:
Sgurr nan Eag 0.15.50
Sgurr Dubh Mor 0.33.40
Sgurr Alasdair 0.55.26
Sgurr Thearlaich 0.58.29
Sgurr Mhic Choinnich 1.07.00
Inaccessible Pinnacle / Sgurr Dearg 1.24.08
Sgurr na Banachdich 1.40.26
Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh 2.00.06
Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh 2.07.47
Bidein Druim nan Ramh (Central Peak) 2.28.50
Bruach na Frithe 2.55.50
Am Basteir 3.04.34
Sgurr nan Gillean 3.14.58
And then –
On Saturday 12th October 2013 – Finlay Wild broke the speed record for the Cuillin Ridge traverse for the second time in a year, knocking a hefty 15 minutes from his previous record to log the first sub-three-hour completion of Britain’s greatest mountaineering route. So how on earth did he manage to get from the summit of Gars-bheinn at the south end of the ridge to the top of Sgurr nan Gillean in the north, in just 2hrs 59mins 22secs?