From Am Bastheir (?) Pinnacles... From the South
Sgùrr nan Gillean is one of the most famous peaks of the Cuillin ridge, on the Scottish Isle of Skye. For the visitor, perhaps the most photogenic, its fairy-like striking shape, from the road, is a common postcard.
Donald Bennett, in the introduction of the well-known SMC book "The Munros", makes an allusion to it as the most beautiful Munro. That's saying something !
Let's not repeat here all the chapter about the characteristics and beauties of the Cuillin ridge, and let's focus on our UK's most beautiful mountain, Sgùrr nan Gillean.
The "Peak of the young man", as its etymology means, forms the nothern end of the Cuillins (more precisely NE corner), together with Bruach na Frithe
(NO) and Am Bastheir (N).
It is not the highest peak of the Cuillins but amongst the few. As the Cuillin ridge is a bit like a curve, Sgùrr nan Gillean is visible from almost all the rest of the range, forming a prominent sharp pinnache on the north. But it unveils all its majesty as seen from Sligachan and from the eponym Glen Sligachan.
As for the summit views, they are outstanding, with a sharp contrast between the flatness of Glen Sligachan and the rest of Skye on one side, and the army of jagged peaks of the Black Cuillins on the other, many of them well visible given the shape of the Cuillin ridge. The viewpoint is also ideal to admire the Red Cuillins and Blaven.
Panorama to the Cuillins and Sgùrr nan Gillean
Classic view From Sligachan Inn From the NW from Loch a'Choire Riabhaich In the fog Autumn view
Sligachan, the locality where all trailheads are, is accessible by the A87, via the well known bridge to the Isle of Skye, and via the Loch Lochy junction near Fort William both if we arrive from Glasgow or Edinburgh. From Aberdeen, it is adviseable to go via Inverness.
By public transports, Sligachan is a stop of the autobus going to the Isle of Skye, first after the brige of Kyle of Lochalsh.
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Panorama to Sgùrr nan Gillean from Am Bastheir
Route drawn on a postcard
The Tourist Route The Tourist Route Summit view Summit crowd... Abseiling The Pinnacle Ridge Near the start in Sligachan Main ridge traverse The Pinnacle Ridge View from Blaven
The most popular route of ascent, misleadingly known as the Tourist Route
, follows a path leading south from Sligachan, crossing the stream Allt Dearg Beag (small red burn). The route continues up into a corrie, Coire Rhiabhach. The ascent of the corrie is made of loose screes.
The next part of the ascent to the summit makes all the fame of the mountain, on a narrow and exposed ridge, requiring scrambling abilities (but no climbing equipment requiremed). The pass below is a point where many tourists choose to turn back, not willing to risk. But the gabbro (very abrasive kind of basalt specific to the area) is of excellent quality, very firm, and no difficult spot is encountered. Just beware of wearing your newest clothes, the prominent crystals of the Gabbro will quickly scratch them at the first uncareful movement !
The jagged summit hides a small flat area, just like designed to welcome a little crown. As alerady mentionned, the views are outstanding. A five-stars mountain !
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Another very famous route is the Pinnacle Ridge
, which is a rock climb that requires rope, harnesses and abseiling on the north ridge. The highest of the pinnacles is known as "The Knights Peak".
The base of the Pinnacle Ridge is reached the same way as the tourist route, but instead of crossing the river, continue up on the right until below the start of the Basteir gorge, and then we cross stream exiting the gorge to reach the base of the lowest pinnacle.
The West Ridge
is another alternative route of ascent or descent. It leads from the summit down to the pass separating from Am Basteir. There is a particularly narrow and exposed section about 2/3 of the way down, formed by the remains of a large Gendarme which broke away during the winter of 1986/87. The narrow section can be avoided by a gully, known as Nicholson's Chimney, on the north side of the ridge.
Sea of clouds in early morning
Rough terrain ! And sometimes (often...) poor visibility
No particular regulation, but anyone planning to visit this peak should remind that the whole Cuillin ridge in general, is completely different from what we are used to see in Scottish mountains. A good head for heights and scrambling abilities are required almost everywhere.
Black Cuillins from Blaven, Sgùrr nan Gillean is the last on the right
Not much to mention apart from the almost-unavoidable Sligachan hotel
, which is also (and above all) a campsite.
Wild-camping is in theory not forbidden, however be aware that pitching a tent in the Cuillins themselves is irrealistic given the nature of the ground. Then, possible places tend to be down in the valley. In this case make sure you choose a place off the beaten track and far enough from Sligachan to avoid possible troubles.