Colin's Munros


Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Basteir & Bruach na Frithe
15th July 2005 & 3rd May 2007

Route 1 8.2 miles; 1370m = 4500' ascent; 7 hrs.
Route 2 7.6 miles; 1360m = 4460' ascent; 9½hrs.

A chimney on the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean. Am Basteir from the Tooth. The guide starting up Am Basteir. Am Basteir and the Tooth from Bruach na Frithe. Coire a' Bhasteir. Panorama looking south from Bruach na Frithe. Bhasteir Tooth & Am Basteir from Sgurr a'Fionn Choire. Bhasteir Tooth etc. from Sgurr a'Fionn Choire Am Basteir from the Bhasteir Tooth. Sgurr a' Fionn Choire & Am Basteir from Sgurr nan Gillean. Glamaig from Sgurr nan Gillean. Bla Bheinn etc from Sgurr nan Gillean. Glamaig from Sligachan View in the window of the Sligachan Hotel.

Route 15/7/05: This route is via the Basteir Gorge. Another route is given below. The photos include some indication of where the paths go where scrambling is required. As always, note that my grid references (and heights) are mostly taken from the map and therefore are not entirely accurate. I've highlighted the main difficulties below.
Am Basteir: The path goes up the west side side of the Allt Dearg Beag, above the gorge. There is a good path south up the screes of Coire a' Bhasteir – it should be easy to find in thick mist. From under the cliffs of Am Basteir, it branches left to Bealach a Bhasteir and right to Bealach nan Lice. From the latter, there is an easy path over to the trig point on Bruach na Frithe, but, for Am Basteir, take the left branch to Bealach a Bhasteir and then west up the ridge. Am Basteir has only one awkward point, which is a gap about half way up. This “bad step” is not difficult when returning eastwards as long as your are 6' or taller, but is a pain when going westwards. It is best avoided on ascent by taking to the south slopes, about 20m or so down to the left, but that has a few difficulties itself unless you know the route well. The Tooth is for experienced scramblers only, requiring a 10' abseil down an overhang just after leaving the summit of Am Basteir. A rope can be left in place for the return.
Sgurr a'Fionn Choire has relatively easy scrambling access up its NNW face via one of two gullies. The west ridge is possible, although more demanding of skill. It provides spectacular views of the Basteir Tooth and so should certainly not be missed.
Sgurr nan Gillean: Sgurr nan Gillean is done by turning left from Bealach a Bhasteir, the sole difficulty being the ascent of one of the three neighbouring chimneys on the ridge. These involve straight forward easy scrambling.
Knight's Peak was measured carefully in 2013 and found to be 6" under 3000 feet. Nevertheless, it is a great top to visit. The easiest route from Sgurr nan Gillean starts by descending about 200m of the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean (not the expected north ridge) and then taking a path horizontally NE over to the north ridge. Good visibility is required for this. There is a tricky, exposed final descent over slabs and a pinnacle to get round to reach the col with Knight's Peak, but once on the col the ascent is an easy scramble zigzagging up ramps. In case of difficulty, retreat to the top of Sgurr nan Gillean and return by the tourist route which is initially down the SE ridge.

0950 Sligachan  13    00.0 milesNG48452978
 Loch a'Bhasteir595 5802.9 milesNG46882578
1220Bealach a' Bhasteir 833 8203.3 milesNG46862529
1300M Sgurr nan Gillean965 9503.5 milesNG4716125301
1325Bealach a' Bhasteir 833  3.7 milesNG46862529
1350M Am Basteir935 10503.85 milesNG4656325301
1400T Basteir Tooth915 11103.9 milesNG4650825279
 M Am Basteir935 11853.95 milesNG4656325301
 Bealach a' Bhasteir 833  4.1 milesNG46862529
 Bealach nan Lice896 13004.4 milesNG46472528
1500M Bruach na Frithe958 13654.65 milesNG4608425201
 Bealach nan Lice896  4.9 milesNG46472528
1540Loch a'Bhasteir595  5.3 milesNG46882578
1640Sligachan  13 13708.2 milesNG48452978

Route 3/5/07: This is the better of the two walks, and provides alternatives for the ascent to and descent from the ridge. The route is reasonably straightforward & can be done safely by competent climbers without any ropes except for the short abseil on Am Basteir when descending to the Tooth. Helmets are essential, of course, as climbers above can easily dislodge stones. The main problems are:
i) The bad step on Am Basteir, for which there is no real problem in either direction if you are 6' tall. Otherwise a detour on the S side is required. Such a detour can be slippery when the rock is wet.
ii) The 3m abseil just below the summit of Am Basteir en route to Tooth: This requires rope to abseil down and some effort jumping back up if no rope is in place. There are high footholds above the small overhang, but it is then difficult to reach the handholds to pull oneself up. Try standing on your partner's knee or shoulder, and then throw down a rope to him.
iii) There are several routes from Am Basteir to the Tooth. Going down the ridge crest as far as possible avoids messy ropework on the south face.
iv) The chimneys on Sgurr nan Gillean's west ridge are a little exposed.
v) The last few metres of descent from Sgurr nan Gillean to the pinnacle in the col with Knight's Peak (KP) are somewhat exposed.
vi) The climb up from KP to the 3rd pinnacle, normally abseiled in other direction: Half way up the chimney below the abseil point, turn to the right and ascend beside an obvious grove. There is an initial exposed move, which is much easier & safer on the rock 1 foot to the right of the grove rather than in it. I used a number 11 chock (1" wide) for protection here. The upper part above this move is perfectly easy, but it cannot be seen from below.
The second last column in the route table below gives the route numbers and climbing grades from Parker's "Scrambles in Skye".
Time: It was far too hot for any speed, and times were further delayed by inexperience at rope work.
Weather: A perfect day except for the great heat.

0900 Car Park & path end at head of Glen Brittle   90    00.0 milesNG42362581  
0945 ENE beside forestry to Bealach a'Mhaim
– cairn beside a lochan.
3442651.7 milesNG447826901 1W 
  SE up ridge to highest running water 6005202.4 milesNG4545260677 1W 
Continue to narrowing of ridge, then horizontal on path for
several hundred yards. Path ascends slowly well below ridge
before following a dike to M Bruach na Frithe trig pt
9588803.05 milesNG460842520177 3SOrange
  E to col 900 3.2 milesNG4631252576 2W 
1135 E up ridge (see above) to T Sgurr a'Fionn Choire 9359153.3 milesNG464292520778 4S 
  N to Bealach nan Lice 896 3.3 milesNG4647252878 4S 
1210 ENE below Am Basteir to Bealach a' Bhasteir 8339673.6 milesNG4686252915 2W 
1230 Ascend W over bad step to M Am Basteir 93410703.8 milesNG465632530184 RIIOrange
  Descend W to col (the Nick) after 3m abseil near top.
Leave rope in place for help on return.
~885   ~NG4655252885 RIII 
1320 Easy ascent NW to T Bhasteir Tooth 91611003.85 milesNG465082527985 4S 
  SE back to the col (the Nick) ~885   ~NG4655252885 4S 
1345 E back up to M Am Basteir,
using abseil rope as an aid near top.
93411503.9 milesNG465632530185 RIII 
1355 Descend E ridge to Bealach a' Bhasteir 833 4.05 milesNG4686252984 RII 
1455 Scramble E up west ridge to M Sgurr nan Gillean
(There are three chimneys to choose from.)
96412804.25 milesNG471612530187 RIIOrange
  Return down W ridge for 200m then take path NE across
the N face to Pinnacle Ridge. Descend to col (exposed
down to a small pinnacle, then tricky going round N side of
it) then ascend straightforward ledges to X Knight's Peak
91413304.4 milesNG4718025426 88 RIII 
1710 Continue to the next (3rd) pinnacle. Its ascent poses
the hardest part of the day's climbing – see above.
Then continue down Pinnacle Ridge to top of 1st pinnacle
7651360   88 RIII 
1745 N to base of 1st pinnacle (end of climbing/scrambling) 585 4.8 milesNG47232590  
1830 Jog N cross country to path & then N over
well-engineered path to Sligachan Hotel
  1313607.6 milesNG48452978  

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