Go Further!

Leaving Sgurr Thearlaich heading back north to the Sligachan Hotel. Photo Alasdair Thomson.

A favourable set of circumstances recently gave me the chance to complete a day out on the Cuillin Ridge that I have had in my head for years. I have often wondered what it would be like to do a journey from one end of the Ridge to the other and back again, doing all the tricky bits. Pinnacle Ridge, Naismith’s Route, short and long side of the In. Pin., An Stac, King’s Chimney, the TD Gap. A challenge of personal fitness, stamina and above all the will to go out and put myself in a situation where I would have to get on with it and put some effort in. Skipping around in rocky places, up here, down there, over that, is what I love to do and always have. Traveling light, totally unencumbered, food and water, just me. Very selfish? Having said that, Wednesday 10th July was a hot day and I would have had to drop off the Ridge to find water a few times if I had not had a two litre bottle stashed at Gars Bheinn and friends Kirsty, Alf and Finlay mad enough to give up their time with the offer of driving me over there, letting me sleep in their camper, seeing me off from the Sligachan at 4am., walking up to the In Pin with food and water to help me along and generally be there to deal with whatever might happen. Three smiling faces to greet me at the end of the day, pat me on the back, put the kettle on and all that. Get me safely home to my own bed. Very good friends indeed and all without any forward planning at all, just a coming together of coincidences. As I set out the Karma was good, I was going to have a great day. When I popped out of the thick fog of a valley inversion into the soft rays of the early sun at the top of the first pinnacle on Pinnacle Ridge, Sgurr nan Gillean, I knew everything was as right as it could be and I was feeling pretty happy. Getting back to the Sligachan sixteen hours later was an amazing feeling of pleasure and satisfaction. Everything was hurting and I was tired to say the least but I was very, very happy. The day had been a lot of fun and as hard as I thought it would be. The little chats I had had with friendly people I bumped into along the way (some twice!), the dryness of the rock, the odd shady, overhung spot to lie in and rest for ten or fifteen minutes of blissful stillness, quenching a thirst when I allowed myself to, very familiar holds and features for constant company. It is no record, that is for sure, but for me it is. I can’t imagine ever getting to do it again. Another sequence of memories to quietly cherish forever, for as ever as I am alive. I love that.


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5 Responses to Skye Cuillin Ridge – Slig2Slig

  1. Arlene Johnston says:

    It’s a great feeling when coincidences like this “just come together” – you just have to grab them when the opportunity arises, one to remember forever! Well done 🙂

  2. Alastair Miller says:

    Hi Paul.
    Enjoyed reading about your exploits on the Cuillin ridge and (in another of your blogs) in Coire a’Bhasteir. The latter reminded me of scrambles back in the 1970s on the Pinnacle and West ridges of Gillean.
    Will be in Gairloch most of October but wonder about access problems due to the stalking season. Presumably this doesn’t pose a problem on NTS ground in Torridon, but what about An Teallach or Coire Grannda (Ben Dearg) or Ben Lair?
    All the best,
    Alastair (Miller, in Alsace)

  3. Tom Knowles says:

    Hi Paul,

    Great effort on the Cuillin, I read your account initially on UKC. Can’t imagine turning around at the end of a traverse to do it all again!

    I read a recent comment from Andy K on your Cuillin challenge which mentioned a solo ascent of Central Buttress on Beinn Eighe. I’m a bit of a Scottish winter climbing history geek (I put together a Grade IX list a couple of years ago which Simon Richardson picked up on) and I was wondering if you could shed any light on the solo eg. the year you did it, conditions, and if it was climbed onsight and without any gear?

    Also, I found a post by Andy which mentioned you avoiding the crux by “hooking up a wall on flat edges” – was this the shallow groove to the left of the crux chimney-crack? The guidebook says this is technically easier but was wondering what grade it goes at?

    You can reply directly to my email if you like if you don’t want to post anything on here. Thanks again and keep enjoying the hills!


    • Paul Tattersall says:

      Hello Tom
      Apologies for delayed reply, I have been away working and out of comms, honest.
      Talking Beinn Eighe. I really can’t remember when I soloed that route, it must have been ’98 or ’99. I am sure it was March/April. It was one of the times I know I nearly died soloing. When I talk about soloing, I mean free soloing I suppose, no ropes, no long slings on fixed gear etc. etc. Climb it or fall off and hurt yourself, that sort of weirdness. Not a recommended activity, not something I would claim to be proud of, like a lot of dumb things I have done.
      It was certainly winter conditions. I would not have got up the route in rock shoes. I did the route, no variations, no escapes, if I had thought escaping was an option I would have explored it. I didn’t know people did that. The route is the route isn’t it? Like the guy who told me how he had done the Nose in a Day. He was all enthusiastic and well happy (which you would be) with his 27 hour ascent. But has he done it? Well, er, …no. To Central Buttress. The crux groove/chimney was beautifully verglassed. That is what Andy refers to I think. I recall going up and down a few times, not wanting to commit myself to the thin purchase offered by the smear of ice. That is when I stood there and chipped away to reveal the odd flat edge smoothed over by the ice. Luckily I did have a sling in my bag and could hang my sac from my waste at that point as I remember being very unhappy when I had attempted the moves with my sac on. I think I was in tears by then! The emptiness of the vast coire and me trying to scratch my way up a few metres of rock in the acres of it I was surrounded by. As the ice thickened nearer the top of the groove, I cried again knowing I had survived. I had a pair of state of the art Pirhana axes, made by Simond? That might date the ascent. On my feet I had a pair of Sportiva leather boots I had used in the Alps in summer and they were fantastic, so much better on mixed than having Koflach or Scarpa plastics on. Crampons, you won’t believe this but the only ones I owned were the classic Salewa strap-ons. At least they had front points. Hope that answers your query. You are welcome to give me a call for a chat if you want to, 01445 771260.
      See you,

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