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Sgurr Dearg: The Inaccessible Pinnacle (986m), Isle of Skye, Scotland


Colin Wilson wrote this account of the climb to a friend and fellow climber, and has agreed that it can be published on Walking Stories to benefit other walkers.

I spent 5 days in Skye, 3 of them climbing/playing/sleeping on the Cuillin ridge. There really is nothing else like the Cuillins.  My goal was to walk the whole ridge which I understand is possible, the only essential climb being the Inaccessible Pinnacle (and only if you want to take in all 11 munros).  However there are 3 abseils required, one on the In Pinn and two in the vicinity of Bidean Druim Nan Ramh, so I took the rope I got for a fiver from a navie on the Calder Street Site when I was a Civil Engineer. Well dodgy I know but safe for abseiling I think.

The first day was immense and similar to our trip with [another friend]. The weather was superb (so much so I elected not to take a jacket to keep the weight down). I left Glen Brittle about 9ish and bagged the 4 munros at the north end of the ridge (why didn't we bag Sgurr Dubh Mor last time?) before getting to the In Pinn early evening.

I must say my heart was in my mouth a lot of the time on the ridge, it's a lot more tricky than I remembered, the weight of my rucksack was restrictive (50m rope, full bivi gear, food and 4 litres of water) and those blue boots (Scarpa Mantra) just don't feel part of me when scrammbling, so progress was slow but to be honest I like it that way.  I wasn't there to set any records, in fact I recall nodding off for some time at the water spot above Coir' A' Ghrunna.

The last climbers were off the ridge by the time I arrived at the In Pinn. I was glad, I didn't want an audience as I fumbled with the rope at the top trying to figure out how to set up an abseil (I have abseiled as you know but never set one up or had to manage a rope). The climb up the long side was an experience I shall never forget. I was  tired and my confidence was not what I had hoped it would be, then about half way up was the only real technical move which had me shuffling arround muttering to myself as I tried to figure it out. Eventually the knees started to go and my confidence tumbled. I looked down and got a touch of vertigo. Considering the climb back down made me feel worse so i eventualy shimmied my way up like a slug, pressing as much of my body against the rock as I could to gain friction, I think I even used my teeth  one point!

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I eventually gained the summit shaken but exhilarated, I was the only visible person on the ridge and the view was glorious!  I faffed around for ages setting up the abseil and was glad of a last minute check that that little bit of red tape meant the middle of the rope. It wasn't and  by a considerable margin! One end of the doubled rope wasn't even on the ground. Anyway, after a lot more faffing around to correct this I made a successful abseil and bivied at the foot of the Inn Pinn. 

After the worst night's sleep ever I rose to a beautiful morning and carried on to Sgurr Na Banachidch where the cloud descended.  I tried to wait it out but an hour later the visability hadn't improved and as the Cuillin Gabbro renders a compass useless and navigation can be tricky on the complex ridge I was forced to descend. I was disappointed but still happy with what I had achieved.  Inevitably by the time I arrived back at the campsite the cloud had lifted and the sun was shinning. I was tempted to head straight back up but instead elected to spend the rest of the day sunbathing on the beach and take in a super fish supper in Portree.

The next day the ridge was clagged over but the day after I tried to gain the ridge at the point I decended but was again defeated by the cloud. I am keen to have another go next year and in the meantime I think I shall get my climbing skills up to scratch and get the gear to allow a full traverse of the ridge taking in all the difficulties. Fancy it? (if not we could just do the walk, I am told the abseils on Bidean are NOT actually essential).


Contributed by: Colin Wilson

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A side view of the Innaccessible Pinnacle

A side view of the Inaccessible Pinnacle which is effectively a huge fin stuck on the top of Sgurr Dearg, a bit like a row of thin terraced houses on top of a hill.

The pinnacle seen end on from the summit of Sgurr Dearg

It only really takes the appearance of a "pinnacle" when seen end on from the summit of Sgurr Dearg (I couldn't get far enough back to get the whole pinnacle in without falling off the top of Sgurr Dearg).

View looking down into Corrie Lagan from Sgurr Dearg

View looking down into Corrie Lagan from Sgurr Dearg, with the Great Stone Chute clearly visable (the the longest scree slope in the UK)