Tips To Prepare For The Skye Cuillin Ridge Traverse
The Skye Cuillin Ridge traverse is considered one of the most difficult mountaineering challenges in the UK, and it attracts some of the world’s best climbers every year. This route must never be underestimated, and should only be attempted by those who have put in some serious preparation work first.
These are some general tips if you are curious to know more, and are not intended to offer detailed technical advice. Before setting out, it’s essential to research a wide range of sources about navigation, kit, fitness levels, and so on. Talk to some mountaineering experts who offer local guides of the area, if at all possible.
The rewards of conquering the route are of course the spectacular views over the mountains and sea, as well as some exhilarating and memorable scrambles and climbs. The route is not that long at 20km, but it is complex to navigate, with many sections demanding roped rock climbs and abseil descents, and it involves an overnight bivi at high altitude.
Spending two full days on a mountain requires both mental and physical stamina. The best way to find out if you are cut out for it is to test yourself on some less phenomenal routes first. There are many scrambling routes in the UK which are grade 2 or 3, meaning that they need advanced techniques of using handholds, and possibly ropes for sustained stretches.
Such routes will allow you to test your mettle, to see if you have the resilience and head for heights to manage exposed situations. In central Scotland, some routes up Ben Nevis, such as the curved ridge in Glencoe, provide a testing but less severe challenge than the Cuillin Ridge. The Tower Route also offers a good and achievable climbing challenge.
The Aonach Eagach route in Glencoe is another rewarding and stretching scramble for those looking to get some practice in. It requires a good level of physical fitness, and you need to be confident about moving over rocky terrain at height.
The route incorporates some steep pinnacles and chimneys (vertical cracks which a climber must ascend or descend by using the opposing force of their hands and feet), as well as rocky ridges and exposed step arounds. Some sections will require technical knowledge and kit such as ropes, harnesses, and helmets.
On Skye itself, some sections of the Cuillins can be tackled in one day as a warm up, such as the Pinnacle Ridge up to Sgurr nan Gillean, or Clach Glas up to Blaven. Further routes to try include the ridge over Sgurr a Mhadaigh and Bidein Druim nan Ramh, missing out the harder section.
Remember that if you are intending to complete the Skye Cuillin Ridge traverse, you will have to carry a large pack to sustain you for two days, so make sure you can handle the weight comfortably. Another important point to bear in mind is the weather. Only the most experienced should tackle it in the winter months.
A clear day in late spring or summer is considered best, but even then the weather forecast should be followed closely to make sure the conditions are favourable.