The Cuilllin Ridge Traverse is the UK’s most challenging mountaineering trip. It is incomparable to anything else found on the mainland and is a much sought after prize for mountaineers.
The Ridge comprises of around 12km of scrambling with 11 Munro tops and around 20 tops giving around 3000m of ascent and descent.
A successful Cuillin Ridge Traverse requires many ingredients to come together- good weather, the ability of the group to move well and safely on technical ground as well as very good mountain fitness. We don’t guarantee success but our experienced Cuillin Ridge guides will look after you whilst giving you the best chance possible of completing this majestic challenge!
About the Trip
We run this as a minimum 3 day course. This gives us the opportunity to choose the best 2 days for the traverse. If Day 2 and 3 look better for a traverse, the extra day may be used to stash some bivvy kit on the ridge, allowing us to carry less on the first day of our traverse. If the extra day is at the end of course we’ll use it to retrieve vehicles if needed- most people are very glad of a rest day!
As mentioned, the Cuillin Ridge Traverse does require good weather- if this is not the case, we can still make the most of your time on the Island by guiding you on 3 individual day trips- these may include objectives like Pinnacle Ridge, Clach Glas-Blaven or similar. Time spent on the Ridge is seldom wasted and days like this all build up experience which will contribute to success on the traverse in the future. The best chances for settled weather usually happen in May, early June and September though if you can travel at short notice, there’ll be other chances during the Summer months.
Is this for me?
It’s very hard to give hard and fast rules about the experience and fitness needed for a successful Cuillin Ridge Traverse. In short, you’ll be tackling two of the fullest mountain days in the UK (around 10-12 hours each), covering sustained scrambling (some unroped), some easy rock climbing (minimum Difficult standard) and several abseils. Combine this with a night sleeping out under the stars and carrying all the kit for the 2 days (around 10kg), the scale of the traverse starts to show. You’ll need a very good level of mountain fitness (more so than standard hill fitness for walking), sure footedness and a good head for exposure as well as the ability to dig deep! We’d expect clients to have extensive experience of mountain scrambles, hill walking and preferably some easy rock climbing experience.
Ratios: 1:1 or 1:2
Please get in touch with us to discuss your previous experience and aims.
|No. of people||Cuillin Ridge Traverse/3 Day course|
- Technical Kit
- 120cm Sling + Carabiner
- Belay Device + HMS Carabiner
- All of the above can be provided & hire is included in prices
- Personal Clothing/Kit
- Walking boots/Approach Shoes– We recommend either a stiff boot for scrambling OR a sturdy approach shoe with sticky rubber (e.g. La Sportiva TX4, Scarpa Mescalito) which can stick to wet rock. The compromise with the approach shoes is the lack of ankle support/waterproofing. We often wear waterproof socks with approach shoes on damp days. If spending money on any piece of kit, footwear is the thing to spend it on as you’ll be wearing them all day and it’s what keeps you attached to the mountain! Feel free to chat to us about your best choice of footwear.
- Wicking baselayer – keeps moisture away from your skin and reduces how cold you feel as a result. Cotton is not suitable.
- Trekking trousers– Lightweight, fast drying trousers are ideal.
- Mid layer– to be worn on top of baselayer in cooler conditions, for example a lightweight fleece or Primaloft top.
- Waterproof jacket
- Waterproof over trousers
- Warm hat– e.g. Woollen beanie
- Gloves– minimum 2 pairs (at least one waterproof pair). Leather gardening style gloves are good for scrambling
- Spare warm layer– e.g. fleece, synthetic insulation like primaloft,
- Other Kit
- Food and water – We’ll need the carrying capacity for 4 litres per person. Platypus style bottles are super lightweight and pack down to nothing. You’ll need 2 lunches, Dinner and Breakfasts for the bivvy. Dehydrated food works best for weight.
- Rucksack – 35-40 litres- recommended. If you need a much bigger bag than this, you’re probably carrying too much!
- Rucksack liner/Drybags– rucksacks aren’t waterproof so either a large poly-bag liner or several smaller dry-bag type bags recommended.
- Sun screen, sun glasses – mountain sun can be fierce and the sun does come out occasionally in the Highlands!
- Small Personal First Aid Kit– e.g. blister plasters, painkillers, medications
- Head Torch
- Trekking pole– We usually go with one pole only for Traverses to keep the weight down!
- For the Bivvy
- Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping Mat
- Waterproof Bivvy Bag- e.g. Alpkit Hunka
- Midge Net (May onwards)
What’s Included/Not Included
- Qualified and Experienced Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor (MCI) with extensive knowledge of the Cuillin
- Hire of helmet and harness
- Action photos of your climb!
What’s not included
- Personal kit
- Cancellation/Personal Injury Insurance
What about the weather?
You have to be pretty lucky to get perfect weather for a traverse on your first attempt (though it does happen!). This is often best viewed as a long term goal rather than this year’s route to tick off. It is so worth the wait though!
A Cuillin Ridge Traverse in our experience, requires good weather to complete. We’ve tried to make them work in poor weather in the past but with wet slippery rock, our pace can grind to a standstill. More importantly, when our guides go to work, they expect to come home safely. There are limits as to how safe we can keep people when roped together on wet slippery rock. Thus we have to operate with a margin of safety to make sure we all come home at the end of the day.
From experience, a wet night bivvying will almost certainly mean we descend on day 2!
As mentioned above, a Traverse booking with unsuitable weather will turn into 3 days out on the mountains while descending to the valley at the end of each day.
What is classed as a traverse attempt?
Basically, committing to a traverse is what we class as an attempt. We’ll only do this if we have a reasonable chance (weatherwise) of completing. This will mean either having bivvy kit stashed on a previous day or carrying it with us. If we have to abandon the traverse attempt midway through, it’s usually due to unexpected poor weather or our client’s fitness/ technical ability on scrambling terrain not matching the challenge of a traverse. If you haven’t been on the Cuillin before, it’s hard to know exactly what you’ve signed up for until you’re there.
Will we do all the Rock Climbs?
There are 4 main rock climbing pitches on the Ridge- The TD Gap (Hard Severe), Kings Chimney (V.Diff/Severe), The In Pinn (Moderate) and Naismith’s Route on the Basteir Tooth (Severe). Climbing in boots/approach shoes with a heavy bag is quite different to a day’s cragging at a roadside crag. If you are already an experienced rock climber with a few grades in hand and we get perfect dry conditions, we may well climb all of the pitches ( we do try to include the In Pinn on every traverse). More often though, we make tactical decisions based on how fast we’re moving and we may use alternative routes. It’s very easy to ‘win the battle but lose the war’ on the ridge and some teams have failed as early as the TD gap by taking too long/ expending too much eneregy/queuing etc. The definition of a successful traverse is a personal thing -we often settle for Sgurr nan Eag to to Sgurr nan Gillean and what we do in between is up to us. There are no rules in mountaineering about what you must do!