Hills: Sgurr Mhic Chionnich
Date: Friday 3rd September 2021
Company: Just myself
Time: 6Hrs

The weekend weather forecast for Skye looked awesome, the reality was however somewhat different . Given the great forecast, the night previous I had been pondering over a number of potential routes for ascending Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, my one remaining second round Munro in the Cuillin.

Option 1, was to ascend to the top of the Great Stone Chute, drop a short distance down the other side then head up Sgurr Thearlaich, descend with care to the bealach (possible abseils) then along Hart's Ledge (Collie's Ledge) to the summit of Sgurr Mhic Chionnich. Grade: Moderate.

Option 2, was to ascend roughly two-thirds of the way up the Great Stone Chute and from there cut off left across Bomb Alley to reach the bealach before heading along Hart's Ledge (Collie's Ledge) and then to the summit. Grade: 2.

Option 3, was to approach from the north by first ascending Sgurr Dearg and from there head down the fairly loose path next to An Stac to get to Sgurr Mhic Chionnich. Grade: 2.

Finally, Option 4 was to take technically the simplest route to the summit by going up and down the An Stac screes. Grade: 2.

On waking on Friday morning and seeing thick cloud down to c.300m, I knew route-finding was going to be "interesting". I would be on my own and would potentially struggle to find the correct route certainly for the first three options. I therefore reluctantly set off to undertake Option 4, the least technical route to the summit. Please note that even the least technical route to the summit of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich is not a walk in the park as it involves fairly sustained Grade 2 scrambling along a narrow and in places exposed ridge. In my view this is the second most difficult of the Cuillin Munros with the In Pin taking first place. However, on the In Pin you have the security of a rope whereas generally you do not ascending Sgurr Mhic Choinnich.

Please note that a compass can be unreliable in the Cuillin due to magnetism in the rock. Please also note that my GPS went haywire several times during this walk I suspect due to not getting line of sight with a suffiicient number of satellites due to being hemmed-in by steep coires.

As my club had booked the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut for the weekend, I parked-up for the day in the hut car park. From the hut I followed the path directly opposite which is used for ascents of Sgurr Dearg and approaches to Coire Lagan and Coir a' Ghrunnda.

Parked-up in the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut car park:

Bridge over the Allt Coire na Banachdich:

During the initial ascent I was soon overtaken by a guided party heading for Sgurr Dearg for an ascent of the In Pin.

Track beyond the bridge:

En-route to Coire Lagan I passed Loch an Fhir-bhallaich.

Loch an Fhir-bhallaich:

On approaching lower Coire Lagan I knew it wouldn't be long before I would be into the cloud and visibility would be pants.

Approaching lower Coire Lagan:

It was disappointing to not get a good view of Sron na Ciche which is the most impressive rock face in the Cuillin. Seeing Sron na Ciche always reminds me of the film Highlander. One of the sword fights in Highlander took place atop a prominent rock called the Cioch which is high up on Sron na Ciche. Since then, numerous climbing parties have carried up plastic swords to re-enact the scene. There can be only one!

Sron na Ciche:

Ascent towards Coire Lagan:

To get up into Coire Lagan there is a short, easy scramble to the left side of the coire. A short distance beyond lies Lochan Coire Lagan. A visit to Lochan Coire Lagan is a worthwhile objective even if you do not progress any further. It is a great place to sit and watch the climbers on Sron na Ciche.

Short, easy scramble to reach Coire Lagan:

On arrival at Lochan Coire Lagan I could barely see the lochan as visibility was now circa ten metres. I no longer regretted ruling out the more challenging ascent options.

Lochan Coire Lagan:

While having a few minutes rest in Coire Lagan to catch my breath and put on my climbing helmet, the cloud temporarily dissipated enough to catch a glimpse of the bottom of the Great Stone Chute. Also, two guided parties arrived and immediately started heading-up the screes.

The start of the Great Stone Chute momentarily appearing through the cloud:

Looking back from initial ascent of the An Stac screes:

I also commenced up the screes sticking as much as possible to the rock such that it was not two steps up and three slides back on the scree.

Sticking as much as possible to rock instead of scree in ascent:

During the ascent of the screes I overtook the guided parties a short distance below the ridge when they stopped to leave their rucksacks which they would collect on their return. On reaching the ridge, I decided to do likewise depositing my rucksack and having a good drink as it would likely be an hour at least before getting back to the rucksack

Onto the Cuillin ridge:

I decided not to try to overtake the guided parties in that i) I was in no hurry and ii) it would make route finding easier by following guides who had undoubtedly done this route many more times than myself. I was unroped for this ascent and needed to make sure every handhold and foothold was sound as to fall several hundred metres off this ridge onto rocks below would mean certain death.

Commencing the scramble along to the summit of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich:

As I was concentrating on scrambling as well as keeping an eye on those ahead to watch no rocks were dislodged, I didn't take any photos until reaching the summit.

While I absolutely would have managed this ridge on my own it was nice to not be on my own up there in almost zero visibility.

Roped parties getting their photo taken at the summit of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich:

Once the roped parties departed, I stayed at the summit a little longer before also commencing my descent. I soon caught back up with the roped parties but again was in no hurry to try to overtake them.

On my own at the summit:

Descent back along the ridge towards the top of the screes:

Once back at the top of the screes I thanked the guides for their route-finding which certainly got me along the ridge more quickly than had I been working out the best route on my own.  I then commenced my descent of the An Stac screes while the guided parties continued on along the ridge towards Sgurr Dearg.

During the ascent of the screes I stuck to the rock as much as possible. However, during the descent it is easiest to go directly down the middle almost skiing down the scree.

Coming down the An Stac screes:

Descending the An Stac screes:

With some relief I reached the base of the screes and noticed that my boots had turned from green to white. The Cuillin are great for wrecking boots.

Boots post-descent:

It was now a case of simply retracing my in-bound route back to the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut.

Looking back towards the An Stac screes:

At Lochan Coire Lagan:

An Stac screes (left) and the Great Stone Chute (right) now visible from Lochan Coire Lagan:

Descent towards Loch an Fhir-bhallaich:

On passing the Eas Mor waterfall I knew I was almost back to the starting point.

Eas Mor waterfall:

Fantastic to complete the Cuillin Munros for a second time albeit it would have been nice to get some views.

The following photo, which is not my own, shows the ridge out to this summit.

Sgurr Mhic Choinnich ridge [photo credit: Mapio.net]:

Footnote - the Cuillin ridge requires the utmost respect. Route-finding can be a challenge in good visibility never mind in zero visibility. If you have the skills and experience there is no place better. If you don't, consider hiring a guide.