Solo and Unsupported on the Cuillin Round

© Dan Bailey

I'd first heard of the Cuillin Round a few years ago: Rob Woodall and Paddy Buckley's mega 24-hour route in the Cuillin, first completed by Rob in 1999 and then extended by Yiannis Tridimas in 2000. At 60km, with around 7500m ascent, the Cuillin Round increased the number of tops that had been linked in these hills, building on the Cuillin Ridge in 1911, the Extended Traverse (or "Greater Traverse") in 1939, and the Sligachan Horseshoe (or "Greater Greater Traverse") in the early 1980s to give a mammoth day out of 60 Cuillin tops and a satisfying closed-loop circuit, taking in the Cuillin Ridge, the Red Cuillin and Black Cuillin outliers and various other tops along the way.

The Cuillin Ridge from Garbh Bheinn  © Dan Bailey
The Cuillin Ridge from Garbh Bheinn
© Dan Bailey

Despite being a classic 24-hour challenge in the best mountains in the UK, the Cuillin Round remained relatively obscure. Not many people seemed familiar with the route, there were no GPS traces online, and by early 2023 there were only three known completions: Rob, Yiannis (the record holder in 21:22), and John Fleetwood. Reading their reports, I was intrigued, inspired, and eventually involved. The Round had made its way into my imagination and I wanted to give it a try.

Back in 2016 a friend Tom and I had battled our way along the Cuillin Ridge over three perfect October days and our one-page route description, massively oversized packs and general capacity for error gave us one of the most memorable and challenging experiences of our lives. Since then I'd come to know the ridge in much more detail with a few one-day traverses and numerous outings running, scrambling and climbing in the various corries, the Black Cuillin outliers, and the Red Cuillin. Step by step my comfort zone had increased to the point that the idea of covering the ridge at moderate speed had started to seem a reasonable possibility. But continuing on further, for up to 24 hours, into the night? I wasn't so sure.

Running the Cuillin Round was the culmination of a lot of time spent on or dreaming about Skye. I'd never have had the confidence to try the route without having first enjoyed so many other days here

This sense of caution was compounded by the fact that it would probably be a solo outing. Rob and Yiannis had made their sub-24 hour completions with support teams, but as a flatlander with few fell running friends it didn't seem realistic to get a team all the way up to Skye for one or more trips. Given Skye's frequently tricky weather and the likelihood of needing to be flexible around dates, it seemed clear that a solo round would be much more logistically practical.

Two other things had encouraged me to think seriously about attempting a solo round. Firstly, John Fleetwood had completed a 29-hour solo round in 2016, and his excellent trip report had been a big part of my motivation to try the route in the first place. Secondly, two amazing runs in May and June by James Gibson had been brilliant to read about.

James had not only added an even longer 70 top journey in the form of the Trans-Cuillin, running mostly solo, but he had then followed it with a fast Cuillin Round a couple of weeks later, the first to complete the round solo in under 24 hours. This latter run had really inspired me and given encouragement that a fast solo round could be achievable. He'd set the bar high too, managing a new record time for the Cuillin Round of 19:39, despite having very hot weather for much of the day.

I ummed and ahed over whether or not to look at his GPS trace: having already done most of my prep work, with hours spent recceing and poring over maps and guidebooks to try and figure out the best lines along the route, would it feel like cheating to check someone else's "answers" a month before trying it? About 10 seconds later I was inevitably on Strava, and was pleased to discover that James's route made use of very similar lines to the ones I'd planned. We'd chosen different start / finish points, I'd checked a more direct line on the ascent to Gars-bheinn, was intending to down-climb the In Pinn's West Ridge rather than reverse the East Ridge, and I'd initially recced a different line up onto Sgùrr Hain, but otherwise it was reassuring to see that most of our lines were pretty similar.

The view north from Sgurr Alasdair, on the way to a successful Round  © Charlie Byers
The view north from Sgurr Alasdair, on the way to a successful Round
© Charlie Byers

I decided not to study James's split times too closely - it seemed likely that just getting round in 24 hours was going to be a big ask, and that poring over his sub-20 hour splits would be inspiring but also exhausting in equal measure.

One other consideration was whether to try the run unsupported (carrying all food/kit etc from the start, only relying on streams for water), or to go "self-supported" by pre-stashing some supplies, as James and John had on their solo rounds. Whilst reducing pack weight would certainly be welcome, particularly for the big climbs onto Gars-bheinn and Glamaig, I felt that a couple of kilos wouldn't make such a big difference overall, especially on the technical Main Ridge, where "running" in practice often means scrambling smoothly and efficiently across terrain where a marginally heavier pack is usually the last thing on your mind. I was also reluctant to rely on a tactic which would involve having the time and energy in the days before the attempt to get up onto the ridge to place caches.

As far as I could tell, an unsupported Cuillin Round would be the biggest unsupported run in the Cuillin to date, which felt like a nice incentive to try it in this style. Lastly, I liked the aesthetics of going solo and unsupported, setting out with everything you'd need to stay safe and keep moving until you made it back to your starting point again.


Living in South East England, training for the Round consisted mostly of long slow flat miles around Cambridge with the odd climbing trip to the Peak District. Eventually I realised the local gym had a Stairmaster-type machine and started logging a couple of sessions a week, watching classic alpinism clips on its screen with the sound off and trying to guess which peak names the automatic subtitles had just mangled.

Plans for a few longer days running in the Lakes earlier in the year had been shelved after getting frostbite(!) in a big toe whilst climbing in the Alps in December, but very fortunately this turned out to be less limiting than expected. Before long I was able to get some longer bike rides in, culminating in a great day out with a friend in April, traversing Wales in a day from Cardiff to Holyhead, a great test at a longer endurance effort. By February I was also back to gentle running. I knew that the Round would require just as much scrambling confidence as stamina, and so it was helpful to tick off a couple of longer rock and run outings in the Peak District, running between 9-10 crags and soloing a couple of easy routes in trainers at each one to get used to covering technical ground in running shoes. It felt as though fitness was starting to peak, the toe was almost completely healed and most importantly it had been a fun buildup: a great few months ticking some brilliant days off the wishlist.

Dry rock on the Inaccessible Pinnacle during a recce outing  © Charlie Byers
Dry rock on the Inaccessible Pinnacle during a recce outing
© Charlie Byers

Finally a week in the Cuillin in May was an opportunity for a final key session: running the Round over two days from Sligachan. Starting at the Slig, I jogged the 14km along the glen to Coruisk, filled up bottles at the Mad Burn and set off back along the ridge, completing Gars-bheinn to Sgùrr nan Gillean in just over 9 hours (bypassing the In Pinn in windy conditions). The next morning I set off from Sligachan again to cover the Red Cuillin and the Black Cuillin outliers, finishing at Coruisk before heading back along the valley path. Altogether this gave around 88km for the two days with lots of it over technical ground, a great confidence boost for trying the full round the following month.

The rock is slick and Blà Bheinn is encased in cloud. But it's now light, the rain has eased, I'm 17 hours in, and it would be rude not to "have a look". Better get on with it...

However the recce hadn't been entirely incident free: on an easy section descending Sgùrr MhicChoinnich on the first day, I'd paused briefly to look up at the line of An Stac towering majestically above Coire Lagan. All of a sudden my heels had slipped beneath me on the ball bearing-like scree and I'd slid a metre or two down the slope, gouging my right palm. In many ways it was a welcome reminder of the concentration that would need to be maintained throughout the Round. However it was also confronting: was it realistic to think I could get round the whole loop without mishap, especially when factoring in night running and increased fatigue? I resolved to work on maintaining a consistently good baseline level of attention, allowing myself to push when feeling focused but being strict about reining things in when necessary.

June attempt

May and its fine settled weather had been and gone and it was time to start trying the route. Keen to maximise daylight hours for the attempt, I pencilled in a trip to Skye around the solstice. After walking in from Sligachan, I camped at Coruisk and spent a brilliant few days reading, swimming and recceing a few last sections whilst waiting for a scheduled clear weather window. Coruisk is a magical place and having time here to relax and explore was a real highlight, as well as a good opportunity to test the climbing performance of Crocs on gabbro (surprisingly effective).

Loch na Cuilce in June: a stunning place to wait out a weather window  © Charlie Byers
Loch na Cuilce in June: a stunning place to wait out a weather window
© Charlie Byers

Waking at 2am on Thursday for a 3am start, it was clear in the twilight that the ridge was still thick with cloud and I briefly considered going back to bed for a midday start (the nature of the route means that the section from Glamaig to Druim Eadar Dà Choire is most suitable for running at night, and a noon start from Coruisk is best for this). But with heavy rain due at 5am the following morning, a midday start seemed doomed to fail, and I decided it would likely be best just to get on with it. Reaching Gars-bheinn in cool temperatures at 04:02, I struggled through damp fog along the main ridge, slipping and sliding and knowing things were far from ideal for a fast traverse. Scrabbling along runnable sections on all fours and sense-checking position with a GPS to confirm I was on route didn't feel terribly efficient. Somewhere around Sgùrr nan Eag I almost ran over a bivvied team half asleep on the ridge and wondered what they'd make of this topless stranger charging at them out of the mist.

Early morning on Sgurr Alasdair  © Dan Bailey
Early morning on Sgurr Alasdair
© Dan Bailey

Reaching the In Pinn around 7am after a delicate climb up An Stac on wet slick rock it felt like time to call it: there was no way I wanted to be down climbing the West Ridge (or for that matter the East Ridge) in the cold wind and the rain. Not wanting to descend straight away I carried on slowly, and as the sun came out around 9am my frustration evaporated, with a beautiful day ahead and stunning panoramic views over the entire ridge. I enjoyed a leisurely continuation on to the very end of the main ridge, Sgùrr nah-Uamha, meeting a few other teams and dropping down and back to Coruisk mid-afternoon: an excellent day out and a very useful additional recce.

It had been a great week despite the disappointment and surely there would be other opportunities to try the Round again before long. However as June stretched into the middle of July with its shorter days and the weather in the Cuillin refused to even remotely justify taking the train up, things started to look a bit more uncertain. I had one more week that I could potentially get to Skye this summer, July 22-28, but a few days beforehand the forecasts still looked dire. I had a moan to my wife Alice and started wrapping my head around the fact that perhaps it wasn't going to happen this year.

The Round felt like it was slipping away. However the forecast was low confidence enough that predictions were changing frequently, and I couldn't help but keep rechecking for signs of improvement. Suddenly on Thursday 20th a possible weather window appeared: dry and cool Sunday 23rd and Monday 24th. It seemed worth a shot. Far too late to book the sleeper train, I made a last minute decision to drive up on Saturday morning and hope for the best.

July attempt

I arrived on Skye late in the evening, pitching my little tent on the edge of Loch Slapin, the silhouetted outlines of Clach Glas and Blà Bheinn across the water bringing a sense of excitement and nerves for what lay ahead. The forecast for Monday had deteriorated, whilst Sunday was still looking OK but decidedly more mixed, with a strong north-easterly due. Music from the journey, messages, forecasts and vague thoughts about the route whirred around my brain, which along with a rattly wind made it hard to sleep. I pulled out a pillow from the car (a strategic luxury that usually didn't make the cut on trips by train) and tried to get some rest before the morning. All too soon the night had passed and I was on the road to Elgol for the boat over to Coruisk.

Two minutes to noon on Sunday July 23rd - just enough time to sort that shoulder strap!  © Charlie Byers
Two minutes to noon on Sunday July 23rd - just enough time to sort that shoulder strap!
© Charlie Byers

I usually love the boat ride to Coruisk for the stunning views of mountains, birds and sea life and the sense of impending adventure. This time it felt much more foreboding: a headache had set in and the blasts of spray clearing passengers off the starboard seats were an unwelcome reminder of the sub-optimal forecast. At Coruisk I pitched my tent and laid out my sleeping bag, mat and a bag of food and spare clothes. It was strange to think that a trip around all of the summits in sight and many others was on the cards before enjoying this particular camping spot.

Running bag packed, clothes changed and shoes carefully laced, I walk over to the JMCS hut and chat to the group staying there for the week. Hand on the hut, a quick picture and it's noon and I'm off, jogging over the slabs to the Mad Burn and off up the north-east ridge of Gars-bheinn.

Dry rock and great views looking back over Coire a’ Ghrunnda  © Charlie Byers
Dry rock and great views looking back over Coire a’ Ghrunnda
© Charlie Byers

Compared to June the climb feels like hard work, and I worry that fitness has faded. I'd tapered well for the June attempt but haven't managed much training since then. My heart rate is racing and I back off a bit, feeling that a slower climb is preferable to burning out 20 minutes in. On the plus side moving on dry ground is easier than the wet rocks in June and I arrive on Gars-bheinn in around 1:03, just a minute or so slower than the previous attempt and a couple of minutes quicker than my schedule (which uses Yiannis's 21:22 splits as a rough pacing guide). This gives a small confidence boost and I turn north to tackle the main ridge. In clear visibility and on dry rock, things feel both faster and safer and I enjoy traversing the brilliant southern peaks. I make a small error descending Caisteal a' Gharbh-choire and then can't stop myself tagging the two high points on Sgùrr Dubh Mòr, not quite convinced enough that the first cairn reached is the high point; otherwise things are going smoothly.

Racing for time is long since out of the window and the focus now is just on getting through this technical section smoothly and safely

On over Sgùrr Dubh an Dà Bheinn, the route leads away from the TD Gap out to Sgùrr Sgumain, then up the Sgùrr Alasdair bypass, over Sgùrr Theàrlaich and on to Sgùrr MhicChoinnich, bypassing King's Chimney for the excellent Hart's Ledge (Collie's Ledge) and cutting the corner slightly onto the summit. No distracted slips on the descent to the bealach this time, then up the minor top that starts An Stac, followed by An Stac itself, brilliant this time in the dry, and over to the base of the In Pinn.

Climbing this is a total highlight, enjoying the shiver of exposure on the East Ridge, up onto the Bolster Stone, check the watch - 15:31 - a little quicker than expected, which is encouraging. Past a team of three about to abseil who kindly give me a moment to move under their ab rope and down the West Ridge. I'd practiced this in June whilst waiting for a weather window and was glad not to be onsighting this Severe down climb, with its couple of polished and delicate moments. Down to Sgùrr Dearg, always a bit in doubt as to where the high point here is, tag either side of the notch, then off and down to Sròn Bhuidhe and the three tops of Sgùrr na Banachdich.

Misty conditions on the north end of the Cuillin  © Charlie Byers
Misty conditions on the north end of the Cuillin
© Charlie Byers

The next section to An Dorus is great fun, with fantastic ridge running and nothing too technical to break the rhythm. On recces I'd enjoyed tagging the minor "extras" of the Three Teeth and The Wart (plus An Turaid further north) but skip them today as they're not Cuillin Round tops. In the zone, I almost miss the south summit of Sgùrr a' Ghreadaidh and backtrack slightly for it.

Soon Sgùrr a' Mhadaidh is beckoning and Bidein Druim nan Ràmh beyond. I think this might just be my favourite part of the ridge, Mhadaidh with its series of imposing but straightforward little climbs and Bidein with its incredible basalt staircases into the sky. "That down climb" from Bidein feels fairly comfortable today - happy to be a tall climber on this particular move, and it's drier too than the last time I was here. I reach Bealach Harta at 17:31 and am pleased to be significantly up on schedule, though less excited for the mist which has now arrived and contributes to me missing the quickest line onto Sgùrr na Bàirnich.

Push on, Bruach na Frìthe could have been more direct but on the whole goes OK. I focus on eating during the uphills. By now the mist is really quite thick and I wish I'd recced the excellent top of Sgùrr an Fhionn Choire more carefully: a clear line close to the crest in good visibility is now an indistinct world of mysterious blocks and boulders. A familiar wall with small incut holds appears and leads me on to the higher west summit. The following peaks go OK despite the poor visibility - out along the Sgùrr a' Bhasteir summit ridge until it starts to descend, back again to the nameless little top just west of Am Basteir, perhaps a little indirect in the mist, but not too bad. To my shame I've still not done Naismith's route and resolve to rectify this on the next visit: for this evening it's down for the high start onto Lota Corrie route and up on to the Tooth, an atmospheric place to be with the mist swirling and Am Basteir looming out of the clag. I take the 4b corner which is reached sooner than the 5b undercut roof and is less strenuous, though does involve the time penalty of standing on tiptoe at the base tapping holds for stability before pulling!

Am Basteir and the Bhasteir Tooth, with Bla Bheinn waiting far in the distance  © Dan Bailey
Am Basteir and the Bhasteir Tooth, with Bla Bheinn waiting far in the distance
© Dan Bailey

Down the lovely descent to the bealach, up Tooth Groove & Arête and press on up the west ridge of Sgùrr nan Gillean. Halfway up I cut left for the traverse that leads out towards the excellent former Munro Top of Knight's Peak, tagging the twin summits here before climbing the final section of Pinnacle Ridge onto Sgùrr nan Gillean, reaching here at 19:35 (6:32 Gars-bheinn to Gillean). I've heard from Rob about a possible "north-east face bypass" on Sgùrr nan Gillean, allowing the order of Gillean and Knight's Peak to be swapped, but there's no chance of finding this in the fog: one to explore on a future trip.

I love the small summit of Sgùrr nan Gillean and think back to sunset drams with Tom here after our traverse in 2016. Today food at the Slig will have to wait, instead it's over and down via Sgùrr Beag to the brilliant "true finish" to the ridge of Sgùrr na h-Uamha at 20:11, almost 50 minutes up on schedule.

On a previous outing I'd tried a direct descent off this summit and whilst fun it hadn't been fast. I take the option of retracing steps to the col and start jogging down, thirsty and keen to reach the streams lower down. I feel slow descending but try to keep things moving, glancing ahead to the path which is now visible far below. Dropping into the glen, I tiptoe over the bog, glad to keep my feet dry, and then the River Sligachan is a wonderful place to refresh hands, face and water bottles. I sit down briefly whilst juggling flasks on the theory that any moment of bag faff is a good opportunity to rest my feet. Reaching the path, I set off on a steady trot north into a headwind, back below the clouds now and relishing the evening views with the sun receding over the horizon. I enjoy the show and almost forget to turn off the path after 4km or so for the second half of the Round, beginning with the Red Cuillin.

Blue skies descending to Glen Sligachan, Glamaig in cloud ahead  © Charlie Byers
Blue skies descending to Glen Sligachan, Glamaig in cloud ahead
© Charlie Byers

Glamaig always feels like a struggle, and I've never recced the Cuillin Round line up the south-west side. I'd hoped this would be easier than the direct route from Sligachan, but quickly start to suspect that this may not be the case - even the approach is tough! My feet are soon soaked in the bog and the awkward stream crossing of the Allt Daraich is an unwelcome obstacle before starting the climb itself. Following the line of fence posts up into the growing darkness, it seems as though the scree becomes steeper and looser with every step. Trying to claw my way up a particularly unstable section, I can't help letting out a power scream and am startled to see a few (equally startled) sheep bound away into the darkness. It seems as though the top will never arrive, but eventually the wind noise increases and the gradient eases. In thick cloud and fully dark by now, the cairn seems to materialise out of nowhere.

At 22:55, I'm still around half an hour up on schedule, but have lost some of the advantage I'd had on Sgùrr na h-Uamha, despite Yiannis's Glen Sligachan stop for soup. I unlock my phone a couple of times on the descent, glancing at my position icon on the OS Maps app to roughly verify my line down. The Beinn Deargs pass in a bubble of fog, darkness, scree and various bouts of shoe-emptying, and the next water fill up point just after the Màm a' Phobuill is a welcome breather.

I find myself asking out loud for the weather to give me ten more dry minutes, and generously it seems to oblige...

The climb up to the two brilliant Marsco tops is straightforward on a relatively good path and I arrive to a strong crosswind on the summit at 01:20. Heading down from here for the small peak of Druim Eadar Dà Choire both legs and morale are feeling OK, but at some point along this stretch the rain starts to come down in earnest and I stop to put on tights and a jacket. This change in the weather feels serious: the rain is whipping across my vision and adding another disorientating element to the fog and darkness, my head torch beam dazzling as it reflects off the drops. I'd been happy with my shoes' grip on dry rock during recces but this now seems totally irrelevant as I slip and slide around on wet grass and slick rock. My biggest concern at this stage is what proper rain means for the last technical section of the round, the traverse of Clach Glas - Blà Bheinn. This brilliant section is my favourite part of the whole route, but I'm seriously questioning the wisdom of setting out on it solo in the wet. I decide to park that decision for a little while: in the meantime it's still fully dark and I know that the next section will take plenty of concentration to navigate.

I'd recced the traverse shortcut from Druim Eadar Dà Choire out to Belig twice and am very grateful for this - in rain, fog, wind and total darkness it is pretty well the lowest moment of the entire round. Maintaining a sense of direction feels difficult and I pull the phone out several times for a GPS position check, only to realise I'm tending to bear too far left. By way of compensation I inevitably traverse up and right too early and find myself on wet slabs, tiptoeing above what seems like a black void below. It's a relief to eventually meet the line of fence posts leading to the col, and to then find a decent line up and down Belig. I'd been worried about encountering awkward ground here on the lower gabbro ribs, but this goes well enough.

Clach Glas looking intimidating from Garbh Bheinn  © Dan Bailey
Clach Glas looking intimidating from Garbh Bheinn
© Dan Bailey

The longer effort up Garbh-bheinn isn't as tough as I remember, then the south-east ridge descent is awkward, greasy, and the line seems hard to find in the dark. It's a fantastic feeling to drop down to a hint of dawn and a slight lifting of the clag, and I head out to tag Sgùrr nan Each's two tops with the head torch increasingly unnecessary. The col just after this (immediately before Clach Glas - Blà Bheinn) is the point to head down if I'm bailing. The rock feels ultra slick and ahead Blà Bheinn is encased in cloud, with Clach Glas only partially visible. But it's now light and the rain has eased, I'm 17 hours in, and it would be rude not to "have a look". Better get on with it. I eat the last of my bagels and a gel and resolve to take things cautiously. Racing for time is long since out of the window and the focus now is just on getting through this final technical section smoothly and safely.

The Clach Glas approach is greasy and slow and even the easy ground feels technical and spooky. Runnable slabs have turned into inclined ice rinks and I spend a lot of time thinking about "the little helicopter"… Carefully up the Mod summit tower, checking the reversibility of each move, then onto the neat little summit platform. Remembering that there are alternatives to the Imposter slab, I descend a rift off the summit before continuing carefully down to the Putting Green. The initial Diff wall on Blàbheinn is soaked and the top out feels loose, slimy and grim: passing this is a relief. Not keen for the 20m Diff chimney beyond, I check quickly round the corner to the right to see if any other options appear, forgetting the Mod alternatives which are further left. Nothing looks promising and the diversion serves mostly to confuse my watch GPS which briefly thinks I'm back on Clach Glas. The Diff chimney it is. This proves to be the technical crux of the entire Round today, with wet polished footholds making it quite a bit harder and less secure than usual. Taking the climb very slowly and cautiously, finally I'm up and pushing onwards to Blà Bheinn, arriving at the summit at 07:02. It's taken around 2 hours to make it here from Sgùrr nan Each, a link I'd hoped to do in less than an hour. Despite the delay, I'm elated to have this section done. I fish another bar out of the pack and set off towards the excellent south top and the long south-west ridge down.

I'm around 40 minutes behind Yiannis's splits now, having lost well over an hour during the night, but it's hard to mind much given the conditions, and this makes for an interesting headspace for the last few peaks. I'd always assumed this final section would pass in a haze of exhaustion, racing for time whilst battling to get calories down. Instead, given the slow progress over the past few hours, I feel almost refreshed, but it's difficult to find the motivation to switch back into pushing hard. I settle for an easy jog, aiming to keep moving steadily without stacking it on the wet path.

Soon enough I'm crossing Abhainn Camas Fhionnairigh for a last water refill and heading up the south flank of Sgùrr Hain, a section I've not checked but which I'm hoping will be a little more direct than the south-east ridge I'd climbed on my recce. In the end it seems like there's not much in it and I tag the southern top before bearing left for the true summit which lies 250m north. Next is the high point above Captain Maryon's Monument, after which I fail to pay sufficient attention gaining the path to Sgùrr na Stri and head too far left, eventually being forced into an awkward ascent back to the route.

Just about dry slabs on the final descent to Loch Coruisk  © Charlie Byers
Just about dry slabs on the final descent to Loch Coruisk
© Charlie Byers

Jogging up Sgùrr na Stri whilst demolishing a handful of jelly babies, I tag the final summit at 09:49 and turn north for the direct descent down to Coruisk. These brilliant gabbro slabs have mostly dried already in the wind, but suddenly the rain is back! I find myself asking out loud for the weather to give me ten more dry minutes and generously it seems to oblige. Down, sticking mostly to the rocks, always half-wondering if there's a better line here, reaching the rough trod above the loch, the main path, the stepping stones, and the final dash to the hut. A boatload of visitors has just arrived from Elgol and I flit between them, one eye on my watch - all of a sudden 22:27 seems a much more appealing finishing time than 22:28… Swing right, up a few steps, a final sprint and tag the hut. 22:27:52!

I stop the watch and wander round to the front of the hut. Sitting down feels great, taking the pack off and stretching my back out is even better, and as the hut door opens and a cup of tea and breakfast bap are offered (the perfect antidote to thousands of calories of sugar), the deep satisfaction of a long dream becoming reality starts to sink in. A wash and swim in Loch Coruisk followed by bed beckons, but before that, I'd promised a text to family once done. One last hill climb in search of signal it is then…


Yiannis Tridimas's round is so far the only other Cuillin Round completion to have started and finished at Coruisk. This made it a convenient point of comparison and I used Yiannis's splits to help gauge progress throughout the round.


Running the Cuillin Round for me was a culmination of a lot of time spent on or dreaming about Skye. I know that I'd never have had the confidence to try the route without having first enjoyed so many other outings that gradually added up to a greater familiarity with the place. Living far from hills it's easy to become a sort of climbing butterfly, constantly taking trips to different areas, and so preparing for the Round gave a hugely fulfilling experience of getting to know one place relatively well.

Although I loved the adventure of trying the Round solo, the Cuillin is generally a place to explore with others. Similarly there's no such thing as a truly unsupported round, so many thanks to those who gave generous help, advice and encouragement in getting to the starting point. Special mention goes to my sister Jo for portering in a week's worth of camping gear from Sligachan to Coruisk on a rainy and midgey evening in June!

That's £3 well spent!  © Charlie Byers
That's £3 well spent!
© Charlie Byers

Writing the trip up, it still feels like the most rewarding experience I've ever had in the hills. I've never attempted a run that's required such a broad range of experience, and negotiating the physical/mental/technical/tactical/logistical aspects of preparing for the Round made it a very memorable experience even before setting off. I remember thinking early on that to get round in 24 hours I would need everything to come together more or less perfectly - good fitness, great weather, solid pacing, nutrition, route finding… In the event, all of these things felt a long way from being perfect, but by then my comfort zone seemed to have increased to the point that this wasn't required for success.

The whole experience has been brilliant, and if you're a runner and a climber with an interest in long days out, I'd highly recommend giving the Round a look. Having said that, it's worth emphasising that although nothing on the route is especially technically difficult (at least in the dry), much of the ground is serious: I certainly wouldn't recommend anyone attempt it without getting to know the terrain first. A guidebook is definitely a worthwhile investment and I found the excellent SMC Skye Scrambles by Noel Williams to be particularly useful for tips on the lines used by the Round.

Kit list

Mountain Equipment Tupilak 14 (excellent), containing:

Emergency bivvy bag (SOL)

First aid kit in resealable sandwich bag

Lightweight rain jacket (inov8)

Full zip hoodie (Mountain Equipment Eclipse)

Merino tights

Food, around 8000 calories:

Bars x 12 (mix of Maurten + Nakd bars, a few with caffeine)

Gels x 9 (Maurten, a bit pricey but really good)

Bagels x 5 (PB & J, fairly dry but nice to have something more substantial)

Jelly babies 190g x 2 (ate 1 bag)

200g bag salted peanuts (ate approx half during the round)

200g marzipan in sandwich bag (after reading about Graham Obree using this to fuel bike rides - cheap and calorific, in hindsight also dense and sickly..!)


2litre Platybottle

2x 500ml soft flasks, initially filled with energy mix

Head torch fully charged and locked off (Petzl Swift RL)

Small power pack (plus phone cable) in resealable sandwich bag, fully charged


Decathlon shorts, t-shirt, socks

Gloves (Screwfix cheap pair - good for gabbro and essential for confidence running over scree etc)


Arc'teryx Konseal FL 2, durable and good grip, decided against gaiters in favour of emptying shoes as needed


Garmin 255 watch (navigation off and set to "GPS only" for battery saving)

30 Oct, 2023

Nice one Charlie!

30 Oct, 2023

Cheers Jethro! Group crack at the winter round next SWF?

30 Oct, 2023

What an incredible journey and a superb write-up. Thanks for sharing and congratulations. Blown away.

31 Oct, 2023

I’ll take the pictures 📷

31 Oct, 2023

Really enjoyed reading that, great write-up.

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