UKH

Bruach na Frithe and Sgurr a' Bhasteir Walking

The Skye Cuillin aren't known for their hands-free summits, but among the climbs and scrambles some cracking less-technical walks can be found. Standing in a pivotal position near the northern end of the Cuillin, Bruach na Frithe is perhaps Skye's easiest Munro - but no less worthwhile for that. Though the peak can be gained with a minimum of clambering, the mid-grade scrambling circuit described here has a little more bite. Whether you're an adventurous hillwalker, or a climber reccying the Main Ridge for a future traverse, the round of Bruach na Frithe and Sgurr a' Bhasteir gives a good flavour of the Cuillin without proving too stressful. With close-up views of the magnificent Basteir Tooth and the jagged profile of Sgurr nan Gillean’s Pinnacle Ridge, the scenery is vintage Skye - but unlike most big Cuillin days, you can comfortably leave the rope at home.

Sgurr Thuilm from the NW ridge of Bruach na Frithe  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Sgurr Thuilm from the NW ridge of Bruach na Frithe
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Detailed description

1
NG4836029738 Walk past the MRT post before crossing the road and taking the well-made trail to the Allt Dearg Mor. Instead of crossing the big footbridge stay on the north bank of the burn, where the path heads W to follow it upstream. This section can be very boggy; it's possible to miss it out entirely by starting at the car park 500m west of Sligachan.

2
NG4791029507 Meet a vehicle track, the access road to Alltdearg House. Turn left onto this and then very shortly go right, as signed, to avoid the house. The hillwalker's path soon rejoins the Allt Dearg, following the north bank upstream for approximately 3km. Numerous idyllic clear plunge pools and waterfalls make rapid progress hard on a hot day. The path is in a pretty good state in the main. Good views of the northern end of the Cuillin ridge. Bruach na Frithe's long NW ridge gradually comes into view – this is your line of ascent.

3
NG4539827570 In the shallow bowl of Coire na Circe, roughly 1km short of the Bealach a' Mhaim, look for a cairned path that branches left of the main trail. This takes you across a little burn, then heads roughly south to climb parallel to another burn into the Fionn Choire at the foot of Bruach na Frithe. By Cuillin standards this corrie is strikingly green and grassy, and though it lacks the austere grandeur of others it would be a great place to camp – flat pitches abound. After a steady 1.5km ascent the path crosses the burn. Here leave the trail (which heads to the Bealach nan Lice) and head almost due west across the corrie to gain the NW ridge of Bruach na Frithe.
Enjoying the atmosphere, if not the view, on the NW ridge of Bruach na Frithe  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Enjoying the atmosphere, if not the view, on the NW ridge of Bruach na Frithe
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Sep 2017

4
NG4564226305 Pick up a sketchy path, which makes the going easier. Broad and largely grassy at first, the ridge narrows and becomes rocky as it gains height. Cross an almost level arête to reach a marked steepening in the ridge, where the scrambling commences. It's all too easy to be enticed onto the rubbly right flank, and if doing so the ridge can be ascended on a well worn path with barely a need for hands on rock. Sticking with the true crest is far superior, where a succession of interesting little scrambly obstacles will be encountered. It's largely pretty easy - grade 2 at most - but quite airy at times. The feel is rather similar to the arête section of Crib Goch, but on rather more shattered rock – basalt in the main, which is slippery in the wet. A long entertaining ascent brings you to the little trig point on Bruach na Frithe's rocky summit.

5
NG4608325198 Descend the east ridge – little more than rough walking (obvious worn path), then skirt just left of the little rock peak of Sgurr a' Fionn Choire to reach the Bealach nan Lice, a key easy access/escape point at the northern end of the Cuillin ridge. Nb. Sgurr a' Fionn Choire makes a brief and entirely optional scrambling detour: grade 2 in ascent of its short west ridge followed by an easy gully descent to the Bealach nan Lice (worth climbing it for view of the Basteir Tooth). From the bealach the Basteir Tooth is another short detour, one worth making for the close-up view of this improbable axe head of rock: scramble along a narrow crest from the bealach to reach the foot of the Tooth (exposed), then back the same way.

6
NG4644025290 From the Bealach nan Lice go north on a broad stony ridge, which soon narrows, offering some very easy albeit airy scrambling as you head out onto Sgurr a' Bhasteir. In essence this is only a minor offshoot summit, but it feels sufficiently distinct to be regarded as a peak in its own right, and offers an unrivalled view of Sgurr nan Gillean's Pinnacle Ridge, seen here in full profile.
Pinnacle Ridge emerges from the mist   © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Pinnacle Ridge emerges from the mist
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Sep 2017

7
NG4641425721 From the summit continue briefly north along the narrow crest, and where this splits turn right to pick up the NE ridge. This gives a steep descent on very shattered rock, but technically straightforward (grade 1 at most). After weaving for some distance down the rubbly crest, the top edge of a slab is descended, past the head of a gully on the right, to reach a little grassy shoulder. It's possible to cut right from here, heading straight for the tiny pool of Loch a' Bhasteir, but better to continue in the same line, descending roughly NE down rock and grass before cutting back right across easy angled slabs to reach the floor of Coire a' Bhasteir just upstream of the Basteir Gorge.

8
NG4696925929 The Basteir Gorge shouldn't be descended directly. The best used path out of the corrie traverses across slabs above the west side of the gorge – signs of footfall and the occasional little cairn show the way. It is not altogether safe in wet or icy conditions, since the slabs below roll away into the cliffs of the gorge. Once above the lower mouth of the gorge bear slightly left to descend steep scree and outcrops into the shallow corrie below the north face of Sgurr a' Bhasteir. (Nb. An alternative, less-trodden but in fact more straightforward way out of the corrie is via the shoulder above the east side of the gorge).

9
NG4698126361 A well-used trail now descends the west side of the Allt Dearg Beag. It's easy underfoot, and pools in the burn offer tempting places to stop and soak the feet. After c.1.5km descent, pass a footbridge at a path junction. The path continues downstream a short distance (the burn is a series of waterfalls in a gorge at this stage – worth a look, or even a dip), then bears NNE towards Sligachan. Skirt past a little loch, cross a small burn, and soon reach the big footbridge over the Allt Dearg Mor. Cross this and go north to return to the road opposite the MRT post.

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