Sgurr na Banachdich, Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh & Sgurr a' Mhadaidh Walking

The circuit of the three Munros above Coir' a' Mhadaidh includes some of the best and most sustained scrambling to be found on the main crest of the Cuillin Ridge - which is, let's face it, no slight praise. The addition of the Sgurr nan Gobhar ridge adds some extra hands-on distance to the day, but it's the traverse of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh that stands out as a particular highlight, with famously one of the most exposed aretes in the country. As a rope-free route this serious and committing grade 3 scrambling round can sensibly be recommended only to capable mountaineers, while teams of mixed abilities should strongly consider bringing a rope or hiring a guide.

On the famously airy crest of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
On the famously airy crest of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh
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Detailed description

1
NG4116621560 From the road just south of the hut, follow the path to the Allt Coire na Banachdich, and where the main trail crosses the burn stay on the north bank on a less-trodden path. Follow the edge of the gorge of the Eas Mor upstream a short way, then branch off roughly northwest to ascend open pasture leading up to scree at the western foot of Sgurr nan Gobhar.

2
NG4226722344 The western nose of Sgurr nan Gobhar is all steep scree and broken crags, so initially the best line climbs the prominent gully splitting the front face of the mountain. Starting as an easy scramble up huge blocks (grade 1) the gully soon steepens, and a number of short harder steps have to be climbed (grade 2); as the rock quality deteriorates move right onto the less-exposed scree to its south, which is climbed without difficulty to reach the summit - not a peak many walkers seem to visit.

3
NG4269522407 A nice grassy ridge leads east towards Sgurr na Banachdich. At first it's easy walking, but as height is gained there's some enjoyable scrambling on a series of rock steps. Stay on the crest for the best line (grade 2). The ridge soon joins the broad western flank of Sgurr na Banachdich, where you join the standard Munro path for a stony plod to the summit.
Sgurr Alasdair and Loch Coruisk from Sgurr na Banachdich  © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Sgurr Alasdair and Loch Coruisk from Sgurr na Banachdich
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Jul 2019

4
NG4402722452 On leaving Banachdich's summit the seriousness goes up a couple of notches straight away, and there is no viable escape route until An Dorus. Do not descend directly from Sgurr na Banachdich towards Sgurr Thormaid: To avoid unseen crags, first descend scree on the north flank before cutting right to the Bealach Thormaid, a col below the sharp pyramid of Sgurr Thormaid. This airy peak is best climbed direct up its rocky west side (grade 3), after which a somewhat easier descent on slabby ground leads to a row of pinnacles, the Three Teeth. These can be bypassed on either side to reach a col (no access to the glen on either side).

5
NG4432822769 The ascent of the SW ridge of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh is an exciting scramble (grade 3) with interesting route finding, building in interest and exposure all the way. Avoid the rubbly left flank and stick with the crest for the best rock. The mountain's South Top is linked to the slightly higher main summit by an airy rock crest (grade 3) , often cited as the narrowest rock arete in the UK. You have been warned!

6
NG4452923164 Easier scrambling leads down the slabby north-northeast ridge. Skirt left of a rock feature called The Wart, then move onto the right flank of the ridge. Pass the head of a deep gully, Eag Dubh, then descend towards the col of An Dorus. A steep step just above the col is sometimes abseiled, though once committed it proves a reasonably straightforward downclimb (grade 3 – looking down into the gap, aim left). From An Dorus a short steep step (grade 3) is followed by rough walking and easy scrambling on the left of the crest, quickly leading to the main summit of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh.

7
NG4469123506 For unroped scramblers, this is as much of the mountain as they're going to see (a traverse of its subsidiary tops involves Difficult grade climbing). Backtrack to An Dorus. From here, steep but reasonably straightforward scree leads west down into Coire an Dorus.

8
NG4397223571 Follow a well-trodden path west over slabs beside a deep gorge, then descend from this upper corrie into the main bowl of Coir' a' Ghreadaidh, passing a series of waterfalls and pools as you go. Crossing to the south side of the Allt a' Choire Ghreadaidh, the path continues easily out of the corrie to reach the Glen Brittle road after a further 2.5km. You're now at the youth hostel; your starting point by the Memorial Hut is a final 1km south along the road.

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