Sgurr Dearg – The InPin

M164 | 986 m. | 3235 ft.
Translation: Red peak
Pronuncation: skoor jeerak

In 2007 Frank and I had been acting under the delusion of being able to summit the Inaccessible Pinnacle on our own when we had first visited the Sgurr Dearg summit area. But we soon had realized that climbing the Pinnacle without professional help would be foolhardy to say the least. So on 7 June 2017 we met our friendly guide Ian at the Glen Brittle Memorial Hut (why is it called ‘Memorial’ Hut?). Ian handed us our climbing gear (harness and helmet) and soon we were on our way on the path that leads up towards the Eas Mor and the west ridge of Sgurr Dearg.

After a short test of our stamina and fitness on behalf of Ian, who stormed up the path like a torpedo, we settled into a more leisurely speed suited to our limited energies and lower lung capacities. Anyhow, we made good progress on the excellent path and soon left the grass behind. The lower part of the ridge between Coire na Banachdich and Coire Laggan is quite steep and in the middle of the ascent a chimney of sorts catered for some very mild scrambling in order to avoid an alternative path in the unpleasantly steep scree slope. Soon we topped out on a slightly flatter section of the ridge and continued on the obvious path towards Sgurr Dearg. Ian pointed out the highest source of fresh water in the Cuillins, a little spring where cold water was merrily dripping from one of the rocks. Delicious. The views into the corries below and out towards the sea were stupendous! Only the summits hid in the clouds on this otherwise sunny day.

Then we were getting close to the rocky upper section of Sgurr Dearg’s ante summit(s). Due to the traffic on the ridge and the possibility of someone above us dislodging stones we put on our helmets before we entered into the more scrambly section of the climb towards Sgurr Dearg. Over boulders, along the ridge and along ledges Ian led us through the clouds which we had entered at an altitude of about 850 to 900m. Then the summit of Sgurr Dearg came upon us out of the clouds. There were several climbing parties up there numbering about 20 people all in all. The rock blade of the Inaccessible Pinnacle rose up from the slanting side of Sgurr Dearg. Great view!

We geared up putting on our climbing harnesses, left the rucksacks at Sgurr Dearg’s summit and descended the slope to the foot of the pinnacle. There Ian formed our little rope party while we were eaten alive by the midges that lived there feeding of innocent climbers’ blood. Ian explained the procedure to follow when climbing and one of the more difficult moves (the crux) of the knife-edge ridge. Then he climbed the first pitch to about half the height of the pinnacle. I followed when called for and I must say that the climbing was not that difficult until I got to a steep section where the best foothold were two tiny polished specks of rock that protruded from the basalt blade, almost looking like two knuckles. After some dithering I gathered my mental energy and mastered this obstacle. Gee, the exposure was incredible! Apart from the half-metre wide rock in front of you and below you there was only thin air to hold on. Cool, adrenalin rush! Frank soon joined Ian and me above this tricky section. There was not too much traffic so we did not need to hurry. Our guide then went on towards the summit of the Pinnacle and again I followed when he called for us. The second pitch of the Pinnacle was less intimidating, the ridge’s crest became a little wider and the incline less steep or at least it seemed so to me. Soon Frank and I joined Ian at the summit.

There Ian prepared the abseil down the steep shorter ridge of the Inaccessible Pinnacle. He put me on the rope again and I slowly started the “walk” down the ridge. That abseil was only the second in my life and Frank later told me he had seen fear of death in my eyes. Well, let’s say I was not entirely comfortable dangling in open air for the last ten metres or so. But then I touched ground, slipped off the rope and climbed up to the summit of Sgurr Dearg. Frank and Ian followed soon afterwards. A high-five with Frank and some slightly exhilarated conversation with other baggers followed and then we prepared for the hike back to Glen Brittle. We reversed the route of ascent and were back at the parking after less than six hours. There we met Jonah who came to pick up Ian and talked a bit about Skye mountain rescue in winter and summer, rescue dogs and the newly privatized helicopter mountain rescue service. We shook hands, thanked Ian for his day with us and the support given to get us up and down the Pinnacle. Then Frank and I headed towards Portree to return our rented bicycles.

So? Climbing the Inaccessible Pinnacle was an exhilarating moment in our long Munro-bagging odyssey. A short moment to be enjoyed over and over again in memory. I would love to do this climb again. That exposure was quite addictive….! 🙂

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On a dry day in May 2007 the two valiant hill-walkers set out to climb the Inaccessible Pinnacle and Sgurr Mhic Choinnich in one outing. Alas, it was not to be (in its entirety, d’you see?). But let’s start at the beginning.

From Glen Brittle House we climbed the path leading to the Eas Mor and once past the waterfall we branched right in the direction of Loch an Fhir-bhallaich. Half-way to the loch another path branches off to the left and approaches the steep west ridge of Sgurr Dearg. Gaining height quite quickly the view soon opened up and Corrie na Bachachdich impressed with its great scenery. At about 750 m the clouds finally won and we climbed up the final steep, slabby and stoney steps of the ridge before reaching the summit of Sgurr Dearg. There the Inaccessible Pinnacle finally became visible through the clouds. Nice piece of rock. We slithered to the basis of the pinnacle and checked the start of the climb.

Other groups of climbers made their way up the Inaccessible Pinnacle while we watched. Finally we started our climb – without using the rope. We soon realised that the climb was not really difficult but quite exposed. And since we had not really expected the need for using the rope for other purposes than abseiling we decided to be wise and go back and to leave the In Pinn for another day. I explored the summit of An Stac before Frank and I contoured around its basis on the scree-strewn slanting path leading to the broadish (by Skye standards at least) Beallach Corrie Laggan. About here the visibility improved dramatically and the views were stupendous later.

From the beallach we followed the trace of a path that leads up to Sgurr Mhic Choinnich. This part of our hike was real fun with easy scrambling and exposed sections on the knife-edge ridge. All too soon the summit was gained and we paused there sitting on this marvellous view point perched high above Corrie Laggan. Incidently these were the first unobstructed views of the corrie since the other day when we did Sgurr Alasdair the clouds gave away nothing of the scenery and the strongish wind and rain also had their prominent parts in the unique experience of climbing Sgurr Alasdair from the corrie floor by way of the Great Stone (Mud) Shoot:-). Anyway, we had to get back to Glen Brittle and descended Sgurr Mhic Choinnich’s northwest ridge back to Beallach Corrie Laggan. Turing south down the An Stac Screes we walked and scree-surfed to Loch Laggan where we took another break. Photographs were taken as well as sips of tea from our flask. Great scenery, cool mountains and no one around. I must admit though, that I liked the surroundings of Loch Coir a’ Ghrunnda on the other side of Sgurr Alasdair even better. Well, the rest of the day was the hike back to Glen Brittle House on the well engineered path from Corrie Laggan. Nice but without major interest for both of us.

So? It was a great day but our failure to make it to the top of the In Pinn spoiled the fun for a while. Ahh, but never mind. The mountains will still be there tomorrow and Skye’s a place you enjoy coming back to for a few more climbs, alright.


Description This is one of the most celebrated of the Munros, and certainly the most difficult to climb. The Inaccessible Pinnacle, which overtops the cairn on nearby Sgurr Dearg by only 8 metres, is a remarkable obelisk of gabbro, very steep if not actually vertical on three sides, and on the fourth side the East Ridge, although much less steep, is so narrow and exposed that its ascent is intimidating rather than technically difficult. Many hillwalkers need to call on their rock climbing friends for help to get up this peak, and even Sir Hugh Munro himself never made it.The ascent goes from Glen Brittle up grassy slopes on the south side of the Allt Coire na Banachdich past the Eas Mor and then straight on up the path on the west ridge of Sgurr Dearg. High up the ridge narrows and there is some good scrambling along the crest to reach Sgurr Dearg. Descend carefully down slabby rock and narrow ledges below the south face of the Inaccessible Pinnacle until it is possible to reach the crest of the East Ridge on your left. Climb the ridge, preferably in two pitches, to the summit. Descend a few metres on the west side to a sloping ledge where there is a steel ring in place, and abseil from there down to terra firma a short distance below Sgurr Dearg.

2017-09-19T14:14:55+00:00June 9th, 2017|2007, 2017, 2017 - 2010, The Islands|