by Andy Hyslop
To quote the SMC Guide: “This is the best easy climb in Skye and a contender for the best easy climb in Britain”. Although technically easy, The Dubh Ridge is a very long route in a remote setting. Getting benighted is a distinct possibility if you make a route finding error, and a retreat may not be straight forward. This article will offer some additional information not available in the guide books which may help keep you on track and with any luck get you there and back in a day.
The Dubh Ridge rises from the western shore of Loch Coruisk and stretches west over the three tops of Sgurr Dubh Beag (Little Black Peak), Sgurr Dubh Mor (Great Black Peak) and Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn (Black Peak of the Two Tops). The famous Dubh’s slabs are on the initial section to Sgurr Dubh Beag. Above the slabs the climbing is similar to many sections of the main ridge.
For a direct approach from Glen Brittle you have two alternative options available in order to cross the main ridge. Bealach Mhic Coinnich via Coire Lagan or Bealach Coir’ An Lochain via Coir’ A Ghrunnda. Both attain a similar altitude (2928 feet and 2806 feet respectively). Bealach Mhic Coinnich requires more scrambling on the approach but is more direct. Both routes converge at Coire An Lochain on the Coruisk side. A more fun approach is the boat from Elgol to Lock Coruisk. All three approaches can be found below.
Bealach Mhic Coinnich: Take the main path up into Coire Lagan. Go around the southern side of the loch and take a vague path which hugs the foot of the steep cliffs of Sgurr Alasdair, which is to the right of The Great Stone Shoot. When the gully walls of the Stone Shoot close in, cross it, and scramble up a steep gully (mainly on the left) direct to the Bealach. Descend from the Bealach for several 100 feet with a couple of short down climbs into a boulder strewn basin. Cross a broad ridge on the right (south) and work down slabs and grass to Coire An Lochain. On the final section down to Loch Coruisk you are looking for a diagonal grassy ramp which cuts south through bands of cliffs. Head down from the Lochain and start working right (south) looking for the start of the ramp. The line is difficult to find from above and you may need to do some exploration before you find the correct ramp. There are some cairns but you could easily miss them. Once down the ramp, steep grass and heather lead to the path by Loch Coruisk. A few minutes walk brings you to the foot of the Dubh’s Ridge identified by a broad, smooth slab with a shallow grassy gully cutting through it to the right (north) of the foot.
Bealach Coir’ An Lochain: Take a good path round into Coir’ A Ghrunnda. Work up steep ground behind the loch to the Bealach. Descend with some down climbing sections to Coire An Lochain where the route converges with the route from Bealach Mhic Coinnich.
Boat from Elgol: A memorable approach and easier on the feet, although logistically harder. Park up at Elgol and prebook your Misty Isle Boat trip to Loch Coruisk, mention you'll be on the last boat back. From being dropped off, follow the tourists before heading north on the west side of the lake to start up the Slabs. This should only take about 40 minutes to the start of the ridge.
To Sgurr Dubh Beag: Take the initial grassy gully to avoid steep slabs to reach a terrace. Above, there is a short steep wall which is probably the most technical section on the ridge. Easier slabs lead to a second steepening and tricky section. Now follow generally easy angled slabs for 2000 feet, winding around steeper sections and mostly keeping close to the the crest of the ridge.
A couple of 100 feet before the summit of Sgurr Dubh Beag, there is a mini col and a cairn marking the point at which a gully leads down to the left (south) of the ridge. This allows the peak to be turned without the need of an abseil. Continue to the summit. The abseil from the summit is very steep (not down climbable!) and is then followed by a short down climb to a level section of ridge. A better alternative is to retrace your steeps to the small col and descend the grassy gully a short way until a traverse line can be taken, leading back to the level section on the crest of Sgurr Dubh Beag.
To Sgurr Dubh Mor: Continue along the ridge with some scrambling, with obstacles being passed mainly on the left (south). There is a notable steep down, climb to the left, and a short distance further on, a rounded pinnacle which looks like it could be traversed on either side but is best taken direct. Now the line starts to take you below steep cliffs to the left of the ridge. There are lots of small paths in this area but look for a line that will take you back right, and then back left, onto the crest of the ridge in a zig zag fashion. If you do miss this link and continue slanting left on ramps you will eventually end up at the foot of a steep corner which is climbable, but may require a rope. Once back on the crest cross several subsidiary summits until the actual summit of Sgurr Dubh Mor is eventually reached.
To Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn: Descend a short distance to a well worn path leading left, then back right (facing out). Continue working down ramps to the ‘Bealach area’ between the two peaks. Pass a superbly fissured flat block on the right. Summit-Sgurr-Dubh-MorThe chances are that you will walk over the top of this block and have to come back. Easy scrambling now leads to the summit of Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn.
- Super fast: 6 hrs car to car. Fell running gear and bum bags.
- Light and fast: 7 - 8 hours. Approach shoes, minimal clothing with food and some camera stops.
- Light mountaineering: 8 - 10 hours. Boots, steady walking, minimal gear. -
- Mountaineering: 10 -12 hours. Boots, a short rope and small rack. You can expect to take a similar time on the route as you did approaching it. So if you took 4 hours to get to the foot of the ridge you can expect to be back to Glen Brittle in another 4 hours if all goes well.
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