The Skye Cuillin Ridge Traverse is without doubt the finest outing in British mountaineering. A full traverse of the magnificent Cuillin Ridge on Skye includes some of Scotland’s most inaccessible and highly coveted Munros and is steeped in mountaineering history. This 5 day trip is ideal for fit and ambitious mountaineers with scrambling and rock climbing experience, and provides a great ‘alpine style’ climbing holiday in the Uk.
Dates and Availability
You can join this trip as a ready made team of 2 along with your regular climbing partner. Or you can also join as a single person, in which case we will team you up with someone on the same dates to form a team of 2. The price of this trip is £950 per person, including all guides fees and expenses.
NB If you are interested in a trip with a different duration or start date, please get in touch to discuss.
Please visit our Covid-19 Climb Information page for Covid FAQs, details of our new participation requirements, travel advice and what to expect on your trip.
The Cuillin Ridge
A full 5 day trip, targeting a traverse of the Cuillin Ridge on Skye. The Cuillin Ridge traverse is a two-day expedition involving 12km and 4000m of ascent over rough scrambling terrain, climbing 10 or 11 munros, with sections of Diff to Severe rock climbing and several abseils along the way. The traverse takes ~20hrs, split over 2 days whilst carrying 8-10kg of food, water and equipment for an overnight bivouac – ie it’s a really big challenge! During the week we target the best weather window for the traverse, using the other days to enjoy classic climbs around Skye, practice climbing skills and place or retrieve gear from the ridge. If poor weather prevents a full traverse, we will climb principal peaks and major sections of the ridge during the week.
You can borrow any items of specialist bivouac kit from us that you need (eg lightweight bivi bag, sleeping mat, sleeping bag), plus any items of specialist climbing equipment that you need are also included (eg helmet, harness, rock climbing shoes etc). Afterwards, we’ll send you plenty of great photos and video of your trip to share with family and friends.
Please note – there are numerous variations and work arounds along specific sections of the ridge, which we may use to complete the traverse. Just like in the Alps, success is defined as making a safe traverse of the ridge in a single journey – so we may vary the line that we follow in different conditions in order to complete the route.
The itinerary described below is a typical plan for the trip, but the focus is on targeting the best weather window for making a full traverse.
Trip Report: >> Cuillin Ridge Video
This is an intermediate level trip technically, but advanced level in terms of fitness. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 4-5 and Tech Level 2-3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). A high level of fitness, good scrambling experience and some outdoor climbing experience* are all essential, as you must be agile enough on rock to move quickly and safely over long sections of rough walking and scrambling terrain as well as climb Diff-Severe rock pitches quickly in boots or approach shoes with a rucksack on. You also need to have done some abseiling.
How Hard Is It? – it’s a lot harder than most people think; if you’ve done any alpinism, then doing the Cuillin Ridge in 2 days carrying bivi gear is a bit like climbing Mont Blanc or the Matterhorn in 2 days from valley to valley, without using any huts or cable cars – ie it’s a considerable challenge.
*Climbing Experience – you must have done some outdoor rock climbing and abseiling before the trip (ie we will refresh these skills before setting off, by it’s not a trip for climbing novices). By following the easiest line, the rock climbing difficulties along the ridge can be reduced to short sections of Mod and Diff climbing, which are generally fine in boots or approach shoes. However, if you want to include harder pitches along the ridge such as the TD Gap and King’s Chimney, then this increases the difficulty considerably – as they are all ‘traditional’ (ie quite steep and strenuous!) pitches and definitely no pushover (if you want to include these pitches in the traverse, then in the run up to the trip you need to be seconding at VS standard in rock shoes in order to climb these pitches quickly in boots whilst carrying a rucsac – just so you know the score!) Weather and conditions usually decide the final route followed.
In terms of equivalent Alpine experience, longer AD rocky ridge routes in the Alps (eg Dent Blanche, Dent du Geant, Matterhorn, Eiger etc) are all good experience, whereas longer non-technical snow ascents like the voie normales on Mont Blanc, Gran Paradiso etc are not sufficient, unless you have additional good quality experience on technical rocky terrain (eg harder scrambles, trad rock climbs, long fell races etc). If you’ve climbed with us before then we’ll advise about suitability, or if you’ve climbed with another IFMGA Guide we may ask for a reference.
Fitness – A high level of fitness and endurance is really important, as the traverse involves two full 10-12 hour days of mountaineering, carrying 10kg of food, water and equipment and an overnight bivouac. Long 6-8hr mountain walks, fell running, marathon or tri training, 5+hour bike rides – these are examples of the kind of training that will give you a good base level of fitness and endurance for the ridge…
One IFMGA guide climbing with 2 clients.
In terms of added value, climbing with an IFMGA guide is a big benefit on long alpine style routes where speed, experience and efficiency are critical for success; take a look at our alpine program to see the kind of terrain that we regularly work on – you’ll soon appreciate the skills and experience of an IFMGA guide… If you want to learn from someone with the widest possible range of experience, or you aspire to/are already obsessed with winter or Alpine climbing, then it’s a great option too! We work worldwide on rock, ice, glaciers and ski – so we can offer training, advice and recommendations for your future plans, whatever and wherever they may be.
Included in price
- All guides fees and expenses
- Local travel in guides vehicle to complete the itinerary
- Use of communal technical equipment eg ropes and climbing hardware
- Hire of personal equipment including bivi bag, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, harness, helmet, belay equipment
Excluded from price
- Travel to Skye
- Food and accommodation during the trip
- Any boats, buses and taxis
Food and Accommodation
There are various options for local accommodation, including holiday cottages, hotels, bunkhouse accom, and camping to suit your budget. Please get in touch for more info.
An overnight bivouac is one of the unique highlights of making a 2 day Cuillin ridge traverse and this usually means carrying bivouac equipment along all or part of the route. Having good quality lightweight kit is clearly very important here, as you need to carry a bivi bag, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, food, water and cooking gear for 36 hours, in addition to your regular climbing gear and clothing. If you need to borrow a lightweight bivi bag, sleeping bag or sleeping mat from us, then please let us know when you book – the guide will bring a lightweight stove, pans and fuel and organise food for overnight. This sounds like a lot to carry, but taking a lightweight alpine approach and with some careful packing, your rucsac should weigh no more than 8-10kg at the start of the trip (ie little more than a typical alpine pack when carrying an ice axe and crampons) – and we may stash some equipment on the ridge for collection later in order to save weight during the traverse.
There are a number of different approaches, bivouac locations and water points along the route, so we’ll make a final decision on where to bivouac based on the team and weather forecast, in order to maximize chances of success.
The Cuillin Ridge
The Cuillin Ridge is a bit of a conundrum – it’s regarded as the biggest mountaineering challenge in the Uk and has a fearsome reputation. Yet compared to guiding in the Alps, the difficulties appear modest; the route is mostly rough walking and easy alpine ridge terrain (Grade F-), with a couple of short PD sections (Bidean and the Inn Pinn) and 3 trickier rock climbing pitches (which can all be avoided) – so how come it’s so damn hard?
The answer lies in it’s length; the Cuillin Ridge is 12km long and there’s 4000m of climb, which means most people traverse the ridge in 2 long days, carrying food and bivouac equipment. Any alpine route that long and with that much climb would be considered a major under taking – and so it is with the Cuillin Ridge; the whole is much greater than the sum of it’s parts. This assumes good dry rock underfoot and reasonable weather, which isn’t always the case on Skye (if the rock is wet, it’s a lot harder and some sections become treacherous) – so you need to be fit, moving well and have enough in reserve to climb the tricky bits quickly in order to succeed.
Your guide will brief the team in the evening before the first days climbing. Here we will run through safety routines and kit checks, as well as hand out any rental equipment – before going on to discuss plans and the current weather and mountain conditions.
We’ll also have maps and guidebooks to show you, so if you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up..
The following is a sample itinerary, but we tailor each week to target the best weather window for making the traverse.
Warm up and skills refreshment
A day of practicing skills, refreshing ropework and packing kit ready for the traverse. Skills sessions may be undertaken on a low/mid level crag or other suitable venue – the aim of the day is to get everyone up to speed and moving quickly and efficiently together as a roped team, whilst saving as much energy as possible for the big days ahead.
PM Final packing session, kit checks and group briefing for the Cuillin ridge traverse. Early night, ready for an alpine start!
First day on the ridge, overnight bivouac
After an early breakfast, we travel to Elgol to catch the morning boat across Loch Scavaig to Coriusk, This is a brilliant journey and the perfect way to start our adventure. From here we climb the first summit of Gars Bheinn (or the Dubh Slabs if team prefer) and head off along the initial easier section of the ridge; this is walking terrain with a few short scrambles.
By lunchtime, the first main difficulties are encountered at the TD Gap (a Severe rock climb, but it can be avoided). Beyond this the ridge becomes more technical and exposed, leading in another 2-3 hours to the famous Inaccessible Pinnacle. Just beyond this is our first potential bivouac spot, but in good weather we’ll continue for another 2 hours to good bivouac spots around An Dorus. 10-12 hours climbing time. Overnight bivouac.
Second day on the ridge
Another 5am breakfast! Early start, pushing on over Sgurr a Mhadaidh and another long section of tricky ridge terrain crossing Bidean to the easier summit of Bruach na Frithe.
Here, our final big difficulty arrives; the famous Am Basteir tooth. Climbed direct this is a steep and quite serious rock climb, but it can be climbed more quickly by following the Lotta Corrie (Collies) Route around on the right – both routes join near the top and lead to Am Basteir summit.
The final ascent of Sgurr nan Gillean makes for a brilliant finish to the ridge, before making an all-too-long long descent to the bar at Sligachan! 8-10hrs climbing time.
Active rest and rock climbing day
Today is a day for retrieving cars, doing some sea cliff climbing and exploring the Isle of Skye.
Final day on Skye
On our final day on Skye, we enjoy another classic outing on the island – either a great mountain scramble such as the Clach Glas – Bla Bheinn traverse, or a long and classic rock route such as Cioch Direct.
Day 5 PM – roundup of the trip, feedback, advice for the future and farewells.
NB This is a very flexible itinerary and logistics will be changed at short notice to suit the weather. The main objective is completing the Cuillin ridge traverse, so this is always our focus for the week. We may pre place bivouac equipment along the route, or if poor weather prevents a full traverse, we will climb principal peaks and major sections of the ridge during the week.
The trip is based on the Isle of Skye. Reaching Skye is a long journey by any route – but it’s well worth it!
- Road – Skye can be reached by car from Glasgow in about 4.5 hours via Fort William, Kyle of Lochalsh and the Skye road bridge.
- Rail – Trains are available via Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, then take a bus or taxi onto Skye. Alternatively, take a train to Mallaig, ferry to Armadale on Skye, then bus or taxi.
- Air – flights are available to Inverness, then a hire car to Skye.
- Bus – Bus services are available to Skye and around the island.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 3+, and Tech Level 2+ (as appropriate for the style of climbing on this trip ie Alpine, rock climbing or ice climbing).
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hour hillwalk, 40-50 mile cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. Eg: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted.
Fitness Level 4
You do 4+ hours CV training/sport per week. A 70+ mile cycle ride, or 20+ mile hillwalk on a weekend would hold no fears. If so inclined, you might be the kind of person who has done longer road sportives/challenge rides, a ~3.30hr marathon or other similar endurance events. Keen hillwalkers who happily knock off 3-4+ munros in a day also have this kind of fitness and endurance.
Tech Level 2
Novice climber. Indoor or outdoor sport climbing experience / seconding traditionally protected climbs at V Diff – Severe standard / winter hillwalking or mountaineering using an ice axe and crampons / alpine glacier treks or alpine peaks to F standard.
Tech Level 3
Intermediate climber. Leading single or multi pitch trad rock climbs at Severe – VS / ice climbing experience seconding routes to Scottish grade 2 – 3 / familiar with multipitch abseil descents / alpine peaks at PD – easy AD standard.
To view all climbing Technical and Fitness Levels, and for advice on trip preparation and training, please visit our training advice page.
Cuillin Ridge Kit List
Above all, your kit needs to do the job but be as light as possible. Lightweight breathable fabrics are ideal for waterproofs, which are carried as often as worn (hopefully!)
- Waterproof jacket – lightweight breathable model
- Overtrousers – with long side zips
- Socks – warm ‘Smartwool’ type, plus thin liner socks and spares
- Wicking thermal tops/t-shirts
- Softshell jacket – or equivalent light insulating layer
- Mountain trousers – light/mid-weight windproof softshell model
- Gloves – 2 pairs, thin and midweight
- Warm hat – must fit under a helmet
- Spare warm layer – fleece or lightweight synthetic belay jacket
- Water Container(s) – capacity to carry 2 litres
- Headtorch – with new batteries
- Map, compass and whistle (optional, but a good idea)
- Personal medications and blister kit – zinc oxide tape, compeed, painkillers etc
- Sun Glasses – CE rated 3 or 4
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Sun hat
- Shorts and t-shirt
- Rucsac ~40/45l – must be big enough to carry food, water and bivi kit
- Waterproof rucsac liner – Drysac, or heavy duty polythene bag
- *Semi rigid B2 mountaineering boots – Axe, Boot and Crampon advice
- Approach shoes or trainers – sticky rubber models are excellent
- Climbing Harness – with locking karabiner and belay device
- 120cm sling and locking karabiner
- 2 prussik loops and karabiner – if in doubt, bring 3m of 6mm climbing cord!
- Climbing helmet
- Rock climbing shoes – bring a pair if you own them
- Trekking poles – bring a pair if you use them
- Lightweight sleeping bag – 2/3 season model
- Bivi bag – made of breathable material (plastic survival bag not suitable!)
- Sleeping mat
- Mug and spoon – lightweight
Your guide will have ropes, climbing rack, first aid and survival equipment.
*These should be reasonably stiff 3/4 season mountaineering models (boots sold as ‘via ferrata’ models are also good for Skye). Soft bendy walking boots are not very good for technical scrambling/climbing (you may be better off in a pair of ‘sticky rubber’ approach shoes). See below for advice.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website or our blog for equipment advice. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Otley offer an excellent walking boot fitting service and general equipment advice.
It’s best to have your own rock climbing shoes so you can get a proper fit, but if you need to hire some please get in touch. Other safety equipment can also be hired from us (subject to availability) – please see our Equipment Hire page for details.
For UK residents – we strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury.
For non UK residents – search and rescue is currently free in the UK, but you may be charged by the NHS for certain treatments, and you should also consider the need for emergency repatriation in the event of a serious illness/accident. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury.
Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Please find further details on our insurance info page.