Finlay Wild

Finlay Wild
Hill runner, mountaineer, skier

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

NEW Cuillin Ridge Traverse record

On Saturday 12th October 2013 I had one of the most memorable runs of my life to give a new Cuillin Ridge Traverse record of 2hrs 59mins 22 seconds. This traverse, in perfect running conditions, was my fourth this year. As before, the definition followed was that of previous records and took in the 11 Munro summits, plus the Sgurr Thearlaich and Bidein Druim nan Ramh tops, and the four main ‘climbing’ sections (the TD Gap; Kings Chimney on Sgurr Mhic Choinnich; the Inaccessible Pinnacle; and Naismith’s Route on the Bhasteir Tooth). I started on Gars-bheinn at 12 noon and finished on Sgurr nan Gillean at 2.59.22pm.



On Gars-bheinn a few minutes before setting off... (pic: R.Wild)


Last week I was chatting with friends and psych reached boiling point as we realised that conditions for the weekend were looking good. Very good. My dad, Roger Wild, was more than happy to accompany me for an attempt during this October weather window so we headed up to Glen Brittle on Friday. My previous fast traverses have started very early in the morning from a summit bivvy (Gars-bheinn or Sgurr nan Eag) and this seemed a good strategy in summer to avoid both crowding and the full heat of the day. It also gave the legs a rest after the walk in. With much longer and colder nights in October this didn’t seem the best strategy and we debated what to do - it was fair to assume that it wouldn't get too hot or too busy, and in fact a cold long bivvy might not be the best preparation. I therefore opted to run in the middle of the day after a slow approach, and hoped I didn’t run into snags at the TD gap.

Saturday morning was clear and dry, with just a weak easterly wind. We walked up leisurely to Gars-bheinn and I got sorted out. Looking along the ridge it was clear this was going to be a brilliant day. Stags were roaring down in the glens. It was bone dry perfect conditions and I was feeling fit. The view from that end of the ridge is one of my all time favourites - looking to the main Black Cuillin ridge, the lost brother Bla Bheinn, the Red Cuillin, Loch Coruisk, Rum, Trotternish, Ben Nevis and beyond. I took it all in as once I started running there wouldn’t be time for views. 


Walking in past Coire Lagan (pic: R.Wild)

Setting off I felt great. My last traverse (the 3.14.58 record) was done in the mist with quite a bit of damp rock. Today felt totally different, and quite a bit safer. I was 4 mins ahead by Sgurr Dubh Mor, and headed to the TD gap feeling good. I met some good friends who I knew were doing the ridge just before they started the abseil - good timing! A quick hello and I was down and then up - I enjoyed the dry climbing. By Sgurr Mhic Choinnich I was over 9 mins ahead and knew it was going very well. I made a very deliberate effort to keep focussing on the next summit, and continually consulted the map in my head. Meanwhile I was picking up the familiar lines and shortcuts I have come to know well. As much as I could, I stuck to my previous fastest route. There were a few minor deviations - some faster, some slower - but I think that is inevitable on a route this complex. I had my split times from my earlier 3.10.30 attempt (where in the heat of the moment I stupidly forgot that Sgurr Mhic Choinnich was a Munro summit and ran half a dozen metres from the cairn, so didn’t count the record) and by the time 75mins had gone by (downclimbing the In Pinn) I was already 10 mins ahead of the 3.10.30 run split times. From here on, the chances of congestion problems were much less, and I knew that if I kept at it, the fabled 3hr barrier could be in sight. But I had to focus, I had to keep the concentration and not make any mistakes. Somewhere on the traversing ground before Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh the hip pocket zip broke on my light sac and my jelly babies were trapped - I fiddled while running for a while, then decided to break it for access. Chain eating of jelly babies continued. Some gels and water. I was running in a light baselayer and shorts, with a barely noticable sac. It felt free and flowing. I knew the way so didn’t have that jolting feeling of split second route choice decision making - but I had to focus. I couldn’t make mistakes. Even after coming off Bidein Druim nan Ramh onto easier ground there are many places where the terrain is still serious. For at least the last hour I was definitely chasing the sub-3, not in a crazed sprint but a persistent push. I had learnt this over many hill races and thought I had enough fuel in the tank. At Bruach na Frithe things seemed a wee bit harder, maybe because I had pushed faster earlier on. I made a slight route error before Naismith’s on the Bhasteir Tooth and went a bit low on the scree (giving me a slower split time). Naismith's Route was and is my favourite part of the whole ridge. I got to the top of Am Basteir and had just over 10 minutes to do it. I could get there. Push. More jelly babies. My route up Sgurr nan Gillean could have been 10 secs shorter but it was ok, keep pushing. I was breathing hard and my knees were aching from all the high stepping. It didn't matter. The Window with a minute - keep going up the final small slab and there, to the summit, elated.

This time I knew I had done it. No doubts about summits touched, or route taken. I surveyed the ridge, counting off each top in the sunshine. I did some shouting. Some Fort William friends coincidentally arrived via the south east ridge and had to listen to my ecstatic chat. After I had taken it all in for half an hour, enjoying the view and sensation, I headed down to Glen Brittle. I had a better line for the descent to the Fairy Pools - you never stop learning in the Cuillin. I relaxed with a cup of tea. I relived a thousand memories of different handholds, technical sections, snatched views, and different weather conditions on this and previous traverses. I’m still Cuillin dreaming.

 On top of Sgurr nan Gillean after finishing the 2.59.22 traverse (pic: A. Rodgers)

Looking a bit crazed down in Glen Brittle (pic: R.Wild)


The splits:
Gars-bheinn

0:00:00
Sgurr nan Eag
0:14:13
0:14:13
Sgurr Dubh Mor
0:15:42
0:29:54
Sgurr Alasdair
0:16:56
0:46:51
Sgurr Mhic Choinnich
0:10:46
0:57:36
In Pin
0:15:53
1:13:29
Sgurr na Banachdich
0:15:22
1:28:52
Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh
0:16:15
1:45:07
Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh
0:07:26
1:52:33
Bidein DNR
0:20:15
2:12:48
Bruach na Frithe
0:27:04
2:39:52
Am Basteir
0:09:30
2:49:22
Sgurr nan Gillean
0:09:59
2:59:22

Comparison with my 3.14.58 record:


16/06/2013
12/10/2013
Difference
Gars-bheinn
0:00:00
0:00:00
0:00:00
Sgurr nan Eag
0:15:51
0:14:13
0:01:38
Sgurr Dubh Mor
0:33:41
0:29:54
0:03:47
Sgurr Alasdair
0:55:28
0:46:51
0:08:37
Sgurr Mhic Choinnich
1:07:01
0:57:36
0:09:24
In Pin
1:24:09
1:13:29
0:10:39
Sgurr na Banachdich
1:40:27
1:28:52
0:11:35
Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh
2:00:07
1:45:07
0:15:00
Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh
2:07:48
1:52:33
0:15:15
Bidein DNR
2:28:52
2:12:48
0:16:04
Bruach na Frithe
2:55:52
2:39:52
0:16:00
Am Basteir
3:04:36
2:49:22
0:15:14
Sgurr nan Gillean
3:14:57
2:59:22
0:15:35

Comparison of splits over the 3 fast runs

12/10/13: 2hr59.22
16/6/13: 3hr14.58
9/6/13: 3hr 10.30 (Sgurr Mhic Choinnich summit cairn not touched)



12/10/2013
16/06/2013
09/06/2013
Gars-bheinn



Sgurr nan Eag
0:14:13
0:15:51
0:15:19
Sgurr Dubh Mor
0:15:42
0:17:50
0:17:47
Sgurr Alasdair
0:16:56
0:21:46
0:20:23
Sgurr Mhic Choinnich
0:10:46
0:11:33

In Pin
0:15:53
0:17:08
0:30:59
Sgurr na Banachdich
0:15:22
0:16:18
0:16:10
Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh
0:16:15
0:19:40
0:15:37
Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh
0:07:26
0:07:42
0:07:40
Bidein DNR
0:20:15
0:21:03
0:20:18
Bruach na Frithe
0:27:04
0:27:01
0:25:32
Am Basteir
0:09:30
0:08:44
0:09:49
Sgurr nan Gillean
0:09:59
0:10:20
0:10:50

(Fastest split time of all three attempts shown in red)

From a brief look at these it looks like I made most of my time in the first part of the traverse, before Sgurr Alasdair. Remembering that my 3hr10 run was unexpected (having run 4hrs the time before that), and the 3h15 run was in damp conditions, I'm not too surprised that I gained so much time early on - I now knew that I could 'race' it, and was pushing from the start. Of course, being even more familiar with the ridge after each traverse also helped. I can also see some small mistakes, particularly near the end, where I slowed down on previous times. But I can live with this. Also in general terms, 2013 has been a great year for my running and I've done easily three times as many races this year than in any previous year. So I am as fit as I have been, with more experienced racing strategies. This all came together to give me the sub-3hr result. Did I know I could do it – of course not! But I thought 3hrs 05min was possible…and hoped maybe faster.



Anyway, this is probably getting too technical! 

Thanks to everyone who's been involved in these trips to Skye - and hopefully we can do some more - at a more relaxed pace? It's such a fantastic place.
'That' view onto the Northern Cuillin (not this trip) (pic: F.Wild)


2 comments:

  1. Thanks for such a detailed breakdown Fin. Extrapolating the splits for normal aspirants gives an accurate idea of how long folk should take. The only problem is that most folk slow down through the day whereas you're steady on all the way (I always think of Ghreadaidh as half way but you were proabbly on Thormaid). My very serious suggestion for the future would be for you to stick to the traditional line as opposed to Andy's. All the peaks and tops so avoiding Dubh Mor, include Dubh an da Bheinn (you probably did?), An Stac summit, 3 tops on Banachdaich & Bidean, Sg Fionn Choire and the Tooth. Gives you a good excuse to get the wide-eyes again ;-) Very fine effort and hope to see you up there again soon. Mike Lates

    ReplyDelete
  2. cheers mike. yes sure i'll see you up there again before long...could be another challenge to do it including all the traditional tops (btw i skirted an da bheinn on all recent traverses, as did es and andy).interesting to read your history of what constitutes 'the ridge proper' in the skye guide.lots more to explore.cheers.finlay

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