Earlier in the day I had descended from Sgurr nan Eag after my night in Coire a’Ghrunnda. This blog is not named after the principal peak i climbed, but after one of its subsidiary summits. In addition to re-ascending the Munros I also had my sights on climbing all of the subsidiary summits listed in Munro’s Tables. Sgurr Thormaid is a tricky one and it was my principal objective for this adventure.
After a late breakfast and a bit of snooze following my early rise and ascend of Sgurr nan Eag, I was ready for my next objective for the day – Sgurr Thormaid. Whilst I intended also to take in its parent summit, Sgurr na Banachdich, I was top collecting this day.
Now the most straightforward approach to the Munro and its top is to start from the Youth Hostel in Glen Brittle. Via this route the Munro at least can be reached with hands in pockets. Wanting a slightly longer outing and a bit more scrambling I decided to approach them from the Glen Brittle Hut about one kilometre down the road. This follows a good path into Coire na Banachdich and eventually on to the main ridge between Sgurr na Banachdich and Sgurr Dearg.
The day had changed from one with clear blue skies to one where a white sheen had drawn itself over the island. It was oppressively warm though but a gentle breeze had also developed. Soon after the start a solid wooden bridge is crossed and the corrie comes fully into view.
And perhaps 10 minutes later a rather fine waterfall is passed. It was tempting to descend to the pools below to cool off.
The path leads steadily into the jaws of the corrie with one short stony gully to navigate. In the corrie there was complete shelter from the breeze and I stopped regularly to re-hydrate. After an hour and a half I was in the upper reaches of the corrie and could look back to see where I had come.
In the scree and large blocks the path disappears. There are cairns, some rather confusing as they seem to pick out alternative ways up. A band of rock is met and a line of cairns took me to the right so as to avoid it. As this was now taking me up the flank of Sgurr Dearg I trended to the left to a cairn placed at the bottom of a rather unpromising looking gulley. Anyway I decided to go up at this point. It was unpleasantly loose but OK. Part way up I met a guy who was just sitting in the middle of the gulley and heard his wife struggling a bit on the loose rocks above. He was not ideally placed should his wife cause rocks to tumble. He told me that his son was even further up looking for a way ahead. What, for them, had started as a walk up from the camp site had put them in terrain that they did not look comfortable in. Their objective had simply been to get on to the main ridge.
I offered to help them but they did not seem interested. I scrambled up to my left on to a nearby rib so as to avoid knocking rocks down on the guy. It was a good move anyway as the way on soon came into view.
I contoured around to the bealach and then on up 100ft or so for a break to drink and to eat. Sgurr Dearg loomed above with Sgurr Dubh Mor, Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and Sgurr Alasdair to its left – an interesting end on view of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich I thought.
Having previously tackled the intervening tops to Sgurr na Banachdich I decided to avoid them on this occasion. There are some flanking routes on the west side of the ridge that enable this to be done. There is a prominent notch on the ridge after the final top (and the ground becomes easier) to tell you it is time to climb the final feet to the summit. Today it was an unhurried 3 hours to the summit. The long distance views were lost in the heat haze. But Loch Coruisk lay below on the other side of the ridge:
Sgurr Dearg loomed large still with the peaks beyond
and the pyramid of Sgurr Thormaid lay tantalisingly close below me with Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh behind. Sgurr Thormaid is Norman’s Peak, named after one of the Victorian pioneers of climbing, Norman Collie. Although this top can only be 400m or so from the top of the parent, a slightly circuitous route is needed down some fairly rotten ground to a point below the bealach. From the a bit of a scrabble up loose stones gets you to the bealach where the ground is now sound. A way up might be made directly from the bealach, but being a bit tired by now I looked for an easier route. This I found by traversing part way around the west side of the pyramid and then making my way straight up. There were a couple of useful small ledges on the route.
It surprised me but it had taken 35 minutes from top to top. Sgurr Thormaid’s summit is short and narrow. The position is dominated by Sgurr na Banachdich one way and Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh the other.
and the angle on Loch Coruisk has changed a little.
The scramble back down the way I had come was much easier as I could see all the hand and footholds from above. The easiest way back now was to re-ascend Sgurr na Banachdich.
Rather than go out along Sgurr nan Gobhar, there is a simpler route down the shallow corrie between that ridge and An Diollaid (Coir’ an Eich). This is what is looks like:
There is a clear path, loose for a while, but it soon takes you down and speeds you back to the road at the Youth Hostel. Here is the view back into the corrie:
And you pass some more nice waterfalls before the road
It was then a stroll of a kilometre down the road to the car in the knowledge that I now only had two more tops to do to complete them all.