6 - 7
FATMAP difficulty grade
On a powder day in Scotland, there are few places I'd rather be than tearing up the south west face of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala in the Northwest Highlands! A wide open powder field with a friendly but still exciting 25-35 degree gradient, the face of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala itself offers a fantastic 600m-800m descent (conditions dependent) - making it perfect for lapping if the legs allow! The approach to the bottom of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala is undeniably long and the terrain is constantly undulating.
As a result, picking the right line along the valley floor will be key to an efficient ascent - i.e.
very important if you don't want to waste too much time ascending and descending, crossing streams etc.
It's also a good idea to take note of your potential descent route on the approach as this will make the whole experience more rapid and less arduous later on! Take the A832 from the Braemore Junction and after about 5km there will be a bend in the road to the right.
Park at the layby on the left just after this.
In a snowy year you may have to dig your car in! From here take the estate track towards the loch (skating or skinning in), passing through the woods and crossing the bridge on the east side of the loch.
From here proceed in a south-easterly direction until you reach another bridge that crosses the next stream.
From here you will start to make your way along the floor of the glen in a SSE direction, leaving the summit of Meall a'Chrasgaidh on your left. The ascent is long but easy going if you pick a sensible line (see previous comments).
Be sure to observe the NW face of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala as you ascend for any indication of wind, instabilities as it offers an alternative line if the SW face is not in good nick.
After about 3km you will arrive at the col that lies between Sgùrr Breac and Sgùrr nan Clach Geala.
At this point the work actually begins! Make your way steeply upwards towards the summit of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala in a NNE direction.
Ski crampons are highly likely to be required so make sure you have them with you. After about 550m of ascent you will arrive at the top and hopefully be rewarded with stunning views of the Northwest Highlands.
Sgùrr nan Clach Geala offers a panoramic viewpoint of some of Scotland's finest mountains including Sgurr Mor, An Teallach, Beinn Dearg, Slioch and the Torridon hills. Being such a remote mountain, you're unlikely to have to share the summit with many - if any - other parties so it's worth taking time to absorb the whole experience! All that remains now is to pick your line and let rip! As mentioned before, there is the option to ski the NW face if in condition.
We opted for the windblown powder on the SW face and were rewarded with some great turns. Once back down at the col you'll likely be ready for more so get some food down you then head up for another lap... When the legs have had enough or the light is starting to fade, it's time to head back down from the col in the direction you came from.
Stay as high as you can skier's right of the valley floor, using the lower W facing slopes of Sgùrr nan Clach Geala then Meall a'Chrasgaidh as a handrail and you should be able to make a continuous descent back to the bridge without getting stuck in too many dips in the terrain. A real wilderness adventure with lots of earning turns required, Sgùrr nan Clach Geala is ideal for experienced, fit and committed ski mountaineers who are prepared to put the effort in for an uncertain reward!