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Es Tresidder scrambling off Sgurr Mhic Choinnich with the In Pinn in the background, Cuillin Ridge, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Tresidder broke the ridge traverse record on May 4 with a time of 3:17:28, fifteen minutes faster than the previous best. The exposed nature of the low-angle ridge makes it difficult to go fast; the scramble usually takes a fit climber between twelve and twenty hours to complete. [Photo] Esmond Tresidder

On May 4 Edinburgh-based mountaineer and runner, Es Tresidder, scrambled–in record time–one of Britain’s proud mountaineering feats: the Cuillin Ridge Traverse (primarily Class III and steeper, with four sections of 5.6, ca. 12 kilometers), Isle of Skye, Northern Scotland. The ridge never rises above 1000 meters, and the volcanic gabbro makes for relatively low-angle climbing. However, the technical scramble requires expert route-finding on exposed, sustained terrain; some guides have compared its physical challenge–3000 meters of elevation gain and another 3000 in descent–to solos of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, back-to-back.

The adventure has long been considered one of Britain’s greatest alpine challenges and has a forty-year history of speed ascents. In 1967 Eric Beard ran the ridge in four hours and nine minutes. That record held until Andy Hyslop bested it by five minutes in 1984; Hyslop lost the lead in 1986, but regained it in 1994 with a time of 3:32. A week before Tresidder broke the thirteen-year record, he ran the ridge, more circuitously than necessary and without enough water, in 3:59. After a bit of route-finding reconnaissance, he returned on May 4 to post a time of 3:17:28.

Tresidder downclimbing the venerable In Pinn above Scottish mist. To complete the traverse as fast as possible, he carried only the essentials–a bit of food and drink. [Photo] Ben Wear

The horseshoe-shaped ridge spans a number of peaks, eleven of them Munros (3,000’+ peaks), beginning at Gars-bheinn and ending at Sgurr nan Gillean. Its stand-out feature is the Inaccessible Pinnacle, or In Pinn, a 20-meter spire on Sgurr Dearg that most protect and rappel with a rope. To save time, like other speed contenders, Tresidder soloed the ridge ropeless. He brought a small pack with a liter of energy drink, energy gels and Jelly Babies candies. Two friends were stationed at the In Pinn and on Bruach Na Frithe to help him refuel and rehydrate.

“The day turned out to be one of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen,” Tresidder said. “The valley was slowly enveloped in a sea of mist, leaving the ridge the only thing floating above in the sunshine.” At one point coming off Am Bhasteir, Tresidder lost his way in the fog but regained familiar rock to finish on Sgurr nan Gillean. “Near the end, I knew I was going to break the record by a long way. The last section is super exposed, so you don’t want to rush it because you’re really tired.” Tresidder finished the traverse cautiously and was rewarded with a “broken specter” at the top, where his shadow was cast onto the lower-lying clouds. “It was like running in heaven.”

Source: Es Tresidder