Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Bliss on Skye

I got home from a work trip at the end of May and this coincided with easterly weather giving a reliable spell of great weather in the North West. It had been over two years since I had set foot on Skye and with the Cuillin being perhaps my favourite place so far discovered on our planet, a trip was long overdue. I only had 5 days off so wasted no time in sorting out some personal affairs and a quick trip down to Montrose to commandeer some of the father's camping equipment.



The morning of the first day I drove the 5 hours over from Aberdeen via Strathcarron. It was overcast most of the way but by the time I reached the end of Loch Carron to mark the West coast the sky had opened up and become free of cloud and I knew the promised forecast was to be. I met Adrian at Sligachan, he had a lot of experience in the Cuillin so between us we were able to put together some initial ideas that would give us some interesting days provided the weather played a long. 

For the First day we headed up from Sligachan and started with an ascent of Pinnacle ridge. On the way up I had a rucksack malfunction when my electrolyte drink discharged completely leaving all my gear and my backside smelling of sugary lemon and also leaving me without fluid in very hot weather. I'd done Pinnicle ridge once before with John some 8 years ago, It was more enjoyable than I remembered it. From the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean we continued down the West ridge as far as the Basteir Tooth. We were using my lightweight abseil kit (30m twin rope and cord) which can be a fiddly system and after our last abseil down King's Cave Chimney the cord wouldn't retrieve. I had to run all the way back up via Lota corrie and then back round and down again. 'Free Phys' I said, a phrase that would ring around the Cuillin over the next few days!


The second day the prodigious weather continued and we set out on a rough plan for a bigger day. First of all heading for Arrow route on the Cioch slab before finishing up the upper face on Wallwork's route which I would highly recommend. The soaring slabs of Integrity caught my eye more than once but I feel it may be a little beyond my rock ability for the moment.


Dropping off the back of Sron na Ciche we headed for the 4 star Commando crack. I had an attempt on this but backed off at the first crux, it would seem my strong winter season doesn't seem to have improved my ever struggling rock climbing any! skirting round onto Sgurr Alasdair we headed round Collie’s ledge and then down to the foot of  An Stac from where we followed the crest up the impressive buttress to a deserted Inaccessible Pinnacle. On the Inpin we climbed South Crack which was worth its stars and then headed back down to share the evening with the midges in Glen Brittle.


After the previous days efforts in which we covered a respectable distance carrying a fair amount of gear we felt a shorter day was on the cards so headed round to Torrin for the Clach Glas – Bla Bhienn traverse. We raced round the circuit stopping for photos on another great but somewhat more humid day. All in it took us 3.5 hours car park to car park and I had my second rucksack malfunction but with sun cream this time which in turn led to me unwittingly leaving my climbing guidebook in the car park. A fish supper at Broadford helped me get over it!


By Saturday we were looking for a longer day again so put together a plan that would take us away from the crowds and provide continued interest throughout. It was a damp cloudy start so we took bomb alley up to Bealach Mhic Connich as opposed to the West Buttress. We then headed into the heart of the Cuillin to what is claimed to be the last climbed peak in the British Isles, Sgurr Coire an Lochan.  It was well worth the journey to this isolated bastion above Coruisk. The sun had graced us also and stuck around for the remainder of the day.


From here we continued the decent down through Coire an Lochan, which would be my guess at the least travelled corrie in the Cuillin. The lip is well protected and we constantly had to zig and zag to avoid the steep gabbro ramparts that guard the corrie before we reached the end of Loch Coruisk. An opportunity to head down into the depths of Coruisk should never be missed, it is a truly awesome place.


After heading seaward for a little we turned upwards again, this time up the famous Dubh slabs. We chose to do the abseil at the top, restoring confidence in the lightweight system after the Lota Coire incident. Traversing up onto Sgurr Dubh Mor and then a detour to make a quick but worthwhile traverse of An Caisteal a’Garbh Coire before a run back down to Glen Brittle to finish off a grand day of ~2000m of ascent and 17km over some of the roughest ground Scotland has to offer. 


Given I had to drive home, for the Sunday we chose another short day. Foxes rake followed by a traverse of Sgurr a’Mhadaidh was the choice. The route follows a natural rake high in Coire Mhadaidh which is an impressive place.


Another good day brought me down from Bealach na Glaic Mor past the masses going to see the somewhat dry fairypools. Maybe I'm a being a bit cynical but these seem to have been the subject of some sort of marketing masterclass with cars overspilling the modest forestry carpark to line the singletrack road for 1KM for what is pretty much a glorified rocky burn! 

leaving the Cuillin behind me once I begun the long drive back East to be greeted with heavy rain once I reached only as far inland as Achnashellach. doubt I will leave it 25 months before my next visit!

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