Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tuesday 30th July

There were a couple of Dunlin present along with Common Sandpiper (Steve Haynes). I went over in the evening but didn’t see them. There were upwards of 20 Common Tern but on a pleasant evening it was rather quiet, to be expected at this time of year. Things should start to hot up a little bird wise and I am looking forward to getting a bit of birding in rather than climbing.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Skye Saturday

Went to the Sligachan Hotel for a meal last night and I was so tired that I could hardly eat. I was in bed for 9.30pm but as I started to dropped off I began to cramp up! I eventually got to sleep only to be woken by a Tawny Owl calling on the roof of the cottage!


It was another early start as we had to vacate the cottage we had been in all week. We met Tony at 6.30am and we were on our way. We headed up the west slopes of Sgurr Dearg to the imposing ‘In Pin’ a blade of rock that looks stuck onto the side of the hill. We had to descend down scree slopes to the base of the ‘In Pin’ to begin our climb. Tony explain what to do, that was the easy bit. Anyway we were roped up and I was bringing up the rear.

Fortunately there were plenty of holds which was reassuring until we reached a very difficult move which a lack of holds there was a small ledge for a foot hold and a hand hold which involved a tremendous leap of faith. Anyway it was over in seconds and after a short climb we reached the first pitch (a ledge where you could stand up and more importantly hold on). Tony then told us that the most difficult bit was over, this was a easier angle. I remember his instructions “Concentrate on the rock, don’t look down, and don’t go left or right, there is no left or right. We then proceeded to climb a two foot wide ridge with a 3,000ft drop on either side! It was completely exhilarating. There then followed a 20 metre abseil off the west side of the ‘In Pin’. We all got down without any difficulty! Tony shocked us out of our elated state by pointing along the ridge and saying “You have got to walk all the way along there and then the fourth Munro is hidden from view – so you better get your heads round it!” Its the most I have ever paid for a bollocking!

It took us an hour to get to our next Munro – Sgurr na Banachdich, The third Munro of the day Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh looked miles away, with a big drop in height and the added complication of an intermediate top in between and that looked steep! There was some serious exposed climbing involved with a hairy walk along the crest to the summit cairn. We were all knackered and the heat was taking its toll, Tony was brilliant, “You’ve not done it yet lads, concentrate” he was right we were thinking it was done but it was far from over. The descent took us to the col of An Dorus (The Door) where a path crossed the ridge. However, this involved climbing to get us down and climbing to get us back up to the slopes of the last Munro we needed to climb on Skye – Sgurr a Mhadaidh. We reached the summit with a real sense of achievement and I started to get a little emotional, it had been a tough ask, and I am not getting any younger, or thinner for that matter. The descent was not as steep as yesterday’s but by the time we got back to the car I was cream crackered. I had climbed 13 Munro’s in eight days and it felt like it.

On the bird front I had added only four species to my year list, Golden Eagle, Rock Dove, Whimbrel and Greenshank.

The second week, no one felt like walking, so we had a rest and I played a few rounds of golf. I was well choked when I found out there had been a Rock Thrush not too far away!
The ‘In Pin’ conquered

The summit of Sgurr na Banachdich

Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh from Sgurr na Banachdich

The 11th and final Cullin Munro

Sgurr a Mhadaich the last one

Skye Friday

After Tuesdays walk conditions deteriorated to the point that the guide (Tony) was unwilling to take us onto the hills due mainly to the strong winds. However, with time running out we had to condense four days walking into two.

We were up at 4.45am – parked up and ready to walk in Glen Brittle at 6.00am. After the poor weather it was a relief that yesterday afternoon it had brightened up considerably. There was hardly a cloud in the sky when we started and it was obvious that it was going to be hot. Fortunately on the walk in to Coir’ a Ghunndia we were shaded by the towering mountains that we were walking towards. As we gained height the views were simply stunning with the clouds inverting the sea covered in cloud whilst the islands of Rhum and Eig poking out through the cloud.

We soon reached the loch at about 2,500ft in this the most magical of corries. We then headed east to reach the ridge leading to Sgurr na Eag we reached the summit to be greeted with superb views. We retraced our steps picking up our haversacks before continuing along the ridge. Leaving them again for the climb to Sgurr Dubh Mor. We were harnessed up with helmets on as there was a fair bit of simple climbing and a lot of scrambling to reach the summit.
Sgurr Dubh Mor from Sgurr nan Eag

The view looking south-east from the summit of Sgurr nan Eag
As we were making our way back towards the haversacks a Raven flew past us carrying a sandwich! On returning to the bags they had opened the zip on Joys bag and removed all her sandwiches, two packets of crisps and a Mars bar! They had been in Karen’s bag and had all of her medical supplies were spread all over. Tony was telling us he had had clients that have lost wallets, cheque books, designer sunglasses etc. Apparently it is a real problem, due to the nature of the ridge and the retracing of the route to reach the outliers, they just wait for you to disappear and in they go!

The heat was tremendous by now, and not being the slimmest I was struggling a little. I had already drunk two litres of water. On the way to the highest of the Cullin summits Sgurr Alasdair there was a natural spring so we filled our bottles up and continued. So far the day had been relatively easy but the next two babies were in a different league. We traversed under the south ridge of Sgurr Alasdair, then with Tony leading we climbed very steep slopes towards the summit, clinging on like limpets. As we reached the crest we had about 100 yards to cover to the cairn, it was narrow, very narrow. On reaching the cairn we sat down for safety reasons. It was like the five of us were sitting on my dining room table with a 3000ft drop on either side. We all took a look at Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and didn’t fancy it at all! We dropped down to the col and then climbed up over an intermediate top before dropping steeply to the base of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich making our way along Collie’s Ledge a path in the cliff face about a foot wide in places which is the only way to access ‘The Mhic’ without climb up the cliff. We then faced another climb to the summit which again was very airy. The ridge continued but we dropped down the An Stac screes to return to Glen Brittle. However filling our eyeline on the way down was Sgurr Dearg and the Inaccessible Pinnacle which for most hill walkers is their Nemisis!
The four of us perched on the “Dining Room Table” on top of Sgurr Alasdair

That is the way we came up!

Sgurr Mhic Chonnich that was airy as well

Sgurr Dearg and the ‘In Pin’

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Skye Week


After climbing yesterday, I felt like a rest. Unfortunately Colin, Karen and Joy had to climb Blaven a Skye Munro and the only one not part of the Cullin Ridge. I had climbed this years ago and didn’t particularly feel the need to climb it again. With no Sky TV I couldn’t watch the cricket but I could pick up the radio through the tv so I settled down and listened to the Ashes unfold. There were Spotted Flycatcher in the garden and Common Sandpiper by the Sligachan Hotel. The weather had deteriorated and there was steady drizzle most of the day – whilst the rest of the UK was having a Heatwave.


We had hired a guide for the week – these hills are serious! We had arranged to meet Tony Hanly at 9.00am by the Sligachan Hotel. We were up early, with nerves jangling and were at the car park early waiting for Tony to arrive. He turned up, introduced himself and declared that we wouldn’t be walking as it was too windy and the rock would be wet with the rain! We were all a little disappointed but he was the expert. It was rather an anti-climax. They weather wasn’t much better for birding but we picked up Golden Eagle, Whimbrel, Twite and a few bits and pieces in a leisurely drive around the west coast of the island.

Met Tony at the same time and place. The winds had dropped to gusts of 35mph so it was borderline but we would go for it. We walked from the Hotel with the targets the three northernly Munros of Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Basteir and Bruach na Frithe. On the way a Greenshank was seen whilst it chased off a Hooded Crow.

We walked up into Fionn Choire from where we accessed the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillian. We put on our harnesses and helmets and started to make our way towards the summit. The wind was very strong and you had to shout to be heard. As we ran out of path we were roped up, then Tony disappeared about 70ft up this Chimney and we had to follow. I was to busy concentrating on where I was putting my hands and feet to be worried, we eventually reached the ridge and it was exposed – I mean EXPOSED.

The next part involved edging our way around some large boulders and climbing up through a crack to another ledge, then another short climb to regain the ridge. When my turn came I just did it, but I remember thinking I hope the whole week isn’t like this. As we got towards the top we had to thread the needle – this was a hole in the rock to access the summit. We were lucky as we reached the top it cleared a little and we got some good views. On the descent we avoided the difficulties on the way up by abseiling 90ft down the side of a cliff, a strange and remarkably fulfilling experience and not as difficult as you might think.

Next up was Am Basteir this involved some climbing classed as difficult. We were however soon on the summit. As we approached the wind was still strong. Tony said “When you get up there and sit down – there’s not much of it so don’t spread out”. We didn’t stay long and returned to the col to pick up our haversacks and then traversing back underneath Am Basteir where we took the leisurely walk out to the summit of Bruach na Frithe the only one of the Cullins eleven Munro’s that doesn’t involve any real level of difficulty.

Sgurr nan Gillean

Am Basteir

The chimney we had to climb up with Tony “The Rock Rat” Hanly at the top.

The west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean. The eye of the needle is just right off centre

The summit of Sgurr nan Gillean

13th July – Scotland

Travelled to Perth on Friday after work for a week climbing the Skye Munro’s. These mountains are the real thing they are Alpine in nature and for us mere hill walkers a Guide was called for, doing the hills individually is possible but to string them together involves a lot of climbing and rope work – something I would not be comfortable with.

However, before that on the Saturday we decided that we would walk two rather remote hills at the far end of Glen Shiel which is on the way to Skye – Beinn Fhada and A' Ghlas-bheinn. We arrived at 9.30am and started the walk in bright sunlight and we were rewarded with fine weather all day. It took over three hours to reach the summit of Beinn Fhada which was a straightforward climb on good paths.

To reach A’ Ghlas-bheinn involved losing a lot of height returning to the bealach which left us with a big climb to get to the summit, we thought we had made it about four times but it seemed to be getting further away rather than closer! It took us 2h 30m before we reached the cairn. The views though were incredible down Glen Affric and we could see all the six Munro’s that we had left to climb there. Bird wise on the hill we heard Golden Plover and saw loads of Meadow Pipits and Wheatear.

The summit of Beinn Fhada

A’ Ghlas-bheinn from the slopes of Beinn Fhada

The distant Beinn Fhada from the summit of A’ Ghlas-bheinn

At the summit of A’ Ghlas-bheinn

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Saturday 6th July

Popped in briefly on Saturday morning, there were around a dozen or so Common Tern but not a lot else, a juvenile Grey Wagtail was feeding on the shoreline by the car park. The Spotted Flycatchers in my garden appear to have had a successfully bred. The adults are busy feeding the youngsters at the moment.