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

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