11 – 13 May 2018
What a weekend!
The yearly DMC Skye trip had had utterly glorious weather for the past few years, and we were keenly aware that this good fortune couldn’t last… With reports of snow still on the Cuillin, we miserably packed our crampons and set off.
Incredibly, however, we struck lucky again and enjoyed blissfully sunny weather all weekend – with panoramic views out to Rum and back to the mainland.
On Saturday, Mhairi had asked mountain expert, Jim, to lead her up the mighty In Pinn, and a few of us decided to take advantage of his expertise and tag along. Villo, Bruce, Tommy, Mhairi, Jim and I headed up Sgurr Dearg and were surprised when we reached the summit after only a short scramble. Well, not quite the summit…
Before us sat a sharp and unforgiving shaft of rock, sticking ungainly out of the mountain, like a giant, forgotten axe head, dropped in a ferocious battle of the Gods. I’ve been reading a lot of Greek mythology recently.
Anyway, Jim roped up and soloed the narrow east ridge. Mhairi clipped in and followed him – a moderate climb made worse by the sheer drops on either side.
By this time the summit was getting busy. Climbers appeared from all different directions, all hoping to take on the In Pinn, and Jim made the sensible decision to have the rest of us climb up the western side, avoiding the other pesky climbers spoiling our view. This is graded as a VDiff, and we could see why. Bruce and myself (with limited climbing experience) found it particularly challenging, but we made it up and down in one piece, with only the odd “disco leg” and frozen moment of panic. Villo and Tommy scaled it in no time, and all five of us took a brief moment in the sunshine to congratulate ourselves on a climb well done. It was a great group effort, too, as we all shouted encouragement, and guided for footholds from the ground. It was terrifying at the time, but the feeling of accomplishment afterwards was incredible.
Since we were on the ridge, it seemed rude not to bag another couple Munros, so we set off for Sgurr Mhic Coinnich and Sgurr Alasdair. On the way we bumped into the second DMC ridge party, who were doing our route in reverse.After a 13-hour day on the Cuillin, and a horrendous descent of the Stone Chute (I bloomin’ HATE s cree) w e returned back to the lodge to enjoy a delicious three-courser, cooked perfectly by Bruce S and served with flair by Andrew H.I could barely keep my eyes open for the usual chatter at night round the fire, and retired early.
I awoke in utter confusion to find I’d slept through the entire summer and an earthquake was shaking my bunk – but it turned out to be Paul and Andrew H, who had given up waiting and were merrily shaking the bunk, singing Happy Birthday to wake me. Apologies, guys!
I dropped them off at another ridge walk and went to Carbost for oysters and a nosey at Talisker distillery. Ice cream in Kyle of Lochalsh on the way home was a glorious end to a perfect weekend. Long my our Skye luck last!
The Cioch, Clach Glas and Blaven
Somewhat improbably the rain cleared as we drove through Glen Shiel on Friday eve with the prospect of a clear Cuillin (a rare event when arriving on Skye). No room at the Inn (or Cafe Sia anyway) meant we settled for bar food at Sligachan, to chew over myriad ideas for Sat. I think everyone comes to Skye with an agenda worked out far in advance only to be trashed by the weather when they arrive, or with unbounded enthusiasm end up in thick mist trying to work out if they are in the right Coire…. This time it would be different?
Omens were mixed first thing Saturday, even to the suggestion it might be a Neist Point (cragging) day. Convinced Sron na Ciche would dry-out however we pressed on for a look. Now it is easy to forget this faces North and can be cold and damp for a couple of days after rain (funny how old memories are of warm rock, blithely navigating the terrace and Cioch Slab, enjoying the fine exposure and limitless gabbro friction..) Today it felt steep, damp and a bit foreboding – at least until up the corner and out into the sun atop the Cioch. We dropped the original harder climbing options and pushed on up Eastern Gully via the slimy squeeze under the big chockstone, to enjoy a few hours on Sg Sgumain in the afternoon sun.
Still some juice left in the tank Sunday and we headed for Clach Glas and Blaven (Simon’s “favourite scramble”, and for me this would be the 3rd? time, and well over 20 years since i last did it??). Sg nan Each kicks things off with a bang, a steep slab and big exposure, and the fun (= sustained, exposed, scrambling / climbing up to Difficult…) continues with a spectacular finish to the table-top summit of Clach Glas.
It’s a convoluted descent down to the putting green – a 20m long patch of grass improbably perched on the next col, back into the shade for the challenge of the (damp) 12 foot wall (about 4m these days..), followed by a scree filled gully and steep 25m corner to finish. The only disappointing fact is rather than emerge right onto the summit of Blaven, you are left with a 100m slog to get to what today, was one of the best viewpoints on the planet. We even managed to get a Pizza at Cafe Sia before heading home. If the DMC gets this weather every year, sign me up for 2019!
Corrie Lagan and more Munro bagging
With Amy’s finishing of the Munro’s fast approaching the one remaining goal on Skye was to see if she could climb the In Pinn without a guide (the summit had been bagged by Amy years ago with a guide). I on the other hand had lots of unclimbed peaks on the Cuillin so a round of Corrie Lagan seemed an appropriate route choice.
Andy M, Andrew B, Miguel and Berenice had a variety of coinciding ambitions so the six of us set off together. First thing cloud was still lingering meaning there was a brief discussion about skipping our first goal Sgurr Sgumain and heading up the great stone shoot to Sgurr Alaisdair. Luckily optimism about the forecast prevailed and we headed up the much nicer Sgumain stone shoot reaching the ridge in time for sun to break through the clouds.
Sgurr Sgumain provided no difficulties and the party split in deciding the best route on the next section on the ridge. Regrouping at the bottom of the bad step on Sgurr Alaisdair and the slightly scary described grade 3 chimney to get up. Harnesses were donned in case anyone felt need to rope part way up but as promised the route was easier than looked and soon we were all enjoying brilliant sunshine on the summit of Sgurr Alaisdair.
After a brief lunch stop we pushed on looking at the fearsome looking cliffs of Sgurr Thearlaich luckily my reading of the walk book was wrong and there was a much easier route just round the corner. There was no resting on this summit as memories of conversations of the difficulties of getting off this from the night before were fresh in the mind. We opted to head off to the right of the ridge and after a couple of steps of downclimbing which seemed to take an age we were soon scrambling up onto Collie’s Ledge thankfully not meriting the Mod status the guidebook had given it. This took us back onto the ridge just past Sgurr MhicChoinnich which we naturally back tracked to the summit finishing the Skye Munros for Berenice.
We had been keeping an eye out for groups of orange helmeted climbers coming the other way and on return to end of Collie’s Ledge did indeed meet our other party who had headed to the In Pinn as first target of the day.
Carrying on we by passed An Stac to Miguel’s disappointment and soon reached the foot of the In Pinn. Andy M and Berenice decided they had had a good day and were happy just going to the summit of Sgurr Dearg but the rest of us decided to make an attempt on the In Pinn. Miguel was unconvinced by my short roping place so decided to solo it with the rest of us following behind with the rope to get off. We set off behind him but soon came into difficulties, I having underestimated the difficulty of the climb (and probably how much I rely on having my sister on the other end of the rope when scrambling in the Alps).
We retreated and pondered how best to get Miguel off the summit safely. I decided to make a second attempt on the summit but climbing trad style instead. I managed to get slightly higher but still got scared by the exposure and difficulty of the route and turned back a second time leaving Miguel having to downclimb the route to get to safety.
We then proceeded to the summit of Sgurr Dearg and getting a good view of the route that would have been useful earlier. The descent was longer than expected and we caught the other group just as we were reaching the car park heading back to the hostel after a good day on the hill.
Sunday saw a variety of different plans. Me and Amy had a relaxing day on the ridge climbing Sgurr a Mhaidaidh and Sgurr a Ghreadaidh from An Dorus. We bumped into another party (who had been climbing on Clach Glas) in the Pizza place in Broadford. Our weekend continued with a drive to Attadale and a hard sunset cycle into Bendrondaig both where Greg was also staying, having been up Beinn Drondaig that evening. We had an early start on Monday, climbing Biden a’Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhor (a weekend with no new Munros for Amy was asking a bit too much at this point) before cycling back over the pass (the steep sections we had pushed up the day before were also too steep to cycle down) and driving back to Dundee. Another good and tiring weekend with DMC.
A Sunday Scramble
After the Sunday lie in, packing faff and lengthy indecision about plans B-Z we opted for plan A and drove over to Glen Brittle, our objective the Spur on Sgurr an Fheadain, a 2* grade 2 scramble up the ridge to the left of Waterpipe Gulley. From the road it looked imposing and TBH I was a wee bit apprehensive. Katrina decided to give it a miss to pursue much needed caffeine, oysters and whisky; promising to pick us up later.
The sign after the Fairy Pools told us we were entering “wild mountainous terrain” and 500m further on we were standing at the bottom of the slabs at the foot of the left flank of the buttress, donning helmets and harnesses, contemplating the climb. …which turned out to be a lot less steep than it looked, resulting in enjoyable scrambling and some great positions. The bulging slabs shallowed out to the point where one could walk up relying on friction to gain a broad scree terrace which we traversed right to broken crags guarding the ridge proper. What looked like almost vertical continuous rock from the road was only 50 degrees with a rocky path between steeper rock steps. As we ascended, the gash of the Waterpipe made its presence felt to our right until a final sustained scramble took us to the small bealach between the two pinnacles at the top of the gulley. The rope had stayed in the bag but I was glad to have had it.
The summit – and lunch – lay a short narrow ridge walk beyond. The guide book advised us to back track and then cut back to the main ridge bealach rather than go direct to avoid the fatal drop – the summit of Sgurr an Fheadain an impressive cone of rock atop the end of the ridge down from Bidein Druim nan Ramh, overhanging Coire na Creiche.
The descent from there looked treacherous: steep hanging scree whichever way you went. We opted for the slightly harder descent down into Coire a’ Mhadaidh, which after 100m turned out to be quite pleasant, there were breaks in the crags and the scree was of small stones providing us with an escalator down to the Coire floor, the imposing rock architecture looming around us. Then another suprise: The route out of the coire seemed blocked by a gorge and cliffs, but at the last minute a small cairn led us to what felt like a secret staircase down a rake in the rock, depositing us at the foot of the buttress to admire the route.
Then a purposeful yomp down to (and a jump over) the Fairy Pools. …which looked enticing after the sweat of the climb but we decided skinny dipping was probably not the best plan for a number of reasons, one of which led to a discussion about wetsuits which lasted until we caught sight of Katrina waving us a welcome. 3h45′ (car) door to door. A grand (half) day out of four-limb movement on sticky rock. Only took a week for my fingerprints to re-grow sufficiently to unlock my phone.
We were walking at 8.
Geared up behind two others at bottom of face and waited for them several times on the route but enjoyed the relaxed pace and brilliant views.
Straight forward scrambling with minimal need for route finding description.
Fantastic outlook and wonderful exposure in places
Blazing sunshine, shades on.
Interesting abseil entry line onto broad ledge and gully.
Rope stashed again… nice to have though!!?
No snow to speak of
Edgy traverse up ramp over gaps
Summit lunch stop – only I had forgotten mine!
On to the crux – straight forward move to get of the ground but a little delicacy required to mount the rock – moment of concentration required.
Brilliant route, highly enjoyable.
Descent along ridge heading east
Foot pain slowed progress but it was lovely weather so we stopped in the sun and to paddle in the burn on the way back.
Arrived at the pub about 6.
Another great day on Skye.