Sunday, 8 June 2003

Cuillin Weekend (part 2)

I think we all slept well after yesterdays' exertions!  I woke up with a hint of excitement and trepidation - would this be the day we climbed the Inn Pinn?

Unfortunately, the weather didn't look too promising - low cloud and quite windy, even at sea level.   Anyhow, we set off for the Youth Hostel up into Coire an Eich.  Soon we were in the mist, and getting blown around, but plodded gamely on up put of the corrie and on up the shoulder to the top of Sgurr na Banachdich (so Munro 157 achieved).  Found a sheltered spot to have a bite to eat and some hot coffee.

The view along the ridge was pretty dramatic!

Donald followed the crest of the ridge over the next top, while Tim and I took a more sheltered (but quite tricky) line below the crest on the west side.  John did a mixture of both!

After a wee while, Donald reappeared out of the mist, looking pale, with talk of dramatic drops into the abyss below, and a real sense of exposure.

The mist opened up enough for us to see to Loch Brittle below:

We continued on up the ridge to Sgurr Dearg, for our first glimpse of the Pinnacle, shrouded in mist with the wind whistling around its cliffs.

John and Donald had a reconnoitre of the route up the short steep east face, while Tim and I looked on dubiously.

Soon, all 4 of us decided that today wasn't the day for it!   The result - a mixture of disappointment and relief!

We watched a few braver souls reaching the top, then abseiling off, before we set off back down through Coire na Banachdich.

It took us a while to find the correct route, after initially making for the centre of the corrie, only to find ourselves descending large blocks towards the top of a cliff.  Some backtracking, then contouring round to the south side, and we soon found a safer descent.

The final highlight of the day was the dramatic Eas Mor waterfall:

So, another good day - and will have to return some other time!

Saturday, 7 June 2003

Cuillin weekend (part 1)

Bruach na Frithe, Am Basteir and Sgurr nan Gillean

7th June 2003

The shadow of the Inn Pinn looms over very would-be Munroist who is more of a hill walker than a climber. On the "ambler - rambler - scrambler - dangler" spectrum, I tend to consider myself as a scrambler. In other words, I like it when you need to use your hands as well as your feet, but I'm not too keen when you need a rope!
So - now that I was well past half-way, it was time to face up to the Black Cuillin. The chance came along when 3 colleagues from Hawick High School invited me to join them for a Cuillin weekend.

So it was that I set off with John Reed, Donald Knox and Tim Stewart - a mottly crew indeed. Would you entrust your child's education to these four?

This is us atop Sgurr nan Gillean, but let's start at the beginning.

The deal was that I would provide the transport (Renault Espace),
and John would provide the food and drink. Donald had climbing
experience, so his job was to keep John in order, and Tim was over for a year from Australia, so he was the "tourist".

We drove up to Glenbrittle Youth Hostel without mishap. The weather forecast was unsettled, so we debated various options. Next morning, we drove round to Sligachan, and set off towards Bruach na Frithe. The plan was to go up the north ridge, but low cloud and a strong wind guided us into Fionn Choire first, then up the east ridge to the summit.

No views, but Munro 156 achieved.

Donald and John look happy enough, but Tim looks a bit concerned!

So far, so good. Next, we returned down to the bealach and on up a rocky scramble to Sgurr a' Fionn Choire. The route ahead looked precipitously steep, until we realised that wasn't the way down!

Back on the correct route, we dropped down to
below the Basteir Tooth, which
appeared dramatically above us as
the mist started to clear:

The Tooth itself was definitely beyond our capabilities, but we decided to have a go at Am
Basteir. We followed the rough path beneath Am Basteir's north face to the bealach at the foot of the east ridge, and set off upwards. Good scrambling, with the dramatic drop to out right, and the slightly less steep, but much longer, drop into Lota Coire on the south side.
Higher and higher we progressed, until we reached the infamous "bad step" - a 12 foot notch on the ridge, about 3/4 of the way up.

A large boulder used to sit in the notch, making it easier to descend into, but a Cuillin winter had sent it hurtling into the depths below.

We hesitated, looked for an alternative route, peered down into the notch, then decided that "discretion was the better part of valour" and headed back down the ridge to the bealach between Am Basteir and the west ridge of Gillean. Munro 157 would need to wait for another day!

<- View looking back: Bruach na Frithe in the middle at the back; Sgurr na Fionn Choire to the left, with the steep drop which we peered down into before finding the right way down; and Am Basteir's east ridge, rough and narrow
with huge drops wither side.

So, what now? "Let's try the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean", suggested John.

I'd already been on Gillean by the so-called "tourist route", but not from the west.

The guidebooks said that it was easier now that
the "gendarme" - a large block sitting in another notch - had fallen some years ago.

The path led easily at first along a ledge on the north side, staying fairly level, to the foot of the "tuning fork" chimney, a moderate scramble up to the ridge.

Donald led the way, and we lesser mortals followed, one at a time, roped up for security:

At the top, we regrouped. The next bit was on the hairy side of scary for me, although a rock climber would have done it with eyes shut and hands behind back, I'm sure!

John led, and guided us up, again well-roped up. First move was an easy, but exposed clamber round a boulder to the "tooth arete". This was the scary bit (although not difficult).
Basically it meant letting go of the boulder, and stepping across the gap where the gendarme had been, with big near-vertical drops beneath your feet, then a scramble up to safety on the other side.

Whew! Glad to have managed that.

From the tooth arete, a super scrambly ridge led up steeply towards the summit. The most interesting bit was where we had to go through a hole in the ridge to emerge on the other side!

Here's John emerging through the gap.

And so to the top, 22 years on from when Anne and I stood there back in 1981.

Admired the view, then descended down the "tourist route". Some tricky descent, getting off the foot of the slabs. I should have insisted on avoiding the slabs, by keeping to the south side, as Anne and I had done on the previous
occasions. Anyway, we reached the foot of the mountain safely, the skies cleared, and we stopped for photos on the way back to Glenbrittle.

Evening sun on Sgurr nan Gillean (left), Am Basteir (middle) and Sgurr a'Bhasteir (right).

The day was rounded off with John's cuisine, much chat and plans for tomorrow ....

Sunday, 1 June 2003

How to double your Munro tally twice in 1 day

Monadh Liath   (31st May 2003)

Well, it wasn't me!  That would have required climbing 152, then 304 more Munros, which even with our 7am start, would have been quite a feat.

Let's go back to the start ...

At 4am, son Iain and brother Andrew and I roused ourselves on the beach car park at Findhorn.  "Why?" you might well ask...  To see the annular solar eclipse, as the sun rose out of the sea!  Unfortunately, there was a lot of haze, so by the time the sun became visible, the moon had partly moved off the sun's disc.  We heard later that the best view had been from the Cairn Gorm plateau ...

The second disappointment was to realise we have forgotten to pack any coffee!

Anyway, back down the A9 bright and early to Newtonmore, then up Glen Banchor to the foot of the Monadh Liath Munros.  Enjoyed the 24km walk across rolling hills and broad ridges, taking in A'Chailleach, Carn Sgulain and Carn Dearg.

For me, that was Munros 153, 154 and 155.  For Andrew it was Munro 2 (doubling his previous 1), then 3 and 4 (doubling his tally again!).

(left) Carn Dearg, seen from Dalwhinnie

On the road home, I needed matchsticks to keep my eyes open - a result of the early start, and the lack of caffeine!

(written 30/12/09)