Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Cuillins with Winky (part 3b)

2pm, on the bealach looking up the east ridge of Am Basteir.  Looks fine, though a bit steep and rough.  Off we set, up the increasingly narrow ridge, with huge vertiginous drops to the right, and rough steep slopes to the left.  Bare rock everywhere.  Soon we reached the narrow section 2/3 of the way up, and peered down the "bad step" (right).

Now, if the bad step were anywhere else, you would slither down it without too much trouble.  The problem is that it drops about 4m into a notch on a ridge that is only a couple of metres wide, with huge drops on each side, so there is no room for error if you tried to make an uncontrolled descent!  This is where we had turned back in 2003.

Apparently, there used to be a large boulder in the notch, which made the bad step a lot easier that it is now.

So, we roped up again, and one by one we did a mini-abseil into the notch.

Pete descending the bad step (above) and me (left).

From the notch, the route to the summit was easy - less steep and narrow than the lower section.

Suddenly, we were there, and peering over the sharp drop towards the Basteir Tooth.

Now I really could say that "compleating" the Munros was a possibility - exactly 100 to go, and none requiring rock climbing ...

.. except, of course, the small matter of negotiating the bad step on the way back down!

Iain (right) on Am Basteir, with view to Sgurr a' Fionn Choire and Bruach na Frithe.

(below) west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean and Knight's Peak (so-called Munro top!) from Am Basteir

The skies had cleared, and the day was now perfect - blue skies, very clear visibility.

So, back down again.  

The bad step was negotiated (with a little help from my friends), and in no time we were back down to the bealach, then round below the north face of Am Basteir, with spectacular views up to the Basteir Tooth (left).

Hmm.. don't think I'll ever climb all the "tops" as well as the Munros!

Easy wander up Bruach na Frithe.  Enjoyed the views.

Bruach na Frithe is reckoned to be the easiest of the Cuillins, but is a spectacular peak nonetheless (below).

Here we parted ways.  Iain, Pete and Winky  returned to Sligachan, while I continued down Bruach na Frithe's north ridge, then took the path back to Glen Brittle.

The next 2 days were to include ascents of Sgurr Alasdair, and the southern peaks, but the weather was absolutely foul in the morning, so we decided to call it quits.  We had enjoyed three superb days - many thanks to Winky - and would be back sometime to enjoy the other peaks.

(written 30/01/10)

Cuillins with Winky (part 3a)

So, mission accomplished!  The hardest Munro climbed.  Only 101 to go, and all within my grasp.  Aha - but what about Am Basteir - didn't we get stuck there 2 years ago, and had to retreat?

"Meet me at Sligachan tomorrow at 9am" were Winky's parting words:  Am Basteir (plus Bruach na Frithe and Sgurr nan Gillean) here we come!

So, next morning Iain, Pete and I met Winky;   blue sky around, but clouds gathered on the tops:

We set off at a good pace up the path across the moor, beside the Allt Dearg Beag, continuing straight on where the Sgurr nan GIllean path turned off to the south, then up the slabs beside the Basteir gorge.   

The pace soon slowed down as we slogged up the scree above Coire a'Bhasteir.  The previous two days had taken their toll!

Correction - my pace slowed down - the other 3 waited patiently for the old man as he toiled up the path (left)!

Anyway, we reached the bealach at midday, and discussed our route up the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean.  

We were to use the "tuning fork" chimney to the "tooth arete", as I had done back in 2003 (see blog).

"OK - I remember it being a bit scary, but I know I can do this!"  "Oh, yes, and we will descend the same way ..."  "Hmm, that might be trickier!"  Anyway, we set off along the ledge to the foot of the chimney, and were soon roped up, and making our way up.  

Here's Iain coming up the tuning fork ...

Next was the arete itself (site of the former "gendarme", which fell off a few years ago, making the route a bit easier, but leaving the "tooth arete" very exposed.  

As the Skye Scrambles SMC guide states, "Make some delicate moves in a very exposed position to pass the stub of the former tooth".  We did!

Here's Iain again (left), stepping across the arete itself - I was safely up already, but the slight camera shake tells a story!

And all safely arrived above the crux (Winky and Pete, right).

Oh ... not quite ...  that appears to be Iain's hand just appearing over the last bit ... is someone belaying him?

It gets easier from here, although still quite exposed and steep in places.

On up across the strange concrete-like section of rock, and then through the "window" (right).

A few more metres easy scrambling, and we were on the summit - a tiny platform, with great views all around (below).

My third time here:

1981, with Anne (by the "tourist" route)

2003, with John, Donald and Tim (ascent by the West Ridge, descent by the "tourist route"

and now, once again by the West Ridge.

1pm, and time to head back down the ridge.   

Soon we wer back down to the crux.  

Winky decided I should go first, so ... deep breath ... then lower myself over the edge ... good, found the foothold  ..... step down to the ledge ... turn around .... edge towrds the arete  ... bold step across   ... hands onto the other side ... work way round the block ... safety!    

And here's Pete starting his descent (right) ...

Then back down the "tuning fork", round the ledge, and back to the bealach at the foot of the east ridge of Am Basteir.

Am Basteir (right),  Sgurr a' Fionn Choire (left) and Bruach na Frithe (centre behind) from the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean.

This rough ridge was our next challenge ....

continued on next blog post

written 310/01/10

Monday, 30 May 2005

At last - the "Inn Pin"

And so the big day had arrived - by nightfall, I would either be on my way to compleating the Munros, or I would have bottled out ...  which was it to be?

The weather looked promising - blue skies overhead - a "round of Coire Lagan" the target.  At 9.15am, we met up with Winky, Donna, and Pete McIntosh, another Inn Pin hopeful.   All set off eagerly enough up the path into Coire Lagan.  However, the blue sky soon disappeared, clouds rolled in, then light rain began to fall.  Into Coire Lagan, we reviewed the situation:  given the weather, we decided to give Sgurr Alasdair a miss for today, and head instead for Sgurr Mhic Choinnich via Collie's Ledge.

So, leaving the good path behind us at the lochan (above), we began the ascent of the Great Stone Chute (right).  Hard going - for every step upwards, we seemed to slide back down half a step, as the scree moved beneath our feet.  The main stone chute leads towards Sgurr Alasdair;  about half-way up, we headed to the left and onto more secure footing, continuing upwards to Bealach Mhic Choinnich.  Time for a pause, some food and drink, before roping up for the ascent of Collie's Ledge (below).  

By now we were into ragged cloud, with the light rain turning to snow - the blue skies had long since departed.  

The ledge was pretty simple scrambling, after the initial moves to get to its start from the bealach.  The biggest hazard was the melting snowflakes washing sun tan lotion into our eyes!  An absorbing half hour or so followed as we slanted across the mountain side, with steep drops into Coire Lagan below us to the left.

Collie's Ledge led us to the north ridge of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, not far below its summit, where a massive boulder provided a shelter before we pushed on up easily scrambled rocks (but with prodigious drops below) to the tiny rocky summit.   

Apart from being my 182nd Munro, this peak had an interesting family link.  The first recorded ascent was by Charles Pilkington, a member of the famous Lancashire glass-making family.  An interesting digression is to read his report on this area in the SMC Journal of 1891, with an excellent old photo, showing Sgurr Mhic Choinnich on the right, and the Bealach immediately to its left.  I'm not sure of the exact link, but the Chairman of Pilkington Glass from 1973 to 1985 was Sir Alistair (Lionel Alexander Bethune) Pilkington, so I guess Charles Pilkington must have been some sort of distant cousin?

Anyway, it was a top to savour - a tiny platform with near-vertical drops on three sides, and superb views across the bealach to Sgurr Thearlaich (pronounced "Cherlie" and named after the aforementioned Charles Pilkington) and to Sgurr Alasdair, now gloriously free of cloud (above).  To the south, the view had opened up over Sgurr Dubh Mor, and to the north, An Stac and the Innacessible Pinnacle appeared out of the mist in dramatic fashion (left).

We could have stayed there all day, enjoying the sense of being on top of the world, but we had other business still to do, so it was back down the north ridge (above) to the top of Collie's Ledge, and on down to Bealach Coire Lagan.   

The impending challenge of the Inn Pin was starting to loom large, and when Winky suggested climbing up and over An Stac, I reckoned that was stretching my nervous energy too far.  So, instead we suffered our way up the greasy slabs and scree on its west side with drizzle in our faces.  Maybe An Stac would heave been preferable! 

However, at 3pm we found ourselves at the foot of the east ridge of the Inn Pin (right).  The moment of truth had arrived!

We roped up - Winky leading, then Pete, then me, and Iain bringing up the rear (to catch me if I fell off),  Donna bounded away up unroped - it's all relative!

Winky gave us our instructions - "follow me up the first gully until you get to the sharp edge, then step over it to the right, and carry on straight up until we reach the belay stance half-way up; keep the rope fairly tight between you, and move together"  She didn't say whether I was allowed to keep my eyes shut or not!  

Getting ready at the start of the ascent (right)

In fact it was great fun, so long as I didn't stop to think about where I was, or the huge drops to both left and right!

Iain and Pete were confident enough to take a few photos en route (see below) - I was too busy clinging on to the rock!

Pete (green) and me (red) coming up the initial pitch.  The first bit is steep but not too exposed.

We continued up this section, until the crack we were climbing merged with the vertical south face (above right).  Then a bold step across to the right onto the Coruisk face.  Here the hand and foot holds were smooth and unconvincing, so we swarmed our way up, until we reached the half way belay.

here we are at the belay point half way up - not much space for 3 people.  Winky and Pete smiling - David looking worried!

There's one comfy seat - with a hundred foot drop at your back, and a 500 ft drop below your feet.  

"Help - what am I doing here?"  

"Oh yes, and what about that practice abseil?  Too late now!"

Winky left the three of us secured to the belay, while she headed off up the second half of the ridge.  Soon she was secure up above us, and we continued upward - less steep now, but narrowing in to a proper ridge, with steep drops on either side (left and below).

Soon the top was in sight, and I HAD DONE IT!   Munro 183 - still 101 to go, but all now achievable!

Hand up to touch the highest point, then sit down to enjoy the position - a small slightly sloping area, with some grass, and near vertical drops all around.

(left) on the summit - with the top of Sgurr Dearg in the background.

No time to hang about, though.  Others might be following us up, so it was time to get ourselves down.    Winky's psychology was perfect - if I had tried a practice abseil, I might have bottled out, but now I had no choice:  abseil down, or stay here for ever!

Pete went first, then I followed:

"Ooh! - its a long way down ..."

"Just relax your left hand a bit ... on you go!"

"Hey, this is fun!"

Iain followed, then Winky ...

Was I up there 5 minutes ago?

Handshakes and thanks all round, then a quick descent back to Glenbrittle.

Mission accomplished!

(written 24/01/10)

PS thanks to Iain and Pete for some of the photos

(below)  evening glow on Sgurr Dearg, with the top of the Inn PInn just peeking over ..

Sunday, 29 May 2005

Cuillins with Winky (part 1)

There comes a time in every would-be Munroist's life when the challenge of the Inaccessible Pinnacle must be faced!  I had stood at the base of its west face back in 2003, and knew then that I would need some experienced assistance to get up there (and back down) in one piece.  And so it was that Iain and I hired the services of Winky O'Neale for a week in late May 2005.

Day 1:  Sunday 29th May

Sgurr a'Mhadaidh, 
Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh and 
Sgurr na Banachdich

We met up with Winky in the pub at Carbost on Saturday evening, to get to know each other, and to make plans for the next day.  "Meet at Glenbrittle Youth Hostel at 9.30am".  That suited us fine, as we would be staying there on Sunday evening.  

Wandering back to our B&B, we hoped the sign on the Free Church was not an omen!  At least, not in the sense implied by the sign!

So, next morning, off down to Glen Brittle to meet up with Winky and her friend, Donna, who was to be climbing with us.

The plan was to complete a round of 3 Munros: Sgurr a' Mhadaidh, Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh and Sgurr na Banachdich. This would involve some scrambling, but nothing too extreme, so was obviously a god choice for Winky to check out our capabilities.

The cloud was low, but with only occasional light showers as we trudged for 2 hours up the path into Coire an Dorus.   Form the coire, we struck up a steep scree covered rocky cleft on our left towards the lowest point on the Sgurr Thuilm - Sgurr a'Mhadaidh ridge.  

Now it was time for climbing gear before a further steep scramble on greasy rocks took us up to the summit (12.30).

I don't remember much detail of the next couple of hours as we scrambled, roped up for security,  along the main ridge south from Sgurr a' Mhadaidh, except the continual need to concentrate on hand and foot, with abysmal drops to left and right, hidden in the mist.  Great fun, though!  

Tricky descents into the two notches of An Dorus ("the door") and Eag Dubh ("black notch"), then back up the other side.

We continued on, engrossed, over Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh, then its south top, then top Sgurr Thormaid and eventually to the top of the 3rd Munro, Sgurr na Banachdich (3pm).  

All the time, there were only occasional glimpses of the valleys below - like this view down into Loch Coruisk from a point on the ridge near Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh.

From Banachdich (left), we descended easily down rough screes back to Glen Brittle.  


We had passed the first test, and the weather forecast looked reasonable - so a round of Coire Lagan was proposed:  Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and the dreaded Inn Pin!

"Would we have a chance for a practice abseil before the Inn Pin?"  "We'll see" was the enigmatic reply!

(written 23/01/10)

Tuesday, 3 May 2005

Braemar weekend - May 2005

The 2005 season got off to a start with a camping weekend at Braemar (right).  It's one of our favourite campsites, but they now don't allow tents over 2 x 4m, so we won't be able to go there with our new tent.  Shame!

I had tweeked my back earlier in the week, so was hoping that it would recover enough to get some decent walks.  I drove, but could hardly move when we stopped for a coffee en route.  It felt slightly better when we had the tent up, so decided to give it some exercise ...

The warm up was an evening walk up to Morrone (left).  Nice walk, with good views, but the summit is an industrial wasteland!  We sat with our backs to the radio mast and buildings, and admired the view out to the west!

Next day was Sunday - back still pretty stiff - so went to church and had a couple of short walks down by the river, then up at the Linn o' Dee.   It rained heavily in the afternoon, so we were happy to lie low!

Monday looked better, so we headed off up to the Linn o' Dee car park.  We cycled up Glen Lui to Derry Lodge and dumped the bikes behind the bothy, then set off on foot up the lovely path into Glen Derry (right).  Plenty of mist still hanging around the hill tops, but it looked to be lifting, so we strode ahead optimistically, and reached the Lairig an Laoigh (750m) after a couple of hours.  A shower of rain tried to damp our spirits, but it soon eased off, as we struck up the hillside to the right.   

An easy ascent soon brought us to the first Munro summit, Beinn a' Chaorainn.  On the way up, we met an ex-colleague from back in Craigroyston days.  The weather was improving steadily, so after a stop for lunch, we strolled down and back up to the next top, Beinn a' Chaorainn Beag.  Our reward was a fine rainbow (left).

From there, the onward route was south across the wide plateau of the Moine Bhealadh to reach Beinn Bhreac, the next Munro.

This was lovely easy walking mostly on springy short heather.  Reached the top at 5pm, and out came some fine evening sunshine, so we lay down and sunbathed for a while, before descending over the west top and down a gentle ridge back to Glen Derry.  

view from Beinn Bhreac towards Beinn a' Chaorainn across the Moine Bhealadh (right)

Admired the beautiful evening light on the pine forests, and reached Derry Lodge at 7.30pm.  

Trundled gently down the track on our bikes, glad to rest our feet,  and back to the car at 8pm.

Next day was time to go home, but - just to prove the back was completely sorted - I did a quick jaunt up and down The Cairnwell.  

30 minutes up, and 10 minutes down, louping through the heather!  Great fun!

Carn Aosda from The Cairnwell (right)