I'm back from the wonderful Isle of Skye, recovering from an intensive week of walking, scrambling and climbing. Wife had bought me a week in a group with a mountain guide, for my birthday, so last Saturday I bade my farewells to the family and pointed my old car North-Westwards, with a nervous excitement.
The excitement was then rapidly dampened, firstly by the week's weather forecast which made pretty grim reading, and by the news that our guide had been caught up helping in an all-night mountain rescue and that we wouldn't be going out on the first day.
Things however soon picked up. On day two we managed a rain-soaked scramble around Sgurr a' Mhadaidh and Sgurr a' Greadhaidh, high above beautiful Glen Brittle. I was delighted to discover that the rest of the group were not superhuman fitness-machines, who would want to run up and down the steep hillsides, but were more than content with my kind of leisurely pace. It was also clear from the start that they were going to be a friendly, good-natured bunch of walking companions for the week.
The following day we went southwards to the Glen Brittle campsite, and did the long walk-in to pay our respects to the summit cairns of Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr Dubh Morr, and Sgurr Alasdair. Our guide, George Yeomans proved to be a most excellent fellow! He showed us the different types of rock the Cuillin are made from, such as Gabbro (rough, coarse and easy to climb) and Basalt, (hard, shiny and slippery). The tiny summit of Sgurr Alasdair proved to be Basalt, and we stood on the tiny summit being bombarded with millions of tiny hail-stones, cursing our luck that the previous week's groups has enjoyed it in hot sunshine!
A monstrous headache put me out of action for much of the following day, while the rest of the party climbed Sgurr na Banadich from Glen Brittle again. Nevertheless the following day more than made up for the loss of the Wednesday as we headed for the North end of the mighty Cuillin ridge.
Bruach na Frith is a beautiful mountain - and this was our first Munro of day 4, closely followed by the brutal shape of Am Basteir adn then Sgurr nan Gillean, attained by it's savage west-ridge (pictured: top-left). I haven't rock climbed and abseiled for years, and this was a highly exposed and welcomed return to it. For a few minutes we even managed a view from this hill, a pleasure which would prove to be almost completely elusive, all week.
Our final day was less successful. Although it started well with a good walk in and then heady scramble to the summit of Sgurr Mich Coinnich our trip to the famous Inaccessible Pinnacle was a disappointment...
We arrived at the Pinn to find a huge queue waiting to get onto it! Realising that it would be several hours before we cold get climbing, we huddled into the shelter tent, in bivvy bags and tried to keep warm waiting for a turn on the infamous rocky blade. However, the large group of climbers from Totnes were not going to be hurried, and as we waited the weather deteriorated. Hail became sleet, became snow - which began to settle on the Pinn, making it dangerously slippery. Soon the climbing club gave up their ascent attempt, belayed off the Pinn declaring it too slippery in wet snow; while our guide led us safely off the mountain.
The Cuillin are the most impressive, dramatic and exposed hills I have climbed. Bleak, crumbling, frost-shattered, their array of ridges, summits and pinnacles tower above the surrounding glens in breath-taking style.
Hopefully next year I will be able to get back and climb the Inn Pinn and the other hill I missed, Sgurr nan Banachdich. Can't wait!