the dark heart of the cuillin

Sat, Jul 25, 2015

There were a couple of conflicting forecasts for Saturday. MWIS pointed to clearing conditions and cloud above 900m by afternoon, while the BBC had it deteriorating into the afternoon, with roving bands of heavy showers. The BBC won. But I didn’t realise this until the afternoon arrived, by which time I was sitting on the summit of Sgurr na Banachdich in the Cuillin mountains of Skye. My local hills.

There are a few ways to get up Sgurr na Banachdich. There’s the trade route up Coire na Banachdich with the big dog leg to get past the cliffs. There’s also a fantastic scrambling route up Sgurr nan Gobhar which I climbed a few years ago and there’s the most pleasing one, which I went up today. This goes up the Allt a’Choire Ghreadaidh from the Youth Hostel then takes a branch path up onto An Diallaid, then swings round onto the summit block and you pop out directly at the cairn. There’s a very rough scree path in Coir’ an Eich but it’s much better, in my opinion anyway, to head straight up An Diallaid ridge. A profusion of wild flowers sheltering in the rough gabbro makes for a very pleasant ascent. If you fancy a superb scrambling trip, you can continue from Sgurr na Banachdich on the round of Coir’ a’Ghreadaidh

About half way up from the bealach there’s a good view along the ridges and out across the Minch to the mountains of Harris:

Sgurr nan Gobhar ridge from Sgurr na Banachdaich

I topped out around 1pm and sat there, camera gear at the ready as the mists rolled round and a cold northerly chilled me somehwat as I was a bit damp from the constant drizzle. The afternoon was turning out more BBC than MWIS. The changing conditions made for some interesting clouds down on Sgurr nan Gobhar though:

Sgurr nan Gobhar from Sgurr na Banachdaich

Around 1:30pm the sun broke through, the slight breeze died away and it became rather hot. It was also accompanied by 10,000 midges! It didn’t last though and by 2pm it was setting up for a clagfest so I packed up and headed back down but not before I managed an atmospheric shot of Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh and Sgurr a’Mhadaidh with a twisting web of ridges leading the eye out of the black mountains to the bright coast beyond:

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

It poured and poured most of the way down, with a wall of dense cloud lowering from the pinnacles and ridges into the green and wet corries. It really has been an awful summer up here. There’s been a fair amount of wind but thankfully the temperatures haven’t been too bad in the mountains although today there was a hint of winter in the wind. Redwings have been spotted down in the glens so the season might be on the turn already. I stopped for a while to capture the dark heart of the Cuillin:

Sgurr a'Mhadaidh from Sgurr na Banachdich

Back in the glen, the car park at the start of the Fairy Pools walk was completely full and cars were parked along the verge all the way up the twisting single track road. The verges were a mess of churned up mud and grass and ‘bonglies’ wandered in the road this way and that. I pondered on the contrast between the quiet mountain summits and the almost Lake District crowds down in the glen. It never used to be like this. The tops were always mobbed in summer and the glen was quiet while everyone was exploring the peaks. There’s something interesting going on in the outdoors these days. Just not sure what it is yet!

Back home, I put my feet up and had a beer. My photography exhibition at the John Muir Trust in Pitlochry next April is a constant in my mind these days and it’s really focussed my view, pun intended. When I create images now, the final print is foremost in my mind and my imagination has no trouble taking over the process once I look through the viewfinder.

So it’s on with the (in)decision making process of how I’m going to display the prints. Board? Framed? hmmm, I must get on with cutting those mounts though. But it’s nice to stop now and again and stand outside in the evening light and imagine these marvellous mountains just on the other side of the low hills around me. Superb.

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