First hill of the year

Wed, Jan 2, 2019

Winter sunrise over Blaven on the Isle of Skye

With a huge dollop of high pressure hanging over the highlands, the cloudless cold and clear sky could not be ignored and the three of us, myself, Mrs. S and Dr. A.H.B Man (more anon) left in a hurry bound for Banrigh an Eilein Sgiathanaich, Bla Bheinn, Queen of the Winged Isle.

As we came round the corner into Torrin I remarked the mountain wall across the loch, stretching from Sgurr nan Each, over the crenellated Clach Glas ridge to Bla Bheinn herself must be one of the best mountain views on the planet. It was simply stunning. Loch Slapin was at very low tide as we drove round the head, one of the lowest we’ve seen it, before trundling up the rutted track into the car park. There are big changes on the way for this place with a complete redesign and toilets. Progress. Ho Hum. The day after new year’s day and it was hoaching with cars. I remember sitting in the car one Christmas day here listening to a Gaelic version of Silent Night and preparing for an ascent of the two summits in full winter conditions with not a person in sight all day. Now it seems the island is full to the brim all year. Is there no respite to be had from these crowds?

Ice on the path but the sporting groove route was dry and firm with everything frozen in place and we were on the top in what seemed like no time at all. A bitterly cold wind numbed my fingers as I arranged the good doctor’s final steps to the top of the cairn. Dr. A.H.B. Man paused for breath after the steep and icy ascent of the mountain’s east face, resting against a summit boulder, the frozen Cuillin making a magnificent backdrop to his efforts.

Dr. A.H.B. Man reaches the summit of Blaven on the Isle of Skye after an arduous ascent of the east face route

The ravens croaked but did not join us at the summit and a couple of what appeared to be hoodies played on the cliffs below the prow. The wind was biting with the temperature well below freezing so we headed back down, counting twenty people on the mountain including ourselves. Looking across to the scree gully the scene was like an early eighties computer game with primary coloured walkers inching up, inching down, one step down from her, one up from him, another shuffle sideways over there. I half expected to hear eight bit music in the background!

I did have a special treat though. Frozen scree which I ran down with tremendous gusto. A grand day out indeed.

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