Just like the old days

Sat, Aug 3, 2019

Blaven, Isle of Skye

The summer on Skye continues with temperatures in the mid to high 20s, not much rain, soporific midges in the incessant heat and mountain burns down to low levels. I can’t remember a summer like this on the island. The BBC are now calling it “global heating” but it feels like a Mediterranean climate these last few months. Torrential rain and flooding across the country but the north west Highlands have been positively tropical since late April.

Having said that, the bracken started to turn in late July with the first morning condensation on the windows last week. Fruits of mellow mistfulness and wandering vapours above the sea loch, milling around, reminding that the season is on the turn.

Saturday can be quiet on the hills as it’s turnover day when lots of tourists drive furiously south while the next lot drive furiously north. The former stressed at going back to the city, the latter stressed at being in the city and the whole lot meeting around Glencoe and Rannoch Moor in a mayhem of traffic and nerves. Add to the mix the ones who forget which side of the road to drive on and the manic Zombie Buses full of air conditioned experience hunters making for the next selfie-spot and you wonder how it all got this bad!

Anyway, the road to Torrin was quiet, Loch Slapin mirror calm in the morning sun with the queen of the winged isle, BlĂ  Bheinn, basking in the low 20s and it was only 9am. In the highlands? In summer? The car park was quite quiet for a change and the path up into Coire Uaigneach devoid of people. Stonechats, ling, bell heather, cross leaved heath, bog myrtle, tormential, thyme, butterwort and plastic. The latter I picked up, the rest I admired and smelled and enojoyed immensely.

Boulder in Coire a'Chaise, Blaven, Isle of Skye

Overtaking an Irish family on the slabby bit of the path, I stopped for a chat and they were very nice indeed and a pleasant few minutes was had by all. On and up, with not fixed itinery. I was either going up An Stac to relax and read and philosophise and snooze and generally be at home in the wids, or up onto the wildflower ridge for more of the same, or something else. The Clach Glas ridge looked tempting but the heat was oppressive. It was like an oven in the coire as I dunked my head in the burn and drank almost two litres of water straight down. The strength of the sun, the heat, the stillness, the dropping, soaking, squinting all made it seem like the Pyrenees, espcially with the sun glinting on the scree of Great Gully.

I headed up the scree at the head of the coire to the bealach overlooking the islands of Eigg and Rum to find three sheep languishing in the heat. One lying in the boggy ground to keep cool. A passing twister tied without success to break the heat as I lay on the lunch stone looking up the ridge. Blaven it was. Good sport was had on the right hand edge where gabbro crags provide a grand route towards the summit. Flypapery sticky, holds abounding and some mild exposure, it was a wonderful ascent, occasionally stopping to wipe the sweat and suncream out of my eyes. Even my old pals the ravens were keeping a low profile, zooming across Great Gully, cronking and swooshing and sitting on the rocks, too hot even for them. Arriving on the south summit, the view opened onto Cuillin ridge spread out under approaching thunderstorms.

Thunderclouds gather over Sgurr nan Gillean in the Black Cuillin, Isle of Skye

The air was thick, it was hot, I was streaming with sweat it was so close. There was no sound other than the occasional breeze sqeezing through the rocks and the light tried to break free of the haze enveloping the Cuillins in the distance.

The Black Cuillin, seen from Blaven, Isle of Skye

On over to the main summit by the chossy gully, lots of thyme and alpine ladies mantle and a few people so I headed back down befor the main heat of the day arrive, pasing the nice Irish family just arriving at the top.

Looking past the Prow to Clach Glas from Blaven, Isle of Skye

Back in Coire Uaigneach I lazed for a bit in the oven-like conditions before the hot descent of the excellent John Muir Trust path. They’ve put a lot of effort into repairing the erosion and hats off to the folk who built the new stone route.

It had been a wonderful day of freedom, solitude, not that many people, good scrambling, great views, a frisson of excitement as thunder threatened but ultimately didn’t materialise. A happy body thankful for a grand day out in the mountains. Fish and chips from the cracking Siaway Fish & Chips in Broadford and a glass of Bad Day At The Office from my big bottle I get refilled from The Misty Bottle in Breakish. With the tourists come custom. With custom comes options and the chippy and Misty Bottle are making the most of the new markets. Hats off to them. If you’re on Skye, I thoroughly recommend both. The Misty Bottle is chock full of real ales, beers, a fantastic selection of whisky, gins and sundry other delectables. Great wee place.

Ah yes, a grand day out on the hill, beer and a fish supper to round off the warm summer evening. Just like the old days.

Sgurr nan Each and Belig, Isle of Skye

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