a winters day high in the cuillin
Fri, Feb 9, 2007
Mid week is always a great time to head into the Cuillin and I had Wednesday off, so I packed the ‘sac, jumped in the car after prising the door open as we had a severe overnight frost and drove the half hour to Sligachan.
I walked up the path towards the Bealach a’Mhaim and just before it heads down to Glen Brittle I plodded straight up the screes, with Glamaig to my left looking for all the world like a giant white planet rising over the frozen surface of the lochan. A superb day indeed. Not a cloud in the sky and although I was in shade on the north side of the hill it kept me cool as the sun was fair beating down on the walk up the path.
The north west ridge is another of those Cuillin surprises. Like Sgurr Dubh Mòr with it’s bad step, Bruach na Frithe has it’s own nippy sweetie if you stick to the crest, which I did. It’s hands in pockets most of the way until the top third, then it gets interesting. There’s a path lower down on the west of the ridge but the crest is just superb, broken basalt, chimneys, ledges, exposure now and then and blue blue skye over dazzling white snow. What a place!
I followed chimneys up through the broken ground until I had to reverse one as it petered out into an open groove that was touching grade 3. I was out for fun, not a dose of sewing machine leg and climbing like a burst sofa is my want these days, so I came down and worked my round to the left and onto the crest again, where I came upon what seemed to be the bad step. A vertical, very big drop on my left and a less steep drop to the right with a slanting block to get over. It was iced up and very slippy indeed. Now, if I was still the tyro I used to be, or think I was! I would have gone for it. But as I said, I was after fun so, back round to the right and I spent a very entertaining half hour or so forcing a route up the sloping basalt terraces, grooves and chimneys, all snowed up and icy, until I popped out on the skyline and made for the summit up the now easier, wider ridge.
It’s a fantastic route although the snow was powdery and the ice was minimal. I didn’t even need the crampons or axe. Just some big balls and a lot of brushing!
The view from the summit was utterly stunning. The whole of the eastern horizon was white as far as the eye could see, from the Torridon mountains, looking like huge pieces of furniture draped with sheets, ready for decorating. Right down to the Ben I could see snowy range after snowy range. Then the eye fell off the end of the range and into the blue sea and headed for the ochre Hebrides.
There was a huge snow shadow to the north of Skye, where the Cuillin had offloaded all the snow from the east wind and only the Storr had a dusting, although it sat under some serious cumulonimbus all day.
I came back down the Fionn Choire, very cold in the high shade with the dry snow squeaking under my boots and the light grew soft and warm as I headed back down the path.
A day to savour with a nice dram in front of the fire as the temperature outside drops again and the stars come out.
You can see the picture of the walk here.