at last a hill

Fri, Jul 23, 2010

It’s been ages since I managed to get out but yesterday, with the forecast set fair, I jumped out of bed on a chilly northerly wind morning, bright sunshine and clear skies and was walking up the Blaven track by 8am. Despite it being the holidays the roads were quiet and the car park was empty. Just some vans of kids waking up on the shore of Loch Slapin, across from my most favourite of hills.

Blaven and Loch Slapin

As I was wearing the new Merrells, I thought about carrying the nornal shoes in the sack just in case they gave me problems but decided just to wing it and strode out into the morning sunshine.

Blaven and Clach Glas

I had a spring in my step, a cool breeze at my back and the walk up the path was a delight in the lightweight shoes and a light sack on my back. Before I knew it, I was at 600m on the bealach below the south summit looking out on a blue Atlantic with Rhum basking in the sun opposite Camasunary.

I still wasn’t tired or hungry so hung a right and headed up the ridge, taking the line of most resistance further right. There’s a path over to the left but if you head straight up it’s delightful scrambling, Grade I with a bit of Grade II if you look for it and if you really fancy it, some easy rock climbing for a few metres. It’s a contrast to the walking path up the tourist route, which goes straight to the main summit from the coire. In fact, I was going so well, it only took a couple of hours from car to summit.

Just as I reached the south summit the cloud rolled in, cold and dense and hid the Cuillin from view. It was atmospheric though, as huge billows came and went and warm sun broke through now and then. I spent an hour on the south summit just lazing, Facebooking with friends and listening to music. Catch The Rainbow by Rainbow and a song I listened to almost 30 years ago, looking out over Loch Lomond as a kid and newly minted mountaineer, Soldier of Fortune by Whitesnake. I really liked the lyrics back then and here I was, almost 30 years later listening to the same song, although the new acoustic version, looking out over a blue Atlantic to the isles of the west. It was a lovely moment. As the song finished, the cloud came round both sides of the summit and I was in a grey cold world for a moment, until they passed by and I got the distinct sensation that all the sadness I’ve had lately had gone with them. That kid had come back to remind me of all the good things in life. I was a lovely moment.

After an hour though, the cold wind sent me on towards the main summit, down the chimney route. There’s another route that parallels the chimney but much higher up. It’s a very narrow basalt ledge with a big gap about half way. If you slip from the ledge anywhere along its length you’re going to end up a mess and it’s a slippy ledge in the best of conditions. I’ve also never seen the gap dry. It always seems to have a weep down it. So I’ve never really understood why some people think it’s the best route between the summits. The chimney isn’t exposed, just full of loose stuff although it’s solid on the left with good ledges and you never really feel in any danger. The hardest part is at the bottom where you have to negotiate a jammed block, above a short sharp drop into the gully but it’s easy. You just put your hands on the good edge at the top, crouch down, shuffle your feet across the block and step round onto a big ledge. That’s it. Next step down and you’re on the grass in the gully. It’s the route I always take. I took the ledge route once and didn’t like it and today I doubled back onto the ledge to check it out again. Wow! It’s as narrow as I remember and as it’s basalt it’s polished and slippy even where it’s dry. I didn’t fancy stepping across the weeping gap so just cam back along the ledge.

The Cuillin from Blaven

At the summit the ravens came to say hello and I bimbled back to the car in the sunshine. All in all a grand day out. Muchly needed.

You can see all the pics here.