nomadic life guide

NLG Big day out: Two Black Cuillins

We were woken that morning by one of the most infernal noises known to man, the frantic chirping of our alarm clock. Swearing internally, we rose, silently dressed and through eyes squinting in the morning light managed to coerce the last of the toothpaste out of the tube. On jumping out the door to unplug our van from the campsites electrical point I was suddenly aware that the Island had been invaded during night and was now more suitably called ‘The Midgie Republic.’

We only had to drive a quarter mile to where our walk was to start. Shouldering our packs that we had diligently packed the night before, we started out into the black cloud of insects that now occupied the space where the air used to be. We set a brutal pace for the first few miles through the peat bog, swatting our way up the mountain and talking only rarely to keep the accidental consuming of blood sucking critters to a minimum. I don’t know how many I ended up eating, but come to think of it, I wasn’t hungry all morning.

Our route paralleled the stream, an endless series of waterfalls and pools interrupted the relentless march of the water to the sea. We could not linger to admire them though, we only dared stop for one photograph at a time for fear of ‘death by a thousand bites’, and kept promising ourselves that just over the next rise we would encounter a breeze to rid us of their pestilence. Alas however, there was never a breath of wind.

Crossing the stream and leaving it behind we ascended more steeply now, views of the Northern part of Skye slowly presenting themselves to our rear. The midgie cloud seemed to be abating a little and we dared stop for a mouthful of water and a handful of trail mix. A little further on and up, we even manage to discuss the view, “what’s that bit there? Is that – – – – over there? Etc.

Crossing yet another stream followed by a steep hill, we emerged into a vast bowled amphitheatre, a black glacial corrie carved out thousands of years ago during the last ice age. A lone sheep watched us cautiously, I cant imagine what it ate up there, all there was was cold, hard black rock. Hardly able to distinguish any path we made our own way deeper into its belly, aiming for the steep rear slope that our walking book told us would be our road for the ascent to the razor edged ridge that would eventually lead us to the summit.

Reaching it, it was hard to believe quite how steep it actually was. On glancing up I almost expected to see a little glowing red door leading into the mountain and a great eye, lidless and breathed in red flame staring out at the horizon. Getting on with the task at hand we gritted out teeth and started up the slope, so steep in places was it that we were climbing on all fours. Over the loose scree we persisted, fuelled by all the protein from the midgie cloud earlier and with a few grunts and snorts we made it up and out of the corrie and onto the razor edged ridge.

We found ourselves stood upon a river of stone, just a few feet wide and suspended in the clouds. Both sides immense chasms, certain to take your life with one carelessly placed foot, but both having a comforting soft look with the thick, soft pillow like mist that filled them. We walked carefully, each step purposeful toward the peak, picking our way around the boulders and jagged rocks that littered our way. More than once our rock climbing experience was called upon when we had to scramble around an outcrop that was to stubborn to yield to the effects of weathering.

Finally we emerged on the summit of Bruach Frithe, standing proud at 958 metres high and having the only trig point in the whole of the Cuillins. The summit itself occupies a tiny area compared to most mountains, we were stood surveying the view or rather non-view what with the cloud, when all at once it was as if a curtain had been lifted and that we were stood on the stage of the largest theatre in the world. At the same instance that the mist lifted, two figures emerged and we were joined on our tiny summit by two chaps from Wales as it later turned out. Exchanging cameras we took pictures for each other, ate lunch together and swapped notes on routes, mountains we had climbed and other such niceties. It is almost always nice meeting new people in such a place, you instantly have something in common.

Pleasantries exchanged and with the sweat going cold on our backs we decided that it was time to move on, so we said our goodbyes to our new friends and descended back the way we had come to ‘razor ridge’. We had already made the decision on the summit that, if the conditions and terrain allowed, we would make an attempt on the adjacent summit of Sgurr á Bhaste.

We traversed toward our new target and as we neared we could see that the ridge was indeed wide enough to walk. Assessing the weather, we observed that there was no wind what-so-ever and even if the cloud came in it would not cause us any problems. Now or indeed never then we decided. We stopped for a few pictures on a wider part before we got to the ridge and marvelled at the way the cloud swirled around, revealing and then once again concealing the different parts of the mountain and the views to distant peaks and islands. The way got narrower and we decided to leave our packs behind, we would be nimbler without them. A short distance on we summited our second peak of the day.

We did not linger and retreated quickly back along the ridge, retrieving our packs as we went. Carving our own path for a couple of hundred yards across and down a steep scree slope we joined the “path” again and descended through the blackness of the corrie and past the highest spring in Scotland – a fact we learnt from the Welsh chaps on the summit.

Soon we arrived back at midgie bog and were relieve to find that the vast majority of them had departed. We were able at last to enjoy the splendid views of the waterfalls and to take some pictures. They reminded us of a series of tumbling ‘infinity pools’ – the type you get in posh hotels in the Mediterranean, if only they were as warm. We are keen wild swimmers and thought this a great place but in the end had to be content with a paddle. The water was cold, I mean really cold, we have swam all over the place but any body part that touched the water was immediately assaulted with what felt like a million needles sticking in you, that and the midgies returned so we put our boots on and continued the descent.

Arriving back at van we kicked off our boots in favour of more comfy trainers and drove to Portree, parking two miles from the village in a nice quiet spot. We walked in and had fish and chips sat on a wall by the harbour watching the little boats bob up and down. We then strolled to McNabs inn where we ordered two pints of blond ale. I couldnt help but notice a newspaper abandoned on the bar with the headline reading “’sausage kills swinger at sex festivel” WTF.