2 days of intense wind & rain finally eased off yesterday morning and it was time to go and see what conditions were like. Parking for the beautiful peak of Garbh bheinn is just a 2 minute drive from home at the head of Loch Ainort.
We opted against the north face because we reckoned that the snow would be very soft after so much warm weather. Retrospectively this seems not to have been the case as the old snow fields are so well consolidated that they are still a good consistency.
An hour of walking up the Druim Eadar da Choire took us to the hill marked with a spot height 489m on the Harvey’s map; there is a local name for this wonderful viewspot (a best on Skye contender for sure) but I’ll have to write it down next time I remember to ask the crofters. The Main Ridge was clear and showed the crest to be well plastered still along the entire length. Undoubtedly some exposed rock sections but very, very wintery still!
The dip at point 429m just below is the geological boundary between the Red and Black Cuillin and the cliff of black gabbro can clearly be seen sitting on top of the more rounded red granite hillside. For another hour we all indulged in as much scrambling on the hugely crystaline gabbro as we could find with a fine narrow crest as a finale.
The view of the ridge from Clach Glas to Blaven from here is uber classic; great background for the team pic!
We’d planned to descend north-east towards Belig but the hard/sugary snow interspersed with rock-hard turfs looked far too serious for such a relaxed day out with friends so we retraced our steps and were treated to some wonderful mist and light effects out to the west.
Recovering from the re-rise to pt 489 and taking it all in Mark’s jaw hit the flaw and he gestured horizontally out over our heads; we all dived for cameras as quietly as possible as a mature golden eagle circled around and slowly upward.
Seeming to change his mind he suddenly folded the wings and soared down past us and settled amongst the boulders not far from where we had just descended. Magnificent display thankyou!
With a blanket of fresh snow covering the tops Chris and I opted for an exploratory walk on the mainland today. Neither of us had been near Beinn Fhada so we parked up in Strath Croe and followed the beautiful stalkers path around the north side of the mountain.
It started snowing heavily again soon after leaving the car but half an hour later the clouds cleared to reveal a real winter wonderland. Most striking was the deep cleft of Bealach an Sgairne out to the north.
There are a handful of long routes recorded on the western most top of Beinn Fhada, Sgurr a Choire Ghairbh. Although it looked impressive soaring above us the white blanket and steep black buttresses suggested the routes here weren’t a good option.
Another hour of pleasent walking finally led us to the high point at Bealach an Sgairne and a great view out into the wilderness beyond.
Mullach Fraoch choire may be the Munro in the distance
Before we could even identify the peaks another heavy snow shower rolled in but we were very happy with our reconnaisance mission.
Failing to get up the hill, given todays forecast, was less of a surprise than the fact that we got more than 100 yards from the Sligachan. In fact the walk across the moorland was really beautiful with great views of all the hills, only a few wee gusts and even some sunshine.
This all changed dramatically the moment we reached the foot of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir as huge gusts seemed to compete with each other to get at us. Valiantly we tried to reach the foot of Broad Gully with a vague hope that it might give some shelter; stupid idea!
Short & sweet, momentarily far too exciting and far better than sitting inside all day!
There’s a series of fronts sweeping off the Atlantic just now and cloaking the first mountains they hit. Luckily the Red Cuillin above Loch Ainort are shadowed by the Black Cuillin so are frequently the first, or only, tops to be clear. Armed with this knowledge and my fingers crossed I plummed for an ascent of Marsco despite the pouring rain at Sligachan. The best approach is from the hairpins in Druim na Cleochd and across Bruach nam Bo. Within 10 minutes of starting the rain stopped and our objective showed in beautiful technicolour ahead….
Marsco appears ahead
An hour of rough but near horizontal walking leads to the foot of Coire nan Laogh.
Looking backto Loch Ainort where we came from
Time for a snack
From here the well beaten track follows an old fence-line steadily up to the crest of Marsco in about 3/4 of an hour. As the clouds cleared further the views through to the eastern Black Cuillin were fantastic
Garbh-bheinn, Clach Glas and Blaven just appearing out of the clouds
After lunch we braced ourselves against the stiff breeze and the final 10 minute rise to the tiny summit cairn. Although grassy the exposure on the final 100m is quite something. The eye gets drawn down all 736m back to the floor of Glen Sligachan on one side and the steep north face on the other.
Just concentrate on your feet!
Taking in the summit views
Sgurr nan Gillean showed its head briefly and impressively but clouds soon began to gather again and the race was on to beat the rain on the next weather front. Descending by the same route light rain caught us for the final 10 minutes but nobody was complaining and I can’t deny feeling quite smug at snatching a good 6-hour walk from the misty mouth of the Atlantic.