Last weekend Ann and John headed off to the Celtic Connections Big Top Festival on Skye, accompanied by old friend Fit Simon who was over from Dublin. In addition to two nights of excellent music (but terrible beer – why do they do that?), we were lucky enough to get superb weather and two great days out on classic ridge routes.
First up was the traverse of Clach Glas and Blaven. The last time we had done this was in the damp and memories were not good, but the day was perfect; hot and sunny. We started off up Sgurr nan Each, just to get better views and add a bit more scrambling into the day. Having not done anything on rock for some time it was also a useful warm up for body and head, and a reminder of just how grippy gabbro can be. The ascent is fairly straightforward and we made the summit for perfectly-timed elevenses.
|Blaven and Clach Glas|
|View N from Sgurr nan Each|
Then onto the main course. The ascent of Clach Glas went surprisingly well, despite having forgotten the guide book. It was every bit as impressive as we remembered and the final wall is just sensational with the combination of exposure but great holds. First lunch was well-earned.
|Perfect scrambling with great views|
|Steep wall to the summit of Clach Glas|
The descent brought the first of the day’s problems as I got to the base of The Impostor to find a big section missing due to a recent rockfall. Although we later saw people downclimbing this I found a way around the side. Passing the base and seeing how precariously balanced some blocks were it seemed like a good call.
|Descending The Impostor. Rockfall and loose stuff bottom right|
During the rest of the descent we enjoyed the amazing rock scenery that the relatively easy route winds it way through, until we got to the last bump on the ridge. The worn route seemed to venture into some very steep and decidedly technical ground and, feeling a bit confused, we were pleased to be caught up by a bunch of friendly Glaswegians with a guide book. Unfortunately it was the climbing guide and not much use at all, but we had some enjoyable banter that was to be repeated at every tricky bit for the rest of the route. Using our initiative we cast around a bit before we discovered the actual and very easy way around the side. That got us to the ridiculously-named putting green and the start of the ascent of Blaven. This begins with the “4m wall”, which was as tricky as ever and wasn’t helped by the water seeping down the centre. After that we were more or less there, except for the big chimney pitch which saves its hardest move for the end, when you are all out of options. Nice. A short walk to the summit brought second lunch. Although I’ve been up there twice before, both times as last Munros and accompanied by plentiful Talisker, this was the first time with a long sit in warm sunshine.
On the descent I was regretting the absence of Talisker as I think that must be the reason I had no recollection of how unpleasant it is, but it didn’t last too long and we were soon at the car and heading back to the Festival for more tunes.
|Fit Simon on the summit|
The combination of two great but late nights at the Festival, the previous day’s excursion and the clocks springing forward meant that we were a bit jaded come Sunday morning. Luckily Fit Simon lived up to his name and kicked us into action, although we thought it prudent to change the route selection from Pinnacle Ridge on Gillean to the Forcan Ridge on the Saddle. While this was vastly easier than the last outing, it was no less enjoyable and fitted the bill perfectly, with great situations and nothing at all serious (except for a group of Edinburgh students, who were far too serious for their own good). The only downside was that winter soft-shell trousers are not ideal wear for a day that set a new March temperature record, but all-in-all a genuine 5-star weekend and worth missing the Club’s Dinner Meet for.
|First part of the Forcan Ridge|
|Not very elegant - but effective|
|The classic view|