Sunday 27th September 2020
The Cuillin is a range of rocky mountains located on the Isle of Skye. The main Cuillin ridge is also known as the Black Cuillin to distinguish it from the Red Cuillin.
These mountain ranges dominate the landscape on Skye. The Black Cuillin is the UK’s most challenging mountain range and the ridge contains 11 Munros and 16 other summits. The Ridge of the Black Cuillin comprises extremly rough terrain, rocky peaks, steep scree slopes and knife-edge ridges. They are the most challenging mountains in Britain and not for the faint hearted.
The Cuillin are legendary. Almost on an alpine scale, with a jaggedness that wouldn’t be out of place in the Chamonix Valley, they make even the most fearsome mountains of the British mainland seem tame by comparison (excluding the Aonach Eagach Ridge of course). Difficult, exposed and unforgiving, the usual rules don’t apply here.
Today we were heading off to summit Blà Bheinn, it is the only Munro standing apart from the famous Cuillin ridge.
Formed by volcanoes only 60 million years ago, it’s rugged appearance is the result of years of erosion of the rock that forms the mountain.
Bla Bheinn (or Blaven) is quite a magnificent mountain by any Scottish standards and views should be spectacular from its summit. We hoped to have 360 degree views along the Cuillin ridge and over the Isle of Skye.
The Isle of Skye, also known as “Misty Isle”, has only a few really good days for climbing the higher mountains. We were hoping to get lucky.
We arrived at the carpark and got ready for the hike ahead. The area is owned by the John Muir Trust, a charity that protects wild places, and also maintains the area.
The first part of the hike was a gentle climb through a wooded forest and then through fields of heath. The path was pretty easy to follow. Following us along the way to our left we had Allt na Dunaiche, a river, which led us to some beautiful waterfalls. We had a small river crossing section, before picking up the path again and beginning our first real ascent.
Blà Bheinn is one of the most magnificent mountains in Britain; a great isolated citadel of rock with fabulous views and all the character of the main Cuillin Ridge. Its ascent is straightforward by Cuillin standards but very rocky.
The views back at every point of the climb were stunning. The views forward even more amazing.
Towering magnificently above Loch Slapin and with its hidden side even more spectacular, this is one of the finest mountains in Scotland.
As you near the top there are more and more exposed sections with severe drop offs and rocks with huge overhangs and you can see why the Cuillin’s get their reputation for being such an awesome and dangerous place to walk and climb.
The going becomes very rough, with loose stones, a scree gully, and some very mild scrambling.
These dark mountains are beautiful.
The route is slightly indistinct for a while, zigzagging up the steep slopes, once the edge of the cliffs is passed. Higher up is a wide scree slope where traces of a zig-zag path ease the ascent.
From here the way was clear, continuing up the slope to the left; there are spectacular views in places between the great buttresses, with a dramatic gash backed by a vertical rock wall – part of the Great Prow and famed amongst rock-climbers, we saw two in action.
Further on is a cairn and views across to the rock peak of Clach Glas.
Beyond this, the summit is soon reached. Bla Bheinn (the Blue Mountain) is 928 metres high, making it the only Munro on Skye that is not part of the Cuillin Ridge.
The view is magnificent, with huge sweeps of sea, mountains and islands in all directions; most of the island can be seen as well as the whole of Raasay.
The easiest and quickest return to the start is by the route of ascent.
However we decided to hit a Munro top as it was possible to scramble (slightly awkwardly) to the south summit and then descend the southeast flank to a col between Abhainn nan Leac and Fionna-choire.
However from this point it meant we would then have to undertake a very long steep scree run decent – so the outward route is probably more pleasant – but we opted for the long steep scree run!!!
We had the most amazing views of The Black Cuillin, The Red Cuillin, the Islands of Eigg, Rum, Canna, we saw over to Applecross, Torridon, Knoydart – Scotland’s last wilderness and we could even see Ben Hope, Scotland’s most northern Munro…I was utterly speechless…this very rarely happens…what a sight for sore eyes!
We stood in awe, looking around, identifying what we could see before us, it was pretty special.
As spring very suddenly changed into a very late autumn in the matter of an hour – yes here in Scotland we usually only have to seasons, Spring and Winter – it was time to move quickly.
Quickly it was not, as we firstly had to descend that horrible long steep scree run which was long, steep and painfully slow!!!
Once through this we did then descend pretty quickly into the much warmer valley where beautiful views entertained us all the way back to the car.