Tuesday 29th September 2020
Today we were hoping to summit Sgùrr Alasdair. The forecast told us that early morning would bring poor visibility on the tops of the Munro’s here in Skye, but by early lunchtime we would have a 60% chance of a cloud free Munro. By late afternoon winds were to pick up into gale force. So the plan was to set of early with the intention of hitting the top in the best conditions and getting off those hills alive!
Good conditions were something we needed as this was no normal Munro. In order to reach the top or at least get near the top we had to tackle an infamous section called ‘The Great Stone Chute’ that was a massive near vertical scree slope with huge boulders we had to scramble up to reach the ridge.
We really wanted to attempt to summit Sgòrr Alasdair and this should really only be undertaken when conditions are fair as any wrong doings could be fatal.
So we headed off to Glenbrittle carpark and set off on our hike in cold but clear conditions, the sun was attempting to break through. On looking up into the mountains the tops could not be seen, huge dreary dark clouds hung around.
We continued upwards on a rather pleasant path with views behind us looking brighter, warmer and more welcoming than views in front.
As we got higher the waterproofs came out as the rain came on. We continued to climb.
We scrambled over some rocks until eventually we reached the flat relief of Coire Lagan.
Conditions at this point were pretty harsh. It was raining, windy and the cloud was low so visibility was poor.
Eventually the bottom of the scree chute came in to view and it was much worse than we imagined, it looked rediculous…it was steep and it was huge and we couldn’t even see all the way to the top. At this point we reassessed our situation.
We decided to bash on and hoped it was better than it looked and we also hoped the weather would start to improve as the forecast had predicted.
We moved up slowly. This was such an effort as for every step you took you slid back down slightly and this went on and on and on which was tiring on the legs and the mind. The scree also had large rocks and for some parts you were causing land slides. I tried not to look or listen to the rocks that fell below me rolling and bouncing down the mountain!
We went up and up and up, it really did feel like forever and it certainly was not an enjoyable experience. Every move involved a slip. The weather continued to deteriorate, the wind picked up, the rain got heavier, the temperature dropped, the rocks got slippier…we were almost at the top.
We met two guys coming down who we briefly spoke to and asked how conditions were at the top. They told us what we already knew – no views, poor visibility, slippery rocks, pretty awful. They had also went up with the intention of doing Collies Ledge but due to conditions made a sensible call and turned back.
We needed to make our decision.
This is where Andy and I are very different. I struggle to let things go and feel the need to complete, I really do not like to not finish or complete something I have started, even if this potentially could lead to difficulties, I’d try to plod on through! Andy on the other hand could assess the situation, and if need be walk away quite easily and undertake it at another time…and that does my head in! I know that’s bad isn’t it but I’m trying to be honest here and slightly paint the picture of us standing at the top of this massive, steep scree chute in high winds, rain, freezing conditions on slippery rocks trying to make the decision!! Can you now see that picture clearly….and where this is going…yes it wasn’t a particularly pleasant or pretty picture.
I have to be honest with you sometimes hiking is not always easy and sometimes bits of our hikes are like scenes out of a drama series. No joke! I suppose that’s why I like climbing mountains or going on long distance hikes and treks. I love the thrills and adventures (and drama) it all offers…Andy may tell you different!
We headed back down. I would rather have undertaken an Eddie The Eagle Ski Jump and actually probably performed better than getting down this scree chute.
It was basically a steep slide the whole way down and believe you me it was a very long, very steep way down. I will not share with you what was going through my head right now!
There was nothing ‘Great’ about this infamous ‘Great Stone Chute”, remind me to rate that one on TripAdvisor later!
We slid, we stumbled and kept slidding and skidding until we eventually reached flat land and my god was I relieved. From here we retraced our steps, crossing the coire, scrambed down some boulders until we eventually reached the path.
Winter turned back into early Autumn. The rain stopped, the wind eased, the sun came out…it was like stepping out of Narnia. We looked back into the black, cloudy uninviting mountain landscape we had just came from and it was something else. The sun shone in front.
All the way back down to the car I had a conversation with myself and by the way it was a long walk out!
Hard times on the mountains do shape the way I think, maybe not so much at the time but for future excursions and they certainly help me to improve my skills.
The mountains I always find are sometimes inviting, they sometimes tolerate you and sometimes they tell you to go home. Whilst mountains provide us with challenges and they can nourish our spirits, they are also powerful and potentially destructive places that must be respected. Today was one of those days.
Mountains can be a source of awe and beauty and to be admired and nothing beats reaching that summit and looking down on the world below…today unfortunately wasn’t that day and I guess even a bad day of climbing in the mountains is better than a good day at work!
From here we drove to Talisker beach to drown our sorrows, we walked out to the pebbled beach to watch the waves once again crash against the rocks.
We only managed to get short clips of this walk as conditions were so bad…see below video footage.