This past weekend saw my (glorious?) return to the Isle of Skye, this time with the Mountaineering Club. We pitched our tents at Sligachan late on Friday night unsure of what the following day would have in store for us. The rising sun brought generally bright, if distantly ominous, skies and we set our sights on the intimidating black peaks which rose up before us.
We had set our sights on a Moderate/Difficult climb up Pinnacle Ridge, an exposed route which winds its way up and over four pinnacles before finally ascending the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean. Just as we reached the base of the climb and skirted around Bhasteir Gorge we were engulfed by a dense, short-lived hail storm. This cleared relatively quickly, but left a dusting of snow over the steep towers of rock which rose up before us.
After the storm passed, bright sun returned to the mountains, and remained until shortly after we descended. The route wound its way between looming, shattered faces of dark stone; the cold gabbro felt like rough sandpaper on our hands, allowing us to make rapid progress up the steep, but very secure, faces of the first pinnacles. We followed a series of narrow basalt dykes that wound their way intermittently along the ridge; these broken intrusions formed almost a perfect stairway (not dissimilar to the Stairs of Cirith Ungol that Gollum leads Frodo and Sam up in The Two Towers).
After gaining the Third Pinnacle, had to abseil into the gully at the base of the Fourth Pinnacle. This long abseil lead us to a series of narrow, crumbling ledges which skirted up the steep edge of the Fourth Pinnacle. A number of “bold strides” over missing sections and awkward ducks under overhanging bulges finally delivered us to the other side. From which we began our final push to the summit after traversing a couple of awkward snow fields; the last remnants of winter.
After reaching the summit, we began to consider our descent; Peter had mentioned the presence of a “Tourist Route” which formed the easiest path down the mountain. Some more careful investigation of the guidebook and map revealed that this so called “Tourist Route” was, in fact, a hard, exposed grade 3 scramble down the South East ridge (to be fair, this was the easiest way down, technically making it the “misleadingly named Tourist Route”).
The descent ultimately proved uneventful, though a second hail storm did pass over us once we had made it back down to the valley floor. Sunday proved to be a much wetter day; snow and rain continued overnight, and we awoke to a much whiter landscape than we had said goodnight to. I went for a very wet, very cold run which brought me about halfway up a mountain called Glamaig before ultimately yielding to foul weather conditions and returning to camp. After a long time sheltering at the pub across the street from our campground, the weather finally improved and we were able to prepare for our Annual Formal Dinner under sunnier skies in the afternoon.
Monday proved to be another day of less than ideal weather, so after a scenic, if snowy, drive around the island we made or way back home.