We set off from the car park at the head of Glen Brittle which was already all but full with the hordes of folks that now visit the Fairy Pools - VisitScotland have done one heck of a job promoting this and other destinations on Skye over the last few years, and I only hope some of the revenue that is obviously pouring in can get spent on infrastructure, as the pressure of so many folks is starting to tell in my opinion. Once a few metres away from the new wide path, things reverted to a more normal, quiet path which works its way up to the Bealach a'Mhaim, the high point between glens Brittle and Sligachan.
It would be fair to say that it is a bit of a relentless slog once off the path, and a couple of the guys didn't particularly enjoy that, but we were soon onto more interesting terrain as the ridge narrowed, and the concentration required at making good foot placements always seems to make you forget the effort. I covered all the aspects of efficient and safe movement over the loose rock, and then some basic tips on safe scrambling as we picked our way up the ridge. The views were getting ever more grand, and Ian and Ed, (our two professional photographers) were in their element. Even the more nervous folks were growing in confidence as we tackled a more ambitious route than that of the easier loose path that runs to the west of the crest. Indeed, some folks on their descent remarked light-heartedly that we were making it harder for ourselves, but I replied that it was more fun, to almost unanimous support from the team ;)
Finally, after some lovely airy but easy scrambling, we made the summit at 958m, and simply wonderful views all around. After a pose on the trig point, I sat for a sandwich to allow the guys to take it all in, and a great deal of photos were snapped. The route down was via a view point over the impressive Basteir Tooth, and we stopped to chat with a chap and his guide who had just abseiled off it down King's Cave Chimney.....maybe next time guys eh? ;) We then just sauntered down the Fionn Coire in the sunshine, occasionally having to wait for the photographers, particularly when they tried to coax a frog into posing for quite some time! The guys at the front and I sat waiting on the picnic benches at the car park, happy and content with our day out, looking up at the ridge, and not in any hurry, but were rudely awakened from our reverie - The dreaded midges were out! Not a lot I grant you, but enough to chase us to the cars. Drat. Only one thing for it then...the Old Inn at Carbost for some well-earned Skye Gold.
Saturday morning was damp and drizzly, with no wind, so we knew we had to be sharpish around the car when getting sorted, or the little blighters would have us again. We saw a makeshift overnight camp with a landrover and a tapaulin, and can only imagine what kind of night the occupants must have had. The next wee challenge was that it was quite muggy, so temperature control within your clothing was nigh-on impossible, and I regretted not having a long sleeved base layer on as my arms and clammy waterproof touched. Actually, as the day wore on and we got into our stride, this ceased to be a problem, but it's always unpleasant to start the day.
Our objective was Blaven, (or Bla Bheinn), the Blue Mountain, the only one of the Skye munros not part of the main ridge, where there are a further 11. It has spectacular views of the main ridge, and particularly the splendid Pinnacle Ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean, but it wouldn't have today. The guys joked that it was like walking into Mordor, and various of them had been given character names. Gimli in particular was caught by the swirling cloud and ever-changing light. The route has had a good deal of work done on the eroded path, but is still characterised by a lot of loose scree and angular boulders, and care must be taken to not slip or dislodge things.
I prefer a shallow gully scramble up the steepest part of the route instead of the 'path' that is horribly eroded and dangerous in my opinion, and the team negotiated it with aplomb. They had fully embraced my 'ninja' movement on loose stuff, and not once was anything dislodged, which was credit to them. At the top of this there is a fairly clear path along the impressive rocky edge that negotiates deep and brooding chasms as it rises to the summit, with just one more bit of scrambling.
As we expected, the summit was totally clagged-in, so there were no views, but still a palpable sense of satisfaction as the summit photos were taken. For most it was only their second munro, and the two days had given a real taster of the contrasting conditions to be found in Scotland. We descended the same way, and again, the gully was handled like pros. We split up after the wee burn crossing as the photographers wanted to make the most of the improving light, and the advance party made our way to the Gabbro Bar at the Broadford hotel to sample what else....Blaven ale.
Often a group of mixed abilities and experience can be a challenge to cater for, both in terms of length of route chosen and technicality, particularly on such complex terrain as Skye. Jon's team of Ed, Andy, Phil, Roger and Ian had such a positive and upbeat approach that my job was made easy, and I thoroughly enjoyed helping them to develop their confidence and skill on the rock, as well as soaking up all that the island has to offer.
Thanks a lot gents, and absolute pleasure to have made your acquaintance.