Sron na Ciche, Skye

It’s over 30 years since we last stayed at the Glenbrittle Campsite, and the most obvious change is that it’s now 90% vans and motorhomes (so much for distant memories of overlapping guy-ropes on our very first trip on a rammed May Bank Holiday weekend).

The hills haven’t changed a bit though, and even in amongst the grandeur of the Cuillin Ridge, the magnificent walls of Sron na Ciche dominate the skyline and draw the eye.

On that first visit, blessed by wall-to-wall sunshine, we’d pushed ourselves to the limits of our energy and modest climbing experience, with ascents of The Inn Pinn, Pinnacle Ridge, and the Classic Rock enchainment of Cioch Direct and Arrow Route. Students of the great book will note the omission of Integrity, and indeed the final route on the list has remained unfinished business over the intervening three decades.

Subsequent visits haven’t been so fortunate with the weather, including an early attempt on the Cuillin Traverse when John, Nick and I failed to even find the ridge!; and a foray with Paul when a rainy ascent on Kilt Rock was the sole consolation for otherwise unremitting wetness. Even our successful ridge traverse a few years later was snatched in an unlikely dry window in an otherwise grim forecast: https://doughton.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/running-like-a-climber-big-days-out.pdf

All the foregoing is just context so that you can imagine the excitement when we actually caught sight of the crags ringing the campsite on our arrival.

The following day was dry and bright, if cool, but climbing plans were deferred in favour of a multi-activity itinerary for Tash’s Birthday. A wander up to the (now hugely popular) Fairy Pools…

a quick dip…

Cake and candles back at the campsite…

a kayak outing on the loch…

… all washed down with a couple of pints of Skye Gold at the Old Inn in Carbost, with spectacular views of The Ridge promising good conditions for the morn.

Unfortunately, the weather gods had different ideas, and the tops of The Cuillin had sneaked back beneath a blanket of clouds, the sun had gone AWOL and a bracing wind had arrived in its place. Undeterred, we packed gear into sacks and headed up the well-made path, more in hope than expectation.

Rain showers out to sea rolled in, but happily missed us, giving the campsite a good wetting instead, and the rock on Cioch Buttress was still dry when we arrived. However, the ever-present threat of rain scuppered thoughts of embarking on a thousand foot adventure to the full height of the crag. Instead, we exercised some GMJ (Good Mountaineering Judgement) and picked the two-pitch, 200ft Petronella, VS, as a token consolation route. This proved to be quite taxing enough, with the wide, curving crack on pitch 1 requiring committing moves on damp rock a long way above gear (unless you’ve lugged up a huge cam) …

and the exhilarating pull on “thank God” holds through the overlap on pitch 2.

This brought us to The Terrace, and the easy decision to take a left and head down before the weather closed in completely, rather than right for further exploration of the Cioch and its eponymous slab (you can see a team descending from the neck of the Cioch in the photo below.

Not our original objective, but it was great to reacquaint ourselves with the fabulously grippy gabbro after a gap of almost 35 years, and our GMJ was vindicated by the onset of rain on the way down. Big rain the next day meant the abandonment of our Skye dreams for another year, and a reminder to not leave it so long before our next visit.

One response to “Sron na Ciche, Skye

  1. Pingback: Southern Scotland cragging – The Good, the Bad and the Baggy | RockAroundTheWorld·

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