Skye holds many great mountaineering memories for me, but I would be the first to admit that the island gets more than its fair share of bad weather, and when conditions eventually turn fine the curse of the Scottish midge can make life almost unbearable. Our May trip was proving to be far from typical though, and with blue skies and an absence of insect pests it was clear that our luck was holding.
On the previous day Chris hadn’t liked the look of an awkward little rock step on the way out to the Quiraing (see post #202) so I was determined to come up with a short walk that included some spectacular scenery but wasn’t likely to involve any death-defying leaps over an abys. Storr Rocks fitted the bill perfectly.
The qualities that had flagged up Storr Rocks as a destination had also ticked the box for quite a few visitors to the island, and although we were at the car park at a reasonably early hour, it was clear by the number of cars already parked that we were not going to spend the day in splendid isolation. Surprise number two was that the forested slopes below Storr Rocks were now completely bare, with the previously wooded hillside completely felled.
On this occasion the foresters had done us a good turn, with great views in every direction and a pleasant and well-maintained path in place of the previous muddy trudge. The downside is that the walk is now much busier than it was previously, but it’s still good enough to share.
In fact, there was a steady procession of hot and bothered walkers making their way up to the rocks, many having underestimated the power and heat of the sun when the sky clears – in those conditions it’s a case of ‘steady away’ rather than a dash to the top.
Storr Rocks is a crazy collection of weird pinnacles, left behind by a giant landslip. Much of the rock is unstable, though there are climbing routes hereabouts – the Old Man of Storr was first climbed in 1955 by mountaineering hero Don Whillans, though a local legend has it that a thirteen-year-old American girl nipped up and down in her plimsolls to claim the first ascent. In the words of the late Scottish climber Tom Patey “The date is not specified, but it may be assumed that no pitons* were used!”
(*Pitons – metal pegs used by climbers to create anchors, though traditionally frowned on by purists on UK rock climbs)
Just beyond the Old Man there is a jumbled mass of crag with ‘windows’ in the rock, climbed by Chris Bonnington in 1960, with Tom Patey in support. (Bonnington was nearly marooned on the summit due to the difficulty of the descent!) Both Whillans and Patey noted that the quality of the rock is highly suspect from a climber’s point of view, and much of the rock remains highly insecure – we were more than happy to restrict our activities to a bimble round the base of pinnacles.
Border Collie ‘Mist’ spent much of her time in ‘chill out’ mode rather than her usual mile-munching lope round the mountain, and the warm day left us all feeling a little bit lazy – having had a good wander it was time to head down to the van, and the ice-cold cider in the fridge!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock
p.s. a few days later the good weather was still holding when I had a great day out on Quinag (see post #201)