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Despite having almost perfect weather on our May Scottish trip, our first foray onto Skye produced one of the wettest days of the month. After a day of rain we bailed out, with the option of diverting back there on the way back home – there were two good mountain days in the Cuillins planned, and I wasn’t about to give up too quickly. Sure enough, a week or so later the weather turned kind, and we likewise turned back for Skye.
The Ridge of the Black Cuillins is a mountaineer’s paradise, and to traverse the 7 miles of the ridge gives a challenge that is almost Alpine in scale. Although I’ve not done the ridge in a single trip, I’ve completed virtually all the ridge in sections (see post #224) and the previous year Chris and I had walked out to Camasunary bothy (see post #223) where I saw the Cuillins from a new and unfamiliar direction.
When we got home from the 2017 trip, I did a bit of reading about that part of the Cuillins and discovered that the small summit of Sgurr na Stri (Peak of Strife) which rises just above Camasunary, gives one of the best viewpoints of the whole ridge in all its glory. It did strike me afterwards that it’s probably a better idea to do the research before a trip rather than after, but whatever, a return trip was definitely called for.
Some tackle Sgurr na Stri from Camasunary, but I fancied a longer, and probably more interesting, day. The plan was to do an ‘out and back’ trip from the campsite at Sligachan, a trip of about 25 kms (just over 15 miles). Chris decided that a 25 km walk wasn’t at the top of her list of ‘things to do’, so I set out with the ever-faithful Border Collie ‘Mist’ for company.
The undoubted star in the northern part of the Cuillins is Sgurr nan Gillean (Peak of the Young Men). One of the best days out on the mountain is the North Ridge, better known as ‘Pinnacle Ridge’ – looking from Sligachan, you might well wonder why the ridge gets its name but viewed from the side the reason becomes obvious. The ridge is graded as an easy rock climb, but it’s long and has a serious air about it.
My route out took me on a gradual ascent of Glen Sligachan, heading roughly south. As well as getting me towards Sgurr na Stri, it was also a chance to ‘recce’ the route for the next day when Chris and I (plus dog) were going to follow a linear route from near Elgol back to Sligachan (blog post to follow in a couple of weeks). Eventually it was time for me to branch off towards Sgurr Hain leading on to Sgurr na Stri.
Sgurr Hain effectively blocked the view of everything except Blabheinn (Blaven), but as I reached the col above Choire Raibhaich I had the first sighting of the southern section of the Cuillin Ridge, followed soon after by a view of Sgurr na Stri. The col was a good a place as any for a break – ‘Mist’ had the same idea as she tried to mug me for a sandwich.
Sgurr na Stri was interesting enough in its own right, but the outlook from the summit was outstanding! Anyone intending to traverse the ridge would either find the view inspiring or have a sinking realisation of what they were taking on, but for me it was a trip down memory lane with many happy Cuillin memories.
The time came, as it always does, to start heading back. I almost bumped into a small group of red deer, who didn’t seem at all phased by the presence of me and the dog. I unintentionally lost a bit of height trying not to spook them, which dropped me conveniently at the memorial cairn dedicated to Captain Maryon. The cairn marks the spot where Maryon died in July 1946 – his body was not discovered for nearly two years.
As I crossed the col where I had stopped on the way out, ‘Mist’ immediately went in search of any lost crumbs – Border Collies are a bit too clever at times! Then it was the long return to Glen Sligachan – I don’t find ‘out and back’ trips boring, as you get to see everything from a new perspective, but as we approached the Sligachan Hotel I suspect that the only thing ‘Mist’ wanted to see was a full dinner dish.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock