Saturday, 30 June 2018

Sgurr Alasdair

Sgurr Alasdair from Sgurr nan Eag

Thursday, 29 June 2018

Ascent:        982 metres
Distance:     9 kilometres
Time:           4 hours 56 minutes

Sgurr Alasdair     992m     2 hrs 32mins

After yesterday, I had to revise my plans. John's leg would not allow him to walk and I had only one day available. I had intended to climb the three munros Sgurr na Banachdich, Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh and Sgurr a' Mhadaidh. They are not as hard as many of the Skye peaks and on previous experience should be possible in 6 or 7 hours. Or I could climb Sgurr Alasdair from Coire Lagan via the notorious stone shoot. It would be possible within 6 hours and then we could begin the long journey home. I chose the latter knowing that the heat would be just as intense as yesterday. In fact, it was the hottest day since records began in Scotland and 31°C by mid-afternoon.

I had to pack the tent and equipment before setting out and it was 8am before I began the trek up to Coire Lagan. Despite the 12 hour day yesterday and the heat, I was walking well and arrived at the Coire in less than an hour and a half. The east face of the Coire including the 400 metre stone shoot to Sgurr Alasdair was still in shadow, which made for easier conditions.

I had been advised by a walker who had been up yesterday to strike up by a path just below the rock face to the south. It was not immediately apparent but after climbing 50 metres on the loose scree I traversed across to find some more solid ground. It was still rough going but years of experience tells me there is only one way to get up slopes like this and it is head down and keep going. A few minutes after I started the ascent a couple of climbers began to follow my route, they were steaming up with youth on their side. It was helpful because I rallied and we arrived together at the platform that sits between Sgurr Alasdair and its adjacent top, Sgurr Thearlaich. We climbed to the summit up a couple of steep pitches that were slightly exposed but in the company of a couple of Marines, there was no time to hesitate on the ascent.

We sat on perhaps the finest viewpoint in the UK. The whole of the Skye ridge around us, the small isles and Rum to the south and not a breeze to disturb the Mediterranean heat. I had made a good choice. We chatted for 15 minutes as we absorbed the surroundings and rehydrated. They were to climb the adjoining top of Sgurr Thearlaich but I began the long descent of the stone shoot. It is difficult to decide whether the ascent or descent is the more difficult. It is littered with rocks of varying sizes and difficult to establish a rhythm as you could forty years ago when it was a delight to skate down the scree.

It took half an hour to get to the Coire where I stopped to fill up on water and remove stones from my shoes. There were several groups sunbathing by the lochan. The heat was overbearing so I kept a steady pace on the descent and made the campsite before 1pm. Afer a wash and another fill of water, we began the journey home as the temperature reached 31°C. I struggled on the drive back in the heat stopping for a coffee at the Cluanie Inn and served by two extremely surly and rude staff.  It was still 29°C at 6pm as we reached Crianlarich but the traffic was light despite it being the beginning of the Scottish school holidays. Glasgow was baking and the bars had spilled their customers and tables onto the pavements. It had a continental feel but with attitude as people quenched their thirsts.

The path to Coire Lagan
Skye Ridge north from Sgurr Alasdair
Climbers on Sgurr Thearlaich from Sgurr Alasdair
Sgurr Dubh and Sgurr nan Eag from Sgurr Alasdair
Coire Lagan

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