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Skye-grilled

Skye-grilled


Postby aaquater » Mon Jun 14, 2021 7:20 pm

Route description: Garbh Bheinn and Belig

Corbetts included on this walk: Garbh-bheinn (Skye)

Grahams included on this walk: Belig

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Glas Bheinn Mhor (Skye)

Date walked: 02/06/2021

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 12.7 km

Ascent: 1303m

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Or perhaps Skye-roasted. Neither word is recognised by dictionaries, and I guess the choice depends on whether Skye came closer to grilling me about my scrambling ability or roasting me for it. :think: :lol:

Anyway. How long do you suppose one can listen to odes about Skye before popping over to check it out? In my case, just long enough to make sure my Wednesday would be free! :lol: That being said, I'd never even been to the parts of the West coast north of Spean Bridge but south of Inverness, Skye or not; it was a long drive to Skye, but as I was driving, the sight of Sgurr na Sgine and The Saddle as I turned left on the A87... I must've been positively salivating, which only made me more excited to finally start some walking! :D

In terms of the hills I picked, I'm not a scrambling expert. Anything requiring too much technique, I tend to shy away from. But from what I'd read, the combo of Garbh-bheinn and Belig sounded intermediate enough (it only scored 4 boots instead of 5), and with Garbh-bheinn giving me the impression of an introduction to the Black Cuillin and Belig being the same for the Red Cuillin, I guessed it was a suitable first Skye walk.

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The views greeting me from the layby

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Eas a' Bhradain

Eas a' Bhradain seemed to attract quite the number of people - not surprising; it's lovely - but continuing past it and uphill, I found solitude. Just me and the hills. And the sun. And man did I feel the heat! Putting on some sunscreen and a hat, making sure I carried enough water in the backpack, finding out I'd forgotten the sandwiches in the fridge... only once all that was done did I feel confident enough to carry on.

Speaking of the sun, the walk description says the lower ridge of Druim Eadar Da Choire is boggy. Can't deny, it tried its very best to be so. On any other day, I could see places where I'd have to jump from tussock to tussock in order not to sink. But it had been too warm and sunny for too long; the swamp just didn't stand a chance. Sun: 1 - Bog: 0. (Although, should the absence of a proper bog really be counted as a loss?) 8)

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Back towards Loch Ainort

Once the ridge actually started to look like a ridge, a path appeared, too. (Or maybe one had been there from the start, but in my usual fashion, I failed to see it...) With a clear idea of where to go, then, a few hops over false summits later, I was standing on Druim Eadar da Choire, drinking in the sight of my next targets - and other hills that weren't targets for this walk but looked no less enticing.

The heat was really strong, though, and I kept chanting I had to take care not to tire myself out too much at the beginning, for I would for sure need the energy and a clear head later. A few clouds were spotted on the horizon, but it was the rare but welcome gusts of wind that were the biggest source of relief, not least because they also shooed away some nosy, unwelcome company of the insect variety.

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Up the ridge to Druim Eadar da Choire and Garbh-bheinn

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Now on the Druim, and Blabheinn popped up from behind Garbh-bheinn

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The Red Cuillin living up to their name

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The same can be said for the Black Cuillin

A short drop down to the col, and it was time for the scrambling to start. Like, right away, as I came across a scrambling-requiring move just on the other side of the col. Immediately, I emptied all of my pockets, moving everything to the backpack, and only then I placed my hands on the gabbro. After the initial scramble, though, the gradient was reasonable, and I didn't have to use my hands again all the way to the shoulder.

Shoulders. One is mentioned in the walk description, and looking up from the col, I was pretty sure I saw where it was. What I hadn't seen - hadn't looked for, really, it was glaringly obvious - was the grassy shoulder reached just a few minutes above the col. 'That can't be it, can it?' I thought. Carrying on along the path, though, I could see two now - a scrambly left one and a loose right one, splitting up then coming together like an attention-seeking celeb couple - which I'd understood should only be found above the 'main' shoulder. But it existed all the way from the lowest one.

Speaking of the loose path, what's the definition of 'scree'? When I hear the word, I imagine rocks that are, say, grapefruit-sized at the very least. This... was just gravel, and based on the ease with which it moved under my shoes, I really didn't trust it to carry my weight. I steered clear of it wherever possible, and tried to use my hands even in conditions and gradients that usually wouldn't warrant it. The going, thus, was slower; the same couldn't be said about my heart rate.

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The way up

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The summit from the 'main' shoulder

Gotta say, I didn't feel such a difference in the terrain before and after the shoulder. It carried on in pretty much the same fashion it had lower down, with a choice between scrambling and gravel, all the way to just below the left turn; the final few metres required a more technical scrambling approach, though.

That's not to say that it was easy going after the bend; care was still most definitely required during each step. But in my personal opinion, the most challenging part of the ascent would easily be the one just below the bend.

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Almost there

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Some SWEET views north (I see the car already! ...is what I would've said if I didn't have the two hills right there still to climb)

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Blabheinn with Clach Glas

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The Black Cuillin all together

Once the pictures were taken and the biscuits (that I hadn't forgotten) were eaten on the summit, it was time to head down. At first, the slope was very much like the one I'd scrambled up - occasionally requiring scrambling, but not the firmest underfoot - so I put my hands to work quite regularly, backtracking and going for alternative routes a handful of times. Cowardly, perhaps, but I wasn't taking any chances.

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The scrambly part of the descent

After I'd descended some 100-150 metres, the terrain changed, turning into a blanket of scree all the way down to Bealach na Beiste. The path was now visible as a lighter, more gravelly zig-zag down the scree. Once again, I tried to avoid the path, shadowing it from a metre away, where the ground was less likely to give way under my feet and trickle into my shoes from above. It was still a relief to reach the grass of the bealach, though.

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Now up this one, then

Enjoying the comfort of walking on grass, I wasn't about to give it up without a fight. Spying a path of grass winding up Belig, I set off following it, hoping to stay on terra firma for as long as possible. Well, path, I'm saying; there wasn't an actual one I could see, but as long as I knew where I was heading and the terrain was manageable, a path wasn't needed that much.

The grassy 'path' would probably be a river of bog under any other conditions, but in the current oven, it was a very welcome serpentine that got me much of the way uphill. Inevitably, I ended up reaching the scree again, but the grass had still been a lot of help. From then on, I guess I could've followed a river of gravel the rest of the way up, but I feared I would've just as easily sent myself back down to the bealach, so I went for the biggest rocks instead. Huge boulders with shoe-friendly incisions were the most welcome sight. :D Eventually, I found myself on the false summit, and then on the true summit a couple minutes later.

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Glas-Bheinn Mhor ahead

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Towards Glamaig over Belig's northern ridge

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Towards Beinn Dearg Mhor and Beinn na Caillich over Belig's eastern ridge

On the topic of ridges, until this point, I'd followed the official walk description, but to link Belig with Glas-Bheinn Mhor, I'd have to leave the well-trodden paths (which I came across only occasionally :D ). Descending straight down the corrie into the bealach was out of the question, so the choice fell between the two ridges mentioned above.

weaselmaster has joined the two hills over the E ridge. malky_c's report and the following discussion illustrate the possible usage of either ridge. Originally, I wanted to go east, but lacking in confidence on scree as I was, a single look from Belig's summit set my mind firmly to 'no way', so I went north instead, spotting an amiable-looking grassy ledge leading down into the corrie.

Following a path down Belig, I reached the ledge, and it really wasn't making things difficult, contouring the hill before petering out into the wide, bumpy bealach. The only tricky part came when the ledge crossed the remnants of a past rockslide, but still... compared to what the descent from Garbh-bheinn had been like, this felt like kindergarten.

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The way I'd come down

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An extremely useful gate in the bealach

At least, that's what I initially thought, but the appearance of more fence posts says an actual fence used to be there, a long time ago. It was just that right next to the gate, the posts on both sides had fallen and were lying on the ground, hiding from sight in the grass.

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Back to Belig

Looking at Belig from this direction, though, I saw that I'd been wrong up on the summit; I hadn't actually seen the path I wanted to take down the E ridge. Yellow is what I'd seen from the summit; red is what I'd originally planned to take. Blue is what I'd ended up taking... I suppose. It had looked so clear looking down from the ridge, but from below, I couldn't spot the route anymore. On the other hand, a way up the E ridge looked pretty obvious from where I stood. Perhaps Belig should make for a circular route, up the E ridge, down the N one? :D

As I walked up Glas-Bheinn Mhor (on a path this time), the fence gave way to a wall - a wall that would end on the other side of the hill, where a fence would replace it again in the lowest areas. Shortly before the switch, though, the path split in two, the left branch seemingly staying on the ridge. So I took it. But a short while later, the path left the ridge and started to cut diagonally across the slope. When it stayed that way for too long, I gave up and headed to the top of the ridge through the heather. And of course, the proper path (I guess the right one, literally) was right there, just on the other side of the wall. :roll:

Once I rejoined the path, the rest of the way up was over multiple false summits, so altitude and eye-rolling frequency were increasing simultaneously...

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Not this one, either, eh?

Even the new summit that had appeared on the picture above isn't the true one. It's the last false summit, though. I mean, technically, there might be another one, but I just counted it as a part of the same sprawling summit area.

That was it for the ascent then, now just to roll back down to the car park!

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A look back to where I'd been, Blabheinn trying to look like Belig's shadow

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Down the other side: Scalpay, Raasay, and beyond

Down the grassy bumps it then was, turning left along the wall, then following what remained of the fence. Eventually, I was met with another fence, this one intact, but could skirt by the corner without needing to change my direction too much, now searching for the path I could see on the map. What I saw IRL were power lines - and, helpfully enough, my physical map didn't have them :roll: - but it is as the online one says, the path is a little below the power lines, at least where I went.

Joining the path, I found probably the boggiest spot of the entire walk (although that's not saying much) before it crossed a fence (no gate/stile but the fence was low and a supporting post was conveniently placed) and deposited me on the A87. The way to the car park passed under all the hills I'd visited on the walk.

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The walk summed up in one picture. I swear, Belig looks like a total tetrahedron from every direction. There isn't any connotation here as there is with calling someone a square (geometric inequality much?) but really, it's such a tetrahedron! :D

Back in the car, I was really feeling the absence of those sandwiches (prepared so neatly the day before, wrapped and everything), so I quickly got a replacement from the closest store in Broadford. Replenishing the energy a little bit, it was time for another long drive. Many songs are heard over the course of 4.5 hours. But I still gotta share one gem:

I do what he says but I
End up falling off the edge
I don't know what to do
Never seems to end up being true


No relevance to the walk with this one. (Thankfully!!) But still, is it a coincidence that it's sung by Skye Sweetnam?! :lol:

Coming to Skye, I'd wondered how it would compare to the Tatras; the grassy, heathery, sometimes scree-topped hills I'd experienced so far had a distinct feel I'd learnt to associate with Scotland, but perhaps Skye's sharp edges of pure rock would feel a little closer to home?

...yes and no. The nature of the hills was definitely more similar. The nature of the path... wasn't. In the Tatras, without a special permit, straying from paths is prohibited. But the paths are clear, frequently marked, and any difficult terrain would have ladders, steps, and/or chains embedded within the rock to aid the walker. With that experience in mind, I hadn't feared the terrain; I hadn't had a reason to previously. Chains had had me excited every time. (Please don't take this sentence out of context.) But now, to be exposed to this terrain in the Scottish way, with no rules to follow and no aids to keep track of, with only my head to find a suitable route and my limbs (and whatever I'd carried along) to make sure I'd follow it... it wasn't all egal to me. Now that I'm safely back down, it's different. I can't say Skye put me off for good, because it didn't. And thanks to Garbh-bheinn and Belig, I might know roughly what sort of terrain I'd be up against, so it shouldn't catch me out as much. Still... let's treat Skye like a medicine. To be experienced in small doses. :D
aaquater
 
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Re: Skye-grilled

Postby SummitViews » Mon Jun 14, 2021 11:33 pm

Fantastic report , that’s on my list to do :clap:
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Re: Skye-grilled

Postby Verylatestarter » Tue Jun 15, 2021 9:14 am

Enjoyed the report.

23 years ago we stayed at a cottage on the Loch shore near Luib; it was my son Ben's first holiday. Everyday i looked up at Glas Bheinn Mhor thinking i'd do it the next day. The weather turned rank so never got to go. However Ben and i walked Garb Bheinn and Marsco in 2019 and had a great day, i'd recommend it if only for the contrast between the Red and Black Cullin - you cross over the boundary coming off Druim Eadar da Choire onto Garb Bheinn, hence the scrambling. The approach was very boggy so i envy your day, the scree to the East of GB was as bad as you describe and we didn't get to climb Belig as heavy rain set it. However i'd do it again any day, and add Belig/Glas Bheinn Mho and a stroll over to Clac Glas for good measure.

John
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Re: Skye-grilled

Postby aaquater » Thu Jun 17, 2021 6:25 pm

SummitViews wrote:Fantastic report , that’s on my list to do :clap:

Thanks! It's a handy little route, just needs to be treated with a bit of respect! :D
aaquater
 
Posts: 52
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Re: Skye-grilled

Postby aaquater » Thu Jun 17, 2021 6:47 pm

Verylatestarter wrote:Enjoyed the report.

23 years ago we stayed at a cottage on the Loch shore near Luib; it was my son Ben's first holiday. Everyday i looked up at Glas Bheinn Mhor thinking i'd do it the next day. The weather turned rank so never got to go. However Ben and i walked Garb Bheinn and Marsco in 2019 and had a great day, i'd recommend it if only for the contrast between the Red and Black Cullin - you cross over the boundary coming off Druim Eadar da Choire onto Garb Bheinn, hence the scrambling. The approach was very boggy so i envy your day, the scree to the East of GB was as bad as you describe and we didn't get to climb Belig as heavy rain set it. However i'd do it again any day, and add Belig/Glas Bheinn Mho and a stroll over to Clac Glas for good measure.

John

Thank you. The entire ridge (from Glamaig, through Marsco, all the way to Glas-Bheinn Mhor) looks possible to do over one huge walk, or could be split up as one sees fit. Linking Garbh-bheinn to Marsco probably isn't much more or less difficult than joining it with Belig; I just went for the latter because carrying on to Glas-Bheinn Mhor made it a walk of a reasonable length. I'm not sure about the last part you said, though, if only for the fact that I really can't see 'stroll' and 'Clach Glas' working together in the same sentence! :lol:
aaquater
 
Posts: 52
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