Red Cuillin Horseshoe she said, they're only little, she said!
When we scooted up to Skye after Glencoe, we were stunned by the hills that met us as we travelled north to Portree. We drove under what, although not particularly high,,were absolutely amazing big hunks of rock. Little did we know,,these veritable leviathans were our intended targets
We had several routes researched and weather was a factor but Skye was basking in sun and high cloud when we arrived, so after setting up camp in Torvaig (smashing) we checked our plans and decided the Red Cuillin Horseshoe was on the cards for the following day. We had tremendous views south to both the Red and Black Cuillin from the tent door.
We drove to the Sligachan Hotel to park and headed off over the footbridge and up the easy path. Unfortunately the write up says follow the path,,,which we did,,then realised we should have taken a gate on the left, no signs to indicate and certainly didnt seem anything like the 300 yards beyond the bridge that was described, so we had to turn back and retrace our steps for half a mile or so. Onward and upward.
The path leads up beside a gorge on your left, Allt Daraich which has a couple of lovely waterfalls.
You then head up following an old iron fence line (only the posts remain) the path makes its way across a very boggy moore. We were over taken here by two guys on a mission, not so much as a "morning ladies" they scooted past us and were half way up the zig zag path to the Druim na Ruiage ridge. It was a relief to get out of the bog,,really tricky going, gaiters an absolute must!
This ridge climbs on up to over 400mtrs then you start to ascend Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach and by now, the greenery has thinned out and the hills become rocky. The summit is a way off the path to the South but easily reached and gives amazing views over the rest of the horseshoe and over to the Black Cuillin.
We couldnt believe our luck with the weather and visibility, no sign of rain, blue skies. There was some low cloud over the Black Cuillin but it just added to the atmosphere they have. Bit of a blowy day but otherwise great. The going underfoot was rocky but nothing too challenging.
As we headed down to the Bealach Mosgaraidh the ascent up to Beinn Dearg Mhor (Big Red Mountain) was fairly daunting, a real slog where neither of us spoke much, too busy concentrating on getting the head down and plodding upwards. Amazing views from the top right across the island to the sea on both sides, the Black Cuillin etc. We were now looking down at the road we came up yesterday and it was at this point we realised these WERE the huge hills we stared at in awe on our way North. Its hard to comprehend that they are not bigger than they are. Maybe its the surroundings or the sheer volume of bare rock that makes them look so huge. Who knows?
Now,,this is where things became a bit unstuck. WalkHighlands classes this as Glamaig and the Northern Red Hills, while other books etc cover it as the Red Cuillin Horseshoe. WH comments on Glamaig being available, should you be up to it.....our original plan was to complete the horseshoe, including Glamaig but it was not to be.
We had checked our route off Beinn Dearg Mhor but foolishly decided to follow someone elses footprints in the very loose scree down to the Bealach na Sgairde, you should pay close attention and NOT do this but follow along the ridge to Coire nan Laogh before descending to the Bealach.
We made good progress down, again following someone elses route (although as time went on, I think it may have been sheep or deer , no one in their right mind would be on this slope!!!
We reached the consensus that we had come off the ridge too early and should instead be making our way East then down to the Bealach. Only way of doing this however was over what was now very loose rock, large boulders were actually moving under our feet. 3 options,,,back the way we came? unlikely, would have been like walking in syrup, East to our intended destination? but by this time we calculated another 3-4 hrs to take in Glamaig, so, we decided to cut our losses and head West, across the front of the slope and down to the heather/grasslands only a couple of hundred feet below.
There are no pics of this as we needed all our limbs, wits, gloves and seats of our pants simply to get down. Loose rock, of all sizes simply shifted under you and by feet at a time, 4 points of contact is no use when all 4 points are shifting in a downward direction. VERY scary but we simply had no choice. Weather and visibility were great which was a blessing, rain, mist or cloud would pretty much have had us calling in the Sea King at this point.
We found grabbing on to heather clumps and nipping across loose areas worked, bit like crossing a stream, dont think about it, just jump! Took us over an hour to cover a few hundred feet. Margaret more or less lost the seat of her pants (waterproofs) and our heavy gloves were invaluable in handling the rock.
It was with much relief and shaking of heads that we finally made it down and were able to follow the burn back down to Sligachan with a couple of clumps of heather to remind us not to be so flipping stupid again!!!
Looking back up at the slope we had just come down made us simply shake our heads...anyway,,we were here, alive and cranked up some tunes as we scooted back to Portree for a VERY well earned whale supper (huge portions) then back to the campsite for a bit of of liquid refreshment and to look back on a very adventurous day.
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