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The changing faces of Blaven

The changing faces of Blaven


Postby dogplodder » Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:46 pm

Route description: Bla Bheinn (Blaven)

Munros included on this walk: Bla Bheinn

Date walked: 06/09/2013

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"And even if I came in sight of paradise, what price its moon without Blaven?" asks Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean. My own fascination with Blaven began in 1986 on holiday in a friend's cottage on the Sleat peninsula. The sunsets from Ord over Loch Eishort were stunning. I also have memories of my dad chopping wood surrounded by a black cloud of Skye midges and refusing to stop until the job was done! But the presence of the midge was a small price to pay for the view of Blaven across the water.

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Don't know if Sorley ever climbed it, but back in those days with four small children it didn't seriously occur to me that climbing it was an option. We did many a walk in and around the Cuillin Munros but I assumed the summits were out of reach to anyone but rock climbers. Then in 2003 my son and I set off to climb Blaven, but we left too late in the day and by the time we reached Coire Uaigneach the cloud was down and we turned back.

So last week when we had a cottage booked at Broadford the tantalising thought returned - could we climb Blaven? Moira said she could do Wednesday but the forecast was for low cloud and rain and in the event it rained solidly all day. Thursday was the best day for weather but Moira couldn't do Thursday - which left Friday. So Friday it was.

After wet, misty weather on Sunday to Wednesday, Thursday was one of those stunningly beautiful days on Skye. So we went to Elgol to take the boat trip to Loch Coruisk on the Misty Isle and can thoroughly recommend this trip and the Misty Isle crew Seamus and James. Our dogs weren't too happy with the disembarking arrangements but strapping boatman James carried them off and on no bother at all! :D

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Dogs at Loch Coruisk
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Cuillin ridge from Elgol
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On the way home we stopped at Torrin to photograph Blaven, target for the following day.

View from east side of Loch Slapin - Blaven, Clach Glas, Sgurr nan Each and Garbh-bheinn
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Highest point is Blaven's north top - where we were heading
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This was Blaven's sunny, smiling face giving high hopes of views from the top the next day! :lol:

In the end Rob (rockwalker) was able to join us and we met at the Elgol road junction in Broadford and drove to the spacious car park on west side of Loch Slapin.

A little cloud about but Blaven still looking benevolent on morning of our ascent
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We followed the excellent path up the north side of the Allt na Dunaiche, passing pretty waterfalls on the way.

An Stac and Moira (gizmogirl) near start of climb
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First sign of autumn
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Summit cloud-free :D
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I expected burns to be swollen after all the rain of previous days but crossing the Allt na Dunaiche and its tributary weren't a problem - with just one wobbly rock to watch out for. After the crossings the going becomes stony as the path climbs into Coire Uaigneich, the secret corrie. We stopped here for the two who left early from Inverness to have a second breakfast. :wink:

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Beinn na Cro, Beinn na Caillich and Loch Slapin
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At this point we met a couple coming down the path with two beautiful retrievers - a golden and black. I had planned to take the fitter of our labs for the climb but the day before a local had advised against it saying she had seen dogs accustomed to hill walking coming off Blaven with bleeding paws. So I left Tess with Pete for the day. I asked if these two had been to the top - they had and coped fine. But having walked on that abrasive gabbro I think it was the kinder decision to leave her behind. :(

We knew as soon as we could see the lochan on the left we had to turn right so we looked for the start of the path. We couldn't see any evidence of it but went in the right direction and very soon picked it up, zigzagging its way up the slope towards an area of fallen boulders which presented no difficulties and led into the scree gully.

Sparkling Loch Fionna-choire and Loch Scavaig beyond
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A couple ahead of us had turned up the rocks to the right of the gully but we stayed with the path leading into the gully. I found it was easier to cross the gully to its left side as there was solid rock to hold on to on the way up the loose stones and about half way up I was lured out of the gully, climbing on to the rocky ledge on the left. There was evidence others had done the same thing and it worked for me. :D

Rob and Moira climbing the scree gully
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Above the gully the gradient eases and the going becomes easier with lovely views of the islands to the south.

Over the south east ridge to the islands of Eigg and Rum
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Mountainous Rum and the steep side of Blaven's south top
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The path passes close to the rim of Blaven's eastern cliffs, with vertigo-inducing views down into Coire Dubh. By this time the wind had strengthened and was gusty enough to make us very cautious as we took a detour to the right to get the best views!

Vertical gash on the Great Prow
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Clach Glas
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I didn't realise until I came off I was standing on a prow of overhanging rock to take the last two photos. It's difficult to make out because of rock beyond the gap but here are Rob and Moira perched on said overhanging rock.

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The views from now on were majestic.

Loch Slapin and over the Sleat peninsula to the Sound of Sleat and beyond to Loch Hourn
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The Red Cuillin and over to Applecross
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A small cairn on the path indicates a short detour to the right to views of Clach Glas and beyond. We realised at this point the weather was changing from balmy and bright to sombre and chilly with cloud closing in.

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Soon after this the path funnelled us into a narrow gully with a short scramble. Rob with his longer legs managed it fine but there was a projecting rock and without any obvious footholds I couldn't immediately see how to get over it. Moira who was below me had already felt strain on her twice-operated-on ankle and decided this was not the way for her so I dropped down to join her and we descended the gully to find another way up the rocks on the left. It was reassuring at this point to have Rob standing above telling us it looked a viable way to go, which it was.

Once above the gully we stopped to don extra layers. The wind was gusting strongly, it was raining with more than a hint of sleet, and our hearts fell as we watched Rob disappear into the cloud ahead. This was the less welcoming face of Blaven and illustrated how quickly mountain conditions can change.

To say we were disappointed after such a promising start not to get the wonderful views of the Black Cuillin is an understatement. If only we'd been half an hour earlier or had been able to come yesterday! But this is Skye and as the locals say, if it's sunny in the morning it will likely rain in the afternoon and if it's raining in the morning the sun will be out in the afternoon - as happened for Annie climbing her first Munro and getting such glorious views from the top. Moira and I looked wistfully at Annie's summit photos the evening of our climb! :D

No views but still smiling (photo taken by Rob with Moira's camera)
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We stayed for 20 minutes on the top, waiting to see if the cloud would shift, but it was bitterly cold and another climber who arrived while we were there touched the cairn and and turned straight back down again. So we regretfully headed down and as far as we know the cloud didn't shift - which would have been even more galling!

The descent was straightforward and once we were out of the cloud we got a fine view of Fionna-choire lochan.
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Despite the lack of summit views we are delighted to have climbed Blaven, said by some to be the most beautiful mountain in Scotland! :D

PS This was a most frustrating report to post! I had uploaded all the photos with the text (after a previous disaster, saving as I went along) and as I tried to upload Moira's summit photo (which I'd forgotten to downsize) everything went berserk. I lost what I hadn't saved and what I had saved was all jumbled up with some photos missing, some repeated and all alongside the wrong bits of text. So I had to delete them all and start again! What's all that about?
Last edited by dogplodder on Mon Feb 24, 2014 8:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby AnnieMacD » Tue Sep 10, 2013 8:47 pm

Oh no, I was so upset that you didn't get the views from the summit :( However, you did get the amazing pictures from the lower half of the hill. And that is a great picture of you at the top - even if it is in the mists. :clap:

I had the same issue with the overhanging rock but I did the scramble as I was so excited and I wasn't too sure about an alternative. I don't think the dogs would have made it.

I also had a similar problem to you posting a walk report today. I spent 1.5 hours typing up a draft and when I came to save it I got a message to log in. But I couldn't have created a walk report if I wasn't logged in so that made no sense. I don't know if I have the stomach to start again :?
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby dogplodder » Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:11 pm

AnnieMacD wrote:
I also had a similar problem to you posting a walk report today. I spent 1.5 hours typing up a draft and when I came to save it I got a message to log in. But I couldn't have created a walk report if I wasn't logged in so that made no sense. I don't know if I have the stomach to start again :?


Yes, that's what happened to me! I thought it was because of trying to post a pic that was too big but if it happened to you as well there must have been gremlins in the system. It's SO frustrating when you lose a report like that. I lost one a few weeks ago and my hubby said I need to keep saving it but every time you do that you have to open it up again. :roll:

Hopefully it will be sorted out or we'll all have to go on strike until it is! :lol:
Last edited by dogplodder on Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:24 pm

Loved this, especially the pictures. God's own country. Words fail - only the pictures communicate the reality.

I did the Cuillin ridge a couple of times last year (first time not quite), and see now that we should have gone for Blaven also the following day instead of the Quirang (excuse: we were quite tired).

Thanks for the inspiration.

Alter Knacker.
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby The Rodmiester » Wed Sep 11, 2013 7:50 am

Pity about the summit clag! :( But wonderful photographs earlier on. The Clah Glas one shows why there are so many rock falls, the rock on the right does not look too stable with lots of large cracks ready for the future frosts. Like the idea of the boat trip :D
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby litljortindan » Wed Sep 11, 2013 8:56 am

A pity about the summit views but you still have some great photographs there and Blaven will be there for a while yet.
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby dogplodder » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:38 am

Alteknacker wrote:Loved this, especially the pictures. God's own country. Words fail - only the pictures communicate the reality.

I did the Cuillin ridge a couple of times last year (first time not quite), and see now that we should have gone for Blaven also the following day instead of the Quirang (excuse: we were quite tired).

Thanks for the inspiration.

Alter Knacker.


You will love Blaven - but wait for a good day! :D
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:56 am

Never mind the clag on the summit, this hill is always a treat. Looks like you had a great time :D

I can still remember my trip up Blaven in 2009, I was scared ***less... :shock: Back then I was only a beginner, no experience in scrambling, bad head for heights... Kevin tried to convince me to traverse to the lower top, but I just looked at ii, said -no way!- and run back the way we came :lol: :lol:
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby dogplodder » Wed Sep 11, 2013 11:44 am

The Rodmiester wrote:Pity about the summit clag! :( But wonderful photographs earlier on. The Clah Glas one shows why there are so many rock falls, the rock on the right does not look too stable with lots of large cracks ready for the future frosts. Like the idea of the boat trip :D


On the rock fall front I noticed how easily rocks got dislodged and gathered momentum on the way down. Makes you very careful when folk are behind you! :shock:
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby dogplodder » Wed Sep 11, 2013 8:27 pm

litljortindan wrote:A pity about the summit views but you still have some great photographs there and Blaven will be there for a while yet.


Thanks :D
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby dogplodder » Wed Sep 11, 2013 8:32 pm

BlackPanther wrote:Never mind the clag on the summit, this hill is always a treat. Looks like you had a great time :D


The summit views would have been the icing but you're right we had a great time climbing her and seeing parts of her not seen from the road. See, now I'm doing what you do - attributing gender to hills! :lol:
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby dogplodder » Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:56 pm

For my good friend Malcolm - to bring back memories of climbing The Great Prow 35 years ago!

It's Moira's photo but she's happy for me to use it.

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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby Meatball » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:54 pm

Always enjoy reports on this hill!
Well done!
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby PeteR » Sat Sep 14, 2013 9:51 am

Glad to see that you did Bla Bheinn dogplodder :D A stunning hill in my opinion :D

Some great photos either side of the summit :D just such a shame that the clag came in at the top :( You clearly had a good day though :thumbup:
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Re: The changing faces of Blaven

Postby pollyh33 » Sat Sep 14, 2013 10:37 pm

Well done Kathleen- excellent report :clap: :clap:


Great idea to leave the gully and climb up the rocky ledge at the side :thumbup:

I was following Ron and Jonny up and we just took turns to move forward, let the scree tumble down, and then move again. I think your method was much better!

So sorry you didn't get views from the top, but hey look at the all views you did get!!! Thanks for identifying those hills that I saw but didn't have a clue what they were called (as usual!!)

PS how is Moira's ankle feeling now???
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