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Past the point of no return

PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2015 10:42 pm
by BlackPanther
The relationship between me and Garbh-bheinn goes many years back. Before I tried any hills on Skye, Kevin used to scare me with stories about more difficult mountains. One of them was about facing Garbh-bheinn in full winter conditions :? (today he says - how the hell did I do it and lived on to tell the tale :lol: ). I was so intrigued by this mountain and its fearsome reputation, that I wanted to try it myself, well, not necessarily in winter!
My first ascent of Garbh-bheinn took place in June 2009, when we were camping on Skye and enjoyed a spell of excellent weather. We started from the layby near the Eas a Bhradain waterfall, a popular spot for many tourists. They always stop here to photograph the falls! Our circuit included just Garbh-bheinn - I was only into my 2nd year of climbing and wasn't sure I could cope with a longer traverse. We climbed up to Bealach na Beiste, then steeply to the summit. To finish the circular, we descended the Druim Eadar Da Choire ridge. I think this walk deserves a separate TR... I have to find some time to post stuff from my archives, but that's a job for another day.

Six years have passed and we returned to Skye to face GB again, but this time our route included the neighbouring Graham, Belig. The latter is a good climb by itself, but we fancied a challenge, which would be to combine the two hills in a lovely traverse.
Starting from the very same place, the Eas a Bhradain layby, we had a good look at both hills and saw very little snow on the ridge. Therefore we decided to leave axes in the car and only take crampons. Good decision in the end, as the traverse had more to do with scrambling than any winter walking.
After the big flood a few days earlier, I was a bit concerned about rivers in spate, but it didn't look too bad on Skye.
Eas a Bhradain waterfall:
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Our route - we climbed Belig first, then traversed to Garbh-bheinn:

Track_BELIG 13-03-15.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


We walked along the road for a short distance, crossed the road bridge and followed the east bank of Abhainn Ceann Loch Ainort (a lengthy name for a small river!). The Red Cuillin peaks backed in sunshine and weather looked good. I smelled a great day!
Across the river towards Marsco:
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Our primary target, Belig, loomed just above us, whereas Garbh-Bheinn was still fair distance away:
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The trod alongside the river proved very boggy, overgrown and mostly pathless. But we were prepared for the bog feast! Still... Kevin didn't enjoy the gloompy-squelchy experience at all...
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We walked past the point where the river splits in two (or should I say where two streams come together :lol: ) and started searching for the best place to cross. Oooops. Maybe the stream wasn't fully in spate, but there was plenty of water in it, so we wasted about 15 minutes, walking up and down the banks, eyeing a convenient set of stepping stones. We managed to jump across, eventually, and charged the heathery slopes of Belig. Views were superb already, if only to the Reds to the north:
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The ground was still squelchy and full of puddles, water canals and tiny burns. Gaiters and goretex boots proved useful! I remembered, the previous time we did Garbh-bheinn, we experienced some bog, but not to such extent! Only when we reached the steeper, more rocky ground, did the surface become drier.
We skirted the rocky outcrops, just stayed to the right of them. This ridge offers some good scrambling and in summertime I would probably be tempted, but I got spooked by the wet rocks. It was steep and slippery as it was:
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We reached the ridge above the crags, it was a good vantage point, and we couldn't resist a short photo break:
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The Cuillin Ridge was still covered in cloud, but as the day felt warm, I hoped this would burn out soon (it did):
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The final ascent to the summit of Belig was now a formality, on a grassy slope, with good views to Loch Ainort below:
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Soon I was taking my well deserved midday rest on the summit of the Graham. Behind me - Glass Bheinn Mhor:
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A better panorama to the north-east: Glass Bheinn Mhor, Scalpay and Raasay.
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Raasay zoomed:
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Looking along the southern ridge of Belig, which descends to Loch Slapin. We spotted another pair of walkers, making their way up this side, but we left the summit before they arrived.
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The Reds again: Beinn Deargs and Glamaig.
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To the west - our next target. Gloomy, dark Garbh-bheinn:
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We took our time and lazed about on the summit of Belig for much longer than we should have :wink:, drinking tea and gazing into the distance. A golden eagle became intrigued and made a circle above our heads, but by the time we grabbed our cameras, it was already gone, gliding slowly towards Blaven, where it soon became one with the dark background.
Leaving the summit of Belig with a big smile:
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The descent to the bealach between the two peaks was slow and arduous, though not really technical. It's just steep and the loose scree is so unsteady, especially when the ground is partly frozen and covered with slushy snow in places. Looks horrible, but can be done:
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If going up this way on a dry day, one could try some easy scrambling on bigger boulders:
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I glimpsed towards the Cuillin and noticed to my great content, that it was slowly clearing. Maybe we would be able to see the whole ridge after all!
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Looking back towards Belig from Bealach na Beiste:
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Loch Ainort and Raasay from the col:
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A short hydration break and we pulled our socks up for the 350m ascent to the Corbett. I remembered from my previous encounter with Garbh-bheinn, that this slope was a nightmarish scree climbing for the first 150-200m, and it hasn't changed since. Two up, one down. Felt like a mini-version of the Great Stone Chute:
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The pain was soon forgotten when we saw the Matterhorn of Skye and its larger brother:
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Enjoying the experience:
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View down into the glen of Allt Aigeinn, Sgurr nan Each ridge to the right, Broadford Grahams in the distance:
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Glamaig and the Deargs:
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Higher up, the route became more scramble-ish, with bigger rocks and boulders making it easier to climb rather than the loose scree below. Let the fun begin!
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The ridge was great fun, indeed, quite narrow and exposed but not difficult, at least until the very final metres. Looking down, maybe not a route for rookies:
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Clach Glas and Blaven to the south of us:
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Almost there, just a few more metres and I can't wait to lay my paws on that gabbro! :lol: :lol:
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Having taken over 300 photos during that walk, I was in a biig trouble to pick the best ones - this is one of my favourite snaps. Marsco, The Deargs and Glamaig plus the steep drop to Coire na Seilg, still harbouring some snow:
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Hmmm :problem: To scramble or not to scramble - that is the question for today!
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The last metres proved pretty airy. The path which traverses just below the biggest obstacles, has partly collapsed and it was covered in ice in places, so we decided it was too dangerous and scrambled over the rocks just above it. Urgh... :sick: :sick: A bit unnerving, as the rocks were slippery and wet in places. I slipped once and scratched my hands, applied a few more bruises to my digits :lol: but all in all the adrenaline rush was fantastic. As soon as we landed on the summit of Garbh-bheinn, we were mesmerized!
THIS IS WHAT I CALL MOUNTAIN PORN!
Woooooow! :shock: :shock: The Cuillin!!! As beautiful as ever!
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Sgurr nan Each ridge:
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The sun was directly behind Blaven, so all photos in that direction are a bit burnt out:
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Zoom to Clach Glas:
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Mountains to the south-east:
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Marsco and The northern half of the Cuillin:
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I must say, the summit of the Corbett is quite small, and big drops on all sides may make the walker dizzy.. :? Certainly when the ground is slippery! But I was brave enough to pose with THE RIDGE behind:
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Details of the Cuillin:
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It was time for lunch so we dropped our rucksacks to the ground and enjoyed a cuppa and sandwiches in this unbelievable scenery. We discussed options for going down and both admitted, that we didn't fancy returning the way we came up. It would mean descending on the partially collapsed path - no, thank you! The more logical way was to continue along the ridge and down the NW shoulder, which descends back to Loch Ainort anyway. I have done it in summertime (though it involved some bum-sliding) so there was no reason why I shouldn't be able to repeat it now, especially that so far we have encountered very little snow.
As we began the descent, I found the traverse airy but manageable. Bum and knees were used, especially that we had to stick to the rocks as all bypasses were icy and slippery. But I enjoyed it in an odd way. I knew I was past the point of no return :lol: :lol:
The bum-sliding section:
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A bit easier here:
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Once below the rocky section, the ridge drops "in stages". Some easy, grassy parts and some scree-covered steeper sections, all with views to kill for:
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I was making my way down at a snail's pace, not because I ran out of steam, but because I wanted this experience to last:
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My new desktop wallpaper:
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Looking back to the summit of Garbh-bheinn, so brutal but so enchanting!
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Down the scree again:
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Marsco, another five star Skye Graham. I have to repeat it some time, maybe in winter conditions as well?
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We descended to the col between Garbh-bheinn and the small top, Druim Eadar Da Choire, then followed the fence posts to the top of the latter. Looking back at the Corbett, i still felt the adrenaline rushing through my veins. The Rough Mountain stood up to its name!
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It was late afternoon now and the hills cast long shadows, adding that extra touch to the panoramas...
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From the top of Druim Eadar Da Choire, an obvious path leads down the ridge. Lower down it was squelchy and about 500m before we reached the road it petered out, but getting back down was now just a matter of time...
Speaking of time - having returned to the car, we checked our GPS to discover, to our surprise, that we needed 8 hours doing a route which is supposed to take 5 to 7. But to our excuse, only 5 out of those 8 hours we spent moving :lol: :lol: :lol: We didn't care anyway - why rush it, if you can enjoy the most exciting day of the year so far?
"Our" hills in the sunset light:
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I hope you enjoyed this Skye trip with us :D I've got two more stories to write from last week and we are going hillwalking again tomorrow (how could we waste a good Saturday), so there's more to come from me. Watch this space. Meow! :D :D

Re: Past the point of no return

PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2015 1:27 pm
by Huff_n_Puff
As usual wonderful mountain porn - fantastic photos and great report, and congratulations to you both for doing it and having the nerve to take all the photos :lol: :lol:

Re: Past the point of no return

PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2015 2:59 pm
by AnnieMacD
Great report and photos, BP. I had a similar day on the Deargs yesterday (but no ice) - report to follow. There's nowhere better than to be on Skye on a day like that.

Re: Past the point of no return

PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2015 5:53 pm
by Gordie12
That looked like a great day BP - never been walking on Skye, might try and change that this year.

Re: Past the point of no return

PostPosted: Wed Feb 05, 2020 12:15 am
by oldknees
Great informative report & super range of photos. I don't think I could do it now - makes me regret a little that I didn't push on with Corbetts shortly after I finished the Munros (over 20 years ago!)