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Papa Smurf's Skye Trail 2015 - Part 1Rubha Hunish to Portree

Papa Smurf's Skye Trail 2015 - Part 1Rubha Hunish to Portree


Postby papa smurf » Thu May 07, 2015 8:04 pm

Route description: Skye Trail

Date walked: 28/04/2015

Time taken: 7 days

Distance: 130 km

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For my spring trek this year I chose the Skye Trail and duly and dutifully bought the Cicerone guide by Helen and Paul Webster of this parish. I enjoyed the guide and it was very useful in planning and whilst walking. Most of my walks are self concocted routes but it certainly saves a lot of effort doing a trail that has a guide. As usual for my longer treks I chose to go in spring ahead of midgie season as I would be camping with only two potential bothies.
I was more or less organised and had my return bus fare booked, when the warmish spring weather in April turned back into winter and the media had images of a snow bound Inverness. I already had the start of a tan on my face and arms from working in the garden etc and here we were returning to winter. The forecasts for Skye included snow falling at low levels. Its just as well that my normal kit for Scottish spring covers me for summer and winter with the exception of axe and crampons. I figured that the worst that would happen was that the Trotternish Ridge might have too much snow and that I would have to find a lower level route. I also pondered that the ridge was not a knife edge affair in any case and should be ok. The rest of the trail is relatively low and presented no issues. I decided to proceed as planned but tweaked my kit list to cover for slightly colder weather. Being an inveterate optimist I couldn't remove my shorts.

Tuesday 28 April 2015
As I left the house for the 25 minute walk to catch the 0743 hrs bus it was snowing and that was at just above sea level and I could see the hills to the west of Loch Lomond had a dusting of snow.

I wasn't very impressed with the departure lounge and there was no duty free

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Departure lounge


As the bus wound its way up to Crianlarich and then through Tyndrum the snow was at road level. Oh dear, or words to that effect. Passing through Glencoe and Fort William the snow had receded a bit but the hills still had a reasonable covering. As we decended through Glen Loyne thick snow flakes were falling. Going over the Skye bridge I had my first view of the Cuillins covered in snow.



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Cuillins from Skye Bridge



The bus journey was uneventful and actually quite pleasant with someone else driving and I was deposited at Portree with couple of hours to kill before my next bus to the north of the island. Two busses do the north circle,
one clockwise and one anti and I was advised by the driver to get the clockwise 57C which dropped me off near the Duntulm Hotel a short distance from Shulista road end. From the west the Trotternish ridge looked as if it had a thin layer of snow. I started walking at 1640 hrs and only had a couple of kilometers to walk to the Lookout bothy where I intended to stay the night. I planned, weather permitting, to walk down to the Hunish peninsula that night and start the walk proper the following morning. As I walked there were occasional sunny spells with some vicious rain and sleety squalls but it was barely a 30 minute walk, even with a full rucksack, which included 3 liters of water as the MBA website states there is no water on the peninsula.

I was very impressed with the bothy on arrival, even though I sometimes am not a fan of bothies with no fire. I also suppose when trekking there is no capacity to carry fuel, so you should not expect to be able to have a fire. The bothy is perched over cliffs and has fantastic views over the Hunish peninsula to the sea and Harris, Lewis and the Shiant islands. Absolutely stunning. The weather also improved and the sun came out. After getting organised and a cup of coffee I climbed down the cliffs and walked to the end of the peninsula. Looking back at the cliffs under the bothy it was hard to believe I had come down that way, they looked so impregnable. The bothy was perched on the top like a decoration on a wedding cake. Not a place to stay if you are a sleepwalker !


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Lookout Bothy



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Hunish Cliffs



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Lookout Bothy


I had a very comfy and cosy night, despite no fire and later howling wind and rain.


Wednesday 29 April 2015

It was still unpleasantly wet and wild when I got up but got organised and was away by 0900 hrs. I made good progress around the coast and then across to Balmacqueen. The guidebook was very helpful here as the faint paths twisted around the crofts and farms. I paused at St Moluag's Church and paid my respects at a First World War monument where 12 local men were commemorated. As I'm often reminded, these small places carried a heavy burden and the loss would have been very noticeable compared to the cities, bad as their losses were. The walking was pleasant and I arrived at Flodigarry around 1200 hrs.

I had already decided to keep going and I headed up towards the Quiraing where I though I might find a sheltered pitch for the Trailstar. At this point I had not met anyone and a woman walked down as I passed the first of the two lochs on the way up. A couple of young girls caught up just as I was finishing my lunch and after a quick chat I took their photograph for them. I then climbed fairly comfortably into the Quiraing and I had to stop and check the map because I thought I had walked into Sauchiehall Street .........on a busy Saturday afternoon ! It was mobbed with people of various nationalities; I heard German and American voices particularly as I greeted folk I passed in either direction, Some seemed to be fairly unequipped and trainers abounded and I even saw a couple of skirts. To be fair at least they were making an effort to see the scenery rather than looking at it from the car window and what scenery.....

This is Lord of the Rings country and I half expected to see our heroes emerging from the pass chasing and decapitating Orcs. In someways I was reminded of the Whangie, Glasgow's own mini geological oddity but this was on a much grander scale.



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Quiraing


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Quiraing


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Quiraing


I enjoyed this part but rushed away from the tourists, this was no place to camp, too many people and no chance of peace and quiet, never mind privacy. However the alternative was to start the Trotternish Ridge and find a camp spot. This was no easy thought, for by this time the wind which had been ever present was now fairly strong and it was still raining. I was warm, dry and comfortable in my Paramos and had every confidence in my abilities, experience and equipment but it was still slightly daunting to be going where no-one else was going. It seemed to be one of those 'here be dragons' moments as I headed past the car park where people were getting into their nice warm cars to head to their nice warm hotels and B&Bs. I on the other hand was walking into the unknown as to the weather and as to finding a suitable camping spot.

I'm sure there were horrified looks and whispers of 'mountain madness' as I started walking up the first slopes of Biode Buidhe and I certainly felt quite alone. I made good progress though and the walking was straight forward with only the odd tiny patch of snow. I made good progress with stunning views of the ridge ahead and the Quiraing behind emerging from the mist and it was clear enough that navigation was never an issue.


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Looking to Quiraing from Trotternish


I dropped down and then over Druim na Coille before I found a nice camp spot just off the Bealach Uige. It was still windy and the Trailstar moved about a bit till I got the pitch right. There was water nearby too which research had said was a problem on the ridge.


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Camp Bealach Uige



I felt good but kept a tight camp that night in case I had to move in a hurry.



Thursday 30 April 2015.

I was up and away at 0800 hrs after a wild night and an hour later was on the summit of Beinn Edra in brighter weather although it was still breezy and cool.


Then I was hit with a succession of hail storms coming from the south east or more accurately to the front of my left cheek. My nose took a battering as I had to continually wipe it with gloved hands. The tops of Flasvein and Creag a Lain were quite covered in soft snow. this gave no problems and even if I had crampons and an ice axe they were not required and I would not have used them.

I then headed for Sgurr a Mhadaidh Ruaidh, the hill of the Red Fox. It has quite a narrow pass to the bit that juts out and like the rest of the ridge the exposure to the east was awesome. I couldn't help but try to recreate the cover of the classic Penguin childrens novel the Hill of the Red Fox by local author Allan Campbell McLean.



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Hill of the Red Fox


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Penguin cover Hill of the Red Fox


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Homage to Hill of the Red Fox


Going over the next tops I met a couple going the other way. They too were doing the Skye trail but south to north saying at B&Bs. We had a brief chat then went our ways. The weather was beginning to clear now and the views in every direction were outstanding. I could see all the way back to the Quiraing and ahead all the way along the ridge. Although not a knife edged ridge, the east side is absolutely sheer and some of the drops were breathtaking. By 1315 I was on top of Hartaval. I seemed to be going really well and would come to climbs that looked hard enough but once I started I was scampering up and making great progress. This included the final rise out of the Bealach a Chuirn and up and over the shoulder of the Storr. I soon picked up the path in Coire Scamadal which was choked with snow but still delightful walking as it descended towards the Old Man of Storr.

I began to meet people again and as I went through a fence I was suddenly confronted with the Old Man himself. It's the kind of sight that takes your breath away and I clicked away with the camera.

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Old Man of Storr



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Old Man of Storr



The focus at this point is on the Old Man and he demands all the attention, the cliffs of the Storr which later become so prominent take back stage. Again there were loads of people and no wonder, an easy well constructed path leads from a car park until it gets higher up and becomes a network of hill-tracks around the natural sculptures. There are signs advising to stay away from the dangerous bits but no-one (including me ) paid any heed and I wandered happily right under the Old Man. Some folk had climbed up to the base. One day it will fall down but not today. It was first climbed by the late great Don Whillans and I wondered what he would have made of tourists gawping at him. Known for his genius and irascibility, the words 'b...er off' accompanied by a carefully aimed fag end spring to mind.

By this time I was beginning to weary a wee bit and could definitely feel my feet and I was grateful to reach the well constructed path and amble down to the road.

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Storr


I then walked down the road past Loch Leathan intending to camp at Bearreraig Bay. Looking back, at this angle the Old Man merged into the cliffs and wasn't as prominent. But the cliffs were and they stayed with me all the way to Portree and beyond, becoming more and more impressive with the distance.


I walked down the very steep steps to Bearreraig Bay following the hydro electric pipes and mini railway which was opened in 1952. I had consulted the map and there was a stream marked in the bay and I could see promising grassy spots and the sun was shining. Bliss. However on getting to the bottom of the hill, I realised that the hydro outflow turned east across my path to spew into the sea. It was deep and very fast flowing and I stared in agonised disbelief at the lovely grassy spots out of reach. I had my trusty water sandals but short of having a gun pointed at me I was not crossing. I had a brew and dunked my feet whilst I considered my options. In the end I decided not to go further as I was unsure of finding a decent camping spot and I found a good spot above the hydro buildings with lovely sea views and pitched up. There was a slight hum from the buildings as electricity was generated but it was mere background noise and easily ignored and I had a pleasant evening in the sun and a peaceful night.

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Camp Bearerraig Bay



Friday 1 May 2015

I got up at 0735 hrs to a bright sunny day with a light breeze, perfect trekking weather. I wasn't sure what to expect on this leg but it was to prove one of, if not the highlight of the trip. A gradual climb brought me up onto an escarpment which soon became close cropped green turf which was delightful walking. Again the ups and downs seemed to go easily and I skipped along. The views were glorious with yet another sheer drop to my left with the sea a beautiful shade of blue far below and the mainland mountains behind. Ahead lay the ridge and in the far distance the Cuillins mantled in white, looking totally unclimbable. Behind was the ridge and the Storr still trying to muscle in on the scenery. In some ways I thought it looked like El Capitan in Yosemite. I really enjoyed this stage (the weather helped) but it was a truly magnificent walk. I met a couple coming the other way. They were doing the easy bits of the trail as day walks and were thoroughly enjoying themselves too.

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Storr


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Sithean a Bhealaich Chumhaing


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Storr from ridge


I got to the end of the ridge and dropped down past a stream to low level flat pastures and joined a coastal walk that went round past Sgeir Mhor a rocky point and suddenly Portree was in sight.


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Portree


I arrived at Portree at 1400 hrs and decided to head straight to Torvaig Campsite. I had enough supplies to keep me going and would re-stock in the morning as I walked through the town which was on my route anyway. The road up to the campsite seemed never ending and I longed for a shower and to get my boots off. I pitched up and went for a shower which was blissful and then spent the afternoon sunbathing and resting. The campsite was very nice and the views to the still apparently distant Cuillin tremendous. I was too lazy to walk down to Portree for any treats and just did my usual and ate my mush but was quite happy. I later got talking to a fellow camper who thought my Trailstar was 'hard core' and he seemed impressed at my hardiness (or was it foolhardiness ?).

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Torvaig Campsite
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