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Back to black

Back to black


Postby BlackPanther » Tue May 10, 2016 12:43 pm

Route description: Hartaval and Baca Ruadh

Grahams included on this walk: Hartaval, The Storr

Date walked: 08/05/2016

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 11.5 km

Ascent: 922m

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It's been a few weeks since my last visit to Scottish hills and I felt I must have lost fitness, especially after my mum's "fattening treatment". Every time she sees us, she complains that we look so thin and naturally, she makes sure our plates contain 1000+ calories :lol: :lol: Try leaving anything! Of course, after two weeks of such feeding, we were so heavy we could hardly move, I was worried the plane would struggle to take off with us on board :lol: :lol:

Back home, I was desperate to run for the hills ASAP, but weather was c**p, wet and windy. Our luck changed last weekend, Sunday forecast giving some hope for a decent warm spell. It was going to be windy though, so tackling anything big and rocky seemed a bit risky for our overstuffed bodies. Kevin went through Corbett and Graham guides for something relatively close - a few options were discussed... But there was one route I longed to do - the Storr. Regular WalkHighlanders know why...
It was more about facing the demons than "conquering" anything. After my accident on the slopes of Trotternish ridge, I lost much confidence. What's worst, my vertigo was trying to kick back... At the beginning of my hillwalking journey, I fought a long battle with my body, forcing it to ignore heights. No more getting sick while looking down! That type of vertigo, in contrast to standard panic attacks (the most common version) can be a real nuisance. I was never afraid of height per say, just hated the symptoms. Try concentrating on climbing when your stomach's up your throat! :shock:
I was desperate to stop the old, bad V friend. We have a say in Poland, translating roughly as "remove a wedge with another wedge". If you fell, get up, pull up your sock and go on. So off we went, to Skye: me, Kevin and Lucy the Lamb.

This time, we didn't expect any snow or ice on the paths around the sanctuary or indeed on the summit, so crampons stayed home. The day was very hazy, so all photos came out grey and a bit sad... in contrary to our attitude! We were happy to be back doing what we both love :D
Despite gusty wind on the top of Trotteernish ridge, we managed to throw in Hartaval as well!
Our route:

Track_HARTAVAL 08-050-16.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


We had been on the summit of Storr before, and to the sanctuary more than once. I remember the route up, before the forest was cut down... It will take years before the new trees grow enough to make this place look wild again... At the moment it feels sad and bare...
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Skye looking more like some kind of post apocalyptic landscape... The haze was so bad we could hardly see the outline of mainland hills and the Cuillin ridge was a misty phantom...
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The path to the sanctuary was awfully busy, what we expected on a warm Sunday. The cliffs sheltered us from the gusty wind higher up, and at the moment we walked in silence. The Old Man can hardly be distinguished from below, but I knew he was there, waiting for us...
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I'm not usually superstitious, but last time we didn't give the old lad enough attention before taking the path around the corner to Coire Scamadal, an how it ended, you all know. So this time I made sure we didn't miss the visit to the Oldie :D
The Old Man from the south:
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The Old Man (and the cliffs) from the west:
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Posing with the Oldie in the background:
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We climbed up the eroded path to the base of the Old Man. The large rock formation just to the east of it has no official name, I called it "Twin peaks":
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This one sure must be "Mini-Buachaille":
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I looked up the Old Man's side and tried to imagine how it would feel to actually climb it :sick: :sick: :sick: Hats off to those who tackle such stuff. Far beyond me... But at least I can say I touched the Oldie :lol:
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We wandered around the sanctuary for some more time, taking photos and admiring the strange shapes of rocks. This unusual landscape is a result of landslides, when sedimentary rock at the bottom of the cliffs gave way under the heavy layer of basalt on top. The result is pretty spectacular...
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Every time I come here, I can't resist lurking among the rocks:
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Just north of the Old Man is another formation, known as The Needle:
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Overwhelmed a bit...
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A few more snaps from the sanctuary. Shame about the hazy weather, but on the other hand, it gave photos some "dark mood", judge for yourselves:
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Having spent an hour or so in the sanctuary, eventually we left it to climb the summit itself. No ice or slippery snow on the path this time and I was eager to do more exercise:
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The classic Skye postcard:
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The path to upper Coire Scamadal circles below the cliffs (a barb-wired fence has to be negotiated on the way, over a wobbly pile of stones - watch your trousers :wink: ). Then, a short, easy scramble leads into the bowl of the corrie:
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Upper Coire Scamadal. This is where my accident happened - not far off the path. I actually managed to locate the very place where I slipped. This time I didn't intend to bang my knee against anything and stayed away from sharp rocks, walking mostly on the grass.
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We left the path and aimed for the grassy gully with a clear "passage" near the top of the cliffs. This is how we climbed The Storr during our past visits. WH route stays on the path and climbs easier slopes to the right hand side (as you face the cliffs) but I wanted to challenge myself. Not that there is anything technical about this ascent at all. In winter yes, you'd need crampons as it's quite steep. But now, no problems. We located a line of nice footsteps, dug by thousands of feet ascending the hill, and simply followed them all the way up.
The upper half of the gully - looks steep but it's easy enough:
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Having emerged on the summit plateau, I felt like a huge weight was taken of my shoulders. And both knees felt fine (I was worried the dodgy one would play games again). I have faced my demons and emerged triumphant. A big step towards gaining back my confidence.
The Black Panther is back! Posing with Lucy on the summit of The Storr. Lucy's 12th Graham:
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The wind was quite strong on the summit, but still we found time to lurk around... I'm always enchanted by this place. Worth coming back to!
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The cliffs go on forever... the southern end of Trotternish Ridge:
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Kevin's photo session:
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To see the Old Man of Storr as well as the rest of the sanctuary from above, it's necessary to traverse about 100m south along the cliffs, but it's worth the short detour:
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The Oldie looking very small compare to the main cliff:
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View down to the sanctuary:
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Zoom:
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Cliffs of Coire Faoin:
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Despite the wind, weather was all right and we felt we had plenty of energy left, so we decided to visit Hartaval, too. Very few people visiting The Storr bother to climb the neighbouring hill, maybe not realizing that it's also a Graham and its huge cliffs are just as imposing as those of The Storr. On a clear day (which we didn't have :( ) the views go on and on, from the mainland on the east, the Cuillin to the south, to the Outer Hebrides to the west. But even though the more distant panos were obstructed by the haze, we still wanted to add this Graham to our list - it would be a new one for us all!
Hartaval from The Storr:
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The route is straightforward: down the northern slope of Storr (steep-ish) and then about 200 m climb to the summit of Hartaval. We stopped on the col, where we were off the wind, for well deserved cup of hot tea. No need to hurry, the day was still young :lol:
There are a few paths up the slope to the top of the Graham, we took a few breaks to photograph the cliffs:
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Zooms:
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Ben Tianavaig just about visible in the haze:
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The summit is flat, with a small cairn. Views - priceless:
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Cliffs to the north:
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It was so windy, poor Lucy was blown off the cairn! Kevin rushed to rescue her:
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More steep cliffs:
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Having now ticked off our 47th Graham, we began our walk back. We retraced our steps back to the col between the two hills. Rather than climbing all the way to The Storr again, we took WH route and ascended at an angle to the northern shoulder of the cliffs surrounding Coire Scamadal. We met some local residents...
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...and admired Hartaval once again:
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On our way, we came across a small rocky tor, I couldn't resist climbing it :lol:
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Kevin discovered, the top of the tor was an excellent place to record wide panoramas:
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Just past the tor, a small cairn marks the descent route to the path circling Coire Scamadal. I stopped for a moment, looking at this spot once again. I might have been unlucky here once, but I think the bad spell was charmed away.
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The path took us back to the Old Man, where we snapped some more photos...
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...and eventually drove back home with big smiles on our faces 8)

It was a special journey and I'm glad I made it. Putting aside personal demons and fears, Skye never ceases to amaze me. There may be many islands, but there is only one Misty Isle!
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BlackPanther
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Re: Back to black

Postby jamesb63 » Tue May 10, 2016 1:20 pm

Very nice report BP and some of the pics are just brilliant
really capturing the feel of the mountains :clap: :clap:
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jamesb63
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Re: Back to black

Postby Gordie12 » Tue May 10, 2016 8:30 pm

Welcome back BP and a nice way to get back in to the hills. Sometimes I feel like the only person whose not walked in this part of the world.
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Gordie12
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Re: Back to black

Postby rockhopper » Wed May 11, 2016 1:35 pm

That looked enjoyable and a good way to work off the calories - have only ever driven past, not had the time to stop and explore but does look well worth it - cheers :)
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