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The eagle has landed!

The eagle has landed!

Postby BlackPanther » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:32 pm

Route description: Marsco from Sligachan

Fionas included on this walk: Marsco

Date walked: 13/07/2018

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 15.5 km

Ascent: 779m

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Another delayed report from our July trips :)

I'm not superstitious, but it was Friday the 13th after all, so instead of risking any of the Cuillin Ridge peaks, we opted for easier but still very entertaining route up Marsco from Sligachan. Weather was looking good. Ah, if only it stayed like that fro the following day, Saturday, when we had the In Pin planned... If only. No point crying over it now.
We had climbed Marsco before (my previous report) and I remembered it as very steep in places but relatively easy. Views from this Skye Graham are spectacular - it really is an iconic mountain, maybe a bit overlooked due to the close proximity of the mighty Cuillin, but well worth a visit. Compare to our previous visit, we noticed that this route was now more popular. We didn't meet anybody on the way up (because we started very early) but as we descended, we passed many groups of walkers heading up in our footsteps.
Conditions underfoot were generally good, dry and most walking is on an obvious path. Maybe a bit eroded in places, but nothing above the Scottish average :lol:

Track_MARSCO 15.5KM 13-07.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

We started at 8 am, having packed up and left the Sligachan campsite. Not far to drive, just to the car park across the road :lol: I was glad to be leaving the busy campsite behind. It was overcrowded, even a bus full of tourists arrived to spoil the party. The whole previous evening, somebody was flying a noisy drone and the buzzing sound was getting on my nerves! I was now looking forward to the quiet time among fellow hillwalkers during WH Meet (what was I thinking!!! WH meets are never quiet!!!), but before heading for Portnalong, we still had a fish called Marsco to fry!
Sligachan's cramped conditions:
2018-07-13 skye 001.JPG

Ready for the adventure, Sgurr nan Gillian still clouded:
2018-07-13 skye 003.JPG

...but our target hill clag-free. Ha!
2018-07-13 skye 006.JPG

The first 3km of walking was along the main path up Glen Sligachan, then we turned to follow Allt na Measarroch. The start of the Marsco path is marked by a small cairn and on a wet day, the initial stage would be a quagmire, but not in recent dry conditions. The stream was almost dry, hardly enough water to refill bottles. Thankfully, it wasn't too hot in the morning and we had enough fluid to keep us going.
Allt na Measarroch and Marsco (right):
2018-07-13 skye 013.JPG

Weather was slowly improving, the cloud lifting off the Cuillin. We kept fingers (and toes) crossed for spectacular panoramas from the summit!
2018-07-13 skye 017.JPG

As we circled Marsco, the hill's shape and character changed, but one thing was for certain - this was one steep b***rd as Kevin says sometimes.
The only way is up!
2018-07-13 skye 022.JPG

After some hopping and balancing on the eroded path, we emerged on the bealach between Marsco and Beinn Dearg Mheadhonach, called Mam a' Phobuill. From here, a short flatter walk leads to the next 250m of steep ascent to the south-eastern shoulder of the Graham, followed by a final 100m of easy climbing along the ridge to the summit. The mountain may look impregnable from the bealach, but there is a well-worn path taking the easiest line:
2018-07-13 skye 031.JPG

No real scrambling involved and the only section that could cause balance problems, was crossing the stream at the bottom of Coire nan Laogh:
2018-07-13 skye 034.JPG

Next, follow the path, which follows the old fence line :roll: Simples!
2018-07-13 skye 049.JPG

As we gained height, more and more views appeared. We knew that this was only the prelude before we experienced the best of Marsco, but it was already breathtaking.
Loch Ainort:
2018-07-13 skye 046.JPG

Panther enjoying the steep-ish ascent (as my grinning face shows, it wasn't too bad!) with Beinn Deargs behind:
2018-07-13 skye 055.JPG

We reached the SE shoulder and took a short break to record the views. The final climb looked piece of cake now:
2018-07-13 skye 058.JPG

Loch Ainort and Allt Coire nam Bruadaran seen like from the air:
2018-07-13 skye 061.JPG

Sgurr na Stri, distant Rum and Eigg:
2018-07-13 skye 063.JPG

The Cuillin Ridge, dark, majestic and Tolkien-esque as always:
2018-07-13 skye 068.JPG

The In Pin - the climb that never was :(
2018-07-13 skye 065.JPG

Having digested the first portion of the mind-boggling views, we continued to the summit up the final short, grassy slope with an obvious path. When looking behind us, we could see Garb Bheinn and Blaven duo (or should I say trio, including Clach Glas):
2018-07-13 skye 070.JPG

Sgurr nan Gillian now cloud-free:
2018-07-13 skye 076.JPG

The final meters to the top are on a narrow crest, kind of arete with very steep drops on both sides. Might feel airy if you're not used to heights. As we emerged on the "arete", Kevin pointed at a dark shape in front of us:
"Can you see that brown rock? That's the summit!"
Suddenly, the brown rock spread its wings and flew away! It wasn't a rock after all, it was an eagle! It was sitting on the small summit cairn and only took off when we disturbed its solitude.
It all happened so quickly that Kevin managed to take only one photo of the raptor, as it flew majestically in the direction of the Cuillin, and soon merged with the gray shadows of the surrounding landscape.
2018-07-13 skye 075.JPG

I didn't really mind not catching more snaps of the eagle, there was enough to photograph and admire anyway! Marsco is a first-class viewpoint, probably the best of all the Red Cuillin as it sits directly opposite the famous black ridge:
2018-07-13 skye 077.JPG

Sgurr nan Gillian zoomed:
2018-07-13 skye 080.JPG

The "arete" maybe not as exciting as the CMD one but a nice thrilling addition to the walk :D
2018-07-13 skye 083.JPG

On the summit with Lucy (her 74th Graham):
2018-07-13 skye 090.JPG

We descended a few meters down the other side of the ridge, to a stone shelter where we could sit down, have a sandwich and enjoy the views once again.
Kevin by the shelter:

The cloud was rolling over the southern end of the Cuillin, but Sgurr nan Gillian stayed clag-free:
2018-07-13 skye 119.JPG

Panorama east, from Glamaig and the Deargs (left) to Garb Bheinn (far right):

Posing with The Red Cuillin behind:
2018-07-13 skye 114.JPG

The Storr and Old Man zoomed:
2018-07-13 skye 116.JPG

Southern pano plus Coire nan Laogh:
2018-07-13 skye 121.JPG

Because Marsco is so steep on almost all sides, anywhere you look you will feel the sensation of floating in the air:
2018-07-13 skye 124.JPG

Supposedly, there is a way down the northern side, but it looked far too steep for us to risk it for a biscuit, so we set off to return the way we came. Nothing wrong with that, at least we could walk the "arete" again:
2018-07-13 skye 125.JPG

The amazing Blaven pano:
2018-07-13 skye 132.JPG

The return walk passed without any incidents (apart from meeting many walkers heading up). I was glad we started so early, at least we had the summit and the views all to ourselves plus the bonus of spotting an eagle :D
Looking back at Marsco from half way down:
2018-07-13 skye 136.JPG

A furry friend :D
2018-07-13 skye 138.JPG

We were back in Sligachan in 5.5 hours and that with ample breaks for photos and simply staring at the rough beauty of the Skye landscape. A hill just as unique as any peak on Misty Isle and well worth a recommendation if you are visiting the island. Might be a bit crowded these days but still nowhere near as busy as the Quiraing, for example. A place to savour the spirit of the Wild Scottish West :D
My next TR will be the long delayed story of Mission Pathfinder :lol:
Last edited by BlackPanther on Mon Nov 04, 2019 11:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The eagle has landed!

Postby larry groo » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:37 am

Nice one again BP.

Heading up there in a few weeks. I'd be happy if the weather is like that as it can be so changeable.

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Re: The eagle has landed!

Postby dogplodder » Thu Aug 23, 2018 8:43 pm

Another great set of photos of a stunning area - and the eagle was the icing on the cake! :D
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