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In patience we wait for the light

In patience we wait for the light

Postby nigheandonn » Thu Oct 04, 2018 6:33 pm

Route description: Marsco from Sligachan

Fionas included on this walk: Marsco

Date walked: 12/08/2018

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When I booked a night's accommodation in Broadford before going on to Sabhal Mor Ostaig, rather than Portree or Sligachan, I presumably had Beinn na Caillich in mind - but by the time it came round I had my mind on something else, very aware that at the end of the week I was heading straight to Stirling for the end of something which had been with me for a huge part of my life. So one name jumped out at me looking at the map - I remember looking out for Marsco on the way up the road on my first trip to Skye, aged 15 (and probably not finding it, because it's quite tucked round the back unless you know just where to look, but I did walk round to the Black Rock that week, and was delighted to discover that the Stormy Hill is a place and not just a description).

Since I only had that one day I'd been keeping an anxious eye on the weather forecast, which at some points had been awful, but in the end it had settled down a lot - nothing special, but not bad except that it might get quite windy.

Sligachan from Broadford on a Sunday is not hugely convenient, because the first bus north is quite late, but I managed to solve my luggage issues by going down to Sabhal Mor first and leaving everything there, and getting back on the bus as it came back from Armadale. Sligachan was, of course, full of people drifting randomly about - it's wrong to resent people coming and filling up Skye when I'm doing it myself, but I'm not sure that many of them are really getting much use of it!

Sligachan crowds

Marsco has a very distinctive profile from here, almost symmetrical but with an odd extra bit stuck on one side.

Marsco from the road

I've said before that the sight of the main Cuillin ridge does very little for me, compared with the great bold lines of the red hills - I'm just made wrong - but I can't deny that it is quite dramatic looking from the start of Glen Sligachan.

Spiky ridge

There's a tangle of paths near the road, and I managed to get myself onto the wrong one, thinking the main path was only access to the bunkhouse buildings - it didn't really matter, because it ran the same way and joined up later on, it was only quite a lot boggier.

The way in

Once on to the main path it was good quick walking - it was about a hundred times quieter out here, but a solid path for those who did venture in. I missed the turn off by entirely failing to pay attention - I knew that I was going up 'from the back', and thought this meant passing the hill first, so that I was well past the main ford before I worked out what I'd done, and had to come back and cross it again.

What I should have done was to turn up by the burn rather than crossing it, on a little path amazingly boggy at first, but improving later.

Going round the back

I had an odd feeling of not quite wanting to be out at all - I did, but it was the first time I'd been out in the hills since the Islay trip, and I felt like I hadn't quite got my nerve back, so that the strict time limit for the last bus, and the forecast for wind (which I hate) were playing on my mind.

On the other hand, if I was going to get my nerve back I had to go on, and it was a good walk - a nice steady climb, with only a few very slightly scrambly places where the path was crumbling away.

Rocky stream

Near the top the path more or less vanished, and I thought it had crossed the burn, only to find out that it hadn't - not that it mattered very much, because it was all short grass and low heather and quite easy to walk on.

Approaching the bealach

From the Mam a' Phobuill the path climbs the ridge on the far side of the Coire nan Laoigh, starting with a double burn crossing near some little waterfalls - a good bit steeper, but still quite an easy climb.

Coire nan Laogh

The whole route uphill is following an old fenceline, although by now the fence itself has vanished and the route is just marked by rusty posts.

Following the fenceline

Unforecast cloud had been creeping in, first to the summits of the higher hills and now just touching the ridge of Marsco - at lower levels it was coming and going, so I hoped it would go, but it had spoiled the views, which was a shame.

Mist creeping in

The final climb was on steep grass, but not nearly as steep as the WH description made it sound - I've been on worse, although sometimes when I'm not quite where I'm supposed to be.

Grassy slope

Anyway, halfway up I found myself back on a stepped path - I think I could have been on a path all along if I'd known where to look for it, but I didn't know it was there.


And then I was up on the ridge, with patches of cloud around me, in the dip between a lower southern top and the main summit.

Reaching the ridge

The views were not at all what they should have been, but there was still a dramatic if hazy view down towards Loch na Creitheach and the sea to the south.

Loch na Creitheach

As I climbed towards the summit the cloud came down quite solidly, but worse than that the wind finally got up properly, after practicing occasionally - not really fierce, but definitely stronger than I liked when I was heading for a narrow ridge that I couldn't really see.

Summit ridge in the mist

I looked at it, and I turned away, and I turned back, but I just seemed to have no summit fever at all. I might only have been metres from the top, but I didn't mind - I'd had a nice walk, and if it wasn't going to be fun to go any further, I wasn't bothered about going. So I turned back along the ridge and made my way back to the dip, where the cloud cleared a bit in patches again and let me see my way down - although I still managed to get myself onto the wrong bit of stepped path and had to slide down really quite steep grass to get to where I wanted to be.

Steep descent

There was more path than I had realised on the way up - it crossed a stony place that I had avoided, but on the path it was fine. The far side of the Mam a' Phobuill, ahead of me as I came down the ridge, is the great hollow of Coire nam Bruadaran, running down to Loch Ainort and the main road - I might try going up that way when I come back, hopefully on a clearer day.

Loch Ainort

I had been ignoring the fact that it had been raining gently, because I had on my trousers that get wet slowly, which I can never remember the fancy name for, but coming down the path by the stream I was getting so wet from heather brushing against me that I finally gave in and put on my new waterproof trousers.

I was a bit slower downhill than I'd hoped, but I knew I could manage a good turn of speed on the main path, and did - Marsco was now deeper in cloud behind me, and it was getting steadily wetter, so there was no reason to regret turning back.

Marsco in the cloud

I had an odd experience on the way out of the glen - I could suddenly hear very loud music coming from somewhere behind me, where no music could reasonably be - recorded music, but how and why would someone be playing back loud music deep in an empty glen in the rain? When I turned round it sounded like it might be coming from further up the Dunvegan road, like a manic ice cream van, but that didn't make a lot of sense either.

Eventually it turned out that the music was me - my bag was only fairly waterproof, and the rain had come on so slowly that I hadn't thought to put my tablet away in a plastic bag, so that water had seeped in and made the case damp, and somehow the damp case touching the screen had opened up the sound recorder and started playing back a fiddle tune!

Despite that interlude I made it back to the road with 10 minutes or so to wait for the bus - I had also forgotten to put my dayticket in a waterproof place and had to peel it apart very carefully, rather to the amusement of the driver. Then back down the road to the college to finish drying out and start a week of music, which was great fun but had nothing to do with Walkhighlands!
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Re: In patience we wait for the light

Postby Sgurr » Thu Oct 04, 2018 7:08 pm

You got higher up than some guys we saw debating whether to carry on in a huge wind. We had, though I hadn't wanted to, but didn't want to leave husband crawling away to find better weather beyond where the wind came howling through a gap (he did). We saw them turn back from above and I found myself catching them up. I wondered what to say if I overtook them. Anything would sound rather boastful and patronising, but I felt rather boastful, so skipped along down and thought I might just take my hat off so they could see I was a granny, when WHOOPS I tripped over my bootlaces and gave myself a rotary cuff tear and a bad shoulder for ever. So DISCRETION IS THE BETTER PART OF VALOUR. How weird that your tablet should suddenly start playing music to you. That would really have thrown me. Marsco will be there another day.
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Re: In patience we wait for the light

Postby nigheandonn » Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:54 am

I probably had too much discretion, because it wasn't a huge wind at all, but I was a bit spooked by not being able to see anything around me, and I knew I didn't have much extra time in hand.

Sounds like a dangerous hill, though, so maybe I did well to treat it cautiously!
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Re: In patience we wait for the light

Postby Mal Grey » Fri Oct 05, 2018 9:44 pm

Its a cliche, but, the hills will always be there. Turning back can never be the wrong decision, and when I'm out on my own, sometimes that "feeling" comes on me. It doesn't seem to relate directly to difficulty or conditions, occasionally I just don't "feel it", and have turned around on a couple of occasions. Any day in such places is a good day, the summits are a mere marker along the way. Its being out there, on the journey, that brings the pleasure and the quiet satisfaction that come from the hills, and the natural world in general.

Given you were clearly already a little on edge, as many of us are on occasion, the music thing must have been "interesting"! :D
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