Am Basteir: an Executed Circular Compleation
by old danensian » Sun May 19, 2019 11:14 pm
Munros included on this walk: Am Basteir, Bruach na Frithe
Date walked: 14/05/2019
Time taken: 7.45 hours
Distance: 16.7 km
Ascent: 1140m33 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Once I knew this journey was going to be concluded, there could only be one place to finish.
The title’s a spoiler for the overall gist of what follows, but a sub-title could be a little more enigmatic.
“It’s all downhill from here”
The pictures and captions provide the walk report while the text muses on the longer journey. Miss out whichever you want, but I make no apology for a longer than usual report.
Today’s journey started where it had begun over forty years ago. In the distance, pinnacles, teeth and the iconic jagged skyline looked down on Sligachan just as they had done in 1973. Then, to a seventeen year-old, the Cuillin was an alien world of unpronounceable names, reached only by ferry, at the end of an interminable drive north from Yorkshire, squeezed in the back of a long wheel-based Land Rover Defender. It was our teacher’s pride and joy and the transport of choice for his expeditions.
As the 1970s progressed, inspired by that teacher, joined by a similarly enthused school friend and then enabled by two university mountaineering clubs, I started climbing Scottish hills. Munros were an unknown concept.
This was to be a solitary Compleation. Mostly, I walk alone and over 80% of my Munros have been climbed that way. Not that I shun company. But today I wanted to stop and ponder when I felt the need, to dredge up recollections, or spend time when the situation deserved the attention, however long that might take. As usual, if I met anyone, I’d be pleased to share the moment, the experience, our plans and expectations. Inevitably we’d make connections, and that’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed over the years.
For a long time my records remained unclear as to whether Sgurr Alasdair, Bruach na Frithe or Sgurr nan Gillean had been my first Munro until an album retrieved from a box unopened since moving seven years ago provided the answer: Bruach na Frithe. Fortunately all three have since been repeated so it wasn’t critical. It was clear I had to finish on Skye. Where better than between the Peak of the Young Men that had inspired every morning on that trip in 1973, and Bruach na Frithe, where I’d started my Munro round.
Finishing on Am Basteir, after repeating Bruach na Frithe, my very first, would make it the perfect circular walk.
I’ve been a lucky walker and climber.
Over all these years, mountain related injuries have only amounted to: driving the pick of an ice-axe through a finger when executing an arrest in the Alps; tearing ligaments in my ankle while walking back to the car in the dark after a shambolic evening’s climbing on Stanage Edge; a jarred back and bruised heels when protection failed to hold a fall on Millstone Edge; and most embarrassingly, dislocating a finger when descending the final hundred feet or so of Glamaig. I’d just phoned my wife to say I was down safely and would see her shortly.
There are very few times when I’ve been turned back or defeated by the conditions or the gravity of the challenge. Yes, we’ve all had those “can’t be a***d” moments when thrashing through endless powder to touch yet another cairn in the clag but, by and large, persistence has paid off. In fact, I discovered that I benefitted from a view on over 90% of my Munros. Maybe I’m really a fair-weather-walker: an indulgence the retired can enjoy.
But what lay ahead was my nemesis.
Am Basteir had already thwarted me three times. Back in 1975 that school friend and I had thrashed around blindly in the mist struggling to find our way: we simply didn’t realise how far down we had to go before re-ascending to the Bealach a Bhasteir. We retreated, intact. In 2008 I managed to get to the bealach, this time on my own. However, as heavy rain began to fall, I retreated again when confronted by the infamous notch. “Not on my own,” I concluded. Then last year, on a day I’d hoped to Compleat, I didn’t even leave the lay-by. Horizontal driving rain and gale-force wind announced the end of last year’s stunning summer. With commitments looming in the weeks and months to come, the door was firmly slammed shut. I’d opted out of doing it the day before as climbing The Executioner on Friday 13th didn’t have an auspicious ring to it.
Recently, I went back through my annotated guidebooks, photographs and records to recreate a chronology of those early escapades. Six trips to Skye dominate the list between 1973 and 1980 and other hills climbed during that period suggest they were merely snatched on the way there or back. By the time my Munro count reached double figures I’d reached the top of a handful on the Cuillin Ridge (including the Inn Pinn at least twice), done The Ben twice (both via the Carn Mor Dearg arête), and traversed Aonach Eagach. Cairn Gorm had been squeezed in one Easter, after a tortuous hitchhike north.
Youthful enthusiasm or naïveté? Or, was it a case of what you don’t know won’t worry you? That’s the top, let’s get there. Whatever, if we’d known the status of these mountain stars at the time, we could have just called it a day, assuming it could only be downhill from there. Hindsight, eh?
There have been milestones a-plenty, most recorded in my Walkhighlands reports since I first joined the site in 2009.
In May 2012 we moved to Scotland and a couple of weekends later I “popped out for a walk” one Sunday, and came back after doing the six Munros to the east of Glen Shee. A couple of weeks later I then enjoyed the first dad and daughter trip up a Munro on the Ben Cruachan horseshoe.
I achieved fifty on the Mamores in 2010; one hundred on Creag Pitridh in 2012; halfway in July 2013 on Ben Macdui (well I’ve done this many – I’d better finish them); two hundred on the round of five from Lochnagar in 2015; two hundred and fifty in the Fannaichs; finally down to single figures after spending a memorable night out on Seana Braigh.
And what about the best and worst? Well the former is like being asked which is your favourite child, so I won’t even go there but, alongside Skye, Torridon, Knoydart and the Fisherfields take some beating. It’s easier to highlight the handful to which I won’t be aching to plan a return trip: Tolmount and Tom Buidhe; Carn na Caim and A Bhuidheanach above Drumochter; Carn Bhac above Glen Ey; Carn Sgulain in the Monadh Liath – only seven – surely indicative of the overall charm and attraction of the highest of our Scottish hills.
Then I get to the luvvy bit; thanks, acknowledgements and recognition for some of the people who have been involved.
Top of the list is Ichabod, that inspiring teacher, with a squash ball sewn into the sleeve of his gown – a perfect weapon to strike recalcitrant and unsuspecting schoolboys on the back of the head as he stood guarding his classroom door.
Then there’s Steve, the school friend from the same road with whom I attended primary school, grammar school and Ichabod’s expeditions. One day he asked something along the lines of “if I get a rope, do you fancy doing something more vertical?” I recall my mother being in the room at the time, silently worrying if we knew what we might be doing. I immediately said “yes,” and the rest, as they say, is history – including subsequent trips to the Alps.
Our free university education in the 1970s played its part: weekly trips with mountaineering clubs were subsidised by the Student Union and enabled the purchase of discounted gear. “You could have got a 2i if you hadn’t climbed as much in second year,” commented my tutor on the award of my meagre 2ii.
Helen and Paul Webster need congratulating for the resource that is Walkhighlands, and the forum that has enabled so many of us to record and structure our progress on the hills. And those with whom I’ve been able to share information and ideas online and at meets – especially on this particular trip to Martin – Fife Flyer – for his detailed photographs of Am Basteir’s Bad Step. I knew where the footholds were.
All those anonymous folks I’ve met, shared a while walking together, chatted with, and who have made each day memorable in some way or another.
And last, but not least, immense thanks to my tolerant and understanding other-half. “Does your wife climb too?” I’m often asked. “Oh no,” I reply. But she knows more about hills than she ever wanted to know, she carries a thinly veiled but understandable anxiety when I head off, especially to Skye, and her sympathy when I return and unfold myself stiffly from the car normally extends to reminding me that it’s my own fault.
The SMC ask you about future plans when submitting Compleation information. I reported that Corbetts would now have to compete with a large garden, the repayment of family brownie points and the increasing decrepitude of my knees. But I’ll be back.
Now, where next?
by iangpark » Mon May 20, 2019 12:45 am
by Borderhugh » Mon May 20, 2019 7:39 am
by larry groo » Mon May 20, 2019 7:42 am
Fantastic stuff. Kudos indeed!
- Posts: 514
- Joined: Apr 19, 2010
- Location: Angus
by gaffr » Mon May 20, 2019 7:51 am
My own visits (1965) to the Skye hills began with a train, ferry and post-bus ride to then a walk into the cottage at Coruisk/Scavaig...spent a week on that side...first visit to a Skye summit would be Sgurr dubh Mor following the Dubhs slabs and ridge. After a week based there we went over the ridge a an old classic Collies route ro reach a descent for Glen Brittle and the newly opened BMC cottage to stay for another week from where we managed to come to grips with some of the routes in a couple of the coires on that side.
The young man in charge of the Cottage at that time had a plan to do a route in coire Ghreadaidh then traverse the rest of the Northern part of the ridge to Sgurr nan Gillean and was looking for a companion......we had to clear a heap of stones that were blocking the Bells Chimney to gain access to the tooth and Am Basteir. Anyway it was a fine way of getting some knowledge of the Cuillin.
Three years later we came back for a complete traverse of the tops.... at the Tooth my bolder friend went by way of Naithsith's route to reach the top.
The Cuillins are for all agegroups.
by IreneM » Mon May 20, 2019 9:32 am
Congratulations on your Compleation!
by The Rodmiester » Mon May 20, 2019 10:12 am
by weaselmaster » Mon May 20, 2019 10:51 am
by LeithySuburbs » Mon May 20, 2019 11:31 am
by PeteR » Mon May 20, 2019 12:11 pm
by PeteR » Mon May 20, 2019 5:59 pm
Your observation about that moment you finally stood on the summit and achieved your goal certainly chimed with me. I think I was very much the same myself.
by Fife Flyer » Mon May 20, 2019 7:35 pm
Your report as always is fantastic, love the 'flashbacks'.
Thanks for the mention in your "luvvy" bit, am really pleased that at long last my photos have been of use to someone, I certainly take plenty.
To finish, well done from me and I won't pose the question that usually follows.....
by Huff_n_Puff » Mon May 20, 2019 8:22 pm
by stirlingdavo » Mon May 20, 2019 8:40 pm
by Owen b » Mon May 20, 2019 8:41 pm