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An implausible trip to Skye

An implausible trip to Skye

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:37 pm

Route description: Blà Bheinn (Blaven)

Munros included on this walk: Blà Bheinn

Date walked: 29/05/2019

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This all started off with the Waverley - a midweek sailing during the Western Isles week going from Kyle up to Portree and Uig and Loch Snizort, which I decided was too special to miss, although it was the busiest time of the year at work and even the two days off which would let me dash up the afternoon before and back the morning after were slightly grudged.

And then all the Waverley trips were cancelled - probably the less said about that the better - and I was left with train tickets for Kyle that I'd paid for but didn't particularly want, and was quite cross about the whole thing - if I was taking two days off for a random trip, I wouldn't waste a whole day of it travelling, and I wouldn't go all the way to Skye!

That lasted a few days, and then I had a brainwave - Bla Bheinn has always been on the (fairly short) list of things I *really* wanted to do on Skye, but the Elgol buses only run on weekdays, and the only time I was there on spare weekdays they weren't running at all. So now I had a plan, and it only depended on the weather - on Monday morning the forecast was still showing sunshine on Tuesday and Thursday and rain all Wednesday, but on Monday afternoon it suddenly changed to show Wednesday as a perfect day, sunny and calm, and my mind was made up.

I think I've been on the Inverness train - north of Pitlochry, anyway - more often in the last year than ever before - I love the part over Drumochter. An hour in Inverness gave me time for a quick early dinner, and then I was onto the even less familiar line to Kyle, through a beautiful evening. The train should get to Kyle at 20:30 and the last Skye bus leave at 20:40 - the train was late and the bus was even later, giving me time to worry, but it turned up eventually, and I was lucky in Broadford, getting a hostel bed which must have been a cancellation (I might really have been better off in the tent, because the room was hot and smelt like a boys' changing room, but I was glad not to have to go walking on looking for a place to stop).

The morning bus from Broadford leaves at 7:05, which meant a pretty early start, although not quite as bad as the next day. My plan was to go down to Elgol with the early bus to see the famous view, and then get back on when it came back through 20 minutes later - a nice wandering journey, with a whole herd of cows in the road at one point, and a surprisingly steep descent into Elgol.

The clouds were still sitting over the high hills, but it was a pretty good view just the same, with the odd cleft in Sgurr na Stri showing clearly.

The view from Elgol

The bus did a valiant job of getting back up the hill, and I was dropped so exactly on the way back along Loch Slapin that I basically stepped out of the bus and onto the path.

This first section is very pleasant, gentle path and green all around - the clouds were still touching the top of Bla Bheinn, but it looked like a day which was going to clear, with no cloud around except where it clung to the tops of the highest hills.

Along the path

As I came further up the path more of the hill was in view - it looks utterly impregnable from here, nothing but black rock and scree.

Bla Bheinn in the cloud

Near the top of this first section of the path, just below the slopes of An Stuc, is a stunning little waterfall, jumping from the rocks to land in a deep green pool.

Little waterfalls

The path turns a corner just at the foot of An Stac, climbing up more steeply over a rougher path - I sat down near the start of this section to eat some more breakfast, and for the first time saw other walkers on the hill, three guys in colourful clothes coming up towards me.

This was possibly the worst bit of path, but it didn't last very long before opening out into the green bowl of Fionna-choire.


According to my instructions I had to turn sharply right on entering the corrie, rather than following any path which went on ahead - and I did turn right, taking the same path as the colourful guys, who I had let go on past me, but I wasn't quite sure that I had gone far enough right.

Rocks and colourful walkers

I didn't want to follow on mindlessly, partly because it was rude, and partly in case they were heading up to a climbing route, and so I was always looking around - which stood me in good stead at one point, as they looked - and seemed from emerging noises - to be heading up nothing in particular, which I spotted a path winding up on my right.

The top of the path appeared to be the point (from the instructions) where it looked like everyone had headed right and a little scree gully would appear ahead. The guys were scrambling over rocks to the left, but I decided I preferred the edge of the gully, which I should really have thought about harder, because I *never* prefer scree - and sure enough I lost my nerve on ground worn bare and escaped up onto the rock at a place not really designed for it, leading to a moment when I couldn't go up and couldn't go down before a slightly hairy dash sideways along a very sloping ledge.

That brought me out to where the three guys sitting, and after a bit of a rest to let the adrenaline wear off I moved on first - it got easier again after that, walking up a stony path towards the ridge.

Stony paths

From up here there was a nice view of Rum over the other edge of the corrie - it had been well in view from the bus journey, but hidden from Elgol.

Looking over to Rum

Up on the ridge there was more actual rock about, and a definite theme of views seen through gaps - first Clach Glas through a narrow cleft, and then a whole range of hills in a kind of frame of rock.

Red Hills framed

The next view was a fancy rocky ridge through a rocky gap.

Rock through a gap

Beyond this the path fizzled out a bit and the only way to go seemed to be up a kind of gully - not so loose this time, just a funneling space, but blocked at the top by an overhanging boulder. I couldn't get onto it, or up beside it, and had to head along to the right to find a place to scramble up on to the rock, and then head along a bit past the boulder until I could find a place to come down again.

The hills to the north seemed to be marked with an almost crisscross pattern, and Raasay seen end on was nearly unrecognisable, if it hadn't been for the little spike of Dun Caan.

Crisscross hills

The three colourful guys had caught up with me at the gully but then gone down to find a way over the rocks to the left, and I ended up in the middle, with only the first of them ahead of me - I was amazed to find the trig point coming into view almost straight away, because a climb to Munro height from sea level is usually endless toil.

Trig point in view

It's nice to have a trig point to reach, even if it's one of the cut-price island ones, and the Red Hills were all lined up, looking scraped bare on top.

Bla Bheinn summit

But the real star of the show was the main Cuillin ridge, strung out in a great curve and looking impressive.

The Cuillin ridge

The views were pretty stunning in every direction, though - up to the north were Raasay and Scalpay and Applecross on the mainland.

Islands to the north

West I was looking over Torrin towards the Kylerhea hills and Loch Hourn.

Loch Hourn

Ardnamurchan was doing its best to vanish into a haze, and I was sorry not to get a clear view of Rum, which was behind the southern summit. Eaval was also missing from the view, tucked behind the end of the Cuillin ridge, although the Harris hills were hazily in sight, and the rise of one of the Lees just about visible over MacLeod's Tables.

The south top

It was still only about noon, and I sat for half an hour on the summit just enjoying being there, while the first guys moved on to the south summit and two more came over from it.

I should have gone over there myself, but I decided that I had done enough hard work for the day and it was time to wander down and just be a day tripper for a while - Torrin was all spread out very invitingly.

Looking down to Torrin

I decided to take the left hand route - now on the right - over the rocks, which turned out to have a path most of the way down and just a drop a bit too long for my little legs at the bottom - I squeezed through a gap at the side where there were better steps down instead.

The path was generally a bit loose, but I've had quite a lot of practice at that now in the Lake District, and I'm perfectly happy as long as I keep to my own speed and don't mind being slow - there was certainly no hurry, and I made a steady way down back towards the corrie.

The way down

It wasn't a very quiet hill any more - I'd obviously just been too early, because even midweek there was a steady trickle of people heading up, and even a crowd on ropes going straight up the endless rocks.

Going down the path led quite clearly over the rocks rather than into the little gully, just slightly scrambly - the place where the path goes vague was down below, and I thought I'd ended up on a different path, over a very wet patch, only to find that it was the same one after all. Down the rough bit through Coire Uaigneach, and then onto the good path - I'm not a great fan of retracing my steps, but the views were good, and even the little waterfalls looked quite different when approached from this side.

The cows were no longer on the road on the other side of Loch Slapin, which was a relief - it was quite a nice walk round the head of the loch. The blue cafe in Torrin is still closed, but I knew there was another place at a farm shop - further down a track than I expected, and less of either a cafe or a shop, just a kind of cabin in the garden with seats outside. But it fed me cranachan ice cream, and the way to it had a glorious view over the loch to the hill, once again looking utterly unapproachable.

Bla Bheinn across the loch

It was quite odd to think that I'd been up there, and that it had been - not easy, but easily within my abilities...

I walked further along the road than I meant to while waiting for the bus to come along - not such a lazy finish to the day after all - but picked it up at the Kilbride road end to go back to Broadford and prowl about until the Inverness bus came along to take me to Kyleakin.

Thursday morning was when I paid for the adventure, getting up at 5:15 to walk over the bridge in persistent drizzly rain and catch the 6:11 train back to Inverness through a very grey morning - an hour there for breakfast, and then the journey south in a busy train filled with a tour group - but even that couldn't stop me wondering when I could do something equally daft again!
Last edited by nigheandonn on Fri Sep 06, 2019 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An implausible trip to Skye

Postby denfinella » Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:19 pm

Excellent use of your train tickets!

Blaven's quite interesting both in terms of route finding and terrain, isn't it? As you suggest, it's not particularly technical but there's enough steep ground to make you think. Glad you got a perfect weather day for it.
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Re: An implausible trip to Skye

Postby Sgurr » Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:37 pm

Having climbed Blaven and having had to come back after following that path straight ahead where you turned right, I admire your navigational skills in getting yourself up it with nobody to argue the route choices with. What a glorious day you got. Lovely pics of the main Cuillin.
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Re: An implausible trip to Skye

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Wed Jun 05, 2019 9:09 am

A shame about the Waverley - but an inspired idea for using the train tickets!

Great photos.

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Re: An implausible trip to Skye

Postby Chris Mac » Wed Jun 05, 2019 9:36 am

Nice one you got a brilliant day for it, sometimes a change of plans works out for the best and this case definitely fits the bill! :clap:
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