A compleat day on Blaven - take that, Covid!

Route: Blà Bheinn (Blaven)

Munros: Blà Bheinn

Date walked: 18/09/2020

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 8km

Ascent: 937m

It was hot, without a cloud in the sky as the summit cairn popped into view, surprisingly close. After 31 years I was finally just a few steps away from achieving my compleation goal. I waited a few moments for my wife to reach me and together we walked to the cairn and trig point. I had been wondering how I would feel when/if I finally made it up my last Munro and I'd say I was feeling a huge sense of accomplishment, calm but very happy, with a feeling of gratitude that the weather and the day had turned-out so well. I was also feeling a bit blown-way by the view to the Cuillin Ridge, it just looked magnificent from Blaven; I had no idea that the ridge rose so strikingly from the surrounding lower ground almost like an island.

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What a view from the top!

Two days earlier it was blowing a hoolie. We decided to have a day car-touring around Skye but it was so cold, windy and wet we hardly even made it out of the car to look at a "view". Soft. Not a good omen for tomorrow's scheduled hike up the In Pin followed by, hopefully, the following day's attempt of Blaven which would be my final Munro. Despite the weather, the roads and Skye seemed very busy, much more so than when I first visited in April 1992 to tackle Sgurr nan Gillean with friends on a trip from Glasgow (I'm originally from Newcastle but was working there); it was sunny, warm and, well, beautiful but a bit challenging. Even though it was April I remember stripping-off and jumping in a lochan to cool off on the way back. Ah, youth.

My very first Munro was Stob Dearg, Buachaille Etive Mor in April 1989. I actually think I hadn't even heard of Munros then, I just liked hills and the outdoors, having discovered the Lake District in my teens. I did soon learn of Munros anyway and bought the SMC Munros Guide (this old copy caught me out 20 years later when a route I was following turned-out to be impassable after recent logging, which is what spurred me on to discover Walkhighlands). It was definitely frowned-upon back then to say you were bagging the Munros although plenty were. I wasn't but I like the idea of a selection of hills to choose from to help you move away from old favourites and always consulted my guidebook when planning a day in the hills. I was at about 60 Munros in 2003 when I counted-up and started to wonder if I could ever climb all of them. By then Munro-bagging was socially acceptable so no related feelings of guilt :thumbup: .

Two weeks before we headed up to Skye so that I could attempt my final two Munros, Donnie Campbell compleated his astonishing 31-day round of the Munros. Phenomenal :clap: :clap: :clap: . I'd been following his progress and sent him a congratulatory message by social media saying I was hoping to compleat soon, to which he gracefully replied with some encouraging words. Class. It occurred to me that Donnie accomplished in 31 days what I was about to do in 31 years. Me and Donnie :lol: :lol: :lol: .

I've made a spreadsheet and a graph of my Munro progress through the years (I know): it's very stop-start reflecting periods living abroad . When I retired and we settled in Bath (only a ten-hour drive to Fort William :? ) I was on 150 Munros and decided to go for it. Don't know why I didn't decide to do that when I lived in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen :roll: . I wondered if I was physically up to it, but more importantly if it would feel like a grind or even just too much like I was ticking-off a list and I resolved that if it felt like that I'd stop. As it turned-out I loved this phase of my Munro-bagging journey; I enjoyed the hills as much as ever, I got better at managing myself, physically and mentally, my equipment and logistics, plus my fitness and mobility improved. I also just loved going to those harder-to-do hills which you tend to put off for another day. In the end, maybe those turned-out to be the most enjoyable. There are so many different ways to go hill walking but for me I've discovered that I like camping with a kind of basecamp in one spot for anything from a few days to three weeks. I'll happily drive for two hours to the start of a walk (it's always a beautiful drive, anyway :thumbup:). Camping gives you a lot of flexibility. I've done a lot of (easy) cross-country mountain biking and wherever feasible I used my bike. I'm not a big fan of bothys and didn't use them (but usually had a nosy when passing any and they pretty well all looked decent). I've been by myself for the bulk of my recent hill days and wondered vaguely if that was a bad thing or said something about me like maybe I'm a horrible person :? , but I recently read a comment by someone talking about solo hill walking and how they found it to be therapeutic and that really struck a chord with me - yes, for me that's it.

On the drive up to Skye I had two hills remaining: the In Pin and Blaven. I needed to get up the In Pin first in order to setup Blaven as the final, much more doable hill so my wife could join me. E had been up three Munros and a bunch of other hills so I was confident that she would be fine on Blaven but not the In Pin. It had been hard to get accommodation (not camping this trip for marital harmony reasons) mainly due to the impact of Covid. In fact doing anything was tricky: earlier in the year I'd struggled to even find an open campsite. On the way up I stopped at the Commando Memorial to read a text message; it was my planned guiding company saying that my guide for the In Pin was cancelled. It had been really hard to get a guide in the first place so I knew getting an alternative at two days' notice would be difficult, if not impossible. Three weeks earlier I had been turned-back on the fin of the In Pin due to high winds so this was looking like it just wasn't destined to be. We thought about calling off the Munros for this trip and enjoying the week otherwise but I felt determined to get there and just thought I'd do everything I could to find a last-minute guide, cue a frantic hour of phone calls and messaging without much encouragement. But that evening one company messaged me back to say they had a guide available due to a Covid cancellation (every cloud). I think this illustrates my best quality when it comes to hillwalking - doggedness :lol: . If you can't be talented, be dogged.

The weather improved dramatically for my In Pin day, being fairly calm with no rain, just very misty on the ridge - atmospheric - and all went well. Thanks, Jack, you were great. It felt exhilarating to finally get there and to know it was my penultimate Munro. On the way back to our guesthouse in Broadford I stopped at the Sligachan Inn for a pint but mainly to remember previous visits. It's been expanded and upgraded a lot over the years but it's still great. I really enjoyed that pint, contemplating 281 Munros climbed, Blaven tomorrow and the forecast for improving weather.

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Blaven. Not a cloud in the sky.

The next day there wasn't a cloud in the sky and with just enough of a gentle breeze to keep the midges down and help keep us cool. You take it when you get it. Having experienced my fair share of batterings in the hills I didn't even feel guilty :-D. Over the years I've become better at helping less-experienced walkers (hey, maybe I've become a more sensitive guy? :shock: ) . I was determined that E would enjoy the day as much as I did; she has been brilliant as Safety Officer, Quartermaster and Cheerleader. I knew her abilities and was confident she'd be OK. I was a bit worried about the scree gully but that turned out to be fine, just taking it slow and steady. It actually looked like most people went to the right of this when ascending and talking to some of them on the top I was told that way was fairly straightforward, but we stuck with the gully on the descent because I knew we could both handle it fine.

We followed the Walkhighlands route for Blaven and all went smoothly and to plan. I like having plenty of room to park the car and the Blaven car park is great - always a good start to a hike. The first few kilometres of the well-defined trail are an easy and pretty warmup:

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Beautiful walk in.

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On the way up, before the scree gully.

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The scree gully.

At the top we celebrated by sharing a small bottle of champagne. There was a group of about a dozen folk there who were going to traverse across to the southern summit, E mentioned to one lady that it was my final Munro and she kindly told the whole group whereupon they all gathered and gave us a round of (socially-distanced) applause and lots of congratulatory comments. I felt ten feet tall :D . Beautiful. Thank you. What a day.

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Celebration earned.

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E on the top - happy!

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To the south: a bit of Rum, Eigg and I think Ben More of Mull in the blue distance.

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Looking along Glen Sligachan with Marsco and Sgurr nan Gillean

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Looking north with Sgurr nan Each off to the right.

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South to the Small Isles.

Finally we left the summit and returned the way we came, enjoying the moment and heading for a celebratory dinner out. As for the future, I'm not planning on going for another round or trying for the Corbetts but I have a small list of hills I'd like to go up; a mixture of Munros I particularly like (or can barely remember since it was so long ago :? ) or hills which have taken a back seat for a while, such as Suilven and Foinavon. I've also wanted to do a bit of high camping ever since I met a group doing just that on Ben Avon.

Thank you to my wife for everything and for simply supporting my Munro goal, to all Mountain Rescue teams for being there and for just being awesome, to Walkhighlands for your magnificient website (I donate), to all of my hillwalking companions over the years, to everyone I've met on the hills, whether to chat to or just to say a friendly hello to or wave in passing and finally, to Sir Hugh Munro, I'm not sure what he would make of it all today but I hope he would be pleased and proud. Cheers :thumbup:.

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Comments: 19

1, 2

Lurg Mhor and Bidein a Choire Sheasgaich by bike.

Attachment(s) Munros: Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich, Lurg Mhòr
Date walked: 02/08/2020
Distance: 42km
Ascent: 1715m
Comments: 24
Views: 8546

Tom a Choinich & Toll Creagach. Clockwise to avoid the rain.

Attachment(s) Munros: Toll Creagach, Tom a' Chòinich
Date walked: 26/07/2020
Distance: 18.8km
Ascent: 1130m
Comments: 2
Views: 1440


User avatar
Location: Bath
Interests: Hillwalking. Cycling.
Activity: Munro compleatist
Mountain: Depends on the day.
Place: NW of the Great Glen.
Member: Munro Society
Camera: Phone
Ideal day out: Nice ridge walk in the sun and gentle breeze.
Ambition: High camps - comfortably.

Munros: 282
Corbetts: 6
Fionas: 2
Hewitts: 17

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Trips: 3
Distance: 68.8 km
Ascent: 3782m
Munros: 5

Joined: Jul 21, 2017
Last visited: Jun 15, 2024
Total posts: 84 | Search posts