Magnificent Marsco

Route: Marsco from Sligachan

Grahams: Marsco

Date walked: 05/06/2018

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 14km

Ascent: 730m

I had read some great things about Marsco, and driving around Skye for several days, one cannot help but be attracted by its unique and rugged profile. From the Sligachan Hotel, it certainly dominates the skyline, and is visible from many other places. I saved this walk for my last full day on the island, but unfortunately it turned out to be a day of heavy cloud; fortunately, the clouds were high enough that all the key summits were visible, so I went for it.

The path begins at Sligachan and is quite heavily traveled. I do like walks where you are looking your target square in the eyes, so to speak, and Marsco is perfect in this regard as you are staring right at it from the get-go.
Marsco, near the start of the walk

The stretch that follows Glen Sligachan went quickly and easily; little elevation is gained and the path is wide and easily followed. Eventually you reach the stream Allt na Measarroch which empties into the Sligachan river. At this point, you divert to the left, still looking straight at your goal.
Marsco again, from the Allt na Measarroch

But after this left turn, the path gets really difficult. Yes, it's boggy, but worse than that, it's very rough, very narrow (too narrow to allow use of sticks), often branches off into endless variations, and generally makes the going very very tough. You begin climbing, but because you are in a valley there is not much of a view. Looking at the map, the segment from Sligachan to the junction of the rivers seems to be about 3 km, whereas the bit from the junction on to where the real climb begins is only about 2 km. And yet, the second bit probably took me 50% longer than the first, just because the terrain was so rough. It was as unpleasant a stretch of walking as I dare say I've encountered thus far in Scotland.

Eventually, you get to the headwaters of that stream and climb out onto a bealach (whew) where you are no longer hemmed in. The path (what there was of it) rather peters out here, but now you have an excellent set of markers to follow: a set of iron fence posts, which are shown on the OS map as a fence but which have lost any wire. They became my dearest friends, as I just went from one to another in succession. They lead up the flanks of Marsco on its back side (the side away from Glen Sligachan). The climbing here is very steep and stony but never unmanageable.
Part way up the flank, looking back to Beinn Dearg Meadhonnach (note the iron fence posts)

After a hard slog up the hill, you then reach the ridge with the summit on your right, and here the view is magnificent. The entire valley opens up before you, quite spectacular. It is essentially the same view you will have from the summit, which is only about 100 m higher. (Good thing for that 100 m, it makes Marsco a Graham!)
Blaven (left), Loch na Creatach, and off in the distance, the Elgol peninsula

The full extent of the Cuillin ridge

Sgurr nan Gillean, peering out from behind the flanks of Marsco (check that slope!)

Looking forward to the summit...

After a good rest at this point, I pushed on to reach the actual summit, weary but very satisfied. There is a long sharp ridge that forms the summit, quite narrow but never uncomfortable. Funny, you don't usually see that ridge when you view the hill from below.
On top at last!

Marsco's summit ridge, looking back to Blaven

The views of Blaven are superb, as are the Cuillin. On this day, everything was gray and somber, but Blaven still looked terrific.

Cuillin ridge (portion)

The midges were out big-time, so I didn't spend very long at the summit. I retraced my steps all the way back, heeding the route description's warning against trying to continue north along the ridge. As I was nearing the start, the clouds began to part and blue skies appeared, a fitting farewell to a Skye sojourn that left many deep impressions on this walker.
A farewell look at Marsco

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User avatar
Location: Glendale, California, USA
Occupation: Structural engineer
Activity: Mountain Walker
Camera: Nikon D5500

Munros: 10
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 2
Donalds: 1
Hewitts: 2
Sub 2000: 2

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