Sgurr Dearg & the In Pin

Munros: Inaccessible Pinnacle

Date walked: 26/06/2012

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 11km

Ascent: 975m

Despite my advancing years, I think I'm still a half-decent rock-climber on rags and outcrops (seconding up to Hard Severe grade, leading V Diff) - but I'd still nearly talked myself out of this escapade before I'd even set off. The descriptions of the 'yawning chasm' on the right and the narrowness of the east ridge at the steep bit starting the second pitch had wormed their way into my otherwise healthy fear of heights. However, I've also always known I would have to give it a go.
Tuesday 26 June was the appointed day - climbing buddy/guru Mark rang late Monday evening to announce he'd re-arranged work and would collect me 9am from home in Broadford. No disussion, followed by a restless night.
Tuesday dawned fine and dry, just a little hazy and high cloud, with no significant deterioration until late in the day.
Mark arrived bang on time and off we go. We spent a few minutes sorting out gear - I like travelling light on the steep stuff around the Cuillins so a 60m rope, harness, helmet and bits and bobs of gear meant I started with lead in my legs.
...and so it begins

Sure enough, it was a slow trudge up the corrie above Eas Mor. The leaden legs, the gasping breath (but maybe that was me choking on my rising dread).
Just a quick note about route-finding; navigation is not the easiest so just stick to the WH description. That said, on reaching the headwall, we opted against the long double-back left to the bealach and took a short-cut up the fairly obvious steep, scree-filled gully. Actually, after a bit, we took to the solid rock to the left (see photo); not exactly walking but barely scrambling - but I thought I needed to get the feel of solid rock under my feet in preparation.
....the short-cut gully.

Once on the ridge, the path up to the summit was good underfoot - and as everyone else says, that first sight of the pinnacle comes quite unexpectedly. You see it end on and the first impression (well, me, anyway!) is "nah - not going to happen!"
...the first view

At this point, my heart sank, my guts churned, my legs went wobbly. Moments later, a bloke about my age finished his abseil off the pinnacle, staggered up the slope towards us and stood there before us in blank-stare shock, mumbling silently to himself. Any residual confidence drained out of my boot-ends. At which point, Mumbler's guide chucked down the abseil rope and free-downclimbed from the belay point in about 45 seconds.
Mumbler woke up, introduced himself as Dave and started grinning from ear to ear as it begins to dawn on him he is still in one piece. Seizing the moment, Mark got me started on harnessing & helmetting up, sorting out gear.....there's no queue so we head off down the slabs and I paused to get a view side (see photo) - okay, maybe not so bad, after all.
....a side on view.

Belay point checked, Mark set off as fast as I can pay out the rope, pausing only briefly to pop in a nut and a thread belay.
....the view up from the belay stance at the start

A minute later, it's "climb when ready" - and the moment I set off, I was calm again and I knew I was going to enjoy it. The route is straightforward, the holds are large and plentiful......I took my time, no scrabbling, stopping to take a very deliberate look down and right to the "yawning chasm"....yep, it's a big, big drop but oddly there was no real sense of exposure at all. Past the 'crux' and on up to the belay stance - a quick breather and spectacular views over towards Sgurr Alasdair.
Mark headed off again at a rate of knots and for a minute or two while he was sorting out the belay, I had this little bit of the world to myself - time to savour the views and note the front of rain rapidly approaching from the south. Onwards and upwards......
....steep start to the second pitch

The start of the second pitch is steep and the ridge narrow - but the holds make it like a staircase. Approaching the top, there was not a breath of wind so I steeled myself to walk upright along those last few feet, then dipped down and right and fasten on while Mark sorted out the abseil. I did not get carried away and did not feel an urge to stand atop the bolster stone (maybe next time). This was all rounded off with an enjoyable abseil - I went too far right on to the south face to start with and had a nice swing back on to the west ridge.
Mark fashioned himself a prussik on to the abseil rope and downclimbed it, as per Mumbler Dave's guide earlier.
Flash git.
.....Mark's flashy downclimb.

Back up on the ridge, it was a quick handshake and 'thankyou' to Mark, a Snickers and a glug of water, sort and repack the gear and a phone call to get the Indian takeaway ordered for 7.30pm. Then off down the west ridge, just as it started raining.....proper Skye rain, the first for weeks.
In conclusion, to any other scared-cats out there, the In Pin's bark is worse than its bite.....put the hype to one side, get up there and give it a go.

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Location: Skye
Occupation: Retired
Activity: Munro compleatist

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Trips: 3
Distance: 30 km
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Trips: 3
Distance: 25 km
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