As our first holiday without Dave (he did his own on the continent), Andrea and I made up for the last 17 years and went a bit mad while up in the NW of Scotland. Mountaineering, cycling, and of course running – we have thoroughly tired our aging bodies out. The great thing about the last 2 weeks was that as the rest of Britain was being washed away, we hardly saw any rain and in fact the Hebridean Islands are experiencing a drought at the moment. We had planned to have rest days when it rained – there was little rest! We started in Skye and worked out way north to Durness, via Torridon, Gairloch, Ullapool and Lochinvar, and finally finished off at the Hebridean Celtic Festival on Lewis.
I do not want to bore you with all our holiday details (and over 300 pictures), but just want to briefly describe a couple of walking/running trips as they were superb.
Cuillins – The Coire A’ Ghreadaidh Skyline
I have not been to Skye for 20 years, at which time I had tried a couple of times to climb in the Cuillins – each time with the clouds down, the wind roaring and the rain lashing down. We spent a couple of perfect days scrambling some horseshoe routes. Day 1 was an experimental day where we popped up to play on the Inaccessible Pinnacle and surrounding ridges. Imagine I climbed the In Pinn in the mist without a rope in 1990 and this time nearly had a heart attack when I saw how exposed it was. I only went half way up it on this occasion – chicken!!! Believe me – the picture does not show the precipitous drop at all.
It was the second day which blew us away. Starting from Glen Brittle Youth Hostel we did the Coire A’ Ghreadaidh horseshoe (including Sgurrs a’Mhadadh, Ghreadaidh and Banachdich) shown below on the map. Does not look far (10km and 1340m), but it took 8 hours. In my climbing guide book it is graded at 5 for Terrain, Navigation and Seriousness. Cannot get harder than that without a rope.
We have lots of pictures, but I think the following YouTube video link sums up the day very nicely. This was a breathtaking day.
I have rarely been north of Ullapool – a wonderful part of the world. One of my aims was finally to go up Suilven (see map). An amazing pyramid of a mountain.
A potentially long plod (21 km, 880m) with a final steep ascent. However, I persuaded Andrea that we should run in (from Lochinvar) as it would be quicker and walk the last steep bit. Although it was not raining, the cloud was low and we could not see the peak. We went anyway. The run in was lovely. Nice easy track with gentle ups and downs. Even when you cut south just before Loch na Gainimh to cross to the beginning of the ascent, the peat bogs were so dry it was like bouncing on cushions. My kind of running – my knees were suffering from Dollar and the Cuillins still. The ascent takes you up a scree gully which was not that bad at all and as the weather was so clagged in, we only went to the main summit (there are two others) which was surprisingly flat on top – like a small tennis court – luckily, Andrea did not have her racket with her.
We cannot recommend this hill enough. At “pudding” speed, we took about 4 hours. We definitely want to come back and do this beast on a clear day. We did see the peak a couple of evenings later – it looked epic.
Anyway – back to the real world.
Rob and Andrea