Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Skye Part 2

To be honest I've written and re-written this post several times due to the incident towards the end of our day and I'm still not entirely happy with it. The incident to which I refer to is this one and is something which I don't feel should be discussed much on here.

On Monday 18th May, Iain decided to take me out for a bit of 'one on one' coaching to help me get over my 'wobbles' the day before. It helped a lot and I had a great day out in which I feel I gained a lot more confidence to move around on exposed rock, and in my own abilities in moving from hillwalking to mountaineering.

We got parked at the new car park at the north end of Glen Brittle. Our destination was the North west ridge of Bruach Na Frithe. After some hilarity involving MP's and a camper van we set off up the track heading for the wee Lochan at Bealach a Mhaim. I was surprised at feeling a little fitter after the punishment I'd had the day previous. The walk in was pleasant following the Allt a Mhaim and with the views of Sgurr Mhairi.

Ascending towards the ridge we bumped into Chris and Adam who were heading off for adventures elsewhere on the main ridge. We stopped for a blether and a quick breather during which we took the opportunity to relieve Chris of a few more toffee's. We only went a little further to the interesting bit...(where you have to employ hands as well as feet) and had lunch whilst sticking on helmets and harnesses.

My mind was racing and stress levels were rising. It wasn't easy but I made myself carry on up onto the more technical route. Starting to doubt my own balance and ability to move easily over this terrain, I'm suddenly very aware of the heavy pack that adjusts my centre of gravity and the stiffer soles of my boots that make me feel clumsy. I suppose this is normal for some folk when first attempting to cross ground such as this.

With Iain's words of encouragement and holding the long sling connected to my harness, I began to feel more confident. I found that by moving slowly and deliberately and thinking about the placement of hands and feet before moving them I was starting to see that the problem I had was more 'mental' than anything else. After a while I needed less and less encouragement to go on and eventually I led the last section.

With the summit in sight I was really starting to enjoy this and had made the resolution to carry on gaining more experience in this and raise my game a little. Topping out on the summit I felt a sense of achievement, excitement and awe that I haven't felt as strongly since navigating my way up onto the summit of my first Munro's whilst out on my own or wildcamping above 900m for the first time in a blow. Its a great feeling!

On the summit next to the Trig pillar we ate quickly while pulling on waterproofs as we could see the bad weather rolling in towards us. We were still watching the group of climbers going up "Naismith's Route" who would be unaware of the rain and low cloud headed our way. We decided not to carry on and descend via Sgurr a Bhasteir and Meall Odhar but to just go over Sgurr a Fionn Choire and then drop down into the Fionn Choire and walk out.

By the time we were on the small summit of Sgurr a Fionn Choire the weather had completely closed in. It was here we heard the shout for assistance from the next peak of Am Basteir. "Somebody had fallen" and could we "phone for a helicopter". I wont go into details but the Mountain Rescue were contacted and and Iain assisted the climbers abseiling off Am Basteir. After this we made our way down and gave a statement at the MR station near the Sligachan Hotel.

Despite what happened up there I still love the mountains and hills and feel very privileged to be able to enjoy them. I've always had a respect for them and feel humbled in their presence. I will continue to do and enjoy what I do but I will think more about the risks I take and be thoughtfull of my safety when heading out into wild places.


  1. I guess it happens. Take whatever lessons you can learn from it and move on.

  2. Good to see you had a good despite "the incident" and that you got some sound instruction instead of winging it !

  3. Hey BBF! Glad you've posted this, sounds like you had a real eye opener. I've been sort of rescued myself several years ago after coming down the wrong way in fog on Bleaklow. It was very scary at the time, I discovered exactly what happens to someone when they become cold, shakey, scared, disorientated and dizzy through lack of energy. I ended up running and not knowing why and in a right mess until I found somewhere I knew by basically follwing a stream t its source which happened to be a reservoir I knew. I thought it would affct me going to the hills but if anything it had completely the opposite effect. Just forced me into thinking out my kit and the way I approached the hills, made me read a lot more too. You are way past where I was mentaly as a young hill walker at that time already. They are serious mountains, Nicky and myself did the Inn Pinn two years ago and had a guide for two days when we did it but after doing the Inn Pinn and the crazy scree descent I was mentally whacked! I'd never done any climbing or abseiling before and on the descent abseil I did it slightly wrong and put my left foot into a small hole and then ended up swinging round the Inn Pinn! Scared the living daylights out of me even though it didn't affect me at the time I relived it for a few nights in my sleep and I really mean that! I see you decided to clamber up some gills this weekend! ;-)

  4. Aye, sound instruction is order of the day for a place like Skye. Jamie's right they are serious mountains although not everyone thinks so judging by some of the roasters met up there. There was even one chap in a pair of wellies wandering around on the ridge!

    Jamie that sounds like a story you'll have to to tell me over a pint on the next 'Bennachie' meet.

  5. Glad to hear that you are feeling OK, it must have been a distressing experience. But your enjoyment of what you do, and a healthy respect for the hills and mountains you tackle, mean that we don't worry about you unduly. Keep doing what you love, you only get one go at life.

  6. Remembering you only get one go can be a good philosophy, its's what make me push my personal limits. If I didn't then I would never have made the descision or had the balls to go hillwalking solo.

    Life would be very different (and probably boring) indeed.


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