We are very used to rain dancing here on the west coast of Scotland. Atlantic weather moves in quickly, hits us straight on and changes very rapidly. So, we need to be on our toes to move with the weather and make the most of the dry(er) bits in between the inevitable wet bits. In addition to the normal rain dancing, we currently have to find our way through covid-19 regulations, closed campsites, vans breaking down and any number of other logistical details. Perhaps I should move into logistics, getting the right thing to the right place at the right time.
Like many people this year, David had plans to go on a couple of trips to the Alps which fell through. Thankfully our trip to Skye did go ahead but even this was all a bit last minute in its details as well. Bad weather last weekend was still clearing away in the morning of Monday so we got off to a lazy start for the Cuillin Traverse (11.30am) to avoid a soaking at the start. This worked, the rain had gone and we enjoyed a dry walk in. We didn't get to see very much on th eridge and the rock was wet but we managed to set a very good pace even so. David has done a good amount of Alpine climbing in the past and moving along technical ground with lots of exposure is no problem for him. The addition of super-slippery rock made us focus even more though!
We managed to get along from Sgurr nan Eag (the most southerly Munro on the ridge) to the Inaccessible Pinnacle before 6pm and we decided to stop for the night in Coire Banachdich. It is very important to get a dry night when doing a two day traverse. After a wet bivvy there is little chance of being able to get going and complete the traverse on day two. Thankfully, we only had a couple of fairly light showers and we packed up in the morning in good shape. One other aspect of doing the traverse in late September are the shorter days. Normally, I'll make breakfast at 5am and get away at 6am. It's still dark at 6am at the moment so we were delayed in setting off by an hour.
Inspired by a few more glimpses of the view and of what we were traversing, we maintained a super slick pace over the slippery, slimy rocks. The jump over the bigger gap in the ridge on An Caisteal was particularly memorable after a wee foot slip on the first attempt! Even with a longer than normal second day, wet rock for the entire two days and a later start, David and I made it to Sgurr nan Gillean by 3pm. Brilliant work!
On Wednesday, my van broke down and I got towed back home!
Thursday started wet but was dry during the day. The rock steadily dried out during the day so David and I went to Buachaille Etive Mor to climb D Gully Buttress onto Curved Ridge, Agag's Groove, Crowberry Ridge and Crowberry Tower, and then on to the summit of Stob Dearg. The summit is only 2km from the car paark in a straight line, but we managed a huge amount of brilliant rock climbing to get there. It was of course slightly slimy in th ecracks but over all it was very good climbing. Another few super classic rock climbing stars ticked off.
Good, sunny weather was forecast for the last day of our week of climbig so I was disapointed to hear rain falling on my window at 7am. The forecast was still certain it would be a dry sunny day, but the question was how quickly would the rock dry off? We went to Ardverikie Wall, one of the most delightful places to climb in Scotland. It has a wonderful outlook, facing south it gets all the sunshine there is and it looks out over empty mountains and wild landscape. Amazing quality of rock (mostly granite) and climbing make it one of the best crags around and Ardverikie Wall itself is one of the best climbs ever.
It was a little damp at the start but the seeps and drips soon dried out. We split the first big pitch into two smaller ones and by the second pitch the rock was dry all the way. Quite good going since it only had 4 or 5 hours to dry out. There are substantial weeps at the top but it's quite simple to avoid these. By the time we got back down many of the other routes were dry as well so we climbed the other great Hard Severe route Kubla Khan. Blaeberry Groove (VS) gave us a klast route of very different character - whereas the first two were delicate slabs, this one is steep with wierd, contorted handholds and foot holds. Pinches, jams, lay-aways and finger locks are required; there isn't a single crimp on the climb.
So, a great week of rain dancing and route choice to maximise the sunshine. We got to enjoy some of Scotland's finest rock climbing and mountaineering. Next week, the west coast will be the best place to be as well. Easterly winds will bring rain to the Cairngorms and east coast, leaving us with drier weather. It might be time to find some sea cliffs along the west coast for more rock climbing adventures!
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.