Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Skye; The Journey is Part of the Adventure

Skye; of all the islands of Scotland it holds a special aura. A land of striking, startling beauty, where quirks of geology have created a landscape which coupled with a history wrapped in mythology exerts a magnetic force on the visitor. I've wanted to go ever since I first saw pictures of the Cuillin, The Old Man of Storr, the Trottenish escarpment running high above the sea, places you feel you know even though you've never visited.

Leaving Leeds at six we got to Fort William a little before twelve, pulling off the road by Loch Linnhe we roll out our bivi bags to sleep below a sky full of stars alongside a group of sea kayakers tucked up in their tent. Morning dawns with a cloudless blue sky above a dark blue loch a brew goes on, time feels unimportant on mornings like this.

Simple shelter

The thrill of the journey is underrated, travelling should be a joy in itself. The world is easily appreciated whilst on the move, it's a dynamic thing full of movement and change. To really feel a landscape you need to move through it, be it fast in a car or slow from a kayak, bike, or on foot. Whichever you choose you appreciate different things; It's easy to feel how hills and valleys relate to each other driving through them fast, you loose the fine detail but the grand topography reveals itself easily. The reverse is true as you slow down, the fine detail emerges as individual trees, streams, and crags take their position in the landscape as you lose the bigger picture.

Loch Garry

Our drive north is interrupted by many necessary stops to whiled the camera. North of Fort William we enter a land of brilliant azure blue lochs; forests a patchwork of greens, light and dark roll over the valley floors. Open hillsides of brown and yellow add to the mix covered in grass and shrub struggling to life with the new years growth. Towering above it all the peaks their brown grey summits reaching towards a turquoise sky some still flecked with the white of winter snow. 

Patches of snow cling to the Summits of Ben Nevis (right), Carn Dearg (centre), and Anoach Mor (left)

Onto sky itself and first into view come the Red Cuillin, barren cones of red grey scree soaring up and leg destroying angles. Then the first gimps of the Black Cuillin a geological masterpiece. It appears out of place in a landscape until now dominated by steep but smooth sided hills. A complex towering mass of ridges pinnacles, precipitous flanks crashing down into the valley. The Black Cuillin are not actually particularly big by Scottish standards, they are dwarfed by the Cairngorms for example but there is something about the brutal outline and the way the erupt from out of the landscape that gives them a presence the defies there size. They let you know up front there are not here to take prisoners.

Sgurr Alister, Sgurr Mich Coinniach, and Sgurr Dearg like teeth in the giant maw of some buried giant.

We meet up with Steve, Neil, and Michelle who have driven up from Leicester and discuss ideas. The plan is to eat then head up to bivi just below the ridge to get a good start in the morning. We had planned to catch our dinner, John who had spent six weeks mapping on sky whilst studying geology assured me that this would not be a problem.

Never having fished before and with John's stated assurances that the fish would be dying to jump on the end of the line I was thinking that within thirty minutes I would have sufficient food to not only feed the fabled five thousand but enter into contract negotionions to open the Glen Brittle franchise of "Nice 'n' Greezy" fish and chips co. 

Loch Brittle, and Canna

Consider my disappointment therefore when three hours later we had succeeded in catching little more then seaweed, and a suntan leaving us facing resorting to our reserve plan of cooking tuna skillfully caught from the shelves of Morrison's. Hunger sedated and bag packed and with the sun beginning to fall from the heavens we start the walk in to tonights bed. That story will appear here soon!

A lost cause!

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