Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Amphitheatre Areté and more Cuillin sunshine (posted by James)

"Amphitheatre Areté" (Difficult**), my route today

Every year I've lived in the Highlands we seem to only get about 4 or 5 periods of stable high pressure to relieve us of the seemingly permanent drizzle that threatens the hills. I spend a lot of my spare time keeping myself fit so that when the high pressure arrives I can squeeze as much out of it as possible.

This week has been one of those weeks. With unbroken sunshine for 5 days so far, I was willing to do pretty much anything short of actually quitting my job to get spare time so I could make the most of it.

More unbelievably good weather. Looking towards Rum.

After having a brilliant day in the Cuillin last thursday I was itching for more, so despite fatigue and the price of petrol I left at 4am yesterday morning and headed to Skye again.

Back to Skye again...

The Cioch Face of Sron na Ciche is tremendous, a giant face of jagged rock and superb routes of high stature. I really wanted to climb a route up amongst this thrilling natural architecture, and yesterday I went to do just that.

The Cioch Face - look very closely and there are some tiny climbers on top of the Cioch itself.

In 1907 Norman Collie climbed a large slabby buttress/ridge on the Western buttress and called it "Amphitheatre Areté". I'd seen photos and it looked great - the professor always seemed to find good routes. From afar it is a distinct feature, but as I approached up towards the Sgumain Stone Shute, all I had was doubt in my mind that I was heading towards the correct route.

The view from Sgurr Sgumain

I did a lot of climbing around, up and down and side to side trying to convince myself I was on the right route. Eventually I found some unmistakable features so I started climbing with intent.

The Cuillin rock was about as dry as you're ever going to find it yesterday, but the first slabs were still streaming with water and were a bit of an exercise in delicacy and balance. It was certainly comforting to reach the dry and rough slabs above and to climb onto the main part of the areté.

Here the drop started to gape and the exposure made itself known, and it was a great place to look over the magnificent rocky panorama below me. The areté became narrower and the rock more broken, and I was enjoying the climb a lot.

Looking down the slabby first half of the route. Big exposure!

Up to the final and slightly intimidating tower. The security of a rope would certainly have been welcome here, but I took care and without much difficulty broke onto the easier ground above and onto Sgurr Sgumain.

Even at 11am the heat of the sun was slightly startling! A haze smothered the island, and there was a real feeling that it was going to be scorcher of a day. And it certainly was. I skirted round Sgurr Alasdair and the T-D Gap and climbed Sgurr Dubh na Da Bheinn and Sgurr Dubh Mor, bumping into Guy Steven doing the ridge traverse.

Coir' a Ghrunnda

After that down and up to Sgurr nan Eag, my 160th Munro. By the time I reached Coir' a Ghrunnda I was feeling distinctly sunburnt and dehydrated and the clear waters of the loch were a treat.

The clear waters of Loch Coir' a Ghrunnda

Today I'm a bit knackered after a very full week - many thousands of feet of ascent, lots of driving and very little sleep. But it has been so refreshing to feel the sun on my face again and to climb on dry rock. Now I'm going to get some rest, and enjoy the totally contrasting sensation of doing nothing. I hope everyone else has managed to enjoy the sun.


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