“The absolute simplicity, that’s what I love. When you are climbing, your mind is clear and free of all confusion, you have focus. Suddenly the light becomes sharper, sounds become richer and you are filled with the deep powerful presence of life.”
Seven Years in Tibet is a great book but an average film in which Brad Pitt plays Heinrich Harrer with one of the worst accents in movie history (and that includes Russell Crowe in Robin Hood). Whilst I feel a little pretentious quoting it here, it does sum up how I feel about running and scrambling rather nicely and I have never experienced these emotions more profoundly than during trips to the Isle of Skye.
Last week, Colin, Mark and I took advantage of a rare window where we were all available to spend an extended weekend on Skye. This was our first visit in a few years and my fifth in total. With its crazy weather and midge infestations, Skye can be an enigmatic place which often teases you with glimpses of its brutal beauty through black cloud and horizontal rain. I’ve spent many days there struggling through these conditions on previous trips, sometimes to be chewed up and spat out by the hills and on other occasions, gifted with some of the best experiences I have ever had in the mountains. The harsh weather and vastly changing personality that can be found on different parts of the island give Skye a mysterious and sometimes intimidating appeal which draws me to it like no other place.
Whilst we had one day of horrendous weather, our 2013 visit was accompanied by some of the best conditions I have ever experienced on the island with the whole of the Black Cuillin being clear for three full days. This revealed the ridge in its full Mordor-like glory so we capitalised on it by getting as much scrambling and running in as possible and I was quickly reminded of how unforgiving the Black Cuillin can be. There are few places where an ascent onto the ridge can be made without scrambling and once you are on there, complete commitment is required at all times as escape routes to the valleys below are equally as rare. Once up among the basalt and gabbro peaks, you will encounter the most sustained sections of exposed scrambling that can be found anywhere in the UK and the blackness and brutality of the mountains can intimidate and enthrall in equal measures.
There have been numerous occasions where I have pushed the limits of my comfort zone in this environment, sometimes due to fast-changing weather, sometimes due to a exposure to height but mostly I think it is due to the brooding presence that these mountains have, both to frighten me and to draw me back yet again.
Full Credit to Mark who took most of the better images below……