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Skye Ridge attempt

By Kenny Stocker | 16, Sep, 2009

Dad sucks up the exposure on the East Ridge

My dad has been working his way through the munros since way back when. He’s not going to set any records but he continues to plug away bagging 20 - 30 peaks each year.

When we were kids we used to go as well, come rain or shine.

When we stopped he continued and those that remain are also the most difficult. Long gone are the easy days when he would bag 5 or 6 munros in a morning. These are long 18 hour days to get just one, or exposed scrambling along knife edged ridges and energy sapping scree approaches.

He was already up in Scotland and I had hinted that if the weather picked up I may join him for a weekend. To be honest I hadn’t expected it to, Pete added helpfully that it had been raining 60 days straight. Nonetheless there was a large high pressure moving up the UK. It was so big that the nearest isobar was over Russia.

I had persuaded Nick to join me. He also wanted to do the ridge, it would have been criminal not to take advantage of such an opportunity. It looked like Skye was on.

The following morning we were standing in a bank of midge trying to poach an egg and brew a coffee. The sky was totally clear.. apart from the bank of cloud clinging to the sides of the Cuillin. Dad was already there and we quickly moved forward to Glen Brittle.

Although dad has climbed he isn’t really a climber. We knew that he would want to be roped up for long sections and that progress would be slow, so the plan was to head up to the ridge Friday lunch time and get to the Inn Pinn. From here we would still have 2 days to pootle along, and with that great big area of high pressure the weather was guaranteed.

Only it wasn’t. The early cloud we had seen from the Slig Inn was pretty keen to hang out with us. By the time we hit the ridge the wind had picked up and the rock was damp. The route was not clear, dads confidence had plummeted, we weren’t getting anywhere.

We had bivvy gear with us so we dropped down to the loch. Actually the weather was clearing so we were optimistic about our chances the following day.

Hosed. The weather had cleared, closed in, cleared and closed in again. It was a great bivvy with a huge moon and clouds rushing by at 1000 miles / hour. It was dads first, and Nicks first in his EPIC prototype. With no improvement it was clear that we would have to abort and return to camp.

Of course once back down to sea level the clouds began to lift. Suddenly everything made sense but we were too tired to take advantage of the break. We just enjoyed the view and made a plan to climb the main objective, the Inn Pinn on Sunday.

Actually it was dads birthday, so an ascent would be especially sweet. We approached via Corrie Laggan, and as we approached the ridge the clouds came in. This really wasn’t in the plan. Creeping up the brown slab we approached the pinnacle, and then there it was, and what do you know the clouds disappeared.. awesome!

Dad was still nervous and wanted us to take him up the shorter but more difficult side, his logic being that he didn’t care about the difficulty but he sure was worried by the drop. Of course we were guiding so we got our way and attacked the moderate ridge. It was the right decision, and although he was out of his comfort zone he kept it together. We were soon on the summit and enjoying the exposure and fine views along the ridge.

The abseil was short and steep, our decision to climb the east ridge was well and truly justified. And so there we were safe and sound on solid ground. We ate our lunch and watched some other parties tackle the slender ridge. It is a curious thing, but there it is.

Reluctant to descend and start the long journey home we just basked in our own glory for a bit. It was also dads birthday which made the day even sweeter. The 22 hr trip home on the back of 5 AA vans was truly epic, but even that couldn’t take away what we had achieved that weekend.

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