This is a report on a rather wet week in Portree, for me
(MB), Martin W (MW) Dave S (DS) and John M (RIP) (JM). It's triggered by my
desire to get rid of some old photos. These were in a small album (see above) together with
a few from the 1994 Bogle Stroll, on which I've already reported.
Considering the report indicates new camera equipment was
being used and 'lots of photos' is a recurring theme, the paucity and poor
quality of said photos is somewhat disappointing. Maybe I'll come across some
more photos or slides, but I doubt it.
The entry will be of little interest to most readers, so
feel free to skip it, but it's 'quaint' as a personal record, and I hope that
both DS and MW will gain a little amusement from reading it.
I've added a few explanatory comments in blue.
Friday 18 March 1994 (Author - MB)
Late arrival at South
Drive of JM and MW - both delayed due to
("signalling failures") BR inefficiency - enabled packing to take
place before rather than after a pleasant meal at the Tandoori Kitchen. Both MB
and DS having been delayed at work (Arrows/hard disc failure).
Saturday 19 March (MB)
Set off from Dave's at 7 am, with plenty of space in new
Mondeo motor. Uneventful journey with breakfast at Gretna,
tea stop at Callendar and a 2-hour lunch/food shop stop at Fort William.
A lovely day with stunning views, especially of the Lakes
from south of Preston onwards. Hit a shower beyond Glencoe, and there was
thick cloud thereafter.
at Portree by 6 pm (430 miles/7½ hours
driving) and soon found Portree House and got installed in a fairly
luxurious cottage - an old outbuilding conversion rather than the commonly
encountered prefab buildings.
by Saturday night (D/M/M) was not an overwhelmingly thrilling experience but it
did serve to walk off the effects of a large dose of spaghetti Bolognese.
night / good sleep.
shops abound in Portree - MW's mandolin may need attention? My old Philips tape
recorder is rejuvenated following plug replacement (thanks
to the cottage TV, which won't be turned on all week). New tapes used on
the journey include DSM(PF), Bix Beiderbecke, Oscar Peterson, and some
classical favourites, plus MW's old jazz favourites.
20 March (MB)
to clear blue sky and a cool breeze. Debate as to Cuillins, The Storr, or
Quiraing. Cloud arrives and The Storr gets the vote. Cloud on top as we start,
but we set off undeterred. Snow line is virtually sea level. Tramp up through
soft snow before being hit by a snowy squall - with overtrousers on, a snowball
fight ensues and DS loses. (Disputed.) On up to the Old Man of Storr - quite a
slog in deep snow, where we enjoy a welcome break and coffee. Superb view and the
weather has improved.
the Needle (down the steep slope) then contour around to Coire Scamadal, with
the lochan some way below. Up to the ridge, which is split at this point.
Poucher's route (P396) "...proceed carefully to the left ... climb ...
skirt ... yawning gullies ...", etc. (Note that
for many years we sought route advice from Walter Poucher, by way of his
'Scottish Peaks' and 'Welsh Peaks' books. My copies are very battered, as are
the Wainwright guides that we used for inspiration in the Lake
take a direct route to the distant ridge which appears to be near the summit. Anyway,
our route looked well trodden higher up. Off we went, the 'higher up' well trodden
bit turned out to be avalanche debris. MW led the way over steepening ground, culminating
in a near vertical haul up over a cornice onto the summit plateau. (A fall
would have been easy, but not disastrous due to the copious amount of soft snow.)
No one else around. Axes used for the final thrutch.
about an hour on the top (719 metres). Pleasant lunch, no wind, stupendous views,
Cuillins now clear, Torridon almost clear, Harris completely covered in snow. Lots
of photos, including experiments - MB has a new mini tripod - seems to work
well, if precarious looking (what if it's windy?).
stroll south down the Trotternish Ridge, elect not to descend by the steep
gully used on previous occasions, and go some way down before reaching the burn
described by Poucher. After a bit of trouble (JM) we go down this and stroll
across the moorland back to the car by 2.45 (we left around 10 am.)
Here's the route - 9 km with 820 metres ascent.
to the cottage for a lazy afternoon, phone call attempts (MW is in love), Dave
has invented 's-mail' - this involves the use of copious quantities of loo roll
but does not affect his 'Michelin Man' physique.
sleeping (especially Dave, who manages to slot in two hours in bed between
sh**s (or should that be sheets?).
sleeping potion is in the form of Scientific American. MB stays awake by trying
to work out how to cook the gammon from his Xmas hamper. (Succeeds.)
21 March (MW)
overcast this morning. We are slow to start, partly impeded by the enormous
breakfast preparations for D, J and MB. Porridge, followed by a fry-up of egg,
leftover potatoes, bacon, sausages, toast and goodness knows what else. I opted
for a simple line in muesli and toast. (MW was a vegetarian who enjoyed trips such as this one but ate separately
from everyone else - it seems to have stood him in good stead.)
[Martin now tells me he is "pescatarian" and has been since a trip to Corfu with Julie when he got fed up eating omelettes and
pizzas, while she had delicious looking fish dishes. He gave in. He, like me, now finds cans of mackerel a good backpacking meal with pasta.]
really there is no great rush today as we decide that a walk to Loch Coruisk is
a good bet, and set off at "the crack of 9.30" (one of JM's masterful
"contrapuntal" statements) and drive to Kirkibost.
We take the path just to the south which is a
good track Camasunary.
sleety/drizzly sort of start with low cloud. MW discovers a hammock made from
discarded fishing net and supported between scaffolding hoops that must at one
time have formed a polythene covered nursery/greenhouse growing space.
past Camasunary is a bothy. An intriguingly attired couple ('hippies' for want
of a better description) make their way towards it as we make for the ford across
Abhainn Camas Fhionnairigh. Much hilarity as MB slips on the stones in front of
the paparazzi. Chilly coffee stop.
on to the coast path to Rubha Ban, where JM unaccountably turns back.
(JM was our resident Munro bagger, but he lost confidence
after an accident in the Alps and some of us
lost contact with him in the late 1990s. I don't think he ever managed to
complete his Munro round, which is a great shame. Someone must have stayed in
touch, as I recall seeing his obituary a few years ago.) [I've now appended it below.]
if occasionally rocky path, intermittently wet - and still low cloud.
Step' is a large rocky, rounded and fairly smooth outcrop that forms an
obstacle to progress along the coast. The major difficulty is climbing a 4 inch
diagonal crack that leads up its face. Although fairly exposed (potential 20
foot fall into the sea) there are parallel cracks wide enough for fingers, and
it presents no problems for MB and MW (though MW took a wrong turn and had to
gingerly backtrack). Once at the other side we waited for DS who did not appear.
Not wishing to go back to the crack any more than necessary we walked along the
coast a little until he could be seen shining resplendent and blue in his
waterproofs. Eyeing him through binoculars he made some incomprehensible gestures
before turning his back and setting off down the track.
MW and MB continued to Loch Coruisk and sat by
this isolated body of water for lunch and coffee.
a few seagulls watched us from the safety of an even more isolated island.
Cloud was low, and the impression, I am sure, was not the best the place has to
returned after only a short stay, to the 'Bad Step' where MB favoured a 'sitting'
descent of the crack, whilst MW preferred a 'reverse climb'.
speedy return to Camasunary, where there is no sign of DS and JM.
people inhabit the bothy, though since it's not marked as a bothy I am unsure
whether to intrude. We catch sight of the others around about the track summit
(Am Main) and return to the car for about 5 pm. Weather is unchanged, though
perhaps it is drizzling more than sleeting now.
to supper while wet clothes adorn the cottage. Michelin Man adopts various couch
potato poses (eg with hands resting on expanding girth) in armchair and settee
but eventually finds even these too exhausting and takes up a prostrate
position behind the sofa JM retires at 10 pm and MB now at 10.30 is asleep in
middle age is upon us.
Here's our route - 17 km with760 metres ascent.
Tuesday 22 March (DS)
Usual preliminaries lead to a latish start - Portree for
some more shopping, and Dave phoning work (hard disc crash etc). MB buys a fish
slice that is heat friendly - he melted the plastic one supplied in the
cottage. Weather variable - high cloud and heavy wind. Some sun, some rain.
Set off for the Quiraing, to the north. The road
climbs quite high up a 1 in 7 / 15% hill. At the top where we park it's very
windy. Opening the door is an effort - wrap up warm. Footpath engineers are in
a van - we walk along their handiwork. J&D rapidly forge ahead.
The two Ms are soon 'lost' and can't be seen. After waiting for
an age and going back to look for them, J and D carry on. Decide to go up a
gully to the left and select a suitable one to try. Very slippery and steep, then
eventually came across a scree slope with a path which was an easier way up.
Then we can go no further, so go down scree and up into the near gully - again
steep and slippery.
The two Ms are seen again and start coming up - they have
been to The Prison - a rock formation on the other side of the valley. Very
steep and unpleasant grass seems to have featured a lot.
After coffee in a precarious position, J and D don't make
much further progress. So we follow the Ms up another path which eventually
leads to The Table, a lovely plateau. Snowball cricket is tried but it doesn't
seem to work.
Off down a steep slope to rejoin the lower path, then set
off around the back and up the ridge to find the summit - Meall na Suiramach
(543 metres). Very windy. Lots of photos. Good views. Walk downhill to car. Dave
gets bum wet falling down - no overtrousers. Coffee in car, then back to base
listening to Classical Experience ll tapes. Jigsaw started in cottage.
Here's our route - 8 km with 700 metres ascent.
Wednesday 23 March (MB)
"Hut" breakfast of tea in bed courtesy of DS, 7.30
am, with NO BISCUITS, heralded another wet and windy, not to put too fine a
point on it, day.
There was no sense of urgency in breakfast, and consequently
no skimping either. By 10 am the work on the 'Cluedo - Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle'
had recommenced. Soon it found a more hospitable venue on the table, as
middle-aged backs and knees were beginning to stiffen from unaccustomed awkward
By 4 pm significant progress had been made, so the Ms decided
to take a short walk to Portree Heritage Centre, the other side of town. We
achieved this between squalls, encountering many coach loads of kids on their
way home from school to various parts of the island.
The Heritage Centre comprises a gift shop, restaurant and
exhibition. It was surprisingly busy, except for the exhibition which was being
renovated and would not open until 28 March.
On leaving, the squall which had started soon after we
arrived, afforded us the luxury of a bright double rainbow over Portree. MW
left in favour of the music shop, which he found to be closed. MB braved the
woodland walk - a 40 minutes or so stroll with an excellent viewpoint about 150
metres up. Lots of dark woods - see walk 37 in Mary Welsh's book imaginatively
titled 'Walks on the Isle of Skye'.
Returned via the Presto (Safeway) supermarket for more food
and booze, then back to find the denouement had taken place in my absence - it
was Colonel Mustard with the electric drill and the piece of chain 'what crushed
the Doctor's head like a melon'!
That challenge over, Dave set about Super Monaco GP on the Game
Gear, but failed to score, that after JM had fenced for a while with the
machine at Chess.
Due to the low level of exercise today, tea was another
non-urgent affair. MW ate early and left the rest of us to nosh a botched up
mixture based on the remains of Grant Thornton's Xmas hamper gammon.
MW then decided to go swimming but delayed his departure 'as
it is wet outside'! He returned later, only to leave again for the phone box - no
excuses about wetness for this trip.
JM resorts in desperation to reading the reel-to-reel tape
index, but fails to find anything of interest. He then fails to work out how to
use the dishwasher* and washes by hand (only one hand as the other was burnt in
a minor accident).
Dave and MW have an interesting session comparing attributes
(Walkmen). Dave has an extra socket and a digital readout. MW clearly has
better headphones - this is obvious as he talks louder than Dave (in comparison
with their respective normal decibel counts) when kitted out with headphones. Or
is it because he has the volume higher and the speech adjusts to this higher
volume. Perhaps a technical memo is required.
* (MW) This cottage is our first ever equipped with a
dishwasher - a technical mystery to most of us, but MB did work out how to use
it! (I had one at home!)
Thursday 24 March (DS)
Usual latish start - uncertainty about the weather leads to
a decision to go coastal walking. Martin (the garden ornament) has a walking
book of the area and we set off to do two walks nearby. ('Walks on the Isle of Skye' - Mary Welsh, walks 12 and 18).
We drove to Dunvegan
Castle, decided not to pay £4 to go
in, and went up the road to the coast on Coral Beach.
Pleasant if short coastal walk. Quite windy, but good views
and interesting beach. Dave attempted to skim stones, but not easy in the sea.
Here's our route - 5 km with 60 metres ascent.
to car and on to the next walk to Ullinish Point and Oronsay. To get between
the two we have to cross a causeway to reach Oronsay, which is an island - the
tide was out. Climb to the top the other side. John turns back early with a
purposeful gait. The others lounge about, drink coffee, etc. On the way back we
notice that the causeway is starting to get covered by the sea. John had
anticipated this. We run down and splash across. Dave and MB get wet feet. MW
stopped to put on gaiters which appeared to work. John laughs at us. Lots of photos.
Here's our route - 5 km with 130 metres ascent.
stop the Dun Beag Brock at Bracadale. Fascinating - just the dome remains but
there's a thick drystone wall and the entrance tunnel, guard room and staircase
were all visited. Lots more photos.
to cottage - Dave plays Columns and Grand Prix games on the Game Gear. Go out
for meal in veggie bistro, with a nice view on the way.
Food so so. Lots of foreign tourists.
Back to cottage, where Dave and MB tackle a 1000 piece
jigsaw, finishing it at 1.15 am.
Friday 25 March (MW)
7.30 reveille with tea courtesy of Dave. Changeable sort of
day outside. Breakfast ritual commenced around 8.30 and was rather quicker in
running its course today. Dave engulfs and absorbs his quota at the usual
prodigious rate - this includes half a can of beans (warning!) although today
there is only half a potato to divide between three since we ate out last night.
Decide that the Cuillins are not a good prospect today (meaning
a whole week without a Munro) and opt for a walk to Beinn Edra (611 metres),
starting from Uig. We park outside the 'tower', a latter-day brock, and cross
the river to start up Gleann Conain - the idea (MB's) being to do the ridge
from north to south since the wind was approximately northerly. This turned out
to be a jolly good idea.
The geology of Balnaknock was interesting, looking as if it
had contained a lake at some time. There were moraine bumps to the south. It is
a space enclosed by steep walls and in fact probably a glacial feature, but
curious and unusual.
Alternate showers and sunshine caused much
overtrousering and deovertrousering on the way up. As we reached the view
(above Bealach Uige) we stopped for a coffee break and enjoyed a pleasant
interval between showers. These showers became hail on the way up to Beinn Edra,
but fortunately the wind was behind us (good thinking MB) and the abrasive
little blighters bounced harmlessly off our backs. Very cold and windy at the
trig point - not a place to hang around.
Most of the snow has gone now, but some of the cornices
survive along the north facing crags.
Down to Bealach Mhoramhain, where MB, MW and DS elect to
continue along the ridge back to Uig, while JM prefers to take the 'path' down
Two very weary looking souls pass us going north against the
wind. Between showers (of decreasing frequency) the views from the ridge are
worthwhile and it's a good route though at some points the wind attacked
viciously, from the side now.
After Beinn Fhuar the way becomes increasingly boggy, with eroded
peat channels impeding progress. Fortunately not too wet and most of the ground
fairly solid. We reach the patch of forest and have some coffee and admire the
view of Uig and over the Hebrides, which can
just be made out. Then down the southwest side of the forest* to return to the
car, where JM has been waiting for 20 minutes. Back to 'Hut' (the words 'chalet' and hut' have been used consistently by
the diarists on this trip, but the place was really a 'cottage' to which I've
amended most references to avoid confusion - Ed) (the word 'Hut' used by others this week
hardly describes a rather comfortable little place with dishwasher and central
heating) for cheese on toast followed by a big meal to use up our remaining food.
A good walk which made the best of the day.
* Unusual dog or maybe fox skeleton (inc skull with canine
teeth) seen here.
Here's our route - 18 km with 840 metres ascent.
Here's a 'map' of our week.
Saturday 26 March (MB)
Uneventful return to Manchester,
leaving 7 am, arriving 4.30 pm, after stops at Fort William
(breakfast), M74, M6 (tea stops). L623 HBA now well and truly run in. Beautiful
calm, sunny day - the best of the year yet - but we had to drive 430 miles!
Cost of trip, including cottage (£155), food, fuel, etc =
£503, split between the four of us.
Here's what Dave came up with concerning the demise of our old pal, JM:
MANSELL John, of Hurworth, passed away
suddenly on December 3, aged 64 years. Much loved son of the late Tim and the
late Betty, loving brother of Peter, sadly missed by his colleagues at Whessoe
and friends at the Fox And Hounds. Would family and friends please meet for a
service at Darlington Crematorium on Friday, December 16, at 9:00am.
Published in The Northern Echo on 14th
John was a very
clever person. After graduating, he carried out research at the University of
Manchester Institute of Science and Technology into how the weave of a material
affected the retardation of a projectile i.e. bullet proof materials. He
published scientific papers on this and was awarded a Ph.D. On leaving
Manchester he joined Whessoe in Darlington - where he spent all his working
life. During this time he specialised in developing software that ensured the
safety of plant (mainly the high integrity pipework) where failure could
potentially lead to a catastrophic loss of life. This work covered nuclear,
chemical and power plants throughout the UK and abroad. The excellent safety
record of these industries in the UK is in part down to John's efforts. Thanks
for keeping us safe and may you rest in peace.