Treasured Outdoor Moment - Elizabeth Buchanan
Despite working everyday throughout this festive period, I managed to slither in a wee festive outing. I had 23 hours to play with in between shifts - from 6pm on Christmas Eve to 5pm Christmas day.
I am based on the North end of the Isle of Skye, so accessing some remarkable places takes relatively minimal effort.
I collected my pal in Portree and drove us down to Kilmarie, near Loch Slapin. We savoured the last moments of the car’s heat before head-torching up and grabbing our bags. The night was a velvety black, pinpointed with crystal clear stars. Despite the moon’s absence there was a certain lightness to the chilled air that hung around us. Along the hour-long walk into Camasunary Bothy we paused at the track’s highest point, turning the torches off and letting the Milky Way canopy seep in. I saw a shooting star - begrudgingly my friend did not.
We approached the bothy with the customary uncertainty of whether we were about to uncover a concoction of strangers within. With it being Christmas Eve, we had the place to ourselves. We made tea, drank red wine, and played trivial pursuit: I impressed with my knowledge of a ‘Chinese gooseberry’, and we were both surprised to learn that the UK’s population owns the largest proportion of umbrellas per head.On that bombshell we clambered onto the wooden platform and bedded down for the night.
We awoke on Christmas morning and went about the coffee making ritual by candle light. An increasingly detailed Gars-Bheinn was perfectly framed by the window, against the foreground of a silvery sea. I (rather impressively) managed to consume my first mince pie well before sunrise - some good can come from poor food preparations. We packed up, creaked the bothy’s door shut, and picked our way up towards Bla Bheinn’s southern ridge. Before too long we were embalmed in the sunrise’s auburn rays, crunching through frozen ground. Despite being mid winter, the sun made a good attempt at thawing the sections exposed to its warmth.
With height, we gained a classic Cuillin view, a peek towards the Small Isles as well as a glimpse of a snowy Torridon amongst the mountainous mainland. The conditions were totally impeccable. The South Ridge (a Grade 2 scramble) was a fairly gentle affair. Certain sections had to be taken with great care due to ice cover, though for the most part the gabbro was as trusty as ever! As we got up to ~850m we had to navigate through rimed scree, though it was nothing compared to a rather slippery Beinn Sgritheall the previous week.
We didn’t catch sight of a fellow human until on Bla Bheinn’s summit, where we met a couple of people who had come up the usual path from the East. Rather than lengthy festive exchanges, comments on the stellar weather conditions took precedence. Tea and stollen was consumed looking over Clach Glas, one of my favourite scrambles from the recent Summer. We then descended to Loch Fionna Choire and meandered across rough ground back to where we had left the noble four-wheeled steed the previous night. Working that evening seemed far less of a hardship after such a flawless excursion in the hills.