Last weekend, Nathan and I guided one of the most ambitious trips that nineonesix-guiding have done to date.
On Saturday we sailed into Coruisk with Misty Isle Boat tours. The plan was to spend three days at the JMCS Coruisk Hut. All of our food had been sourced and prepared by Miss Thistlewhaite’s S4 pupils at Gairloch High School. Three of our four clients :Richard, Tara & Malcolm were coming back to us for at least the second, or third time. For their friend Donald it was his first time with us.
Right up until the boat left neither myself, or Nathan were sure of what we would be faced with. This all added to the adventure. Nathan commented on the journey in that this was on a par with sailing into the Lofoten Islands! Given the calm sea, steep snow covered mountain peaks and acres of rock this was not a throwaway comment.
Our sail into the bay was straight as a die, no detours for seal-watching, or leering at ‘The Bad Step’ for us. Within no time we were carrying our provisions, overnight gear and climbing equipment up the jetty and into the hut.
Keen to make a good start to the trip Nathan and I suggested that the afternoon was spent climbing on the grippy gabbro slabs of ‘Stepping Stone Buttress’. Nathan led Malcolm & Tara up pitches of VS 5a and HVS 4c; whilst I climbed in series with Donald & Richard gradually taking more and more responsibility for the building of belays on ‘The Happy Wanderer’ VS 4c. Although open to variation and obviously not visited that much both teams were blessed with good rock and plenty of challenge.
After some unavoidable delays at the hut our first day ended with a lovely meal of three fish pie prepared, oatcakes & cheese and some good banter.
For our mountain day everyone agreed to settle for a simple breaksfast of coffee/tea and cereal. This meant that we were on our way to the Dubh Slabs in good time. The Coastguard helicopter up above and around for much of the day added an edge to things.
Our two teams made good progress on the ridge with route finding shared between myself and Nathan all the way up. Just as described in the various guidebooks the ridge followed delightful gabbro slabs which often had the same feeling as velcro. However, one excursion in the middle was definitely not Moderate! The rock on the lower secions was dry and clean, however Nathan and I decided to take the exposed ledges below the summit block. This was to avoid the awkward overhanging abseil described by most guidebooks and more recently, our own Dunc Maclennan! Once safely at the bealach the decision was made to descend north into Coire a’ Chaoruinn. The day had been challenging, enjoyable and safe for our clients and to push on to Sgurr Dubh MOr & Sgurr Dubh Da Bheinn in soft snow condtions not attractive.
Once detaching Nathan & Malcolm from some bouldering by Loch Coruisk we made it back to the hut by 5.00pm in time for tea and traybake.
As forecast our final day was a bit more drizzly; in fact the Cuillins had a light dusting of fresh snow. Even from the hut we could now clearly see snow lying on the ledges we had taken below Sgurr Dubh Beag the day before. Donald and Tara were happy to potter around the hut and the surrounding area which meant that Malcolm and Richard has the crag to themselves! Malcolm enjoyed his first lead on rock with all that entails and Richard coped extremely well with his pitch being led in the wet.
We all sailed back to Elgol in The Misty Isle with Seamus at the helm. It was a delight to meet him again as it had been nearly six years since my last trip to Coruisk. Nathan and I would like to say a big thanks to Malcolm, Tara, Donald and Richard for their company during the trip. Thanks also to the pupils at Gairloch High School for putting together such a varied and delicious menu plan for the three days. Cheers too to Misty Isle Boat trips and Iain, the JCMS hut custodian – without you the trip would not have been possible.
If anyone is interested in making a similar trip to this exciting part of the Cuillins please get in touch with us at nineonesix.
blog by Jim at nineonesix-guiding
photo by Richard Cockburn