When I got back from our attempt, I drew these pictures from memory. I tried not to look at photos or other images so that the details that really mattered to me would emerge in the sketches. Below the drawings is part of my diaries from the time
Just outside the door of our tent pitched on the stony ground beside the Lochan in Coir’ a Ghrunnda were convenient stones that formed our kitchen – a stand for the stove, a windbreak, and places for mugs and pans. Ideal.
The start of our Attempt. Gars Bheinn at the South End of the Ridge. As we walked up to the summit from Coir a Ghrunnda it was still dark, and at the summit, we saw the sun rising.
We travel to Sligachan overnight and leave the bags at the Sligachan Hotel as soon as we arrive. We then book a room for the night after next and get a taxi to the campsite at Glen Brittle from where we walk up to Coir’ a Ghrunnda.. Obviously all this activity has been carefully planned for many months preceding; each of us having packed three bags, (nestling one inside the other). There is the big total luggage sack, the camping sack, and finally the very much pared down sack for the 1 day attempt on the ridge. This bag and the camping bag are the product of weeks of carefully weighing every item contained within it and buying the lightest, smallest version of all articles. So, as a result, the day bags, including climbing gear, food and water weigh 6 kilos each. We have also been practising walking, scrambling and – particularly difficult – climbing with these bags on. The sun is shining and we find that the path has been improved up to Coir’ a Ghrunnda.
Inaccessible Pinnacle to Am Basteir
We should be able to jog the next section down a steep scree path, after the Inn Pin, as there is no scrambling for a while, but fatigue and stiffness and the wrong shoes seem to prevent this. We start wondering whether it would be better to wear some kind of fell running shoes with studs.
The top of Sgurr Banachdaich is one of the benchmarks of Andy Hyslops timings for the traverse, so we are dismayed to find that we are half an hour down on the time giver for slow walkers, let alone runners, even though we think we have been moving pretty sharply. This gives me a big low, and I wonder if we should give up as the projected total time means that we will run out of light.
Jim encourages me, saying ‘Just treat it as a day out, What else would we be doing?’ Yeah right, But I take it on and keep going. What else would I do?
The next section seems really difficult. Every peak has one name, but 3 or 4 different tops and you have to go to all of them. Sgurr a Ghreadaidh, Sgurr a Mhadaidh, and bad boy Bidean Druim nan Ramh,
The scrambling down from these peaks is very steep, very exposed, sometimes suspended by your fingers, slewed disturbingly sideways above a chasm separating one peak from its neighbours. We make one descent like this that we have only used a rope on before as it is so exposed out over a stony chasm and the position it forces you into is slanting and overhanding out over this drop. But this time we go unroped for speed. Every time we arrive at the top of a hard downclimb, it seems that there is no way down, no easy way is visible, all you see is a great amount of space with the nearest visible rock about 500feet below. The place where the col comes up to meet the ridge is often invisible at this point.
We arrive eventually at the narrow saddle from which you thread a way to the bottom of Naismiths route on Am Basteir. We are extremely tired, and in the low evening sunlight there is a gigantic swarm of midges about 30 feet high covering the area where we would belay and climb the route on the Basteir Tooth. It sounds funny now, but this is what makes me give up. I cannot face being bitten to death while belaying Jim and then climbing up through the midges. This is a matter of some regret, and is an extremely difficult decision to make, but there it is. We spin round and descend from the bealach to the Sligachan Hotel. We have been going for 17 hours and that seems like enough.
For the Dilay Post prompt – Struggle