Published 10th May 2023, 18:27

    IT seemed fitting to finish my fourth round of Munros on May 4th even if the relatively recent appropriation of that date failed to register at the time.

    Since 2011, it has been celebrated as Star Wars Day by fans of the film franchise as a play on the famous line: May the Force be with you.

    Well, it worked for Luke Skywalker and it certainly did the business for this Skyewalker, a perfect day for the big finish on Sgurr Dubh Mor: wall-to-wall sunshine with hardly a cloud to be seen and forecast strong winds failing to materialise.

    You could say it was written in the stars. Two weeks earlier, I had failed to complete the last three Munros after an evening ascent of Sgurr Alasdair knocked my ambitions off course. It was no big deal though, as I was soon back in Skye for a week with friends.

    I only needed two decent days from six to complete the task, pretty good odds even for the Cuillin, and the picture for the week was of gradually improving conditions. Our first day was wet so we stayed low-level, the second spent on a rough minor hill circuit as the higher tops were still capped by cloud. 

    We decided to go for it on Day Three – 'we' consisted of myself and Andy, the rest of the group opting to cheer from the sidelines: strange how the Cuillin can have that effect – hoping the early mist would soon clear the summits.

    We made fast progress up the rock and scree chaos towards An Dorus, the gap between the twin targets of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh and Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh, the cloud teasing us all the way, clearing one minute, closing in again the next.

    Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh is the higher of the two and there's a tricky short corner scramble to gain the ridge so we took that on first then wandered along its rooftop to the summit in zero visibility. We reversed the route, then made the brief push up the other side of the gap to the top of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh where there was also little to see. 

    Somewhat inevitably, the tops were clear by the time we got down to the road. Never mind, two down, just one to go, Sgurr Dubh Mor, and three days remaining. The middle day was the preferred option, and it was shaping up as the best of the week. The Force was with us.

    The following day was one of sunshine, light drizzle and hidden summits so it was ideal for a coastal walk from Elgol to Camasunary that wouldn't prove too strenuous, just enough to keep the legs moving. 

    Then the main event: Sgurr Dubh Mor, the big black peak, the Darth Vader of the Cuillin. 

    The final ascent of this impressive chunk of rock is via a series of switching ramps and ledges. It's not particularly difficult but it can be confusing, even intimidating, especially in less than clear vis. It's also better with two to help spot the route twists and turns. Even with three previous ascents, I didn't fancy doing it Han Solo, so I was glad that Andy was once again keeping me company.

    We made an early start, primarily to stay ahead of the predicted high winds, racing up Coir' a' Ghrunnda in stark contrast to my exhausted efforts two weeks ago. We reached the lochan where the wind was whipping round the bowl, but once we started gaining height on Sgurr nan Eag it calmed down again.

    The skirting of Caisteal a' Garbh-choire and Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn provided plenty of hands-on practice for what was to follow and then we were working our way along the ledges of Sgurr Dubh Mor, picking out the best lines.

    I remembered edging gingerly around an overhang last time out but I never saw it on this occasion. Instead, we found a more protected corner to clamber up which brought us out right under the summit. And that was it – the final summit in the fourth round. The views were sensational in every direction, every peak for miles around standing proud and clear. We had caught the moment perfectly.

    There was still work to do. Getting down can be just as tricky in this complex terrain, and there was also the small matter of dealing with weary legs as we worked our way back across the boulder field and down the corrie from the cave below Sgurr Alasdair.

    The finale of this latest round had felt a long time coming. I started in 2015 and had racked up more than 200 in the first two years but then paused to focus on wrapping up the Munro Tops, Grahams and Donalds for a Full House.

    And just as I was ready to resume hostilities, the great Covid shutdown began and the next three years proved to be stop-start. But despite taking eight years from start to finish, this round has taken the least number of Munro days, 141 in total.

    The fourth was definitely strong in this one.