FAREWELL then Inaccessible Pinnacle. Thanks for the memories but four times in one lifetime is more than enough for me.
Each ascent of this outrageous blade of rock, the most technically difficult Munro, has been exhilarating. Each has felt like an achievement.
There are those who scamper up this on a regular basis, just another day at the office. For an occasional climber like myself it is always a big deal.
There’s the anticipation on the way up as the monster stays out of sight for most of the time, like in the best horror films. Then that great reveal, when you come face to face with the towering monolith which tilts menacingly towards the Sgurr Dearg ridgeline.
It’s impressive and imposing at any time, but particularly so when the tops are clagged in and it lumbers out of the mist, Godzilla rising from the beneath the waves. It never fails to make the heart skip a beat.
Some prefer these conditions for the likes of the Black Cuillin or the Aonach Eagach because it keeps the huge drops out of sight. Not me. I’m happier when I can see what lies ahead and all around. The exposure feels better when you can see what you are being exposed to.
I decided last year that a fourth round of Munros would be my last. There are some I never wish to summit again, mostly for aesthetic reasons, but some also for reasons of maturity and degrees of difficulty. The bones ain’t getting any younger.
You could say it’s my Proclaimers moment: In Pin no more, Gillean no more, Basteirs no more, Mhic Choinnich no more ...
A late invitation to join the Munro Society’s weekend meet in Skye meant that I managed to take advantage of some company and expertise to get round, in my opinion, the four hardest Munros again. The forecast had seemed promising, but on day one we climbed into the mist about an hour after leaving Sligachan and stayed in it for the rest of the day. Day two was a different approach but same outcome.
Our first target was the Bhasteir Tooth, a jagged chunk of rock with precipitous drops all round. We descended into the loose rock of the Lota Corrie under dripping black walls to find the line to a couple of sloping chimneys giving passage to the top.
The continuation to Am Basteir was complex with more testing moves, but it had the advantage of being a different approach from my last outing here. That had involved tackling Am Basteir first, then the Tooth, with a descent into a cave and then out by a long abseil. Variety is certainly the spice of life and near-death. Then it was off up well-worn territory, the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean, but despite the familiarity it never seems any less challenging.
Next day we headed into the all-encompassing grey of Coire Lagan after a night of rain. The decision had been taken to leave the In Pin until later in the hope the weather would clear through, so Sgurr Mhic Choinnich was first up. This peak provided the biggest shock.
My last couple of ascents have been in superb weather, and although the ridge narrows to a razor’s edge, when dry it is no real problem. This time it was different. The rock was wet, slimy in places, and the sloping slabs that have to be crossed were intimidating. It was like walking over greased tiles covered in ball bearings on a rooftop 3,000 feet off the ground. The clinging mist that limited visibility to a few feet hardly helped, and we used a safety rope for the initial part of the descent.
The slipping and sliding continued to the base of the In Pin. Amongst the rubble was a boulder the size of a house, above it the new, clean face where this lump of rock had recently sheared away from its base.
The wind was whipping round as we climbed, but at least here the rock was dry. At one point a helicopter could be heard like thunder close by in the greyness, circling the ridge somewhere below, an unsettling sound when you are gripping on to a knife-edge.
You would think it would be easier by the fourth time, but the memories that have convinced you it was a breeze are treacherously false, the adrenaline rush of pulling a complaining body up this narrow staircase to heaven as heart-poundingly stark as ever.
So that’s it for me, a permanent Pin number of four. I will be happy in future just to relax on Sgurr Dearg and watch with interest as others face their moment of truth.
Sgurr nan Gillean and the rest? Well, maybe. I plan to be back in the Cuillin many more times, I’ll just be a little more choosy about where I take my seat.