Sgurr Dearg: The In Pin

Until this year, I’d pretty much written Skye off as a destination for mountain-based fun; that might be heresy to those visitors upon whom the weather gods have occasionally bestowed the gift of fine weather, but every one of my previous trips to Skye have been spectacular washouts, leaving me with memories of days stuck in a tent watching the mist roll about Sligachan or Glenbrittle, or feeling the tent shaking in the grip of  yet another storm blowing in off the Atlantic, my only solace the knowledge that even Skye’s midges can’t function in a Force 10 gale.

Given we were going to be up in Kintail on successive weekends this September, I allowed myself to be persuaded to give Skye another chance. We’d been up here for two day trips earlier in the year, twice summiting Bla Bheinn in less than optimal conditions, getting my now customary teasing glimpses of the main Cuillin ridge through the swirling cloud. The weather forecast wasn’t very confidence inspiring when I checked it one last time before we set off to meet the group from Christian Aid who were planning to traverse the Five Sisters of Kintail on the Saturday, with a succession of cloudy wet days being predicted for the coming week.

Thankfully, the forecast was beginning to improve by the time the last of our ‘cottage buddies’ arrived on Sunday and, after chatting through various options, we decided to head for Sgurr Dearg on Monday, for a crack at the Inaccessible Pinnacle, notorious amongst Munro baggers as the only Munro that requires rock climbing to reach. For Cat and myself, it was a rare opportunity to get out together on a mountain route, thanks to the willingness of some of our chums to dog sit for the day, and I was hoping that the weather would co-operate and let us do something fun!

Conditions were pretty much perfect on the day; if anything, we could have done with a bit of a cooling breeze as we battered our way up the scree slopes onto the south west ridge of Sgurr Dearg, before making our way along the broken crest of the ridge towards the distinctive fin of the ‘In Pin’. The ridge itself is described as a grade 1/2 scramble in the SMC guidebook, but it’s fairly benign and there’s plenty of scope for choosing easy route options if you so wish. There was a bit of high level cloud beginning to gather as  we arrived at the base of the In Pin itself, and the fresh breeze definitely had a hint of autumn about it as we got sorted out for the climbing portion of the day. Alex was keen to lead and, as we only had a single rope with us, the V Diff option on the west side of the pinnacle seemed the option involving the least faff for a group of 4 people. The eastern option is an easier climb at Mod, but longer and probably not the best option for someone’s first multi-pitch with 3 additional climbers.

There’s a lack of reassuringly positive handholds on the lower section of the Vdiff climb which, coupled with sparse options for placing gear, made it a fairly bold first 6 metres for Alex until he reached a big spike at the halfway point and wedged a chunky big hex in behind it, before heading up to the top of the route. Cat and Sarah went up next, then I tagged along at the back, collecting the hex as I went. It was fairly chilly at the top, and after a couple of quick photos, we sorted ourselves out to abseil back down, a process not helped by the idiot who arrived at the top just as we were leaving, and felt it appropriate to try and hurry the girls along as they got set up to come down. He appeared to have developed selective mutism by the time he arrived at the bottom, ignoring my invitation to discuss his actions, and concentrated instead on continuing to pull his own rope through the abseil ring above, managing to bring the rope down on his own wife’s head in the process…

We took shelter from the breeze on the far side of Sgurr Dearg again, taking a bit of time to pack away climbing kit, grab a snack and let people get over the recent unpleasant encounter, before heading back down towards Glen Brittle. The sun was low in the sky as we made our way down the ridge and we made it back to the car just as the twilight began to fade into darkness. A fantastic day out, and an experience that definitely rehabilitated my attitude to Skye – if only it could survive until Friday!