The club had enjoyed a monthly meet in the Isle of Skye in each of the previous four years of its existence. This year, the Skye meet was extra special as it was arranged to accompany club member Jason Bostock on his final Munro and to help him celebrate his achievement. The story of the 45 Degrees is peppered with friendships borne of chance meetings in hills, huts and bothies. Jason is based in Warrington, Cheshire and first bumped into George and Norrie on a trip to Kintail in 2012.
He kept in touch on his subsequent trips north, often accompanied by his Dad Andy and his buddy Mike Lever. When the club was formed in 2015, Jason and Mike signed up and made regular trips to club meets despite the distance from home.
Jason’s love affair with the mountains began as a young kid when his Dad bought him Irvine Butterfield’s “High Mountains of Britain and Ireland”. His first Munro was Ben Nevis in 2003.
Jason’s choice as his final Munro (after a false start last year in Mull) was the magnificent Cuillin outlier, Blaven – regarded by many as the finest mountain in Skye.
The venue for the meet was the Outdoor Centre in Torrin, a small settlement directly across Loch Slapin from Blaven’s craggy slopes.
Torrin Outdoor Centre is owned by The Highland Council and managed by High Life Highland. It was a training base for the Royal Marine Commandos during the 1940s and then a primary school which closed in 1961. The large dining area was perfect for a celebratory event.
Jason Bostock, Ania Borg, Bill Dallas, Deb Dallas, John Calder, Raymond Evenden, James Fraser, George Henderson, Susan Henderson, Rowena Hepple, Mike Lever, Jim Linden, Adrian Mowat, Norrie Shand, Lorn Smith, Pete Smith
Andy Bostock, Angela McKee, Liz Smith
The club also welcomed new member Jim Linden who was attending his first meet.
Many members had been busy in the run up to the weekend. Jason still had a couple of peaks on the main Cuillin ridge to climb and he and Mike with the help of Bill successfully negotiated Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh and Sgurr a’ Mhadaidh as well as tackling a few mainland mountains that were on Mike’s list.
Bill had been scampering around the Cuillin ridge most of the week and Rowena too was touring around in her campervan and adding to her Corbett tally.
Not be outdone, George and Susan were also vannying around collecting 3rd– time Munros, 2nd – time Corbetts and 1st – time demoted Tops.
James too had been haring around the country bagging a few Munros for his 2nd round – and the odd Corbett as well.
The weather on Friday had not been great for hillwalking and first on the scene at the hut were Lorn, Liz and Angela who deposited some gear before heading out again. Norrie and James arrived shortly afterwards and soon a steady trickle of members and guests shuffled through the door laden with enough food and drink to sustain a Highland Regiment.
Raymond had put up a congratulatory welcome message on the hut white board. A few grammatical changes were made (and then unmade) so as to (or not to) wind up Princess Apostrophe of Tarland.
Decent inroads were made into the food and drink during the course of the evening and the usual banter shuttlecocked across the room. Norrie and Raymond bashed out a few tunes as the evening progressed. A couple of young drookit Hungarian lassies who were camping nearby traipsed off the hill and were delighted to be offered a warm cuppa and a dry place to change their clothes. They did appear rather bemused though at the scene unfolding before them but were far too polite (or scared) to make comment.
As the sun went down, a clear sky exposed the fine silhouette of Blaven, and hopes were high for decent weather on Saturday.
Andy, in his 71st year decided that he would head off an hour before the main party so that he would be caught up just before the summit. Lorn also decided to set off early with Liz and Angela for the same reason – this was to be their first Munro. Norrie, a yard or two short of his prime pace, offered to accompany Andy.
However, asking Norrie to guide someone up a peak in the Cuillin is akin to asking a dog to look after your sausages while you answer the phone – the portents were not good.
Norrie and Andy, making steadier progress than Lorn and the girls climbed up Coire Uaigneich and into the grassy bowl of Fionna-choire. At this point a faint path, barely perceptible to the human eye, turns right – and this is the conventional route to the summit. Norrie though, plodded straight on up the more obvious route up the choire. With Andy tramping along a couple of hundred yards behind him up the scree slopes Norrie’s phone rang!
The main party had made their way up to Fionna-choire and Jason’s phone call to Norrie (edited) went something like “What are you doing – you are heading up to the South Top…??” At that point the choice for the pair was either to retreat and head up the “right” way, losing a fair bit of height in the process, or continue up the more adventurous approach.
The decision was made for them as first Jason, then Raymond, then finally Bill (with Lia the pointer) scampered up the scree slope to accompany them along the “more interesting” route.
At this point James was practically salivating. He and his son Blair together with Jim Aire had “bagged” Blaven in the mist a couple of years previously. Only when the photos were passed round that evening did it become clear that their “summit photo” was actually taken on the South Top. The ribbing at the time – and since was merciless with Norrie being tormentor-in-chief. Revenge would be very sweet.
Though rocky with a few straightforward scrambly steps, the route up to the South Top had no real problems. With Bill taking charge of Andy’s progress and getting some practise at using his mountain-rescuer reassuring tones they edged their way up to the Top. There was no cucumber in Skye cooler than Andy though as, totally unruffled, they finally reached the cairn (or Aire’s Rocks as it is now known) – and with a break in the mist, they could see their true goal a short distance away.
There is some tricky ground between the Top and the summit and Bill carefully directed Andy down a short rake to the intervening col.
Most of the party had by this time made it to the summit and Jason allowed the other four South Toppers to make their way to the trig point before his triumphant and emotional stride to the cairn, arms raised aloft in exultation.
Most of the guys had brought with them a bottle of Blaven Ale to celebrate the compleation and there were bottles of prosecco and champagne as well to ensure that the achievement was recognised in an appropriate manner. At one point, Jason posed on the cairn with a young lad who, like Liz and Angela, had also climbed his first Munro that day.
It was a first ascent too for a few others around the summit cairn who were looking on slightly bewildered at the shenanigans being played out before them. Nevertheless, they seemed to enjoy the atmosphere and obliged by taking some group photos. A young Belgian lad generously donated a large bar of dark chocolate which went down really well with the champagne.
After half an hour of hilarity, it was time to move on. The club had bought into Mountaineering Scotland’s “Tak it Hame” campaign to rid mountain areas of litter. Every container, bottle top, champagne cork and wrapper found its way into a recyclable plastic bag before ending up in someone’s rucksack to be taken back down and disposed of properly .
John, Adrian, Ania, Susan and George elected to descend via Blaven’ south ridge down towards Camasunary where they had left a car earlier.
The others headed down the “tourist route” – making a nice loop for the South Top Boys. There were plenty rocky outcrops looking over towards the imposing Clach Glas where many took the opportunity to pose for their Mountain Man/Woman portfolios as the day had cleared up nicely.
Not everyone drove back to the hut though. Bill, Lorn, Raymond and Mike had brought their wet suits and elected to swim back across the sea loch to round off their day. As they reached dry land at Torrin the scene was very like Ursela Andress emerging from the surf in the Bond movie, Dr No. Well actually, it was more like Dr Aw Naw (or Nurse Neoprene) as they clambered inelegantlyt up the rocky shore cursing the stinging jellyfish that that had attacked their unprotected feet.
Apparently, Pete also donned his wet suit and took to the surf, but not even Jacques Cousteau would have been able to find and film him.
An uproarious evening followed. Raymond and Norrie de-cased the guitar but the sharp witted repartee won over with everyone giving and taking in equal measure. Norrie’s shame though could not be hidden. Having scoffed a Lochinver pie at his last meet, this time round it was definitely Humble pie.
A fire pit had been constructed in the back garden of the hut. Keeping George away from this attraction would have been like trying to stop a grizzly bear getting to a pot of honey. Soon, the fire was ablaze and with the midges mercifully absent a few drinks were enjoyed round the campfire. Excitement heightened and there were cries of “sea eagle, sea eagle !!” as a bird swooped and dived into the brine several times. Perhaps too many bottles of Blaven Ale had been consumed when it was confirmed that it was, in fact, only a gannet.
As a memento of his accomplishment Bill presented Jason with a beautiful canvas print of his abseil down the InnPin which will no doubt found pride of place when he returned home.
Another epic weekend came to a close with Jason promising to return as often as required to help Mike gain his compleation.