Hunting for my tent on Sgurr na Stri - 17th June 2016
Top tip of the day: If you wild camp on a mountain and you have a GPS, mark the position as soon as you pitch the tent. Don't wait until after you've had a wander, don't assume you'll find it no problem and definitely, definitely, definitely don't leave your headtorch in the tent because 'it's still light'.
With a week off work and a couple of day walks under my belt, I wanted to get away for a night on a hill somewhere. Early in the week Skye was looking good for Friday/ Saturday and it looked like there would be little or no clouds around for Sunset and Sunrise.
So I kept an eye on the forecast all week and it didn't change much except for the wind on Friday night was forecast to be around 30mph (sea level) which concerned me a bit as it would be stronger higher up.
I decided to go back to Sgurr na Stri on the Isle of Skye. I've camped here 3 times before and each time has been magical (2 of them with inversions). But although I've got some cracking photos from previously, it's the ones that didn't turn out due to overexposing that you miss the most. So, I thought here's a cracking opportunity to make a better job of it.
I always start the walk from Sligachan. At 12km each way it's a bit of a slog but 4 hrs after leaving I've usually got my tent pitched on the mountain. As it was really the sunset and sunrise I was after I didn't really need to leave the house until after midday and this would give me plenty of time to get up the mountain, pitch the tent and get some dinner.
Got to Sligachan at 3pm and although it was lovely and sunny it was also pretty breezy and coming from the north. Having been on Sgurr na Stri before, I knew that this direction would give me little options for shelter from the wind. My inner demon tried to convince me to pick somewhere easier and less remote like the Quiraing and although I was tempted I'd already told a couple of people where I had planned on going. I don't like admitting failure too often :)
3 hrs and I was at the area where the path essentially ends and you just cut straight up the mountain. There are some faint paths of sorts but I always find myself losing them. The wind was getting stronger the higher I got, so when I found a reasonably sheltered grassy area about 300 feet from the summit with a great view across Loch Coruisk, I dropped the rucksack and setup the tent. I was done by around 7pm and sunset was at 10.26pm so I really wanted to be on the summit taking photos from around 10pm onwards.
Best take a wander to the summit then and see how long it takes eh?
So I grabbed my Camera, took a couple of shots on the tent 'in situ and headed off to the summit:
It was further than I thought and took me about 20 minutes to get there. It was blowing a hoolie though up on top and it was quite difficult to stand at times. The forecast had the winds dropping after midnight, so hopefully it would only be the sunset that was painful. I was glad I'd pitched further down.
The summit of Sgurr na Stri is a fantastic viewpoint. To the Northwest you have Loch Coruisk surrounded by the Black Cuillin, then you have Bla Bheinn and the Red Cuillin to the Northeast, the Elgol Peninsula to the Southeast and the islands of Rum and Soay to the Southwest. All of these would have the sunset and sunrise light changing rapidly and all of them involved a fair bit of clambering to get a good vantage point. I spent some time looking for some decent spots and trying unsuccessfully to commit them to memory.
I was getting hungry now, so I thought I'd head back to the tent and 'cook' a meal (Or to be more accurate, add boiling water to dehydrated spag bol) before heading back up to the summit for sunset. I started back down the way I thought I had come up but pretty quickly had no idea whether it was or not. There seemed to be a number of areas that looked similar to where I had pitched the tent but none of them had a tent in them. As I got lower and lower on the mountain I thought I must have passed it, so started back up checking more dilligently. Still nothing? Back down again then, further than before. In fact, if it was this low down then my '300 feet from the summit' was actually a fair bit more. By this time I was starting to get a little bit worried: 1. Because I might miss sunset. 2. Because I didn't have my headtorch with me and 3. because I knew it was getting dark soon.
Eventually, I found a trail that looked vaguely familiar, followed it round a bend that didn't look familiar and to me relief saw my tent flapping in the wind. The first thing I did was get my GPS and mark a waypoint where the tent was so I could find it again in the dark. Secondly I put my headtorch in my pocket, and thirdly I had some dinner.
By this time it was after 9pm and I decided just to head back up to the summit and start taking photos. The wind was getting really cold and I regretted leaving my gloves and snood in the house (Well, it's June.....). As the sun set, I moved about the summit taking photos, but it really was freezing so about 11pm when the light was getting flat I headed back to the tent again.
I was glad to crawl into my sleeping bag and although I had intended on getting some photos of the tent lit from the inside I really couldn't be bothered going back outside. So I set my alarm for 3.45am as sunrise was 4.26am and I tried to get some sleep.
I think I got a couple of hours as I woke around 3.30am and it looked really bright through the tent walls. There also didn't seem to be much wind, so I bounded gleefully out of the tent and started my by now familiar trudge to the summit. The clouds were starting to turn pinkish in the predawn light so I started to hurry to catch it before it faded and before long I was on the summit again. It was much more pleasant this time and I was able to wander around at my leisure taking lots of photos (and deleting the ones that were overexposed).
I also took the opportunity to get a couple of 'just woke up' selfies. Couldn't decide whether jacket on or off, facing the camera or away, so I took a few:
Then headed back to the tent for around 5.30am, got packed up and ready to leave for 6am but couldn't resist a final couple of photos from the camp area:
and then all that remained was the long walk back to Sligachan. Got back at 9.30am and if anything I think I might be getting fitter as I wasn't on the verge of crawling by the time I got back. I was relieved though!
Sgurr na Stri is a cracking mountain with exceptional views. I suspect I'll be camping here again in the not too distant future :)
Keywords: Cuillin, Graham Bradshaw, Isle of Skye, Photography, Sgurr na Stri, Skye, Summit Camp, Wild Camping, hike, loch Coruisk, sunrise, sunset, tent
Thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge. Thanks also for your honesty and of course great shots. As an experienced walker and keen photographer I've always appreciated capturing my adventures which doesn't always reflect great photos. You however are specifically going out primarily to capture the scene and have a gift of achieving this in the most dramatic fashion and usually from a remote vantage point. I'd just like to commend you on your effort ,hard work and dedication in achieving your goals. Thanks Graham. (I've left this comment public so others can see how much you're appreciated.)
Great pics as always! Dx
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