Date: Friday-Saturday 21st-22nd September 2012
Distance: 15.2 + 8.2km
Ascent: 900 + 310m
With a Fri/Mon public holiday weekend we were keeping our eyes peeled on the forecasts – a tantalising high pressure ridge was on offer Friday and Saturday and the possibility of an island camp was on the cards.
Arran, Mull, Rum were all possible but we decided to seize the day and get to a lower hilled island that we’d seen from many angles before – Eigg.
We got parked up in the shore car park in Mallaig and watched as the Skye ferry left its berth allowing the “Loch Nevis” to set down its ramp for us to embark. Ferry travel still gives us a real thrill.
Packed the ferry insulation into the rucksacks on the pier – was rather gob-smacked to see a few Minke Whales surfacing a few hundred metres offshore. Our first UK whale sighting.
There is a helpful information board at the foot of the pier – the residents have created an excellent system of routes way-marked by the odd daub of coloured paint. Worthwhile taking a picture of the board in the passing.
We were planning the circumnavigation of the island – the forecast had initially suggested Friday would be supreme but had backed off to suggest Saturday would be better. This in mind we set off anti-clockwise to try to improve our chances of the best views from An Sgurr.
We turned right onto the track at NM 486 854 – this is off the island path network but seemed likely to lead to gates through fencing.
As we ascended only one fence needed crossed – and the barbed wire had been wrapped heavily in plastic at one point to allow safe crossing.
As we neared the summit of An Cruachan I spotted a rainbow on the far side (upwind) – the heavy shower that was causing this promptly arrived as we reached the top and proceeded to heavily douse us for 15 minutes.
We diverted towards the Lochan at NM 486 901 and filtered some water from a spring. Then continued to the trig point and the end of the ridge at Dunan Thalasgair. There is a fence-line at the western edge of this ridge but there is a gate at the top of the path ascending the SW nose (NM 4805 9053).
We took the track from the beach towards Laig Farm, cutting right off this before the farm to pick up a little path that zig-zags up the hill behind the farm – a flock of Soay sheep were up here.
As we approached Beinn Tighe a large raptor was circling – possibly an eagle – it headed towards An Sgurr fairly soon after we appeared.
Filtered our overnight water from Loch Beinn Tighe and headed up to the summit. A slightly heathery/lumpy pitch was found at the summit.
Cooked up our freeze-dried meals (Christmas Dinner and Chicken Jalfrezi) and watched the light fade behind Rum. A rather spectacular meteorite crossed over and broke up as we watched.
Got out again at 2200hrs – the moon had set so we had an eye-popping view of the Milky Way. Watched the lighthouses swing round along the Western Isles and Mull. The Ardnamurchan Point light was amazingly bright – it perceptibly lit us up as it turned – not bad for 10 miles.
It’s always a joy to be up at dawn at a high camp – drinking it all in is the problem.
While I was gawping at the horizons Hazel had been watching the sea – 2 Minke whales were passing below us near to shore surfacing regularly. Whales from a summit camp was an unexpected bonus.
Retired to the tent for a slow breakfast – we’d decided to catch the 1540 ferry so we were not in a rush. Up again at 0830 to start striking the pitch.
At 1000hrs we began a slow meander back to the ferry. The SW aspect of Beinn Tighe looked very steep so we dropped back to the N shore of Loch Beinn Tighe and followed the shore to regain the ridge by a heathery ramp at its southern end.
After a minor drop we reached the normal route up An Sgurr – the path skirts the ridge on its southern flank to reach the trig point and nose with little difficulty.
A superb viewpoint.
We sat here for almost 2 hours – with superlative air clarity and sunshine we simply tried to absorb it all. A kestrel and a few ravens passed us by.
An eagle passed round the ridge and took station above us – I presumed it was the same one as before but on review of the photos the bill size and wing breadth make me think this is an adolescent Sea Eagle:
Followed the path down – we managed to miss the correct track direct to the pier from the cottage at NM 475 841 but managed to hit the main road after Sandavore and return to the pier with time to spare.
The 1540 sailing returns to Mallaig via the long route – Muck-Canna-Rum-Mallaig – taking 5 hours. TAlthough the skies were a bit greyer on the return the views remained excellent so for us this was a bonus Small Isles cruise at no added cost.
The last 90 minutes of the sail were in falling light. Most of the trip had seen many folk out on deck but by this point it was us and 2 others. We were still circling the ferry when we spotted multiple disturbances in the water off to starboard (forgive the saltiness).
We watched a very large number of porpoises crossing the ship’s path. Even better – several were jumping in the bow and wake waves – we’ve never had a better view.
We hung out on deck to the end – leaning on the funnel gives a lovely warm place to stand n these ferries.
What a trip – we’d swithered about such a low altitude trip on such a great weekend but had decided we needed a great weekend for this island. I can’t recommend it highly enough – as a viewpoint it is stunning from coast to islands. The geology amazing and a wildlife return to beat most trips hands down.
We did succumb to a high five on disembarkation at Mallaig.