Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Marsco - Isle of Sky Day 3

With the success of yesterdays paddling so early on in our trip and with the prospect of improving conditions throughout the week, I was happy to take a day off from the boat and join my dad in the hills.  We woke to a bit of light drizzle and cloud and the forecast for the day wasn't perfect so we settled on one of the easier peaks in the Red Cullin Hills, Marsco.
Marsco stands at 736m (2,414ft) just to the rear of the Sligachan hotel and camp site.
A gravel path leads from the car park up through Glen Sligachan alongside the River Sligachan, which eventually leads out near Loch Coruisk, where we so often visit by boat.  
After about 3km up stream we head off up a tributary to the river between the peaks of Marsco and Beienn Dearg Mhor.
The drizzle eases off, it gets warm, and the midges come out to feast.  The path is not as obvious as the one leading through the glen and is very boggy in places.  According to the guide book we are looking for the second main stream that runs off the mountain where the path leads us up to the summit.  The trouble is due to the dry summer we've had the steams are completely dried up.
The first stream tumbles down a vertical craggy crevice, we don't want to come down that way later. It's not obvious but along the stream we have been looking for is a faint path that follows a line of iron posts to the top.  The views so far are are pretty good and would be even better on a clearer day.  
It's a steep but easy accent to the top with great views of the Black Cullin Ridge opening out to our left.

The posts lead out on to a flat ridge with the main summit a short climb on the right.  It is worth going off to the left where a plateau provides great views of the black culling ridge.
The views behind me here looking toward Loch Corisk with Elgol and the islands of Rum, Canna and Eigg in the far haze.

We head up the line of the ridge to the main summit of Marsco where the wind picks up and the temperature drops. 
The summits is crowned with this modest cairn where we find evidence of the two Golden Eagles we spotted on our accent.  It seems like a regular perching spot with large droppings containing small animal bones and fluffy white down feathers.

We walk down onto the saddle on the far side of the summit for lunch and to work out our decent.  According to the guide book we follow the line of a ridge that runs steeply back down into the glen below.  There are another couple of walkers coming down from the summit following what looks like the only feasible way down.
The steep scree slope that takes us down off the saddle come to an abrupt end with steep vertical rock.  We aim off to the right which naturally follows a valley down into the glen.  This of course was where we saw the first stream where we said we didn't want to come down.
Now this how accidents happen.  Rather than returning to the summit and going back the way we came, most people do as we are and attempt to find a way down.  This can sometimes lead you to a place where you can not go back up or go down, or worse a slip.  We manage to scramble down the wet rock with a few risky moves and peer back up to the other couple finding the same problem.  We later discovered that other guide books suggest the only safe way to descend is back down the way we came up.
Back onto the grassy slopes we are rewarded with a sighting of a heard of Red Deer.  They quickly pick up our scent and are on their way up the glen.
Back in the glen the wind drops and the midges come out in force, it becomes almost unbearable to stop even for a photo.  The path seems to go on forever.
The decent delays us by about two hours.  The sun goes down behind the hills as we approach the car park and it is soon getting dark when we get back to camp.  A really enjoyable day and a nice change to give the arms a rest and exercise the legs for a bit.

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