Contemplating Mortality.

Trip Start May 27, 2011
Trip End Jun 05, 2011

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Where I stayed
La Vieille Cure Couhé
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Emma and Jude gave us a lift to Glen Brittle. They dropped us in the car park by the beach and legged it. By the time I looked up from sorting the rucksacks, they'd gone.

The path meandered up from the campsite across the heathery, rocky moor, towards the gap between Sgurr Dearg (986m) and Sgurr Sgumain (947m). The girls counted the streams we crossed as we ascended, necessitating much discussion at each drainage ditch. The trickles were poked with the walking poles to see if there was any discernible direction to the flow of silt. If there was none, then the ditch was declared a puddle and not counted.

The inlet glowed blue behind us, with Rhum Isle visible in the distance. Coire Lagan (about 500m) loomed dark in front of us, with a little cloud spinning off the peak to the right. It descended slowly into the coire as we climbed. Eventually we stopped for lunch, just below the lip. The walls towered 500m above us.

After lunch, we struggled up the scree and scrambly rock towards the crest. Rumour has it, there is a small loch inside the coire. The clag was down to the base now though, so we togged up.

About ten feet from the top, just as we were about to catch sight of the fabled loch, there was a clatter of falling rock over on the Western Buttress, followed by lots of yelling and shouting. Initially, it was hard to work out what had happened. The sound of emergency whistles soon made it clear that it was something serious.

Several hikers went over to see if they could help. We were about a football pitch away, and I didn't want to go over to be a gawper, so the girls and I started heading back down the mountain to call Mountain Rescue. We soon handed this task over to someone faster than us, who bounced down the mountain track rapidly.

From what we could make out, it seemed a rock-fall had caught at least one climber badly. There was someone stranded near the top of Cioch or Central Gully, possibly with a damaged leg, trapping him 40m from the ground. He was roped on, but unable to move. I saw someone abseil down to him and someone else climb up to him. I didn't see him come down though.

We retraced our steps and got most of the way down before the red and white rescue helicopter clattered into sight. The rescue seemed to be complex, as the climber was now hidden in the clag to add to the difficulties of getting close to him. The copter circled round a few times and was soon joined by a yellow helicopter.

The rockfall had happened around 2.30pm and the rescue was still going on at gone 5pm. Someone said four people had been hurt, though I saw evidence of only two - the climber on the rope and one person, whom I thought was a woman, sitting at the bottom of the face, surrounded by a few concerned climbers. Having said that, two helicopters seemed overkill for one climber, even if he was incapacitated in an awkward place.

Emma was very relieved to see us, as we were an hour late and she had watched the Skye Mountain Rescue helicopters fly in. We were so late, that she'd had time to make the outline of a bus out of pebbles, driftwood and shells for Adam to drive across the beach in.

As soon as we got back to the cottage, the heavens opened and the gale picked up. The weather forecast simultaneously whinged on about the drought in the south and promised a mega-wet storm in the Highlands and Islands for Wednesday.  

Of course the whole story of the rockfall came out over the next few days. Here's what the BBC news said about it:

Woman killed in Cuillin rockfall named as South African

Cuillin hills range, Skye

The accident happened in the Cuillin area of Skye

A climber killed in a rockfall on a mountain in the Highlands has been named by police.
Tessa Cousins, 56, from Cape Town, South Africa, was hit by a boulder on the Cioch Direct climb on the Cuillin hills on Skye.
Her climbing partner, who dislodged the boulder, was also injured when he fell in the incident on Tuesday afternoon.
Northern Constabulary said another man and woman injured during the incident were recovering in hospital.
Ms Cousins' climbing partner fell with the dislodged boulder, which then hit the man and woman in a separate climbing party.
A third party of climbers narrowly escaped being injured when they jumped out of the rock's path, emergency crews said.
All three of the injured climbers were taken to the Dr MacKinnon Memorial Hospital in Broadford on Skye.
The woman in the second party suffered injuries to her back and chest, while the man she was with broke a shoulder and hand.
The man was described as "some kind of iron man" by mountain rescue after walking down the mountain to raise the alarm.
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