Sgaoth Aird - 531m
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Weather/Conditions: Great weather. A warm day, but didn't notice the heat as much (compared to morning) as I was now well fed! Utterly fantastic conditions.
Sgaoth loop: 8.5km / 870m / 2h 45m
Cleit Ard: 0.8km / 150m / 25m
Giolabhal Glas & Sgaoth Aird
Sgaoth Aird and Sgaoth Iosal present a pretty imposing view from the roadside. They look bigger than they are without anything to give much scale, the northern wall sweeping down to the 'Clisham Pass'. Driving toward Tarbert, you round a bend on the road, and the five buttresses of Giolabhal Dubh come into view. I parked down by the sea in a layby opposite the housing and climbed up alongside these buttresses, almost picking a route that took me onto some exposed rock - just for the climbing.
It's not so far to gain the more open slopes of the upper hill, and I walked over the top of Giolabhal Dubh to the main top, Giolabhal Glas. I certainly felt far stronger than in the morning - a reminder if any was needed that proper food intake and hydration is so, so important. Even small hill days can become psychological nightmares without the right fuelling, and the morning had shown that all too well. But now I was moving quickly.
Sgaoth Aird itself, the highest of my round, was a long whaleback leading to a summit cairn. To the north and west gave immense views of some great hills - An Cliseam and Uisgneabhal Mor in particular. I walked along the edge, looking down at long drops to the Pass. Sgaoth Iosal is a particularly eye-catching summit as you drive that pass, so it was nice to make it here. Then I made a quick descent back to the glen, back toward the car where it was parked by the loch.
Following the Sgaoth round, I was due to be back in Stornoway in the evening for a meal with Calum Angus, who directed the Alba version of my film Two-Eight-Two. But I had time to spare yet! Cleit Ard isn't much of a 'mountain' (similarly to Cleit Niosaboist the previous day), but a particularly prominent bit of moorland lying just off the road. It would be one more to cram in, so I parked up and dashed up to the summit cairn.
Cleit Ard presents great views of Loch Shiphoirt, and also Gleann Scaladail where, though I wasn't to know it now, Dave and I would soon have an epic time climbing. It would wind up involving climbing loose, vegetated rock, some major rockfall, then racing the final bit to the top as rain began to pour from the sky. To top it all off, we reckon it was a new route. We called the route Impact in honour of the impact crater left by Dave in the second belay stance! (glad I wasn't standing three feet to the right)
But for now, this sunny afternoon marked the closure of three days solid hillwalking, and fourteen Harris hills crammed into that time. It got me started on a roll, and the following summer I would be back for more...
Just prior to heading for Stornoway, I stopped for a look in at the Clisham boulders. I know a few things have been climbed on here, but the only one I'm aware of is Hard Lines, taking a direct line through an overhang at font 7a+. At the time it seemed bloody hard, though I got on much better in 2015. (yet still no tick!)
(0.00) 12.45pm Ceann an Ora layby
(0.40) 1.25pm Giolabhal Dubh
(0.55) 1.40pm Giolabhal Glas
(1.25) 2.10pm Beinn na Teanga
(1.50) 2.35pm Sgaoth Aird
(2.10) 2.55pm Sgaoth Iosal
(2.45) 3.30pm Ceann an Ora layby
(0.00) 3.50pm Layby
(0.12) 4.02pm Cleit Ard
(0.25) 4.15pm Layby