From the Cairn Ban Archives... 

Rory's Slimy Passage and other Cioch Misdemeanours

Rory Kennedy, 5 May 2006

As part of this year's annual Skye trip, Stewart, Alex, Bob, George, Campbell, Ally MacSween and I decided to attempt the Cioch Stone, while blessed with unseasonably fine weather. As the ever enthusiastic Stewart Michie put it, ‘we would have been criminally insane not to!’

The initial route involved picking our way up one of Sgurr Alasdair's gullies, past a disturbing amount of fresh rock fall. Once we got through this nasty loose stuff a more involved scramble eventually took us up to an impressive slab face below the stone itself.

Campbell, George and Ally picked their way along a narrow and highly exposed horizontal seam that then led to a craggy, vertical scramble up to the ledge above.

Meanwhile Alex suggested a rock climb up the slab immediately beneath the Stone. We soon became aware that this was a committing face, incredibly exposed with moments where holds seemed to disappear. It was certainly the case for the less ‘atypically built’ rock climbers amongst us and, as hard as anything I have done on a climbing wall, four season boots were a distinct disadvantage.

Once up on the ledge any relief soon evaporated as the next problem was encountered; a narrow, smooth, sloping ridge onto the stone itself. This required straddling and the descending gradient made the final section a heart-stopping bum slide down the polished rock... with a very ugly drop either side! It was at this moment I realised Cioch was actually an ancient derivation of 'keech yersel'.

Finally the climb to the stone itself and, save for a rather tricky first manoeuvre (a lunge for a high, solitary handhold), the rest of it was exposed but relatively simple. Once on the rock we traded the expected Highlander sword duelling for a more sedentary approach, sunbathing on one of the most exclusive suntraps on our fair isle.

 

We retraced our steps and found our way into the Eastern Gully via another precipitous seam in the slab face, not before Campbell christened the Stone by peeing off it into the corrie 2,000ft below (horses arse nomination??)... we are only grateful he decided on the lesser of the two obvious evils. I think it would also be fitting to nominate him for wearing an atrocious Frank Bough style, multi coloured golf sweater, more distracting than the dizzying drop beneath us!

The gully itself seemed simple after the previous exposure until we came across a huge boulder that acted as a choke stone, blocking the gully. The route then involved an unexpected bit of potholing as each person in turn slithered through a narrow slimy passage under the rock. The narrow aperture required both arms outstretched and a wriggling motion that seemed an uncomfortable and tricky manoeuvre for even the slimmest of the party. Then my go and a moment of ‘concern’ as I was wedged round the chest and pelvis simultaneously... to the cry of ‘give me a break I've got my Mother's hips!’ A bit of contorting, writhing, squeezing (and pushing from Alex!) and I emerged unhurt... save for my pride.

Another hole to clear and finally we emerged into glorious sunshine on the ridge when, with poetic timing, a sea eagle soared over us... to quote a strange chap in an horrific Argyle sweater ‘better than sex’!!

 

Rory