Some photographic plans don't turn out quite as expected, and this was the case on the day we chose to do the Sgurr Na Stri hike, which had promise of one of the best mountain top views in the country (and even wider). The hike itself entailed leaving from Sligachan and involved a 20km (~13 mile) round trip to the top of Sgurr Na Stri (497m) with a view across the Cuillin Hills.
Checking the weather the night before it appeared we had the potential for the perfect day, and with a 4.35am alarm the day started again - the body reeling from a couple of weeks of multiple extremely early starts and late evenings.
As we arrived at Sligachan, the moon was high in the sky and the sun was starting to light up the tops of the mountains. This created some great atmospheric views as we started the first stage of the hike which was a long walk up the glen (6.5km).
A few hours later, making good progress, we reached the end of Glen Sligachan and started to ascend towards Sgurr Hain (the mountain before Sgurr Na Stri). From the glen we had seen the Cuillin Hills clothed in a low cloud base and clouds were blowing over the ridges around us - we could only hope that with it being early morning, that the continuing rising sun would push up the temperature and help lift the cloud.
As we continued up the track, suddenly a red deer crossed in front of us. It didn't seem at all bothered by our presence and continued to graze and moved down the mountain slopes with the sun light hitting it at one point, bringing a contrast to the shadowy landscape below:
Finally we reached the initial slopes of Sgurr Na Stri, and had a view across to Loch Coruisk and the sea beyond. Unfortunately the cloud base looked like it was there to stay:
We continued on, skirting around the slopes of Sgurr Na Stri, until we found a suitable point to start the ascent. Unfortunately the peak of the mountain was under cloud so we stopped for a break to absorb the view, which was still stunning. Shadows moved across the landscape, changing the light over the loch, and giving a taste of what might have been the view if the cloud base had not been so low!
We couldn't come this far without reaching the top of Sgurr Na Stri, so we continued on into the cloud and finally made it. After getting some photos we settled down behind a large slab of rock, sheltered from the wind, resting, hoping the cloud might miraculously lift.
It wasn't to be the case, for the time being. We caught a few glimpses of the loch beneath us as the cloud blew across the rocky landscape, but decided not to wait for a few hours that might be needed to get a chance for any change:
It was time to return, knowing we had a very long walk back before we could reach the car. As we headed down into the glen we could see a white spot in the distance which was Sligachan Hotel, near to where the car was parked! (So small it cannot be easily seen in the photo below!)
On and on we went, the hotel not really seeming to get any closer (the same feeling I had read about in a few reviews of the hike). Looking back we saw the peak of Sgurr Hain had cleared which left us with a tinge of disappointment. The Cuillin Hills were still under cloud, but the view would have been so much better from Sgurr Na Stri if we had done the hike a few hours later. Maybe another time in the future...
As we slowly but surely progressed down the glen and passed Sgurr Nan Gillean, there was a major contrast in the lighting from early in the morning. The mountain looked so dark and foreboding...
..compared to eight hours before with the early morning light:
Finally we reached the car - tired, aching, and thirsty (I had run out of water on the route back). Samuel's Fitbit had recorded 38000 steps, 13 miles, 3800 calories(!), 6hr 45mins walking time, and it was still mid-afternoon!
Not all photographic sessions end with the desired results, and this was one of them. But no complaints. With the weather we had experienced the past ten days on the Isle of Skye, it had exceeded all expectations, with the sunrises, sunsets and landscape we had seen and recorded. And to round off the day, later that evening I was able to capture the final colours from the sun setting down at Staffin Bay.