The weather in April is notoriously changeable … but not in May. Even in Scotland this is known as the merry month – with a prospect of consistently nice weather and summery temperatures. This has been my experience as well, and many years ago I walked through the Letterewe wilderness in T-shirt and shorts. So naturally, when I set off for the Isle of Skye a few weeks ago to hike the Skye Trail, I was hoping not only for light conditions which would be dramatic and conducive to great photography, but also for beautiful spring weather.
Well, this time, May turned out to be not a “regular” May, but rather an extension of April. But then, what is ever really normal up in the North? The whole dismal situation was brought home to me straightaway, when I stared out of the window during the coach trip from Glasgow airport to Portree. Everywhere creeks and rivers, filled to the brink and foaming wildly, were rushing down the mountains, lakes burst their banks, the rain was unrelenting, and to top it off, it was snowing in Glen Shiel. I arrived at the island of the Inner Hebrides with some trepidation – I was worried whether I would be in for a real water fight. In this point, my imagination was fueled by other hikers whom I met in Portree and who had also meant to walk all of the Skye Trail, but who had already abandoned their plan, limiting themselves instead to small, selected tidbits of the hiking trail in order to be able to dry out now and again in comfortably warm hotels. Moreover, a stiff breeze accompanied the steady rain, a noisy pitter-patter pushing the great wet across Skye.
Oh well, first of all I bought gas cartridges and a weatherproof map of the trail, then, nothing daunted, I set off from Broadford. Actually, one or two problems did occur afterwards – in the form of ever recurring downpours, stormy winds, and squishy, damp ground. However, despite all adversity, I was destined to be lucky. I got through, was able to cross all rivers without incident, my feet remained dry, I pitched my tent at incredibly beautiful spots, which I managed to find in the midst of all the mud, and walked from south to north, all the way. Past the ruins of Boreraig and Suishnish, through Torrin and Elgol. Alongside water and on narrow paths high above steep cliffs. I climbed the summit of Sgurr na Stri and later also that of Ben Tianavaig. I saw every mountain top of the Cuillin and spent a quiet night at Loch Coruisk, a popular tourist destination. Sligachan was along the way, so was Braes. A continued up and down across mountains and then Old Man Of Storr and its neighbor, Needle Rock. This is were I bid my time. But instead of mild weather, which really would have been necessary for the next section of the track, there was sleet and more snow. In addition to this, low, gloomy clouds and a storm which would have catapulted me off the Trotternish Ridge, out to the open sea. For this reason, the mountain crest was the only place denied to me, and I followed the road to Staffin instead. However, this was not really bad – at the end of the tour Quiraing compensated for it, and finally The Lookout, high above Hunish and the northern tip of the Isle of Skye.
I arrived up there, dirty and soaked to the skin. But so what? Every now and again during my hike I did have the pleasure of experiencing the rays of the sun, if only for fleeting moments. They cheered me up, and then I nearly got, what I had dreamed of before: “Gloomy cloud formations, dramatically enthroned above the mountains, only admitting a sliver of sunlight to pierce the blackness, flare up, and bathe selected spots of scenery in golden light.”
Guest blogger: Martin Hülle
About Martin Hülle:
Martin Hülle (*1973) has been particularly drawn to the rough and remote landscapes of Northern Europe for more than two decades. Photography and writing are a way of life for him – an opportunity to capture emotions, express them, and share them with others. In this, camera and note book are his constant companions in the search for exciting stories.