Ascent of Cnoc Glas on 2009-09-14

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Ian Teasdale
Bob Kerr
Ken Whyte
Eddie Dealtry
Stuart Benn
Barbara Brodie
Iain Brown
Richard Mclellan
Denise Mclellan
Alan Holmes
Richard Speirs
Jonathan Woods
Date:Monday, September 14, 2009
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Boat
Peak:Cnoc Glas
    Elevation:1234 ft / 376 m

Ascent Trip Report

My last-but-two UK Marilyn (same goes for Ken and Alan). 2 boatloads of us, using Seaharris and Seatrek. We camped 2 nights on Hirta.

Sun 13 Sep: We travel to St Kilda, a party of 20, split between two boats. The Seatrek party assembled at Miabhaig pier, West Lewis, NB091343, early Sat a.m. aboard the Lochlann. I was with the Seaharris party on Enchanted Isle: we went from Levenish pier, South Harris. After a journey of around 4 hours, the two boats met off Boreray, the first island encountered on the approach to Kilda, around 11:00. There was some initial boat-recceing of the E and S landing points. The swell was a bit high for the S point (Rubha Bhrengadal) and the consensus was to return later in the day when the swell was set to reduce further.

We landed on Hirta (Village Bay pier), met the Seasonal Ranger Ian McNee (National Trust for Scotland) for the customary briefing on facilities, safety, bird restrictions etc. We already had permission from NTS to land and summit Dun but the detailed arrangements were at the discretion of the ranger and he was anxious to minimise numbers. Ian T and I had already summitted Bioda Mor in April of this year (with Ian McNee himself) and Gladys wasn't bothered about landing so we three stayed on Hirta and set up camp while the others landed and summitted Dun. (I asked if I could go ashore and get some botanical records and/or visit Dun's lower SE summit but he was against the idea).

Sun p.m. we went back across to Boreray. There were some concerns over the S landing (some of the party didn't fancy the Bad Step) so we went round to the sheltered E side. Again Ian T and I stayed aboard (we'd summitted Boreray in April and there was some talk of a trip out to Stac Levenish during the day); Gladys also stayed aboard. The others landed and summitted, much as we had in April. They were joined by Murray and Donald from Seatrek (the Lochlann skipper and crew member; Murray had last summitted in 1980). Meanwhile on the Enchanted Isle, Ian T and I pottered about with Seumas in the tender, exploring a few sea caves. We spotted a new landing site 200m north of the normal one: an easy hop ashore and scramble up to the grass which then leads to the summit - absolutely no need for roped protection (in dry conditions). We returned to the boat in case of a Levenish trip but this didn't materialise and I regretted not carrying on to revisit the Boreray summit. The rest of the party eventually returned, made the messy guano traverse and abseiled back to the hoat. Our new route is so much neater! (see Mullach an Eilein (Boreray) report for details).

We returned to the Village Bay campsite on Hirta. The conditions looked good for a Soay landing next morning - for me this was the real prize! We met and discussed the situation, agreeing to divide into early and late-morning landing parties, the later party spending a few hours exploring Hirta first.

Mon 14: the Enchanted Isle team (Ian T, Bob, Stuart, Barbara, Eddie, Iain B, Ken and I) left Village Bay early, went round the E and S side of Hirta to approach Soay from the SE. We noted a promising landing point (NA 06571 00871) on the SE shore just E of A' Chala, but the consensus was to land at the "normal" landing point at Lamhriga Sroine (NA 06921 01112) opposite Stac Dona - Stuart had summitted from here previously and we knew it worked. The Enchanted Isle stood a few metres offshore while the little tender ferried the 8 of us ashore at the rocky point, in groups of 2 or 3. We soon got a nasty surprise: the splash zone was covered in a thin coating of black lichen and was extremely slippery. Ian T and Bob set up a safety rope and we carefully negotiated the narrowish 15m-long low arete which led to the start of the Pitch. This is a steep 10m section - an easyish exposed scramble when dry (I tried it later) but with the first 2m still damp from yesterday's swell, it called for a bold lead by Ian Teasdale. Once Ian was up and belayed, the rest of us followed. Once above the pitch, a faint path leads straight up for maybe 20m, then L (W) through a rocky gap, then a traverse path leads W across grassy slopes (very steep and exposed - no reason to fall but if you did, you'd fall straight into the sea). At about NA 0776 0116 we headed straight up a shallow re-entrant, remaining on steep grass all the way. The summit - a plateau in contrast to the island's extremely steep sides - was in cloud when we arrived at the small cairn, but the morning mist steadily cleared with stunning views across to Hirta and the more distant Boreray and its attendant Stacs Armin and Lee. Eventually we headed back down. We roped down the Pitch, although having got down I scrambled back up and down the steepest part - a fairly simple but exposed scramble once the rock has dried out, grade YDS 4 (maybe hardish 3). We left the ropes in place for the later party to use and retrieve.

As we left, the Lochlann was arriving with the second party. As we later learned, they had a much easier time of the initial ascent: the rock is fine when dry. However the swell was already building and they had a slightly more difficult landing than we did, and and a "rather interesting" departure in a swell of 3 feet or more. This second summit party comprised Richard and Denise, Richard S, Alan H and Jonathan.

Meanwhile, the Enchanted Isle team explored the N coast of Hirta. Highlights were (1) Seumas taking the boat through the less-than-10m-wide passage between Bradastac and the main bulk of Hirta and (2) a view of Boreray through a deep natural arch, Gob na h-Airde.

Next we headed out to Stac Levenish: Ian T and I still had our eye on this - only 63m high but out on its own, a familiar landmark on the Kilda approach and therefore alluring. The swell had risen to about 3-4ft and waves were starting to wash over the ideal landing landing point on the slabby South point. After circumnavigating the stac, we decided to try a more sheltered spot 100m or so E of the S point. In the event, Ian T decided to stay aboard and belay me in case I fell in (this seemed quite likely!). I was wearing my Walsh PB hillrunning shoes (renowned for their grip on wet rock) and initially put a pair of big woollen socks over them to increase friction on the slippery slabs. However these provided no purchase on the GRP surface of the boat for pushing off! So I took off the outer socks and jumped ashore in the Walshes. This worked OK, but I had to get out of a tricky little wet slabby corner. Managing to scramble up on the R side, I then unroped and easily traversed L (W) on good dry rock until above the S point, headed up nice easy slabs then E along the grassy flowery ridge to the summit. Excellent! I soon headed back down (the swell wasn't getting any better), reversing the upward route with occasional directions from the others back in the boat. I was soon back at the landing spot where Seumas and Ian were waiting in the tender to ferry me back to the Enchanted Isle. I'm told there was some difficulty getting back onto the tender - I remember nothing about it!). We then headed back to Hirta for the delights of the souvenir shop. We camped for a second night before heading back to the "mainland" i.e. Harris.

Tue 15: I made an early start and had 2 hours on Hirta, at last making it to An Campar at the far (W) end of the island - something which I'd not quite had time for during earlier visits. It was doubly satisfying now to look across to Soay having stood on its summit the previous day. I revisited the superb Mullach Bi, refound the Claigeann Mor OS trig bolt, made a chance find of another OS bolt at NF 09394 98688 on Clash na Bearnaich, finally visiting the very nice rocky top of Ruaival overlooking Dun, before returning to break camp.

Late morning we headed back to Harris/Lewis via some islands. The Enchanted Isle team visited Pabbay and Ensay before returning to Leverburgh, extremely satisfied with our trip. I was very happy to get Soay and my bonus summit, Levenish; several of the group came back with 4 new St Kilda Marilyn ticks which was an amazing achievement. All credit to Brent Lynam who made the arrangements, and to a number of others - especially Stuart Benn who had advised on logistics, bird issues etc over a decade of dreaming and planning.

Team: Alan Dawson, Alison Richardson, Brent Lynam, Alan Holmes, Ian Teasdale, Rob Woodall, Richard Wood, Richard and Denise McLellan, Stuart Benn, Barbara Brodie, Iain Brown, Stewart Logan, Richard Speirs, Eddie Dealtry, Brian Ewing, Bob Kerr, Jonathan Woods, Ken and Gladys Whyte.

Impressions and team members' best/worst moments from the trip in MarHoFN 2010.

Boats: Seatrek and Seaharris

St Kilda photo albums

Access / restrictions / timing: to my knowledge, as of 2009 there are no bird issues affecting the normal route. The main issue is the sea state. Ideally flat calm is needed, although our 2nd party experienced a little swell when they landed and 3 feet or more as they left. Soay is the island most exposed to the swell and is notoriously difficult to land on. The weather is most likely to be suitable between April and September, which is the main "tourist season". It will probably be necessary to charter a boat unless you can somehow fit in an ascent and descent around the "tourist trips" schedule (the trips normally involve 4 hours ashore on the main island, Hirta).

Co-ordinates: (see also Boreray report)
Soay E landing (the standard one, which we used): NA 06921 01112
Soay SE landing (could be better but we didn't try it): NA 06571 00871
Possible western landing: NA 0600 0110 approx (from the boat this looked like it might be feasible). I heard that Angus Murray (an ex warden) made an ascent from the west side, but have no details.
Soay summit: NA 06259 01616, 382m.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1234 ft / 376 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1234 ft / 376 m
    Round-Trip Distance:1.2 mi / 2 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 4
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Flat calm at start
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1234 ft / 376 m
    Distance:0.6 mi / 1 km
    Route:From S, Lamhriga Sroine
    Start Trailhead:Lamhriga Sroine  0 ft / 0 m
    Time:3 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1234 ft / 376 m
    Distance:0.6 mi / 1 km
    Route:Same as ascent
    End Trailhead:Lamhriga Sroine  0 ft / 0 m
    Time:2 Hours 

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