Tuesday 7 October 2008

A Few Days on Skye

The weather forecast said sunny, the midge forecast said negligible so I headed to the Isle of Skye for a few days wild camping and gabbro scrambling. The midges on Skye can be ferocious so it’s somewhere I usually avoid during summer. By late September they are usually calming down and I had that midge forecast to reassure me. Even so I packed repellent and mosquito coils. Arriving in early evening I walked down Glen Sligachan as the sky darkened on a clear evening with just a faint hint of chill in the air and not a murmur of wind. Entry into the wild was between the towering sentinels of Sgurr na Gillean and Marsco, two of the magnificent mountains of Skye. As the light faded the stars started to shine and soon I was walking under a spectacular sky, another sign of the coming autumn. There are no skies like this in summer; the sky never darkens enough for the Milky Way to stand out so brightly. Revelling in the dramatic night with the stars sparkling between the black silhouettes of the hills I walked without a light, just able to follow the faint, pale line of the thin, twisting path. I did need a headlamp to stumble through the bogs to the narrow strip of dry ground beside Loch na Creitheach where I camped for two nights.

The next day dawned grey and flat with no sign of the sun. The thick bank of cloud was just brushing the summits. I wandered up little Sgurr na Stri, one of the finest viewpoints in the whole of the Highlands, and stared down to Loch Scavaig and Loch Coruisk and up to the curving ramparts of the Cuillin, a familiar but always exciting ragged line of rock peaks. Tour boats from Elgol puttered around the head of Loch Scavaig. A kayaker paddled to an island on Loch Coruisk. The air was calm and everything was peaceful. Staying above Loch Coruisk I made a way over the rough terrain of the Druim nan Ramh, the going hard as the rock strata cut across the line of the ridge, making for many little ascents and descents. Right in the heart of the Cuillin Druim nan Ramh is another superb viewpoint, though little visited it seems as there’s no path. The mountains hung grey under the gloomy sky.

Back at camp I sat outside the tent contemplating the gently rippling waters of the loch and the huge mountains. Skye is marvellous whatever the weather. Then the midges arrived. In numbers and hungry. I cooked and ate in the tent with the doors zipped tight shut, glad it was midge proof, then read the evening away, unwilling to collect any more bites. The midge forecast could not have been less accurate. The midges were still waiting for me the next morning and the clouds were hiding the summits. I breakfasted in the tent then packed everything except the tent itself. Once outside I took the tent down, glad that this only took a few minutes, bundled into a pack pocket and headed back to Sligachan and the long drive home. The forecasts for sun and no midges were wrong but Skye had still worked its relaxing magic and I felt renewed and refreshed.

Photo info: Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS@42mm, f8@1/160, ISO 200, raw file converted to JPEG in DxO Optics Pro.


  1. Good yarn, Chris.

    Is that a Stevenson Warmlite tent I spy in there??

    Is it a new purchase and how does it compare to your experience with the Akto? Condensation-wise and the rest.

    Didn't expect midges to be that bad this time of year...


  2. Well Chris...I know why the midges came after you. It was not the fault of the midge forecast but the color of your tent. I bet every midge could see that from miles away.
    What the ... did you test out and I hope the final product will be a bit less flashy

  3. Do you think the midges could have been attracted by the rather revoltingly coloured tent? ;-)

    I realise it may have been one you were testing - given the choice, I would have expected you to use something a bit less eyecatching. Do you have any preference for less obtrusive colours for tents, clothing etc.?

  4. I thought the tent might attract attention! Yes, it is a Stephenson's Warmlite, the 2X model, which is the only single skin one. I've been testing it for a review of single skin tents that will appear soon on Backpacking Light.com.

    Stephenson's have been making this tent for decades so it's very much a final product. It's available in much brighter colours! How about fushia or pink? The colour of my tent is described as lime green. However there's also a darker green, tan, olive drab and grey that are all quite subdued.

    I prefer dull colours but of course I have to accept whatever arrives for testing.

    Colour aside I like the tent. It's very roomy and very light and so far condensation has been light for a single skin tent.

  5. Chris

    I'm looking forward to reading your review!

    I notice you cooked in the tent - was that fine? Did it feel safe? (for those that don't know I think the tent doesn't have a vestibule area, just one big inside; the manufacturers say the tent is fine to cook in, as do lots of users, but I'm never too sure so am interested in this aspect!).


  6. Pete,

    The tent not only has no vestibule but the door opens over the inner so you can't have it open without rain getting in. I cooked inside with the door closed. I used a small gas stove and this was fine. I placed it under the upper vent so steam could exit. There is plenty of space but I was still very careful. I don't usually cook inside a tent.

  7. Sorry to bug you with these minutiae, but your accumulated wisdom and experience is arguably unmatched: so, when you cook inside a tent, what do you put under the stove? If one uses a canister stove, stability is an issue, but if you go for something like the MSR WindPro, then you want to insulate the bottom from the groundsheet. I haven't come up with any bright lightweight but safe idea to deal with the problem, so I always cook in the porch. Any tips very much appreciated! (and I suppose it's always a good idea to have a knife handy if you need a sharp exit through the sidewalls..


  8. Walter, I don't actually have much experience of cooking in a tent. Prior to this occasion I hadn't cooked in a tent for many years. I normally cook in the porch or outside. In this case I took a stove that screws into a canister as I reckoned this would be easiest to use. Initially I just set it up on the groundsheet with nothing under it. Later I used the foil windshield. Some form of stove stand would be a good idea and essential for a hose-connected stove like the Wind Pro, as you say. A thin sheet of hardboard would probably work.

    I didn't have a knife handy. I didn't think setting fire to the tent was likely. I was much more concerned about knocking the pan over and soaking the groundsheet.

  9. Nice tent Chris. Better in a mixture of blues though! :)
    Mike fae Dundee.

  10. I wonder what colour your Warmlite is, Mike? :-)

  11. Any chance of a blog mini-review on this tent Chris? Specifically, how suitable it is to the scottish climate and terrain.

  12. Steve, I may do that. In the meantime I'll just say it's not very suitable for the Scottish climate in terms of humidity but it is very wind resistant. Condensation can be a big problem, as with any single skin tent. I think the double-skin version would be much better.