The Hill of Strife..
General Dynamics F111 70-2377 on Sgurr na Stri.
(Distance covered =
7.0 mile/Ascent =+1140m)
I'd been to this crashsite before in the summer holidays of 2018*, but on that occasion I'd barely made it to the scene when some very inclement weather forced me to beat a hasty retreat off the mountain.
While walking back out along a landrover track to the car park in 2018 I was passed by a crusty old landrover which was making it's way to the Hunting lodge at Camasunary and coping admirably with the very rough terrain. Following along behind the Landrover was a new top of the range Rangerover, being driven by who I assumed was the client. The Rangerover had not coped so well, and at least two of it's very expensive looking tyres had been shredded by jagged rocks. While the toff stopped to contemplated his predicament I got to talking to the Ghillie who was driving the old Landrover, he told me the best time to visit Skye for better weather was Easter. So in April 2019 I was back, but on this occasion I had Stuart Whittaker as company.
Back at the base of Sgurr na Stri in April 2019.
After just making it across the Abnainn Camas Fhionnairigh river with dry feet in 2018 my plan this time was to take some old boots to put on, just to ford the river. I would then put my hiking boots on and leave the old boots on the opposite bank to use on the return. On arrival at the same stepping stones I'd used the previous year it transpired a change of boots was not needed as the water level in the river was quite a bit lower. Just as well as my plan wouldn't have worked anyway because I'd left the old boots in the boot of my car!
A lot easier to cross this time.(photo courtesy of Stuart Whittaker)
In 2018 I had ascended Sgurr na Stri from the east side, this time we were going up the west side, where we believed most of the wreckage would be located. To reach where we wanted to start our ascent of the Mountain involved a walk of about 1.5 mile around the shoreline below Sgurr na Stri. Thankfully though we would be turning uphill before we reached the infamous 'Bad Step'.
Heading south down the east side of Sgurr na Stri.
Making our way around Rubha Ban.
Turning north up the west side towards Rubha Bhuide which is the little peninsula seen ahead.
As we made our way around the most southern point of the path and turned in a north westerly direction towards the western shoreline we were presented with our first glimpse of our objective high above us. Tantalizingly it was bathed in sunlight. Although there was a temptation to strike up the steep slope directly towards it we had to continue hugging the coastline north for quite a bit further. We did spot what we thought was the first piece of wreckage of the day lying on a rocky beach, but on closer inspection it turned out to be nothing more interesting than a bit of plywood.
above and below:- First view of the F111 crashsite on Sgurr na Stri.
The ascent of Sgurr na Stri looks quite daunting from the east
but around on the western side it was foreboding,
with the hillside being covered with rock outcrops and no apparent
route up to the top. We had to cautiously explore several
gullies before we found one that lead to where we wanted to
be, and as an added bonus it also contained a trail of
Above and below:- Heading uphill, at least the threat of a dunking was now diminished!
The climb uphill away from the coastline path was very steep in places but the search for pieces of wreckage kept us pre-occupied, and Stuart had laid down a challenge that the first person to find a piece of F111 would have extra beans when we arrived back at the Bothy. I won, just!
This Turbine blade earned me extra beans at Teatime.
above and below:- This gully went diagonally up the mountain side, was not as steep as expected and contained numerous pieces of wreckage.
The first time I visited this crashsite I only made it to the large rockface situated immediately above the area where the F111 hit the hill, I then had to make a strategic withdrawal from the hill because of the weather. Consequently I only managed to take a couple of photos of bits of wreckage. On this visit the weather was much kinder and I came away with 240 photos plus another 100+ Stuart took.
At the impact area, Rubha Bhuide can be seen far below in the background.(Photo courtesy of Stuart Whittaker)
Above and below:-Alluminium, compacted into crevices in the rockface where the F111 collided with the mountainside, testimony to the force of the impact.
above and below:- The largest piece we found, part of the F-111's tailfin.
An F111 with the section of tail found on Sgurr na Stri roughly outlined in yellow.
More wreckage photos (a lot more)
Searching for wreckage farther north on the western side of the Mountain.
A piece of F111, just below the centre of the photo. This was the farthest away piece found to the north and some distance back downhill from the impact area. A steep rockface prevented us going over for a photo.
After spending quite a bit of time searching around the numerous terraces and gullies we came to the conclusion we had found everything we were going to find without putting ourselves in too much risk of falling off a rockface. Our next objective was the summit, so we set off to regain all the altitude we had lost looking for wreckage, with our fingers crossed the cloud might lift off the Cuillins so we would get the advertised spectacular views from the top.
A photo Stuart took, looking almost vertically down to the sea it shows to good effect the opportunities available to fall off a rock face.
above and below:-Up the top of the western gully. I used the western gully to reach the crashsite in 2018. It was comparatively easy going up here.
Above and below:-A couple of the pieces found higher up the mountain.
Imagine that view on a clear day.
Cairn on the summit of Sgurr na Stri.
Above and next two photos:-Views from the top of Sgurr na Stri.
For our return route we continued north from the summit following a ridge before dropping back down to the river via a choire between Sgurr na Stri and Sgurr Hain. Although this route was a lot less 'ball clenching' it was a lot farther to walk, but the thought of those extra beans was enough to keep me motivated for what turned out to be a long slog down off the hill.
Route back down, it wasn't as difficult as it looks on this photo.
Above and below:- Grazing on the pasture next to the Hunting lodge, these locals seemed confident there were no stalkers in residence.
A welcome sight after a long day, and tonight we had it all to ourselves.
(Photo courtesy of Stuart Whittaker)