On Saturday, we climbed Schiehallion – another munro. Rising out of the surrounding landscape like a great, squat cone, Schiehallion resembles a child’s drawing – it looks exactly like what a mountain should look like. Easily accessible from the shores of Loch Tay, it is extremely popular with walkers, whose pounding feet, over the past thirty years, have created some serious erosion. Since 1999, the mountain has been in the hands of the wonderful John Muir Trust – who have realigned the path sustainably, allowing the eroded scar to heal. This path is clear and very well-maintained all the way up to the boulder fields that surround the summit, and I would recommend Schiehallion to anyone as an ‘easy’ or a first munro. Schiehallion is famous for many reasons – it is the place where Neville Maskelyne calculated the weight of the earth, and Charles Hutton invented contour lines. On a fine day, it is also a lovely-looking mountain, whose gaelic name translates as ‘Fairy Hill of the Caledonians’. I wish I had some photographs that suggested how shapely and pleasing Schiehallion is, but on Saturday the cloud was low and the weather was foul. This is about as much as you are going to see, unfortunately.
On the lower slopes, blaeberries were beginning to appear, and, among the heather, we saw many pretty violets.
A little further up, we hit the cloud.
Bruce kept checking to see that the gang were all together.
The wind picked up, the cloud grew thicker . . .
. . .and by the time we hit the upper summit slopes, visibility was very poor.
Picking my way over those slippery lumps of quartzite was not easy and, just after taking this photo, the storm that had been threatening all morning decided to break. The wind howled and whirled, and the rain lashed down. It was pretty wild. We had to hurry up, push on, and get back down off the mountain. Here I come!
You can probably see how my left arm is refusing to do much by this point, and that the plantarflexion of my left foot is poor. Also, having foolishly forgotten my merino tights, I am wearing a pair of stripey pyjamas under my shorts, and I fear that this may add to the day-release-from-the-puzzle-factory effect of this clip (my choice of legwear was the focus of amused remarks from fellow walkers). But, 1) I am successfully descending 2) I am not tired and 3) I am very happy.
On the way down, the weather cleared up a little, and there was time to pause and photograph the interesting lichen I’d been spotting.
Specialists may correct me, but, from my books, I’d say this was porpidia macrocarpa, and that the wonderful lines and colours – which to me suggest maps, or the script of an ancient hand – is the effect of the lichen extracting iron from the rock. On Schiehallion’s upper slopes, the presence of iron makes the quartzite very pink – so much so that some of the boulders seemed to me to resemble giant slabs of ham . . .
Perhaps I was just getting hungry. . . but hold on a minute, could the powers of the Fairy Hill of the Caledonians possibly transform that quartzite side of ham into . . .
. . . a magical pork pie?
We had a magic day out on Schiehallion, anyway.