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So much depends in a camping holiday upon the site and surroundings of the camp, and so much of the pleasure and profit, if any, in reading of the campers' adventures arises from an intelligent understanding of those conditions, that I had almost begun this article by a description of Coruisk and the Coolins. 'Twould have been an oft-told tale to the readers of the Journal. Collie and others have already described them far more eloquently than I could ever hope to do, yet no one, I venture to think, could realise even from their accounts what it means, to live for five weeks in the heart of Coruisk; to see Ghreadaidh slowly forming out of the gloom of the morning mists; to see, when some storm had passed, the wet slabs of the Coolins glistening in the sunlight; to see, when the sun had set, shafts of light darting through every cleft on the Banachdich ridge and thrusting golden streamers into the darkness of the corries, and to feel continually the near presence of the immense black peaks that crowded around our lonely camp - these, and many other sights that we daily witnessed, it is hardly in the power of words properly to express.
This article, however, being entirely practical in its aim and object, let me, in the interests of those who may wish at some future time to camp at a spot as remote from the habitations of man as that at the head of Loch Coruisk, endeavour to give an outline of the plans and arrangements which were made beforehand, and which enabled us to carry-out successfully our long sojourn in the wilds of Skye.
After obtaining the sanction of Macleod of Macleod to camp on his ground at the head of Loch Coruisk, we arranged with John Macrae, a fisherman in the island of Soay, to hire us a boat for the time of our holiday. Without a boat it would have been impossible to transport our baggage to the head of the loch.
Our next endeavour was to ascertain what would be the most suitable kind of house for our purpose, for we required one that would be easily carried, and strong enough to withstand the winds and floods that we were likely to encounter. The idea of a tent was at once discarded, for even the best of tents would never have weathered a Skye gale. Profiting by the experience of Mr Williams and other artists who are in the habit of living in portable wooden houses, Mr Rennie evolved a very good structure of wood and felt, which suited our purpose admirably; and after living in it night and day for more than a month, I cannot see how in any respect it could have been improved. It was quite watertight, and kept our beds and bedding perfectly dry. The accompanying diagrams show the plan of the house. Its chief disadvantage is that it cannot easily be taken down without spoiling the wood and felt, and this precludes the idea of using it more than once. The three huts which formed our camp were all built after the same model, with the exception of "The Cook-shop," which, as will be seen from plans Nos. 2 and 4, had an extension at the back for the accommodation of the cooking-stoves.
In setting up these huts, the first operation is to screw the end triangles together, and to set them up facing each other 8 feet apart. The ridge-pole is then slipped into its place, and the ends bound together with a few of the side spars, when the whole thing should be able to stand by itself. It is next squared with the ground, the side supports for the ridge-pole inserted, and the rest of the spars nailed on. All that has to be done now to the framework is to peg the corners down to the ground, put up the door-posts, and fill in the ends. Seven strips of felt are next cut out, 8½ feet long.
These are required for the roof of each hut, and should be nailed on, commencing with the bottom, so that the upper one overlaps the lower about 2 inches. The ends are next covered, and the doors put on the last thing of all.
The Wood. - Three kinds of wood were used in the construction of the framework, and the technical names for these were:
|First quality flooring||6½ inches x 1 1/8 inch.|
|Sarking||8 inches x 5/8 inch.|
|Lining||6 inches x 5/8 inch.|
We got the quantity we required from a joiner in Helensburgh, and it was cut up by ourselves into:
|2 pieces 8 ft. long, 6½ in. x 1 1/8 in.||Ridge-poles|
|1 piece 10ft. long, 6½ in. x 1 1/8 in.||Cook-shop ridge-pole.|
|6 pieces 9½ ft long, 3¼ in. x 1 1/8 in.||Triangles.|
|12 pieces 9ft long, 3¼ in. x 1 1/8 in.||Triangles.|
|16 pieces 9½ft long, 2 in. x 1 1/8 in.||Support for ridge-poles.|
|12 pieces 6¼ft long, 2 in. x 1 1/8 in.||Door-posts and ends.|
|42 pieces 8ft long, 2 in. x 5/8 in.||Cross-spars.|
|12 pieces 4¾ft long, 6 in. x 5/8 in.||Doors.|
|6 pieces 2ft long, 6 in. x 1 1/8 in.||Doors.|
This, with some over-planks for flooring, etc, cost £2. 7s. 10d.
The Felt. - This was called roofing-felt. It was 32 inches wide, and we purchased four rolls at 7s. 6d. a roll. In each roll there was 25 yards, and it weighed 90 lbs. The cost of each hut thus came to about 26s.
Provisions. - 24 2-lb tins of soup - Kidney, ox-tail, mock-turtle, mulligatawny, gravy, Julienne; 14 2-lb tins of meat - Beef, brawn, chicken and tongue, Halford's curried fowl, mince, ox tongue; 2 tins pears, 4 tins tomatoes, 4 lbs. dried apples, 4 lbs. dried apricots, 2 lbs. figs, 5 lbs. prunes, 7 lbs. rice, 14 lbs. oatmeal, 2 lbs. coffee, 3 lbs. tea, ¼ lb cocoa; 14 lbs. sugar; mustard, pepper, salt, pickles, sauce; 5 lbs. cheese, 7 lbs. beans, 7 lbs. wheaten biscuits, 2 boxes ginger nuts, 7 lbs. ship biscuits, 12 2-lb. jars of jams and jellies, 1 doz. Swiss milk tins (N.B. - First Swiss Brand Unsweetened Condensed Milk, London Agency, 3 Laurence Pountney Hill, E.C., goes very well with porridge), 2 lbs flour, 4 lb. skin of lard, 3 tins sardines, 3 tins Maggi soup, 3 lbs. macaroni, 14 lbs. ham, 4 doz. eggs, 8 lbs. butter, 1 stone potatoes, 6 lbs onions, 12 doz. oranges, 1 packet Hudson's extract, 14 2-lb. loaves of bread , 1 gallon tar, and 4 gallons paraffin oil.
N.B. - We had to renew our supply of oatmeal, sugar, milk, butter, rice, and bread.
Coke. - 2 cwts. in 4 bags.
The Scrim. - This was a thin white cloth which we used for lining our sleeping huts; it cost 2d. a yard.
The Furniture. - Four camp beds. These were got from the makers, Hoyland & Smith, Birmingham, and were 6 feet by 2 feet 3 inches, with an iron framework and wire mattress, above which was a thick felt mattress. One coke stove called the "Doctress," from Smith & Wellstood, Glasgow; one paraffin stove called the "Primus"; one folding-table, and four chairs.
Pots and Pans. - One each, kettle, porridge-pot, goblet, frying-pan, deep-pot and steamer, tea-pot, coffee-pot, milk jug, 6 cups and saucers, 10 plates, 3 trays, 3 basins, 2 pails, and 6 deep-bowls, 6 each knives, forks, and spoons.
Lanterns. - Three paraffin, called Hinks' "Hurricane."
Tools. - Spade, hammers, saws, pincers, etc.
Nails. - 1 lb. 2½-inch cut nails, 3 lbs. 2-inch cut nails, 1 gross 2¼-inch by 14 screws, 5 lb. clout tacks, hinges for doors, brass hooks, and coils of wire.
With all this baggage, Rennie, Brown and I arrived in Oban on 19th July 1897, and the following morning we steamed northwards in Macbrayne's steamer "The Gael" for Loch Scavaig. The weather looked very unsettled, and dark rain-clouds hung heavily over the mountains of the mainland as we sailed up the Sound of Mull, and rounded Ardnamurchan Point, but fortunately the sun was shining brightly when we reached Loch Scavaig. From there it is about a quarter of a mile to Loch Coruisk, and two miles more takes one to the head of the loch.
With the assistance of Macrae and two of his mates we made short work of the porterage, but the boat was much too small for our purpose, and it took in all seven journeys to transport the baggage to our camping ground. Before nightfall we had two of our houses erected, and five boatloads brought up from the foot of the loch, but it was hard work, especially the lumping, and we were tired men when we turned into our comfortable beds that night.
The following two days were spent in putting up the third house, and in getting the camp and ourselves into good working order. We were fortunate in having three perfect days for all this, for it would have been exceedingly uncomfortable, to say the least of it, had we been caught in bad weather before we had got everything ship-shape.
The site of our camp was on the silted-up bed of the river at the head of Loch Coruisk, and was exactly two miles from the summits of the principal mountains at the head of the corrie. Its situation was a most picturesque one. In front, the loch studded with little islands, stretched away from our doors to the rocky peak of Sgurr na Stri, whose bold outline blocked the horizon to the east; to right and left the south and north shores of the loch rose steep and slabby to the summits of the Druim na Ramh ridge and Sgurr Dubh, while circling at the back of the camp was the great range of the Coolins, with Ghreadaidh in the centre ever grand and majestic. Though picturesque in situation, the site of our camp could hardly be said to be perfect as a peaceful place of residence, for at best the ground was but a bog in wet weather, and the rattle of the wind was at times like the commotion of peas in the mouthpiece of a whistle.
Opened the campaign upon the mountains, for up to that time we had been unable to do more than lift our eyes to their tops, and that only during the too brief intervals of hewing of wood and drawing of water; but now we were at last free to make their closer acquaintance.
The morning was lovely, and the sun shone brightly on the jagged ridges of the Coolins, which were in full view when my fellow-campers started out for their first climb. Alas! an attack of asthma was to keep me at home that day, and with envious eyes I saw them wending their way over the steep brown slabs of Druim na Ramh to the foot of a gully leading to the top of the ridge, and there I lost sight of them. In the afternoon the clouds gathered up and down came the rain. Rennie and Brown turned up about five o'clock in a drouked condition. They had had a pleasant though uneventful day's climb to the top of Bidean Druim na Ramh. Barrow had left them there with the intention of going to Sligachan for letters, and of returning to camp at night-fall. As the evening advanced the storm increased, and Rennie, who had promised to meet Barrow in the punt at the foot of the loch, donned his oilers and went off with a lantern to fulfil his engagement, though both Brown and I had some misgivings about allowing him to brave the elements on such a night.
It was now blowing a gale The wind got higher and higher with every squall, and buffeted our houses in a most alarming fashion. The rain was now coming down in floods, and the great waterworks of the Coolins were beginning to roar. We were thankful when Rennie turned up in safety about mid-night. He had seen no signs of Barrow, and we of course thought, seeing the night had turned out so bad, that he had not left Sligachan.
The storm had blown itself out, and the mists were gradually lifting from the hills, while we amused ourselves about the camp until the truant should turn up. The whole forenoon passed without any signs of him. At two o'clock we got somewhat anxious, and search parties were organised. Just as these were starting we discovered the culprit limping slowly along the north side of the loch. He had reached Sligachan all right the previous afternoon, but on his later journey he had missed his way in the dark, where the track to Coruisk branches off from the one to Camasunary, and had wandered about all night in the wind and the rain. We soon got him to bed, and after a good night's rest he was, fortunately, none the worse of the exposure.
As the day was now too far spent to do anything on the hills, we devoted what was left of it to fishing, and got a good basket, the largest trout being 2½ lbs.
Another night of heavy rain. We had to turn out in the small hours of the morning to deepen the trenches. It rained most of the morning, but in the afternoon it cleared a bit, and Brown and I had a walk and some bouldering round the sides of our back garden - as we called the great green meadow of bog land which extends behind the rocky outlet of the river to the base of Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh.
Last night we had a renewal of the storm even worse than we had had it before. We slept this night with most of our clothes on, and our boots within easy reach, for the alarming manner in which the strong timbers of our houses creaked and groaned made it appear probable that they might be wrecked at any moment.
The howling of the wind and the noise of many waters was terrific, and we realised what it means to hear "Corrisken roar" in a manner I am sure the poetic author of the line had no experience of. All night the rain came down in torrents, and the river, to add to the terrors of the situation, ran racing past in flood within a few paces of our camp. The smooth slabby sides of Sgurr Dubh were literally converted into one vast water-slide, and the water came pouring over them in cascades, which threatened to flood us out of house and home. About four in the morning I got into oil-skins and took a turn round the camp. Oh! what a sight was there. The whole air was filled with driving sheets of spindrift, which the wind was lifting from the loch and carrying over our houses in clouds of spray. The waterfalls that were thundering down their floods on all sides were being partially swept away in showers of spray, and it was only with difficulty that I could stand against the gale. The roar of the winds and waters was deafening, and high up in the corries I could hear the storm-fiends shouting and howling among the peaks.
Our boat, the object for which I had turned out, was cut off from us, lying in the middle of the river, but moored to what was now an island with a foaming torrent roaring past on each side of it. All day long it continued very wild and stormy, and we stopped indoors most of the day. One unpleasant result of the gale was that the rising loch had stolen a bag of our coke, some onions, and a drum of tar, which we had inadvertently left at the water's edge. We were rather unfortunate with our coke, for a yacht ran off with a portion of our second supply.
Rain, rain, rain! Pouring all day. Rennie and Barrow went down the loch to meet the steamer. Some misunderstanding with the man in Oban. Result - no fresh provisions!
Thank goodness we had a quiet night at last, and were off by 11.30 for Collie's climb on Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh. Aided by the description on page 203 of Vol IV., we, I think, hit off his route fairly well. Hardly had we touched the rocks when down came the rain again. However, when once one is thoroughly wet on a warm day, all discomfort vanishes so long as he keeps moving, and we had a delightful climb, though not quite so difficult as we anticipated.
There is, however, a rather sensational traverse in gaining the crest of the upper buttress, the route leading up loose and shattered ledges on the Coireachan Ruadha face on which the rock is not reliable gabbro, but a most treacherous form of trap. On reaching the top we followed the ridge southwards, and in the thick mist made several attempts to get down the sides before we found an easy route that would go.
It had been raining all day, and when we reached our "back garden," we found the river had again grown to gigantic proportions, but choosing a place where in this flat boggy ground it had split itself up into several water channels, we managed to ford it bit by bit, though in places the strength of the current almost carried us off our feet.
We had another stormy night of wind and rain. Brown and Barrow went off to Sligachan for letters in the afternoon and stayed there all night.
Last night we experienced the heaviest gale we had yet had. The violence of the wind was tremendous. When I went out after one of the worst squalls I found that our boat had been lifted clean away from the place we had left it, and was lying upside down on the beach. Fortunately no damage was done to it. It cleared up towards mid-day, and Rennie and I occupied ourselves drying the accumulation of wet clothes. In the afternoon he and I had a grand scramble up the slabs of Sgurr Dubh, enjoying to the full some splendid mist effects as the storm clouds slowly dragged themselves away from the sides of the hills. In the evening we rowed down the loch to meet Macrae in answer to his beacon fire, and found he had brought us some fine big lythe and a couple of dozen of fresh eggs, a most welcome addition to our larder. Brown and Barrow turned up at dusk, having had . a splendid climb on the Bhasteir face of the fourth pinnacle of Sgurr nan Gillean.
A grand hot day, but most enervating. We had no energy to do more than move about, but enjoyed that thoroughly.
A misty morning, and still very sultry. We made an effort to exert ourselves, and started off for Sgurr Dearg. The awful screes of Coireachan Ruadha were a terrible grind on such a hot day, and we toiled over them but slowly. The mists would not lift, and as we could make nothing of the face of Sgurr Dearg without a clear view, we, after trying several leads that would not go, skirted round the base of the cliffs till we got to the Alasdair - Dubh col. It was now fairly late, but we all descended into "the gap." The long side, however, looked as if it would take too much time to accomplish, so we left it for another day. The thunder was now rolling among the hills, and a lurid light was in the sky, so we rattled down the screes, crossed Coir' an Lochain, and got back to camp before the storm burst.
At last the weather looks better and the morning is fine, with every promise of a clear day, but still the air is very sultry. Alasdair - Dubh gap was to be the order of the day, and we started soon after breakfast, heavily laden with all our cameras - whole-plate, half-plate, and quarter-plate. The passage of this gap is reckoned the most difficult bit of climbing on any part of the Coolin ridge, and as it is as well to take advantage of such hitches for the rope as may be obtained, we took, besides our cameras, an eighty, a sixty, and a spare rope for these impedimenta. All this baggage was an immense nuisance, and we vowed, before the day was over, that such a load of cameras would never accompany us again on a climbing expedition. After getting to the ridge between Sgurr Dubh and Sgurr Alasdair, we followed it northwestwards till we came to the pinnacle. The face of this is very rotten, and the greatest of care had to be exercised so as not to dislodge stones on the heads of those below. We easily managed the short side of the gap with a hitched rope, and the bottom pitch of the other was climbed by throwing a rope up to the hitch above it. Brown led here, and soon had all of us up beside him. After that Alasdair and Tearlach were bagged, and we spent some time admiring the face of Sgurr Mhic Coinnich from above the col. This we also thought of trying, but at first not hitting off the right way down, we had to give it up for want of time, and hurried down by Coir' an Lochain to camp. This was the most delightful day on the hills that we yet had, and had it not been for our burdens, it would have been one of unalloyed joy. We cached our cameras beside the lochan, and indeed were glad to get rid of them.
The thunderstorm of two days had not yet cleared the air, and it was still hot and sultry. This being Tuesday, we made a pilgrimage to the foot of the loch to meet the weekly steamer. The tourists came off in hundreds and spread themselves over the adjacent country in no time. The purser had his work cut out for him in collecting them together again before the steamer sailed. We got our bread this time, and now we were in clover again. Soon the steamer sailed, and we were left for another week in solitary possession of the whole district of Coruisk. This was Barrow's last day, and after he had stowed his traps on board the steamer, he marched off to Sligachan.
Still sultry. Brown and Rennie climbed Sgurr Dearg. Their route was under the north cliffs of Sgurr a' Coir' an Lochain, across Coireachan Ruadha to within 300 feet of the col between Dearg and Mhic Coinnich, thence westwards by a ledge, and reached the ridge between the nameless peak and the pinnacle. The Inaccessible was traversed, and they returned to camp by the Bealach Coire na Banachdich.
Still sultry. Rennie and I made an effort to exert ourselves in spite of the oppressive conditions of the atmosphere. We struggled up to Coir' an Lochain to recover our cameras which we had left there on the 2nd. As we reached them the thunderstorm, which had been brewing for the last few days, burst with great force. We rushed for a little cave which gave us shelter till the worst was over. It was a grand sight. Perched as we were some 2,000 feet above our camp, and surrounded by the grandest peaks in Skye, we felt the sublimity of the storm to the full. The thunder rattled and roared louder louder and more continuously than I had ever heard it before, and lightning flashes were of the most startling and vivid character.
Then the rain descended in sheets, and infant streams were born in a second to grow to great rivers before they reached the valley below. The wind, too, came in sudden and cold gusts, sweeping the rain from off the rocks in clouds of spray. This display lasted for near an hour, and then the storm gradually died away. I shall never forget the clearing of that storm. There are pictures in the heavens that far surpass those of the earth. The mists were of all degrees of density, and great banks were piled up, twisted, and rolled into each other in marvellous confusion, while the sun, struggling through here and there, lighted some up and left others in inky blackness. The ragged edge of the Coolins was peeping through in places, and the whole made as grand a scene as I have ever witnessed.
The air was much more bracing this morning, and oh, joy! we were able at last to breathe freely and walk with a pleasure we had not yet experienced. Some days previously we had reconnoitred a fine climb on the face of the highest peak of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh, above Coire an Uaigneis. Not a long climb - perhaps 800 feet in all - but it looked very steep. We took the easiest way into the corrie, and then tackled the rocks. Brown, who was leading, took us up splendidly. Any one looking at Mhadaidh from Coruisk will see a V-shaped buttress of rock running into the scree-slope above Coire and Uaigneis, with a gully cutting it into two. We got on to the rocks at their lowest point, and, with the gully on our right, kept a straight line for the top. It made a capital climb up continuously steep rock, but without any really exceedingly difficult pitches in it. On getting to the top we ridge-wandered over the other four peaks to the Bealach na Glaic Moire, and in doing so got some excellent scrambling. The steep places are all on the S.W. sides of the tops. On the south face of the third there is a pretty bit of climbing in a shallow gully, and on the second there is a fairly difficult bit to be passed where a pillar of gabbro leaning against the cliff face has to be climbed. But, oh! these scree-slopes of Skye. The Coruisk side of the Bealach na Glaic Moire gives as fair a sample of their ankle-twisting powers as can be got.
Brown after breakfast starts off to Sligachan for letters. He returned the same evening much disgusted with the length and monotony of the tramp. R and I enjoyed the solitude of the camp, fishing, cooking, and loafing being the order of the day.
A most glorious morning. Every line and crack on the mountain faces were clearly defined. Several photographs were taken before breakfast, and we hurried through that meal with a rapidity never seen before. Away we went for old Coireachan Ruadha to have a shot at one of the Banachdich faces. Several leads were tried but they would not go. We reached the ridge by a scree-gully, and spent a long and delightful day in walking from one end of Banachdich to the other, and descended at dusk by Bealach Coire na Banachdich.
As we had been busy taking aneroid heights of the hills, we thought we might as well know the depth of the loch, and for this purpose we spent most of the forenoon in rigging up a sounding line. As soon as it was ready down came the rain, and it poured all afternoon. In the evening it cleared up, and we took some half-a-dozen soundings along a line drawn down the centre of the loch. The greatest depth we found was only 96 feet.
Tuesday again. After meeting the steamer we ascended Sgurr na Stri for the view. This point is, I think, the best place on the island to get a really picturesque and comprehensive idea of the Coolins.
Rain all forenoon! We spent the day in risking the "dangers of the bad-step," and in getting some dairy produce from the farm at Camasunary.
This is Brown's last day, and we resolved to "bag" a lot of peaks instead of trying new climbs. The morning was fine, though mist was low down on the hill-sides. We made for us an early start, and were off by 8.30. We were on the top of Bidean by eleven. The traverse of the peaks of Bidean took some time, but we reached Bruach na Frithe via the Castles by 1.30 to 2. Climbed the Tooth and Bhasteir in the usual way, and parted with Brown at the Policeman. He, dropping down on Sligachan, left Rennie and me to return to camp via Sgurr nan Gillean and Druim na Ramh.
When we got back we were delighted to find a new addition to our party in Raeburn, who had come over from Sligachan to pay us a short visit. We arranged great climbs for the morrow, but....
Rain! rain! rain! Real Skye rain and no mistake, and all the water-works of the Coolins were at high pressure. It continued like this all day. By the afternoon our visitor had enough of it, and we accompanied him for a mile or so on his way to Corrie na Crieche and Sligachan. On our return to camp we found that the loch had raised its level by nearly three feet.
The storm still continues. Rain and wind all day. In the afternoon we got into oilers and had a saunter to Scavaig for exercise.
Raining still. Another short walk in the afternoon was all we cared for. In the evening Raeburn came over from Sligachan again.
No doubt in honour of our guest we had a tremendous gale last night. It was the worst we had yet had, and although we were somewhat used to storms by this time, I really thought the huts must come down, but they rode out the squalls splendidly. The morning looked somewhat promising, and the wind had gone down a little. We started for the Alasdair-Dubh gap. Soon the weather was as bad as ever, and on the ridge the driving mist and rain made it frantically unpleasant. I waited in shelter on the near side of the gap while the two R.'s raced across, bagged Tearlach, and came back at full speed. They took only an hour and a half to the double journey.
If the gale of the 16th was bad, that of last night was infinitely worse. None of us got much sleep. It still continued roaring all day, and we thought of our provisions on board the weekly steamer. It of course could not put into Scavaig on such a day, and we had to look forward to the pleasure of living on the scraps of our outfit for a whole week. Our guest by this time had had enough of camp life in such weather, and left in the afternoon for the flesh-pots of Sligachan.
The gale blew itself out in the small hours of the morning. We climbed Sgurr na Stri with our big cameras, but alas! the mist came down and kept the tops of the hills lightly covered, so that we could not get the view. We waited for three hours on the top in the hopes of it clearing, but without avail.
We spent this day in Coir Uisg with the cameras, but the mist again baffled our efforts to get good pictures.
Rain all day! We had arranged to meet Raeburn on Blaven to climb Clach Glas together. As that was now out of the question, we spent the day in fishing.
The beginning of the end! We took a boat-load of stuff down the loch, and in the afternoon climbed Gars-bheinn, and had a splendid view all round.
We made a fairly early start this morning, and took another load down the loch where we left the boat. We then crossed the hill to Camasunary with the intention of climbing Blaven and Clach Glas, but the weather was again against us. Down the rain came, and when we got to Camasunary we saw that Clach Glas, in any comfort, was not for us to-day. We therefore cached our rope and cameras at the foot of Blaven, and raced up and down that mountain in double quick time (less than three hours up and down from Camasunary). We were back in camp again by four o'clock.
A most glorious day, which had unfortunately to be spent in packing and in transporting down the loch as much baggage as we could spare.
This is our last day in camp. We were up as soon as it was light, and got the last of our property packed, and two more trips down the loch finished our work.
In reading over this record of our daily doings there appears to be an undue proportion of "weather", and too little "climbing" recorded, but no doubt "weather" always impresses one more when camping out than at any other time. We were not singular, however, in having a rough time from storms of wind and rain. Accounts reached us from Sligachan that the river there had one day been higher than the oldest inhabitant had ever seen it before.
Sgurr nan Gillean was struck by lightning, and the topmost slab split in two, and fragments of it, whitened and charred, were scattered right and left. In the south-west corner of the island, one poor man, as we afterwards saw from the papers, was struck dead in the same storm.
But the sultry weather of the first fortnight was, I think, even more trying than the actual storms which came later. Its relaxing effect was very great, and at times it was only with an effort that we could rouse ourselves to do anything. But notwithstanding all the discomfort of "weather" the camp life was most thoroughly enjoyed by all of us, not a single hour of the time hung heavily upon our hands, and we were in perfect health the whole time.
There is one thing, however, that we would have liked to have done before leaving, and that was to remove all traces of our residence, but alas! the most willing flesh is weak, and when we had wrecked one house we found our time would not permit us to do more before the steamer sailed. The doors of the other two huts were therefore left open, in the hope that the next gale from the south-west would carry them clean away, and obliterate all traces of the Climbers' Camp at Coruisk.
The magnetic qualities of the Coolin rocks are well known, but I do not remember having seen any notes on the subject from a climber's point of view. Here are two sets I took on 8th August 1897, showing as much as 57 degrees difference of bearing of a distant point from stations not ten paces apart on the flat.
|SGURR NAN GILLEAN - PRISMATIC COMPASS BEARINGS|
|A1.||From a point 10 paces North of S. na Banachdich cairn||63 degrees.|
|A2.||From a point 10 paces South of S. na Banachdich cairn||69½ degrees.|
Bearings taken standing, compass in hand. These points are pretty much on the ridge.
|BOLSTER STONE ON INACCESSIBLE, BEARINGS|
|B1.||From a point 5 paces East of S. na Banachdich cairn||first reading 218 degrees; second reading 215 degrees.|
|B2.||From a point 5 paces West of S. na Banachdich cairn||161 degrees.|
Bearings taken sitting, compass in hand. These points are off the ridge.
STONEFALLS, 24th July and 10th August 1897. - Two of these were seen within five weeks, when camping in Skye in July and August last. They both took place in the daytime, about noon, after heavy and continuous rain. The first descended a gully on the Druim nan Ramh ridge towards Loch Coruisk. This gully comes down nearly to the water of the loch, about five hundred yards from our camp at the head of the loch. My attention was drawn to it by a noise like thunder. Looking up, I saw a small mist-like cloud rapidly descending the hillside. In front of, and above this cloud, huge rocks played about. The point of departure was hidden in rain and mist, and the stopping point cut off by a low-lying spur, so that it is impossible for me to estimate the length of fall, or the amount it was spread out, as I saw it en profile. Nearly a month later I had a good chance of seeing a stonefall en face. I was cooking in the hut, and again I heard a noise like thunder. Rushing out, I saw a misty cloud descending from the top of the corrie, between Sgurr Dubh Mhor and Sgurr Dubh Bheag. Beginning quite narrow, the front of the fall spread out in a fan-like shape to a breadth I estimated at 150 to 180 yards, with a perpendicular fall of 700 or 800 feet. At some points it seemed to sweep the whole of the Sgurr Dubh Mhor side of the corrie.
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