'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Glacier & The White Stag

Scotland's only glacier - which is what the marketing people call it - comprises a few sheets of ice and snow in the magnificent Garbh Choire Mor between Braeriach and the wonderfully named Sgor An Lochain Uaine (the Peak of the Angels) in the Cairngorms. Every nation, I suppose, should have its own glacier but given that this one is a good 12 miles hard walking from the nearest carpark I don't suppose it'll pull the tourists in quite the way the marketing men hope. On the other hand if it contributes even slightly to a small nation's sense of grievance at the climate changes induced by the petro-economy of the United States, I'm sure it'll make up for all that . . . errmm . . . crude oil that was stolen by the bastard English.
I was lucky enough to inspect the nation's glacier myself in the course of an epic walk from Rothiemurchus through the granite-block obstacle course of the Chalamain Gap and the huge valley of the Lairig Ghru, before walking up the great northern shoulder of Braeriach and circling the peak's southern corries as far as Carn Toul. The high plateau of the Cairngorms is a fascinating place - mostly above 4000 feet, a desert of rock, sand and scrub inhabited by snow-buntings, ptarmigan and herds of reindeer. At one point, fording the Falls of Dee, I came upon a herd of these beasts, which surprisingly allowed me to approach them. A single white stag watched from the skyline. The plateau can be a dangerous place even in high summer, conditions can change rapidly, hail replacing sunshine, 100mph winds and zero visibility. We had none of that on this occasion, but any expedition to the interior requires a certain competence in navigation and hillcraft. The rewards are immeasurable: the finest high mountain landscape in the UK. But it's also a place that sells itself agressively to tourists. Yet I met hardly any other walkers that day. Everyone else, I later discovered, was down by Loch Morlich at the visitors' centre having their extreme sports experience, a subject I'll return to in another post.


Anonymous Dr John said...

The frustrated mountaineer in me is seething with envy, whilst the sad etymologist is wondering how the cartographers made the Peak of the Small Green Lake into the Peak of the Angels....

1/9/05 11:09 am  
Blogger Nick said...

Yes, I can vouch for the fact that there's a lake & a lot of green thereabouits, but I'd always assumed 'uaine' was indeed 'angel' . . help, someone!

1/9/05 1:22 pm  

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