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.

48 thoughts on “schiehallion

  1. So good to see your journey down the mountain, and how you are progressing. We have had many memorable holidays in Scotland, there was a good fish shop in Inveraray, tucked away down a tiny side street where we bought fat and tasy Loch Fyne kippers, I do enjoy reading your about your adventures and your progress.

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  2. I have a fabulous picture of Schiehallion covered in snow taken earlier this year which I could email to you. Maybe the next time I will attempt to climb it rather than photograph it!

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  3. It all looks great, and what a lovely colour your coat is.

    The lichen is very suggestive of contour lines. I wonder if it influenced Charles Hutton?

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  4. What a coincidence, I tried a beer called Schiehallion last week (a Harviestoun one, no less), and very good it was too. Perhaps not one to take along on a walk, although I think it would go nicely with pork pie (magic or otherwise)!

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  5. Lovely photos of you all. Kate you are ascending so elegantly in that video, and do look so happy; it made me smile.
    I also love the stripey tights/pyjammy pants, and the violets and pink quartzit. All the place names sound very magical. Look at the way Tom gazes longingly at that pie lol
    It is good that care is being taken to mind the erosion doesn’t get out of hand in the one spot, and isn’t it amazing that the “Fairy Hill” can mend itself with just a little care.

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  6. I have climbed it twice and the erosion was bad then – about 15 years ago. Having just done a huge walk today I am sitting feeling very proud of myself – so how must you feel?

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  7. My dearest Kate, I am so glad to have found you! Look at you climbing that mountain over such uneven terrain and with a grand smile on your face. I know the courage and determination that this has taken to come so far one year after a stroke. I know because I had a stroke just a few days after yours. Of course I dont know you but a woman in my knitting group told me about a knitting designer who had a stroke around the same time as me. My paralysis was gone a few days after the stroke but I was left unable to speak, read, write, tell time, read a map, do math etc… And little by little it has all come back to me – except for the post-stroke fatigue and overly sensitive emotions and not being able to over-do things like I used to. It is amazing isn’t it.
    I so look forward to following your blog and to knitting your designs! I absolutely love the smock with pockets with the wide neck line just right for tucking a soft scarf inside. We have lots in common – no fleece for this wooly outdoorsy girl either. And I live at the ocean at the base of the mountains and long to have the stamina to walk in the alpine. I will get there – and sooner I think now that I have you as inspiration!
    Living the journey one day at a time,
    Lori

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  8. Kate…thanks so much for the videos. I loved seeing Tom and Bruce “in person” and smiling, both of them. But I had to giggle out loud when I heard your delighted laugh at the end of your video. Your happiness makes me happy. I loved reading everyone’s comments. We’re all cheering for you. Kat

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  9. Schiehallion; Sidhe-hallion, of course. That’s a very clever thing I would never have noticed. Thankyou for the translation.

    The lichen looked to me like a pattern that might be had with some skilful tie-dyeing/ shibori dyeing with natural dyes.

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  10. oh YAY, how wonderful and your smile! when your voice came on the video all FOUR dogs here began to run about and bark in excitement. (a doberman, a border collie, two english setters). and when i played it again, well, they didn’t bark that time, but you caused a stir here in the north country.

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  11. i love it when the doggies herd you. the late saint acey used to jump up and nip my coat tails/butt to make sure i kept up her tempo. all my dog walking jackets have fringed heinies, very attractive. and it’s wonderful to see both T and B smile in the same video.
    ye gods, what weather.

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  12. Wow look at that pork pie, lit in the warm glow of Tom’s reflective strips. Personally I don’t think you can beat jammies as emergency hill walking wear (although I usually wear mine under my jeans).

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  13. Triumph written all over your face!!

    I can’t come down hills that well – dot & carry one is my style, preferably with a rail to hold on to.

    Stripy PJs? They just looked like a monochrome version of my daughter’s multicoloured stripy over the knee socks!! Not starnge at all – just sensible.

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  14. Ok – better stripey pj pants than frozen legs!!! I think your poor ear flappin’ doggy friend needs an ear warming cap for days like this! LOL
    I also agree – I think some of those lichen shapes could translate nicely into fair isle – I also think thos rocks look like ham!

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  15. That was great. You are amazing and blowing us all away. I would love to bag a Munro. That is an achievement on it’s own never mind what you are contending with. Well done yet again! I will stick the Fairy Hill of the Caledonians on the bucket list.

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  16. I think the first photo of the lichen looks like it should be a funky barkcloth pattern they used to make in the 50s and 60s! Love those colours.

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  17. Dude. You look SO HAPPY at the end of that video. :) And also in the first video, is there anything better than watching Bruce’s ears flap in the wind?!?! :)

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  18. WOw, wOw…WOW !!! I feel so intimate with your little family, the videos… they’re just like going to the movies. Kate, you just sparkle ! (so does Bruce and Tom). I love the fog, the articulate foot stepped path, the rich moisture of the mountains. As spring approaches in California there’ll be few days like that until next Autumn… which I will miss dreadfully, so I can visit this video when it’s bloody hot and dry here for 5 solid months…thank you.

    ps. a little side note, I am spinning up some nice alpaca, and it occurred to me to ask you if you thought spinning with your left leg on a treadled wheel would help your strength and coordination recovery, giving one leg and advantage over the other (only that you can still get the ‘one’ foot type treadle wheels).

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    1. So agree with you on the hot and dry! The hills here have turned mostly brown already, and it’s only the first week in May.

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  19. I could spend the whole day looking at the rocks and lichen, I think. I tend not to like cold & wet, though, so good on you for sticking it out! I bet the view is beautiful on a sunny day.

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  20. What lovely nature you have in Scotland, it looks dramatic and green, and reminds me a little of the nature we have in Norway. Your blogposts make me want to visit your country, maybe one day I will. (I feel the same about your designs, they make me want to knit, wich I allready have, the Owl) Hope you have a great day!
    Bodil

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  21. Pork pies – you know how to provision for a hill walk! Did Bruce get some?

    This is an easy walk??? I am in awe of your amazing strength!

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  22. The lichen is so interesting, I would never have know it came in so many shapes and forms. Lovely to see you in action down the slope …. stripey legs and all!

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  23. Good improvisational skillz there with the pyjamas.

    I hope the pork pie was tasty and I love the video of you coming down the mountain!

    Huzzah for munros and lichens and ham!

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  24. Good scottish walking conditions! I must confess you gave me comfort that it’s not just us that get these conditions when walking in Scotland. Don’t know when all those people that take pictures of the visibility for miles on the summit go hill-walking, but it’s not when I decide to head out! Walking in Scotland! Brilliant. Inspiring post.

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  25. Good grief, are you sure that was an easy munro? It looks very tricky to come down from but you did seem to be enjoying it.

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  26. Wonderful, uplifting, glorious stuff.

    And to think I was bemoaning the lack of rain here. It made me feel like a complete wuss seeing you all in the storm on the top of the mountain

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  27. This may be an “easy” Munro but it looks fairly daunting to me. I’m sure you looked very dashing in your jammies Kate.

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