Wiki definition :In meteorology, an inversion is a deviation
from the normal change of an atmospheric property with altitude. It almost always refers to a "temperature inversion", i.e., an increase in temperature with height, or to the layer ("inversion layer") within which such an increase occurs......
I think I have been hiking in the hills for around 15 years now and I can almost certainly say that some of my most memorable experiences have occurred when I have been stood on top of a mountain or on a mountain ridge looking down on the cloud below , with blue skies above. It doesn't happen too often but when it does its magical.
A recent twitter post by the film maker Terry Abraham showing some amazing photos of being above the clouds in the Lakes, got me thinking about my "inversion" experiences of which most have occurred this year.....
However my first proper inversion probably happened on top fo Rannoch Moor. When I say "on top" I mean on top of Stob Dearg looking towards Rannoch Moor.
It was fantastic and as the cloud lifted the views down and over Rannoch amazed me. This was my first trip to The Buachaille (and my first experience of a Brocken Spectre too!). The next day the forecast as very similar and I can remember dragging my old man up Beinn Chabhair and we were not to be disappointed as we broken through the cloud the peaks emerged out of the Ocean of cloud one by one coming into view as we got higher. It was a great day and even more so being able to share it with my old man :)
The next inversion which springs to mind came on Hogmanay 2008. I was ascending one of the Corbetts near Balquhidder in misty conditions when I unexpectedly broke through the cloud to bright sunshine!! The freezing conditions soon gave way as I got away from the colder air in the glen below. I ended up spending around two hours on the summit in my T-shirt with the Crainlarlch Munros standing proud above the cloud
Then this summer I had a number of memorable experiences involving inversions. After a scramble up The Fiacaill Ridge I pitched my new Scarp1 tent above the Lairig Ghru near the Northern Corries. On waking at around 04.30 , I peeked out, looking North and was disappointed that there was no inversion. Luckily though I decided I need to "spend a penny" and on doing so I realised that to the south there was cloud flowing through the Lairig Ghru a few hundred metres below me - I was almost too high to see it. I quickly packed up and headed towards the main stay of the Inversion to the south, and from the summit of Britain's second highest peak experienced another great inversion :)
However, topping them all was my experience on the high tops aove Loch Etive at the end of Glen Etive. After a magical evening on the summit of Ben Trilleachan I awoke to clag and mist. I had high hopes of an inversion an even waited for over an hour for the weather to perhaps change. Dejected and down heartened I struck camp and headed for home. Then it happened - the light changed and suddenly the cloud was whisping past me as opposed to be enveloped by thick clag. Ben Starav momentariliy showed itself across the Glen and then the sun showed it self on the horizon - the cloud was lowering!! One of my most memorable mornings in the mountains was happening. The views were awesome and I spent over an hour watching the clouds change and the sunrise over Glen Etive and Glencoe. The light was fantastic.... Luckily I caught most of it on film (see below)..
For how they form and more technical info check wiki:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inversion_(meteorology)
I hope to experience many more inversions but sometimes when the weather opens for these, other factors mean we cannot enjoy them i.e. work!!!!! :( Hope you enjoy the videos and photos...
Arkle, Meall Horn and
My annual “up North “ meeting was planned this week and once
again I thought it silly not to take advantage of this and extended my stay in
the far north for a few extra days…. Last year it was Orkney and I tackled Ben
Loyal and Ben Klibreck on my way southJ
This year the meeting was in the cracking Lyth Arts Centre, not
too far from John O’ Groats, so I had the Corbett book out checking to see what
I would tackle this time.
With the weather looking reasonable, and the fact that I had
invested in new camping equipment recently, I fancied a wild camp. I
spotted these three Corbett’s which looked a challenge and where an overnight
wild camp would come in handy!! Maps out and routes planned I was set fo a mini
The meeting concluded around midday on the Friday and I packed my
car and headed West across the top of Scotand (A838). Love this road and does
any mountain look finer than Ben Loyal when it dominates the horizon as you head
past Bettyhill towards Tongue? Awesome views, however the road is a rather small
one and care needs to be taken. I eventually reached my parking spot near
Achfary at around 15.00hrs. I got my gear together and was walking by 15.30-I
was in good spirits and the weather looked good for both this evening and
grey fortress of Arkle dominates over Loch Stack-this is an impressive looking
mountain (even more so from the east!). I strode on with my full pack, looking
at the landscape. I soon reached the two large boulders which mark the start of
the ascent, and upwards I started. I soon met a couple form Bristol who had
ascended Arkle and were holidaying near bye – they had views on the summit and
said the cloud had cleared just in time for them. I was uncertain which to try
that evening – with sunset being at 19.45 it all depended on when I got the
tent up!! If nearer six then I’d go up Meall Horn but if nearer five then I
would tackle Arkle.
As I happens I eventually pitched the tent by 17.30
in a fantastically idyllic spot – one of the best mountain views
overlooking Arkle – I was impressed. So without much hesitation I set about
conquering Arkle! I was a little apprehensive about the time but checked the map
and reasoned I should be back with enough light to spare. What I didn’t take
into consideration was the extremely rough underfoot conditions. This was real
ankle breaking territory so I had to take my time. To slow me down a little more
– the cloud came in and my plan to get shots of Foinaven from Arkle’s ridge were
scuppered! I eventually reached the top around 19.15, giving me around an hours
worth of light to get back I reckoned. I quickened the pace but soon slowed as I
reached the boulder fields around Lochan na Faoileige. The light was fading fast
but I didn’t panic and rush, eventually making it to the tent with the headtorch
After this excitement I made tea and relaxed on my new downmat.
Prior to this all I had for wild camps was a ¾ length cheap thermarest.
It had been ok but I could always feel any stone under me and usually did not
sleep very well. The new 9” (rather expensive lilo) was fantastic and I slept
from 10 through to 05.50 when the alarm woke
The forecast had suggested clear skies in the morning with
sunshine through the day interspersed with cloud. Unfortunately when I got up
he summits were covered, cloud base around 650-700m L
I struck cap and was walking by 07.00, headed for Meall Horn.
This grass hill is more impressive on the NE side with steep cliffs falling into
a Loch; however I tackled it from the Bealach an Easaine Uaine, where I had
camped. The cloud rolled in and then the rain started. I was demoralised. In my
head I was going to wake to a glorious sunrise and head up and over these
mountains with the sun at my back. In reality it was, wet, windy and cold and
furthermore the sun was not looking like making an appearance. I trudged on and
made the summit. Every now and again, Ben Hope would appear to the west through
the cloud and it was bathed in Sunshine!! I couldn’t believe it, these western
hills must have been acting as a barrier to the cloud getting any further
inlandL That was testing! Anyhow I carried on and was soon at the
Bealach Horn, just below the cloud. I took a bearing on the compass for An
t-Sail Mhor, the first peak on Foinavens ridge, and headed north into the cloud.
I was cold and miserable and it seemed to take me ages to reach the summit.
Visibility was about 30 metres maximum and the rain was sporadic in nature. I
checked the forecast again – 50% chance of cloud free Munros and excellent
visibility – was I in the only place with zero visibility, rain and clag!! My
moral was low- so on the 770 metre summit I fed and watered myself and added my
down jacket and winter gloves to the mix. This helped, and refuelled and warmed
up I set off again. I think it was about 10.00 by now. The spectacular ridge
walking had not yet started but this abruptly changed as soon as I left the next
summit at 808m. A steep descent got the hands out of the pockets and a scramble
left me on the ridge. For the remainder of the walk I felt I was on a 15m long
treadmill as the ridge appeared from the fog and continued. Every now and again
the pinnacles off the ridge would loom out of the greyness and I half expected
Gollum to pear round these at any moment. Although wet and clagy it was an
atmospheric place. More scrambling was required after pass Cadha na Beucaich. I
was really tired now but knew I only had one more ascent before reaching the
summit. The going under foot is treacherous in places and as with Arkle, good
foot placements are required!! This was a real mental
I reached the summit of Ganu Mor at 11.30. I initially visited
the westerly most summit and refuelled then noticed a path heading east – scared
I might be on the wrong summit I headed along to the other cairn and made sure I
had visited both. GPS was telling me I was in exactly the right place but I
didn’t take any chances!! So, an egg sandwich, chocolate bar and pack of win
gums and I was ready to tackle the ridge again!!! Onwards I went and as I headed
back lighter patches of mist appeared – seemed the sun was fighting back. Every
now and again a brocken spectre would flash to the left of me but every time I
got the camera out – it disappeared! I even stopped for about ten minutes at on
spot waiting for a glimpse but it never happened L. Onwards through the fog, my thoughts now turned to getting
home. Onwards I trudged up and down, scrambling here and there, footing going
astray every now and again. I kept my phone off – only turning it on to confirm
with my map I was were I thought I was utilising the GPS
Then it happened- about 20 minutes too late – as I was
approaching An t-Sail Mhor for the second time – the whole ridge appeared
behind me and the cloud lifted in literally 3 minutes. An amazing sight. All of
a sudden I could see out to the North past Loch Eriboll, Ben Hopes semi
circular back was standing proud, and near by the cloud broke off Arkle. I
wished I had been on the summit at this point however was not going to complain
after being inside a cloud for the best part of 7
I sat and soaked in the views from this final summit, then headed
for the car – a long walk out. I had met no one since the couple from Bristol, a
perfect wild break. I eventually reached the car at 16.15, just over 24hrs from
leaving it. It had been a mixed bag up there but memories have been collected
and a return to Foinhaven planned for an ascent in good weather J - any excuse to get
About 3 months ago I started looking at all the time lapse footage I had captured over the last few years. I realised I had more than I thought so started a wee side project of merging the footage together into a long film. A few weeks back I hadn't been out on the hills for a while so had time to prioritse and finalise the film. Thought it would be a nice addition to my usual hiking and mountaineering films and I posted it on Youtube and also linked it to Walkhighlands (the best website around for hiking in the Highlands :)). Immediately it seemed to go down well with kind comments from my few subscribers - thanks for the comments BTW:)
Then Walkhighlands tweeted the link and more views came in :) Even more arrived when they popped a link into there monthly news letter. The result was that in about eight days it became my most watched video, out viewing my winter ascent of the CMD Arete in this short period easily. I have since ventured into the hills and done Curved ridge and crowberry tower and also a magical trip to the far north and Sutherland (reports to follow). I'll continue to plod along with my video reports and perhaps this time next year will have enough footage to release a Time lapse sequel - haha!! Genuinely surprised and overwhelmed by the responses to the wee film.
Hope you like it :)
Some thoughts and reports from my outdoors activties...