Friday, January 13, 2012

Craigmaddie in wellies

The Plinth, Craigmaddie, Font 6c+

A perfect morning at Craigmaddie on Thursday 12th as the weather finally settles and the blue skies return. Warmed up on the lower roof lip traverse, trying not to slip off into the boggy gunk below. Then settled on the first 6c of the season, 'The Plinth' left hand version. It starts off the plinth, using the big block underneath for the feet, slap up the crimps on the shield, then a crux throw left for the sloper leads to a tricky one foot smear as you stare at the slopey ledge hold for the right hand. Not over yet, an easy-to-fail snatch for the top - a super problem and under-rated - feeling harder as the sandstone is still bleeding a little winter damp and my right hand kept flipping off.

Millstone circle or gnomon? What does the 'H' mean?

Reading up on Craigmaddie Muir, it has some interesting hidden history. Not only is there evidence of Neolithic and Bronze/Iron Age tombs and settlement, this is all confused by an overlay of millstone quarrying. I found some interesting symbols under the big roof, mason marks of all sorts, next to the names A. Cairns and J.Neilson and an unfinished 18** date inscribed on the rock. Must check Bardowie cemeteries for masons...

Cogwheel pits

On the plateau are dozens of quarried 'cogwheel' pits distinctive of millstone quarrying. Holes would have been flooded with water and wooden splints inserted under the semi-carved stones. The water would swell the wooden wedges and snap off fully-formed millstones. The quarriers also had a mischievous bent, as there are 'fairy' carvings all over the place, including an Egyptian-style 'eye', a gnomon circle (or millstone peck-tracing), mason marks, names, mysterious 'H' marks, faces on the Auld Wives Lifts (and lots of Victorian graffiti), and even a 'fairy footprint' in the rock, a bit like the King's Footprint at Dunadd, but obviously moulded on a size 6 welly boot... or perhaps this was the ancient seat of a lost kingdom?  I still haven't found the reputed serpent carved in a plinth and reported in an old archaeological survey.

Fairy welly print...

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Losing the apostrophe on Ben A'an

This well-trodden nub of steepness in the Trossachs is anglicized into Gaelic, if you can think of it like that. That  tourist board poet Walter Scott, re-imagining the Trossachs as a heroic Celtic heartland, heard the original name 'Beannan' (small mountain) and came up with 'Ben-an heaved high his forehead bare'. Then, at some point, an apostrophe was added, I can find out no reason why other than to suggest a kind of imagined Gaelic by a confused OS surveyor or Victorian poets and guide-book writers trying to suffuse an element of throatiness into this tiny, confused and very simple peak. A bit like the 'h' in 'Rhum', it should just be sawn off at the stump.

 After the storms on the Ben An path...

'Am Binnean' is the most accurate original guess ('small pointed peak') and the Gaels have always erred on the side of simple topographical description and human lives were generally too short, violent and irrelevant to christen hills otherwise. Timothy Pont's maps all had Gaelic names mis-translated into the more restrictive throat of English and to this day the English alphabet struggles to suggest the richness of the timbre in Gaelic, hence maybe the guilt over Ben An and the adding of the apostrophe. Older maps of the peak bracket it as 'Binnein' and we should stick to this, or 'Am Binnean'. If we do have to anglicize it, just go the whole hog and call it Ben An, with no mysterious and confusing retro-Gaelicization.

It was well windy up here on the 7th January and at the top, struggling hard to keep the camera steady, I could feel all those apostrophes flying uselessly through the air...

Northwest New Year

A week in Ullapool over New Year saw us staring out of rain-lashed sash windows, or sqeezing blustery walks in between painful hail showers. Constant winds had brought up an impressive surf at the normally placid Achnahaird.

I even tried to crank out the aptly named Clach Mheallain (Gaelic for 'hailstones') at Reiff in the Woods, racing to get myshoes on before the approaching storm, but fingers grew too numb and my boulder mat flipped over in my face - game over! a few boggy trots hunting down boulders led to one entertaining cleaning session in a full-on  rain storm, which was like scrubbing a filthy land-rover in a jet-wash.

Rogie Falls in spate

A week of storms throughout the country has led to the most saturated ground I've seen in Scotland, rock didn't stand a chance of drying in the bitter winds. We retired to the Ullapool Bouldering Wall, trying hard not to pull down Ian's carefully constructed training boards after too many pints and pies.

Corrieshalloch Gorge was the most impressive feature, in full flow and pretending (bar a few tens of degrees) to be something out of a tropical Jurassic period...

So on to 2012, we are due a high pressure or two and dare I say it, I am sick of the sight of the TCA!