Monday 22 September 2014

Cloud Inversion in the North Harris Hills

The sun almost breaks through

Sometimes light in the mountains can be astoundingly strange. Such was the case one day last week when I accompanied a group of seventeen round the Clisham Horseshoe as part of the Harris Mountain Festival. We set off under grey clouds which soon enveloped us. Every so often a hazy sun threatened to burst through but never quite did so. However driving to the start from Tarbert we had seen the summits poking above the clouds into a blue sky so we hoped that we would eventually climb through the mist and look down on a cloud inversion.
Climbing An Cliseam

And so we did but not exactly as expected. The glens below us were mostly rippling with clouds but the sky above was not often blue or the sun very bright. Sheets of clouds spread across the sky, thickening and thinning over and over again as we wandered the ridges and peaks, marvelling at the ever-changing light. Sometimes walls of cloud rose up and almost engulfed us, only to sink back down. At one point there was a fog bow – a white bow caused by the sun shining through the fine droplets of moisture that made up the mist. The sun almost appeared many times but always more fine clouds drifted across, dulling its light.

Fog bow

Surging mist

In between the undulating mist below and the shimmering clouds above we walked the fine rocky summits that ring the glen of the Abhainn Scaladail. Mostly the walking was easy, with some simple scrambling and boulders to negotiate in places. The views, when they appeared through the shifting clouds, were tremendous, out over the ocean to distant islands, down to lochans far below and across the white clouds to floating peaks. It was a grand day and one to remember for a long time.

A narrow path on Mulla-Fo Dheas

View from An Cliseam with Todun poking through the clouds