21 April 2009

Ben Vorlich by Loch Lomond

On Saturday I climbed Ben Vorlich, which overlooks Loch Lomond. I was hoping to find more Purple Saxifrage. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we ascended by the east ridge. On the way up we had excellent views to A'Chrois and Ben Narnain to the south...

to Loch Katrine and Loch Arklet to the east, with Ben Ledi on the horizon to the left and Ben Venue (which I climbed last week) in the centre...

and to the Loch Sloy dam to the south-west.

As we climbed higher, we saw the summit of Ben Vorlich itself ahead.

To the south-east we had views across to Ben Lomond, which I also climbed last week.

Near the summit, we came through a wide gap between rocky outcrops.

I recognised this as the subject of a photo I took under very different conditions in December 1973. Later I painted a watercolour from this photo.

Close to this point, I managed to find quite a lot of purple saxifrage.

From the summit cairn we had a new view to the north, to Beinn a'Chleibh, Ben Lui, Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhchraig.

We descended by a steeper but more direct route towards Loch Sloy.

14 April 2009

Mountain rescue

Yesterday I went up Ben Venue with a group. The weather was fine and quite warm, though it clouded over at times. Ben Venue is in the Trossachs, a popular area of forest walks and hills to the north of Glasgow.

There are two main routes up Ben Venue. I had done the western route about a month ago, but this time we started the ascent from the east, passing to the south of the hill and making only the final ascent from the west.

Ben Venue has two tops. Below is the view from the summit cairn (729m) looking south-east towards the trig point (727m) which is marked as the summit on some maps.

From the cairn, some of us walked across to the trig point where we had our lunch. Below is the view back to the cairn.

While we were sitting by the trig point, we saw that somebody had fallen down a small rocky slope and had not got up again. A number of people were attending to her. We realised that these were members of our group who had taken a different route. This group included a doctor who was concerned about a head injury the lady had suffered, so a mobile phone was used to call for help.

We could hardly believe it when a helicopter appeared after only 15 minutes.

The helicopter was an air ambulance which happened to be in the vicinity, but it had no winch so it had to find somewhere to land on the hill. We were amazed at the skill of the pilot who managed to land on a very small flat area between the rocky outcrops about 30m from the casualty.

The casualty was then placed on a special stretcher which could be inflated to immobilize her as there were concerns that she might have a neck injury. She was then carried to the helicopter.

While this was going on, the pilot checked on where she could be taken.

After a short time, the helicopter took off.

It would take only about 15 minutes to fly her to the hospital.

Later we heard that she needed some stitches to a wound in her scalp, but had no major injuries.

We are very grateful for the fantastic level of help we received from the emergency services.

03 April 2009


Our ducks have returned!

Actually we first saw them two days ago on 1st April, but I was a bit busy then with the purple saxifrage.

This was taken at 6.30am on 1st April when they first appeared.

Today a single drake (might be the same one) has visited twice.

They are very consistent about when they return. Last year it was 29th March, and in 2007 it was 30th March. They usually stay until about the end of July.

For more about our ducks, see the duck pages of our website.

02 April 2009

Purple saxifrage hybrid

In Scotland, Purple Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) flowers very early in the year. Below is a picture of it that I took on 1st April this year.

Yellow Saxifrage (Saxifraga aizoides) flowers much later. The picture below was taken on 4th July 2007.

In Greenland, the summers are so short that they may be in flower at the same time. In a small area of East Greenland, one can find Saxifraga nathorstii, which is thought to be a hybrid of the two species which has doubled its chromosome number and become able to produce seed. The colour is intermediate between the other two species.

The picture below shows S. oppositifolia to left and right, S. nathorstii 2nd from left and S. aizoides 3rd from left. I took this photo near Mestersvig in East Greenland in early July, 1983.

01 April 2009

Purple saxifrage

The first alpine flower to appear on the hills in Scotland is Saxifraga oppositifolia, the Purple Saxifrage.

These photos were taken today, 1st April, at about 550-600m above sea-level.

Purple saxifrage likes to grow on steep and often wet calcareous ledges, usually at high altitudes.

We wondered what would pollinate the flowers so early in the year, but during our time there, we saw two bees which seemed to be visiting the flowers.