Home » Uncategorized » An impromptu trip up Canisp

An impromptu trip up Canisp


Firstly, apologies for not posting anything in so long. I do have quite a few things to post but have been too busy with work and visitors and visiting to get any done.

Secondly, I haven’t been on WordPress for a while and, having flicked through just a few of the stories on my “reader”, it seems that I have missed a whole lot!! I’ll have to make time to read all your stories and life-changing events soon!

Now, on to today:


Looking up the Allt Mhic Murchaidh Gheir along the flank of Canisp

I was hoping to go for a walk with a friend today but unfortunately he had to work. Instead, I decided to stop off at Canisp on my way home and walk up it. I didn’t think I’d have time, given that it was the second shortest day of the year and I wasn’t even ready to leave until 10:30am, however I decided to walk out for 2.5 hours, or until the weather got too bad or I couldn’t be bothered walking anymore, then turn around. This would give me enough time to get back to the car before complete dark.

The weather was “less than ideal” . . . . gusting around 40mph with occasional hail showers. I also hadn’t brought any proper hiking gear with me so had no compass, no map, no pack. Still, I’ve been planning to go up Canisp for months now and every time I drive past I think about it again so it seemed like a good idea. (I did have full waterproofs and took my phone and my emergency torch from the car)

It was fantastic! I walked mainly off the northern edge of the flank so I was sheltered from the worst of the wind (coming from the south west), but it was still pretty crazy. At one point I had to change my course to hug the bottom of the gully as the wind was too strong further out.

There was an exposed section up to the summit which I didn’t think I’d make it through, and was seriously considering turning back, but luckily the wind dropped for long enough to allow me to get up there, and back (just!).

As well as the wind, there was occasional stinging hail . . . at one point on the way back it got so bad I had to find a ledge of rock to put Merlin against and stand over and behind him to shelter him from the weather. Poor boy – he was fine with all the other rain, wind and hail, but this one was obviously hurting him. He kept trying to run away from it and it took me screaming at him to eventually get him to listen and come and take shelter.

I was surprisingly proud of myself for getting to the top. I guess it is my first really wintery walk (the ground was white, although I think it was just hail, not actually snow!), it was such an unplanned and  unprepared trip, the weather conditions were fairly atrocious and I actually did really well. I didn’t fall over at all (despite being blow sideways/forwards/backwards several metres about 5 times), wasn’t cold and enjoyed myself. Oh, and did I mention I was wearing cheap gumboots???

Despite the weather I saw a grouse, a ptarmigan and two deer. Here are some pictures and some other interesting things I saw. (All photos taken on phone since, being entirely unprepared, I didn’t have a waterproof case for my phone, so had to use my camera case instead, leaving the camera in the car!)


Thrift and porphyry

Thrift, the small dead flowers in the front right of this photo, is generally a coastal plant, as indicated by its proper name “Armeria maritima”. However, it can often be found up high, especially on these quartzite hills. Similar barren conditions I guess. Bright green stuff to the left is clubmoss.

Part way up the hill I saw something that looked like a weathered red conglomerate sandstone. There shouldn’t be any of that on top of the quartzite, so I was thinking about what it could be, then remembered there are several sills (horizontal intrusions) of porphyry (an igneous rock with large feldspar crystals in a very fine grained granite-ish matrix) in it. Guess what it is called? “Canisp Porphyry” (you’d think I would’ve thought of that straight away). The rocks were so weathered that I didn’t recognise them. Once I realised, I was ridiculously excited about it. The porphyry in this photo is the two large red rocks a little way back in the photo.


Sandstone-quartzite contact

The quartzite layer on Canisp is actually quite thin (as can be seen easily from the side profile of the hill). Here a gully has broken through the quartzite and is cutting quite deeply into the softer sandstone underneath. The red in the side of the gully, and the red stones in the bottom of the gully are sandstone, then you can see the contact with the quartzite where the rock changes to grey again. The sandstone also tends to have more soil (or peat) and vegetation on top because it is softer, erodes faster and has slightly more nutrients in it.


A lovely view to the south on the way up.


Summit cairn (luckily no false summits here). Merlin is in this photo, left hand side at the lower edge of the higher rock section.


First summit shelter. Not looking too happy!


Merlin doesn’t like selfies. I was ecstatic about being up there though!


A spur off the western edge. Sensibly we didn’t go out there!


All closed up, ready to go home.

By the way, this is my new waterproof jacket. I’ll tell you more about it soon. So far it has been excellent!

No route map because (obviously) I was completely unprepared so had no logger with me! Apparently the walk is ~12km, 700m ascent (although the hill is 847m) and I took about 3hr 45min.



1 Comment

  1. Merlin’s fur has gone all permed looking!

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