Posted by & filed under Mountains & hills, Science, January 7 2009.

Between Christmas and New Year I travelled to the Highlands for a short break, staying a night in Fort William and climbing up two summits on subsequent days: Sgor na h-Ulaidh near Glen Coe and Spidean Mialach in Knoydart.

Sgor na h-Ulaidh is a mountain I have twice attempted before in winter from Glen Coe but have been unsuccessful both times – the ridge to the summit from the neighbouring summit of Stob an Fhurain stopped me the first time as I judged it was too risky in the winter conditions, and the second time a late start and low cloudbase made turning back the intelligent choice. This time I tried a different route from Glen Etive, and managed to get to the top. There was almost no snow which made the walk easier.

Conditions were extremely cold for both walks; my car thermometer measured -10C at the bottom of Spidean Mialach. During this second walk however, I experienced the strongest temperature inversion effect I have ever seen, and at about 800m altitude it was so warm I could happily have been wearing shorts and a t-shirt! On the walk down from the summit, the sun dipped behind nearby Gairich, and I was astonished that the sky was so clear that I could see the planet Venus with the naked eye in the daylight, over an hour before the official time of sunset.

Views from both summits were extraordinary in the clear air and I took loads of photos – you can see them on my website here.

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