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16 October 2014

mountainman - September 2007

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A bit more of the Ring Dyke

Saturday was a bit wet to say the least, but the afternoon started to look a bit better. After the disappointment of only being able to do a bit of the Dyke walk last week , I decided to have a go at another bit of it. Glen Forsa is a very accesible sort of glen - you can get right deep into mountain country quite easily as the road is good. And Ben Talaidh looks neat up ahead. Unfortunately, I didnt have my camera - the good old battered Fuji Finepix lay on my desk getting charged, so all I had was the phone camera.

Right, these things are OK for taking "pix of ur m8s" getting drunk so you can upload them to Bebo, or Youtube usually with some sort of comment like "U 2 R gr8 - luv U hun.... XXXXXXXXX" and other such towering examples of literary expertise.

But for taking photos of landscapes, they tend to show their limitations. OK, they are getting better but most are not great. So this is how the road up Glen Forsa looks with a Nokia 6020:

Not great, but the day was a bit grey anyway. However as an old mate of mine from the North East used to say "its a sair fecht for a hauf loaf, but it's aye better than nae breid!"

Anyway the reason for heading up the glen was to take a look at a land slip up on Beinn nan Lus, which sits on the west side of the glen. The keeper , who I was talking to a week ago told me that heavy rain last summer had washed down a lot of material, leaving what looked like bare rock away up on the hill. Now, certain things get the geologist excited. Things like new quarries, rock falls, landslips - lots of potential for looking at hitherto unseen rocks. This particular slip had exposed a fair bit of rock, but the interesting thing is, it was right in the line of the Ring Dyke. You lot asleep yet? Good.

Right, I needed to get up and have a look at it. I had been up there years ago but not from the Forsa side - great hills, probably seldom visited except by keepers, shepherds and sportsmen.And the views are rather nice as well.

So after a SERIOUSLY tussocky slog, it was clear that the rock exposed in the slide was the Ring dyke. There is a awful lot of loose wet crumbly stuff as well, so its a bit of a challenge. From there it was a quick pull up to the top of Beinn nan Lus, which lies right in the line of the Dyke, so it is easy to find the Dyke rocks. Enough of this blethering. Some more low quality pictures:

This is Beinn Talaidh seen from rocks near the top of the hill.

Here's a view down towards the Glen Forsa Airfield

And this stuff (Compass for scale, about 4" long) is the Loch Ba Ring Dyke Felsite - that strange mixed rock that we saw last week, but this time on the other side of Loch Ba. You can see the way it has swirls of one type of material mixed in with the other which is chemically quite different.

I think I mentioned it last week - this type of "mix intrusion" is very unusual. One of the reasons, and there are actually several, that the Scottish west coast , and Mull in particular have been hugely important in the development of the science of geology.

So that was that. Should have been up there last Saturday about 4pm. Only a week late! Next time I go up there it will be in good weather and with a proper camera - the views are great and in the right conditions it would be really nice.

Be back soon!


Posted on mountainman at 22:08

Traigh na Cille

Sunday afternoon and it was the usual, "OK, where do we go today?" Calgary is popular with a lot of people, but for me that tends to diminish its appeal. I hate crowds. In fact I am guilty of that actually quite common phenomenon of wanting whole beaches and hills to oneself.

Anyway, Traigh na Cille is a great place - hadnt been there for a while - its a nice spot and not too far from the road. Great seascapes as well, especially out towards the Treshnish Isles. Bac Mor, the "Dutchman's Cap" looks well from here. I remember an old Tiree man referring to it as "Baca Rois" the "Rois" bit referring to the Ross of Mull - I think it was because from the east end of Tiree at any rate, it actually lines up with the Ross of Mull.

Bac Mor is an absolute classic example of how the landscape and in particular the landforms are shaped by the underlying geology. The distinctive shape is because of the wearing away of the basalt layers. Would be quite nice to go out to it some day for a look.

Anyway, back to Traigh na Cille - the view out to the Treshnish Isles was very hazy, but in this sort of light it can look a bit imperssionistic. Well, OK, slight exaggeration, you know what I mean....

The beach is a great place for the children to play. Well it was yesterday - there was no-on else around:-

Young Sarah reckoned that sunbathing and snacking was the best way....

Meanwhile, father had run off to look at rocks (just for a change, you know...) and came across this. Its a volcanic dyke - well you all know that dont you. Thing is, this one is a beauty. Dont remember seeing it before on previous trips here - its like something out of a textbook. And will make a great example for use during my upcoming geology classes.

Young mountainman -in -traiing, AKA Iain, thought this was all very fascinating (yeah, right.....)

So that was that - a very fine afternoon. My wife found the time very refreshing as well. As she often points out, when you take the children to the beach, there is not an awful lot to do to keep them amused - they make their own fun. You just have to keep a close eye on the health and safety issues.

Anyway, this blog isnt just for fun - I try to point out good places for my students to visit - most of the locations are quite accesible. Regarding classes I am hoping to get a timetable sorted out this week (I am of course assuming that some of you are reading this...)

I'll let you know.

James (MM)

Posted on mountainman at 08:35

Geology Classes

Just for information really. I have been in discussion with Argyll College and am in the process of getting the next seasons night classes in geology set up. The format will be different from last year. Last years classes were in geology generally but with specific reference to examples from Mull and Iona.

This year I am hoping to put the emphasis on Mull and Iona and to bring in the geological principles, theories and practice as and when needed. I am hoping that the classroom sessions will be like "virtual field trips" Of course the stuff in the class will be backed up with actual field trips.

Before the class starts in October we are planning to have a general talk of some sort, but this has not been finalised yet.

More info soon - watch this space!


Posted on mountainman at 11:30

Lochbuie - or face the Mod...

Saturday was pretty busy in Tobermory as the Mod was in full swing - my wife was heavily involved as she sings in the Mull Choir and comes from a Mull musical dynasty. On the other hand, yours truly, being a "right side of the brain" scientist, nerd and geek, needed to get away somewhere less arty.... well not quite, I do quite enjoy these things but the reality ws that I needed to entertain the two wee ones for a while.

What better way than to head to the beach? And maybe take in some rocks on the way. Hah! Now we're talking. I thought that Laggan sands at Lochbuie would be good - the area is beautiful, it has always been quiet any time I have been there and with the tide out, there are huge expanses of sand. And the weather was dry as well.

The two wee ones loved it - Lots of exploring to do and stuff like that. And seriously sound sleep that night, let me tell you. Excellent day.

Some pics - note the weather and the light wasnt great but you get the idea. And going by what I saw of the rocks, there may well be a field trip here - students take note!

Here are the two wee ones, Iain and Sarah on the sands:

Later we headed off for some rock exploring. Iain thought that this was a fine specimen:

Actually, its very fine specimen - stuff called the Loch Uisg Gabbro - absolutely shot through with minor intrusions, some of them look just like stripes painted on the rock. Anyway, Sarah was in total agreement:

Heres a picture (with a 2p coin for scale) of one of the intrusions cutting across the rock - this is straight out of a textbook, this sort of thing - one of the great things about the geology of these islands - there are so many good examples of so many geological processes:

Iain was determined to check these things out. (By the way, this was all quite safe - it isnt at all steep, and they were only a couple of feet up)

I noticed that some of the rock showed layering in it - this isnt uncommon in this type of rock - Allival on the Island of Rum is probably the best example around - it can make it look like a sedimentary rock, but its actualy igneous. Here's a pic:

Anyway, that's enough of this rocky stuff - time for a last look at the beach, and then off back to Tobermory. Just think - left the Mod to become a rocker...... sorry!

Posted on mountainman at 23:36

Carsaig Arches

On Monday it was a case of "back to Iona" again. Great! A chance to see some good scenery in good weather. And good rocks. It has to be said, that in the short distance between Iona and , say, Ben Talla , you pass through some of the most varied geology anywhere in Britain. It is CONSTANTLY changing, and of course this is reflected in the landscape and how the countryside actually looks.

Anyway, enough waffle, my work in Iona was on Tuesday, Monday PM was to be spent exploring potential sites for field trips. And in brilliant sunny weather as well. Hah! Well planned that was wasnt it? You;re right there, let me tell you!

OK, a picture is worth a thousand words. Actually, in the case of this day, its worth at least a million. I challenge anyone to find cliff scenery as impressive as this lot.

I set off from Beach on the side of Loch Scridain. NB, it is not pronounced "beach" as in sandy shore, more like "beh -ach" with the ch as in loch.OK. Good. I hit straight across the estate road, through the forest and towards Cadh an Eas', where there is a steep descent to the shore. Binnein Goiridh looked neat:


That is a serious cliff there. There's a gruesome tale about it as well. See if you can find it.

There are some "tobhtaichean" (ruins) just behind:

And the sea looks nice and aquamarine:

In the cliff there are a couple of sills which intersect in a St Andrews Cross shape. This is seriously basltic territory here - hundreds of feet of the stuff, intruded by dykes, sills all manner of stuff. A geologists dream. Except that it is plumb vertical to overhanging. Makes the field work kinda interesting.....:

The view to the west was quite nice - into the sun "contre jour" as the photographers say:

The path to the shore drops to a beach called Traigh Cadh' an Easa. Great place on a quiet day. In mid winter though, slightly more forboding...

Heres the waterfall that plunges off the cliff:

Right, that was the boring bit. On to the Arches. It is only about as mile and a bit, but it takes a fair while. The track is rocky, steep, scree-y, loose, full of interesting geology (really slows you down!) but its well worth it. Here are the Carsaig Arches:

Now there was actually a method to this madness. I had wanted a good picture of the arches for some time, for my photo web site, for my geology classes, for my own geology site and for an exhibition I am helping with. Trouble is, the arches are not terribly well placed. The sun is seldom in the right position. The best view is from the west, with the sun behind. So you need good weather, late afternoon, sun behind, clear lighting, oh yes, and the time to actually take the pic. It is 2 hours at least to the arches and the same back. Anyway, I think I got some good shots this time. What would be SERIOUSLY cool would be to take this shot, with the arches covered in snow. Never, ever seen that. Heres the first arch:

And Arch 2:

The rock formations round here are something else. Dykes, sills, columnar basalt, cavities with minerals, bizarrely shaped rocks, caves, its all here. Here is a basaltic ash bed (rucsac for scale):

And here is a block of amygdaloidal basalt, with quartz lined cavities in it, on the way back:

(Ruler is a foot long, BTW)

Heres a closeup:

So that was it. Camped at the side of Loch Scridain that night, headed off to Iona the next day and then spent the next 8 hours fighting with routers, printers, Microsoft Office, XP, Dell and who knows what else.

I love it!

Posted on mountainman at 21:27

Serious water...

The heavy rain on Saturday and Sunday meant that the streams were seriously swollen and as a consequence the many waterfalls round about Aros Park were quite interesting, to say the least.

Actually, the most impressive thing was the sheer noise of the water. Hard to convey in a picture and I suspect that the pics dont do justice to the falls anyway, but here's a few:

This is the lower fall - you can see the spray quite well in the pic

The upper fall from above

This is the upper fall from the path

A view of the river just below the upper fall

Young Iain was on the hunt for toadstools (just to the right of him there). He was also extremely well wrapped up and totally dry, unlike father who looked like he had been in the river...

Be back soon!

Posted on mountainman at 11:11

Back in Iona

I seem to be making frequent trips to Iona - not that I mind - the journey through Mull on a good day is one of the scenic splendours of the west coast. Great hills, great cliffs, loads to see and the prospect of getting in about seriously fine geology! Pity theres that awkward business known as "paying the bills"...

Anyway, it was off for another round of IT work on Sunday afternoon - a lot easier to go down the day before and to stay the night - esp since Joyce and Lindsay are such fine hosts - always good crack there!

The weather on Sunday afternoon was not exactly good - you saw the pics of the waterfalls, so at first it didnt look terribly promising for getting pictures. I was hoping, if possible to get some pictures for my photo library and to help with the geology classes which will be coming up next month.

As it happened, there was some seriously good lighting after the rain and I got a lot of nice shots (well I think so anyway - mind you, Offshore's pics of the desert take some beating - that is some blog he has there - superb stuff)

What did we find?

Nice clouds heaped up over Fionnphort, very cold though.

Iona from the ferry looking straight into the sun

Joyce, Lindsay, Rhona and Nipper the dog and me all went for a stroll to the north end of Iona but the lighting wasnt too great as it was a bit late. Sea was quite dramatic though. Next day was nice. although bitterly cold.

The view to Mull was very nice

I needed to make a quick trip over to Mull half way through the day (dont ask...) While waiting on the ferry, I managed to grab a quick shot of the rocks just south of the Fionnphort pier, looking over to Iona:

The pink granite looks nice at this point, but that dark coloured stuff running through it is a bit more unusual. And its got a good name: porphyritic microgranodiorite. Contrasts beautifully with the granite. I had been looking for a good pic of that for a while - its easy to get to as it is just beyond the ferry slipway, but the sun was shining just nicely on it today. Just think I can now bore my students rigid....

After coming back later in the day, it was back to Tob. Just before Bunessan, the view over to Ardmeanach was nice:

Never ever fails to satisfy me that view. Absolute classic.

Following the coast road from Kinloch is my favourite way back up the road. Besides, there were some rocks I wanted to look at...

The cliffs near Gribun, late in the afternoon

Down on the shore there are some interesting rocks - all sorts of sandstones, conglomerates and limestones, considerably older than the vlocanic rocks that make up the cliffs in the pic above.

There are "dessication cracks" in the rocks - I had been here before with Junior (see a previous blog) but the weather wasnt all that good. It was better this time but the sun was a bit too far west by this time. Anyway, enough excuses, the dessication cracks in the sandstone look a bit like this:

And thats my shadow there... Actually, I am not really sure if you get a proper impression of scale with this pic (no junior budding rock-hound to lend a hand...Actually, in the blog I did a few months ago, he is standing on the same cracks so you can get a better idea of the scale) Anyway, heres another view towards the cliffs above Balmeanach:

A final view to the sun starting to set in the west:

And then one more pic of the cliffs before walking back up to the car.

So thats it for today. See you soon!


Posted on mountainman at 21:49

The Wilderness

I had intended going for a serious walk on Saturday, but the question was "where" - the forecast wasnt great, although it looked dry enough. I settled fro a stroll to the Wilderness of Ardmeanach - hadnt been there for over a year. Definitely one of my favourite parts of Mull - hopefully the pics will show you why.

I often wondered about the name "The Wilderness" - it appears on various maps, looking slightly sinister - well it did to me when I was much younger. I remember poring over some of my fathers maps when I was still in primary school, and the names sort of stuck. Anyway, i have been there loads of times, in all sorts of weather and it never fails to satisfy.

Just one point - the area is described in one of the SMC guidebooks as "some of the most broken country" around. It is an area of chasms, sea stacks, cliffs, arches and generally quite challenging walking. It certainly isnt a hands - in pockets stroll -there are some pretty serious bits to the walk.

Anyway, here are some pics of it:

This ruin is just past the farm at Balmeanach - wouldnt take much to put a roof on that now, would it?

The first part of the walk is fairly easy, if boggy, on the broad terrace abve the cliffs, just west of Gribun. It is when you reach the Wilderness proper, that the scenery changes spectacularly

This arch is reached from a very steep descent to the shore.

Here is a sea stack at the foot of the waterfall "Stac Glas Bun an Uisge - the Grey Stack at the foot of the waterfall"

And another view

Lots of goats around here:

When they saw me, they headed up the slope:

There are some serious clefts and chasms in the rock:

And yes, that IS the path in the foreground, and yes it DOES run just inches from a sheer drop....

The rocks round here are mainly Moine psammites, the same stuff you get at Gribun and near Mackinnons cave (qv)

The weather was quite windy and the sea quite rough:

Further round, the psammites give way to the basalts which cover most of this area. And as usual, there is plenty of the columnar stuff to see:

I had reached the point at which it was time to go back - the headland is Called Rubha na h-Uamha - the bit that looks sort of "nose like" from the Bunessan side. the famous fossil tree is just beyond here, but the tide was too far in to get past. Besides, I had intended going back the same way anyway. Heres Rubha na h-Uamha:

The basalts rond here are full of "geodes" - crystal lined cavities. Some of them are quite large.

the pound coin is for scale

I also found some cracking fossils and some iron pyrites (fools gold) in the rocks near here - it is a geologists dream this place. It is also unbelievably remote and difficult to get to... Sod's Law eh?

I might be wrong, but I THINK this is the area which the late Jock Nimlin refers to in his book "Lets look at Scottish gemstones" - publ by Jarrold. Nimlin was an avid collector of agates and refers to a couple of Mull localities - I think this is one of them. Didnt find any!

Nimlin was one of the greatest of Scotlands outdoors men - in the same class as Tom Weir, WH Murray and other such mountaineering giants. Nimlin's climbs are the stuff of legend - well worth reading about.

Moving on -
Lots of caves in this area:

This is the sea stack on the way back, viewed from up the slope:

The lighting wasnt very good during the day, but on the way back, there were some nice views out to the west:

And the suns rays shining on Iona:

There are some good waterfalls along the coast:

The waterfall there runs over a sill, which is made of much harder rock - obvious in the picture

The rocks above Mackinnons Cave looked well in the setting sun:

And finally, a view over to the foreshore at Gribun:

So that was that - a very enjoyable, if tiring walk.Apart from the farmer at Balmeanach, I never met a soul!

Be back soon!


Posted on mountainman at 12:18

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