Highlands & Islands

Hillwalker describes 'brocken spectre' on Glen Coe mountain

Carol Purcell's brocken spectre Image copyright Carol Purcell
Image caption Carol Purcell's brocken spectre on Bidean nam Bian in Glen Coe

A hillwalker has described her experience of a weather effect, known as a brocken spectre, above the clouds on Bidean nam Bian in Glen Coe.

The effect is produced when a person is able to stand above the upper surface of a cloud with the sun behind them.

In the past, the phenomenon was thought to be a supernatural creature dubbed The Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui.

Carol Purcell, from Edinburgh, said the experience was "extraordinary".

She described seeing her shadow with the sunlight reflected back in the form of a circular, rainbow-like "glory".

She said she had seen hints of the rainbow colours on previous walks, but not the fully formed effect.

Image copyright Carol Purcell
Image caption Carol Purcell and her fellow walkers having fun with the effect

"I had never seen anything like it before," she said.

"It was a magical experience above the cloud with the mist swirling along. There was an otherness to it."

The hillwalker said that she and the rest of the group she was with spent several minutes "playing around" with the brocken spectre.

Image copyright Carol Purcell
Image caption The hillwalkers on Bidean nam Bian enjoyed the effect for several minutes

A brocken spectre can often appear larger than the person observing it, giving the impression of some kind of giant grey creature.

The term brocken spectre originated in Germany. The Brocken is the highest peak in the Harz Mountains and is often shrouded in cloud or mist.

There was a listening post on the summit during the Cold War when the mountain formed part of East Germany.

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