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Saturday, 27 September 2014

Cairngorms Expedition (15)

Cairn Toul has two cairns on the summit plateau, about 100 metres apart. From the first (Northern) one, the second looked marginally lower; and the GPS gave a grid reference which seemed consistent with the spot height on the map. So I counted this the summit - but I could see another walker across at the Southern cairn so I wandered across to see which he felt was the higher. On arrival, I felt that the Norhtern one looked higher from the Southern one as well, but I nevertheless asked him what he thought. When I did, I was rather shocked to find that he thought we were on Sgor an Lochan Uaine.

"This is Cairn Toul", I corrected him.

"No," he insisted, pointing to the unnamed hill 1213, "that's Cairn Toul 1291. This is Sgor an Lochan Uaine, 1258."

"It's not," I said. "I've already been over Sgor an Lochain Uaine today. This is Cairn Toul."

"Are you a geographer?" he asked, somewhat aggressively.

"No," I said, "I'm a navigator. But if you doubt it, we can always ask my yellow box of tricks" and so saying, I fetched out my GPS unit.

"Ah," he sneered. "When all else fails, turn to technology."

"All else hasn't failed," I countered, "and I am not in the least doubt where we are. But since you question it, I thought this the best way to prove it."

There were, in truth, no end of other ways in which I could have proved it. I could have suggested taking bearings (there is a near enough 90 degree deviation between the bearing from Sgor an Lochain Uaine to Cairn Toul and that from Cairn Toul to hill 1213). I could have invited him to contemplate the fact that the top he was calling Cairn Toul was clearly somewhat lower than the top on which we were discussing our location, whereas if we were on Sgor an Lochain Uaine and it was Cairn Toul, it would be visible higher. Or I could have asked him whether he had observed Lochan Uaine below him, and shown him my photograph to prove that I had. However, I was dealing with somebody whose map reading and navigation skills were such that he had completely failed to notice that there was a 1213 metre top to be ascended and descended before he got to Cairn Toul, and I suspect that any of these proofs would have been just a wee bit too sophisticated for him. So I used the GPS, and he did not argue with it when he saw the grid reference (which shows that he did, at least, know how to read a grid reference ... which is something I suppose).

We then went our separate ways, he to Sgor an Lochain Uaine (the real one ... I wonder what he would have called it when he got there if I had not corrected him on his location?) and I to Hill 1213 and then down to the top of Coire Odhar. Shortly before the bottom o fthis slope I came to a spring, and was able to refill my water bottles from the stream just a few metres below it. I drank my fill, and continued with three bottles of lovely fresh, clear spring water in my pack.

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