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Postby mountain coward » Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:08 am

Thought I'd start a topic for all our Brocken Spectre pics - seeing as there's been so many recently. To start you off, here's my 3 and a slightly funny tale (well I laughed anyway).

I set off one evening (characteristically late - 8pm in June) to investigate 'The Gulch' up the front of Blencathra (Wainwright's name for Blease Gill). It was a very steep climb and had been a beautiful evening but, as I got towards the top of the gulch, the cloud started to roll in. The Gulch by the way is a fascinating piece of scenery when you're in it. There was an awful climb up very steep and loose scree to finish. With the lateness of the day I was hurrying a bit so by the time I reached the ridge I was pretty knackered as the whole ascent is quite hard.

I rambled along the summit ridge to Hallsfell top by which time the sun was getting low down the back of the ridge and the cloud had come right up the front of it. As I walked back down the ridge towards Blease Fell top it became perfect conditions for my very first Brocken Spectre, complete with glory. I was so chuffed I did a loopy little dance on the ridge while whooping with delight (I'm quite famous for that kind of behaviour amongst my friends - they call me Zebedee!;-) There was a guy who had just also left the summit shortly behind me and was heading down the same ridge. When he saw my behaviour he headed way down the back of the mountain until he'd passed me and then back up to the ridge to descend over Blease Fell. Bet he was worried when I went the same way;-) I'm harmless really...

Anyway, these photies weren't that one as I didn't take my camera that day - these are on Snowdon...
Snowdon-Brocken Spectre.jpg
Snowdon-Brocken Spectre1.jpg
Snowdon-Brocken Spectre2.jpg
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Re: Spectres!

Postby canisp » Fri Jan 23, 2009 11:50 pm

Great shots with good colour mc, especially like the second one.
Hadn’t seen one for most of 2008 then got 3 in the last 2 months :D, and seemed to have one permanently by my side on Ben Lomond three weeks ago.
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Re: Spectres!

Postby GarryH » Sun Jan 25, 2009 6:20 pm

I was hoping some one else would ask the question so as to spare my ignorance,but apparantly not, so can I ask, what is a brocken spectre?What are the conditions required to see one?And am I looking at the shadow of the photographer in the photographs?
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Re: Spectres!

Postby fellrunning » Sun Jan 25, 2009 7:13 pm

Great photos mountain coward.

Sugary - spectre formation is an interesting science and we published an article in our club journal The Lost Sheep, a while ago. I might try and get that online for you or if you like could try and send the article to you.

Ad altiora!

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Re: Spectres!

Postby Paul Webster » Sun Jan 25, 2009 7:36 pm


You see them when you are above the level of the top of the clouds - or very occasionally when you are in a very thin cloud. The shadow in the photos is the photographers, cast onto the cloud, and the rings are caused by defraction of water droplets. For some reason I've never really understood, each person can only see their own spectre and not that of their companions.

I didn't see one for years and then I had a run of them a few years back - on Arran, Scafell Pike, and Buachaille Etive Mor, and in the French Pyrenees too. I've never managed to get the rainbow to come out as clear in a photo as it appears in reality - I think to get a classic shot a polarizing filter would really help. If in thin cloud you sometimes see the spectre and shadow cast fleetingly in front of you in the air, rather than looking down on it - which is very eerie - this happened to me on Scafell Pike.

A related phenomenon seen less often is a White rainbow or a Fogbow, which is the same but has a pure white halo instead of a rainbow-like one - which you see depends on the size of the water droplets, with a fogbow requiring almost microscopic sized droplets of water. I saw one of these on Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan:


and last month Helen photographed one on little Ben Bhraggie near Brora:
Fogbow on Ben Bhraggie

Canisp photographed both a fogbow and a Brocken Spectre in his report on Carn Chuinneag...

Whichever you see, they are pretty special 8) - one reason to head up a hill through the mist!
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Re: Spectres!

Postby fellrunning » Sun Jan 25, 2009 9:07 pm

Dear Subscribers,

For anyone interested I have created an online article from that published in our club journal. My colleague and I looked around for ages for a decent article and graphics without much success. In the end we thought we'd write our own:

I hope this proves useful and informative.

Ad altiora!
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Re: Spectres!

Postby GarryH » Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:02 pm

Fascinating stuff, thanks for that fellrunning@Paul............
Hope I get to see one sometime.
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Re: Spectres!

Postby Rekrab » Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:24 am

I was in glen lyon last wed with my a mate walking and just as the clouds came in we were almost half way up carn gorm when i looked to the lawyers range and noticed something similar to these. but my mate said it was somethign called mother of pearl. something to do with the ice crystals and the sun. we madeout a rainbow with only two colours in it but two sets of the colours. a light pink and a light green. it was really nice but what is th difference between mother of pearl and broken specter?

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