One walk guide book says Broughton Heights is the best viewpoint in the Southern uplands. If you can see off it that might be true. But I mostly couldn’t see anything off the hill once I got 100 metres above the car.
I used to get intimidated by John Buchan heroes. Thirty mile walks before tea were just part of the toolkit and climbs were prodigious. I knew he’d been an accomplished rock-climber so I believed him. Then a few years ago I came across a letter of his to a mate, claiming Trahenna Hill as practically a Munro. The scales fell from my eyes. He was a fibber like the rest of the rock brigade. Good author, but.
Because you can park your car half way up the hill, Trahenna’s even easier now. I can’t say much about the quality as visibility was zero. What it did give me a chance to do was check my new compass. I’ve a bad habit of losing these, most scarily 300 metres from the summit of Ben Avon. Never found the cairn and was fairly worried navigating back across the plateau with just the wind on my cheek. I’ve since carried a spare though the current one’s had its polarity reversed so if it comes to an emergency I’ve got to remember north is south.
Anyway they’ve all been Silvas until now, but the last one I lost I replaced with a Highlander, which was Scottish and cheaper. I should have known better. I was on top of Beinn Ime in February. Icy snow underfoot, zero visibility and an 80k wind. (MWIS had got the wind right but had given 90% chance of visibility). I had to crawl to the trig point. Then I had to navigate off which you wouldn’t think was complicated but conditions do change things. I found the compass was actually difficult to read because the NSEW marks don’t stand out and I’m long-sighted. It also was pretty unforgiving if not held practically horizontal. Finally the compass housing was hard to rotate while holding it to the map, though this seemed a function of the cold and is ok when I try it now.
The thing is the compass is practically a ringer for the Silva equivalent to the point you’d think it was in breach of copyright. The differences that I found are minor to look at. The weird thing is the principal significant difference in appearance are these wee right-angled figures at the front right of the baseplate. I’ve never understood what they’re for but the Silva has one at 1:40,000 and one at 1:50,000. The Highlander has one 1:50,000 and one at 1:63,360. This’ll mean hee-haw to the youngsters amongst you but is in fact the old 1” scale which disappeared in the UK around 1970. It could be beautiful to look at but was occasionally deadly in its lack of detail. It's just weird that this compass retained the obsolete scale.
To return to Trahenna, the conditions, barring the ice, were nearly as horrible as on Beinn Ime and I was navigating happily on my Silva. I could see the North mark clearly, I could tip it without it freezing and I could turn the housing. The way to Broughton Heights was wild and invisible and would have been uncomplicated anyway as long as I selected the right fence. However it was sensible to give the compass a runout in controlled conditions. I was off Beinn Ime without too much difficulty but it was a silly place to test and fail a key piece of equipment.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.