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The Fiddler's Aurora

The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby jmcsporran » Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:41 pm

Route description: Sgùrr an Fhìdhleir - the Fiddler

Grahams included on this walk: Sgùrr an Fhidhleir

Date walked: 10/10/2018

Time taken: 22 hours

Distance: 8 km

Ascent: 705m

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A photography trip to climb and wild camp on the summit of Sgurr an Fhidhleir (The Fiddler) in Coigach in the North West Highlands provided me with some special moments, some scary moments and the spectacular sight of the Aurora Borealis.
Aurora Borealis - The Northern Lights

The Fiddler is one of the lesser climbed hills in the Coigach and Assynt area of Scotland, possibly due to the fact that it is ‘out of the way’ and hill walkers have to pass many other more famous peaks enroute, quite probably being distracted by the temptation of these other mountains, e.g. Stac Pollaidh, Cul Mor, Cul Beag, etc.
Fiddler Rocks.jpg

The hike up the mountain begins almost at the end of a 30 mile single track road, through the village of Achiltibuie to the small hamlet of Culnacraig. The hike is described as a moorland walk. I would suggest otherwise. There are two relatively steep ridges to climb before the going gets easier and you glimpse the summit. It might be have been easier if I wasn’t carrying 25kg of camping and photography kit and the hike is longer than it looks.
The Point of the Fiddler

After two and a half hours I reached the summit and this is where the fun began. I had planned to camp directly on the point of the summit but the wind was quite strong and I dropped down to a flat ledge about 20 metres below the summit for wind protection. Nevertheless, the Mountain Weather Information Service was forecasting 40mph winds gusting to 60mph. I set up the tent then weighed the tent pegs down with boulders. However, it was still getting a bit of a battering so I weighed down all the edges with large stones to afford additional protection. It was a good call as the tent withstood the wind.
Fiddler Rocks 10 Oct 2018 - 1 web.jpg
The Fiddler Rocks

Square Fiddler 10 Oct 2018 - 1 web.jpg
Fiddler's Square

Having pitched the tent it was then time for photography. The views out over the mountains of Assynt were good, but not stunning, while the sunset over the Summer Isles while nice to look at also did not make for great photos. Sometimes it can be like that, nice to look at but disappointing from a photography perspective. Maybe I was just tired and my ‘edge’ was missing after the long hard hike. I needed caffeine. Three cups of coffee later and I’m good to go but the light was fading fast. The Belt of Venus – the anti-twilight arch – appeared in the sky over the mountains of Assynt.
Light Rays over the Summer isles 10 Oct 2018 - web.jpg
Light rays over the Summer Isles

After dark the Milky Way could be clearly seen in the night sky directly overhead and I took the ‘standard’ tent on a mountain shots.
Tent & Milky Way on Fiddler.jpg
Milky Way over my tent

As I was packing up a faint glow appeared in the northern skies, then …. Bang - the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) began to put on a spectacular display over the mountains of Assynt. The display lasted all of 30 minutes before fading.
Aurora over Stac Pollaidh 1.jpg
Aurora over Stac Pollaidh

Aurora over Stac Pollaidh 2 web.jpg

It was a rough night in the tent, which was battered by the high winds and I didn’t get much sleep. What little sleep I did get was probably through exhaustion. At 5am I made my breakfast and had several more cups of coffee ready for the dawn.
Fiddler Sunrise best web.jpg
Fiddler Dawn

Fiddler Sunrise 11 Oct 2018 - 9 web.jpg
Fiddler's Sunrise

Fiddler Sunrise 11 Oct 2018 - 8 web.jpg
Fiddler Sunrise

Dawn was simply spectacular: a stunning sunrise lit up the clouds and I spent the next two hours taking photo after photo of the constantly changing scene. As the warm light of dawn faded, the morning cloud and mist began to drift up and over the mountain top, still good from a photography perspective, but a more subtle light.
Polly & Eoin Clouds 11 Oct 2018 - 5 web.jpg
Stac Pollaidh & Beinn an Eoin

At 10am I packed up. That is to say, I spent 15 minutes wrestling to flatten the tent in the high winds and get it packed away, eventually I just stuffed it into its bag through sheer frustration. The walk off the mountain was (obviously) a lot easier and made even easier by the high wind which was now at my back. After 90 minutes I was back at the car. Another great adventure. You make your luck.
Fiddler Rocks 2 web.jpg
Rocking the Fiddler
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby Phil the Hill » Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:48 pm

Great shots of a spectacular aurora and sunrise over stunning mountains. Worth losing a night's sleep for IMHO.
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby kmai1961 » Tue Oct 16, 2018 1:04 pm

You make your luck indeed, well done. Some phenomenal photos there. :clap: I've yet to see the Northern Lights, and it ain't for lack of trying. Not at all envious. :mrgreen:
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby Mal Grey » Tue Oct 16, 2018 2:38 pm

Outstanding, both the images and the effort made to get them! That's October's photo comp sewn up already!!! :clap: Though it'll be a problem for you to decide which one to win it with I reckon! :lol:

The aurora looked simply mesmerising. I have never seen it, but surely there can be no better place from which to witness it than the top of a hill in Assynt/Coigach.

I actually like the Fiddler's Dawn/Sunrise photos even more than the aurora shots.
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby jupe1407 » Tue Oct 16, 2018 5:52 pm

Those are awesome photos :clap: , my favourites are your first Aurora image and the sunrises. Absolutely glorious. I was in the general area that night, somehow still able to walk after Conival and Ben More Assynt and managed to get some nice aurora shots from near Knockan Crag. Kudos for high camping in that wind, it was pretty fierce even at ground level.
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby larry groo » Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:16 pm

Aye, grand pics indeed.

:clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby onsen » Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:08 pm

Sometimes, your in the right place at the right time...nicely captured, jmcsporran. 8)
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby Sunset tripper » Wed Oct 17, 2018 1:28 am

Nice one. Great shots of the Northern lights. :D
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby Chris Mac » Wed Oct 17, 2018 3:24 pm

So lucky to be in the right place at the right time, incredible photos and a day that will live long in the memory, thanks for sharing! :clap:
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby weaselmaster » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:12 pm

Gorgeous pictures of a gorgeous place.
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby Alteknacker » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:38 pm

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
Fantastic sequence of pics - it would be invidious to pick out any one.

That has to be worth a disturbed night.
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby rockhopper » Thu Oct 18, 2018 12:07 am

Superb :mrgreen: :mrgreen: - great idea, good planning paid off - cheers :)
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Re: The Fiddler's Aurora

Postby Stefan1 » Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:03 pm

These are some magnificent photos! Love them! And probably my favourite part of Scotland too!
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