Wild Camping with the Old Man 22nd April 2016

April 25, 2016  •  3 Comments

After a glorious week stuck in work and seeing lots of photos of people having a great time in the hills with cracking weather, I started looking at the weather to see where I would go at the weekend.

The forecasts I was looking at were suggesting that things would change on Friday with the wind coming from the north and rain on Saturday. However, there looked to be a few pockets of clear sky for Friday night and there was also talk of a G1 minor magnetic storm in the early hours of Saturday morning which may give some nice aurora. Saturday night coincided with the full moon, so it was also an excuse for staying up most of the night taking photos of the landscape lit up like daylight.

So that was it. Plan decided. I was off to Kintail after work to climb  Sgurr Mhic Bharraich, an easy corbett with great views in all directions. I got to the car park in Shiel Bridge about 4.30pm and set off. Everything was fine for around 20 minutes until I saw a big black cloud coming towards me. Sure enough, within 5 minutes I was completely drenched and high tailing it back to the car. Time for plan B.....

Plan B was the chippy in Broadford. When I had been checking the weather the day before I remembered that Skye had been showing clear skies all day and night. It certainly looked clearer over to the west, so that's where I headed. I stopped at the Waterfront Chippy in Broadford for a chip butty to keep me going till dinner later, then headed north past Portree to the Storr. By this time it was just after 7pm with sunset at 8.54pm. Plenty of time to get up the the Storr Sanctuary and set up camp before sunset.

I've camped here before in 2015. There's a great sheltered spot right in the center of the sanctuary, surrounded by towering rock formations on all sides. The only slightly worrying parts are all the warning notices advising not to go past this point.....

The wind was blowing from the north and it was bitterly cold. I was actually glad I had been soaked earlier as the top of a mountain would likely have been much colder and more exposed. Tent was up and sleep arrangements set by 8.15pm. Time to go chase some sunset light.

All pitchednice sheltered spot within the Storr sanctuary

Although the actual sunset to the west cannot be seen as the bulk of the Storr massif obstructs it, there can be some nice sky colours around sunset and just after. As I made my way past the Old Man of Storr over the various rockfalls and boulders I noticed a young couple desperately trying to get to the classic viewpoint in time for sunset. The girl looked cold and completely pissed off, and the young man was clearly determined to get a pic. Needless to say, I think they were a bit surprised (and likely a bit worried) to see a strange man wandering down the hill towards them from nowhere when they clearly thought they were all alone. We exchanged a few pleasantries, but it was clear they thought I was eyeing them up for dinner, so I took a few snaps at the classic viewpoint and left them alone.

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I then headed over the strategically placed barb wire fence to the path onto the Storr cliffs. I don't know about any of you, but balancing precariously only a couple of rocks astride a barb wire fence certainly helps to focus the mind on not making any mistakes. Made it with no medical mishaps I'm glad to say:) and headed up the cliffs to get the same view as on the cover page of the Highland Scenery FB page. From the top of the cliffs I saw the nervous couple hightailing it back down the path towards the car park as if their life depended on it.... and, that was me alone for the rest of the night :)


So with the sun now set, it was now time to head back to the tent and settle down until the stars were fully out. This would be around midnight, although I knew with the full moon the stars wouldn't appear too bright in the sky. 

I never really sleep too well when I'm planning on being up during the night, and this night was no exception. However, around 11.30pm I decided to head out for a wander around and see what everything looked in the moonlight. I must have spent a couple of hours wandering backwards and forwards along the whole length of the Storr, occasionally taking a photo to the north too, to see if the aurora was making an appearance (which it didn't....). It's amazing how much the moon can light up the landscape when you take longer exposures. Makes it look like daylight!It was over an hour before I made the connection between the full moon and werewolves, and was suddenly conscious that I was completely alone in the middle of the night in the hills under a full moon..... Irrational I know, but I started looking behind me a lot more often!

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If you look really closely you can see my tent in the photo above. Just below left of center.

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and further north

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One last look north to see if the aurora was around.....



The wind was absolutely freezing now, so I  headed back to the tent & shelter to wait on sunrise, which was just before 6am. For some inexplicable reason though I set my alarm for 4.30am to give myself 'plenty' of time to get up. When it went off, I was in a deep sleep and convinced myself  that it was 5.30am and cloudy outside so I fought hard with the inclination to roll over and go back to sleep..... I finally got the motivation to stick my head out the window though and realised that it was going to be quite a nice sunrise. 

So I got ready again and headed back out into the cold, stumbling about the boulders to get back along to where I had been 3 hrs previously. I managed to find a sheltered spot and spent the next 30 minutes taking the occasional photo as the light changed, hoping that I was going to get some brilliant pinks and reds in the moments before dawn. The light was good, not stunning but I was quite relieved when the sun was rising behind me and I could finally beat a retreat back to pack up the tent. I was surprised with it being a relatively clear sunrise that there was no-one else around to take photos. It's generally quite popular early in the morning.

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Anyway, back at the tent I started packing up, sat out a brief hail shower then headed back down to the car before stopping at the Waterside chippy in Broadford for some Rolls & Sausage for brekkie and then headed home. Needless to say, the cats were quite happy to see me after also spending the night outside. Quite a nice night and I suspect not the last time I'll be camped here!  

Now to check the weather forecast for next weekend......


That's so cool, fonx
iain macrae(non-registered)
After reading this my admiration for you has increased, apart from.the fabulous images and the witty banter, your love of Skye and.your dedication to your art is fantastic.
Be careful on the drive home though, the wildlife come.out at night.too!
Be good to see an image of a beaver if you can
DON MACKINNON(non-registered)
Hi Graham,

really enjoyed your blog and of course your images produced from same. My knee is crocked just now but once back to working order, I will be doing some astro photography around the Strathconon hills as a result of seeing your work.
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