Rats Castle. April 2016
Unfortunately the wide-angle lens has flattened things out a bit. This shot is taken over 300ms above the lake.
In a long-gone era, when orderliness and reason were supreme values, mountains – with their jumbly chaos, their “hideous” height and irregular form – were so hated and feared that they were regarded as part of an angry God’s judgement on a sinful earth. Others argued that such undigested heaps of confusion could not come from a God of order and beauty, but from some other chaos. These jumble haters would have sure hated Rats Castle!
Preferring to invoke Norse mythology than these myopic understandings of God, when in a landscape such as that provided by this citadel for rats, I picture Thor in his fury, smashing stones like marbles in his wrath, tossing slabs of rock about the place in a wild mess.
From Rats Castle, near the summit
I thought of this image as Angela and I spent the best part of an hour negotiating the upper part of the ridgeline that leads to Rats Castle. We had adhered to the instructions in the book and forum, following an old fence, then climbing to the top, and finally following the ridge south to the summit. The junky rocks were exactly as those commentators on reason had depicted in their rather jaded, moralistic accounts. As we tiptoed through the field of discarded, ossified footballs, we had time for such musings. It took a little less than an hour to gain most of the height we’d needed, but another hour to traverse the mess, weaving in and out and around about, dextrously avoiding scoparia and other obstacles of a more jagged nature.
Summit view from Rats Castle
Three things saved the area, I decided, as we sat on top enjoying a leisurely … whatever the meal is called when it’s not lunchtime yet but you’re hungry, so eat your lunch ’cause you’re on top anyway:
(1) an amazingly blue lake (Great Lake) below, with patterns of mirror and ruffle on the shimmer (hardly the “blue scrofulous scum” as the mountain-hating Charles Cotton called a lake in 1681. It seems he was not keenly alive to the beauty of lakes either);
(2) tiny shapes we could recognise way in the distance: the Acropolis and Geryon to the west; Ben Lomond to the east, with Arthur and Saddleback rising out of localised clouds even further afield;
(3) the knowledge that we should make the most of this view, as the chances were highly unlikely that we would ever be back this way again. It wasn’t horrid or anything: it just lacked any “wow” factor that lifts the spirits, and life is short. On the smorgasbord of mountains, when I’m choosing second and third helpings, other treats will be more on my mind.
Sitting up there, chewing our cud, we could see no good reason at all for the oddly-shpaed route we had been advised to take, so opted for a direct descent and take whatever consequences came. The only one that did was a descent that was half an hour quicker than the inward journey. Angela, knowing what a rebel I am in every other way, asked what had ever possessed me to adhere to instructions on this occasion. I had no adequate answer for that unprecedented and unwarranted conservatism that had momentarily taken over.
Conservative ascent, following advice (top); creative descent, going for it (bottom / south).