6 Culnamean


word-mntn (Sgùrr nan Gobhar); poem AF, photograph EN

on the verge of the big ridge
the rain-blurred, dusk-purpled
thunder-livid, hail-pelted
or cloud-voided Cuillin
are here by the sea
   at Culnamean

clamber your eyes up Sgùrr nan Gobhar
seeing your way from rock to rock
picking a way through the scree tesserae
that litters the molten wave
which gave shape to the arcuate ridge-line
& stitch these familiar names
   back together again

   Sgùrr a Ghreadaidh
      clear stone

   Sgùrr na Banachdaich
      crystal water       

   Sgùrr Alasdair
      the very crux

   Sgùrr Mhic Coinnich
      the bolt that blocks
      so many traverses

   Sgùrr Dearg
      weltered rock

   Sgùrr Dubh Mòr
      where rime still shelters
      on the old snow patches

to the mountains this pockled scree
flows, cascading over as many years
as there are rocks, but no, the phrase
can’t be made to hold – to the mountains

for the peak is the smallest part
of any mountain and, beneath the peak,
the greater part of the mountain
   lies hidden within

Culnamean (Grid ref: NG42SW 14). Site records can be viewed on RCAHMS. Former township 
on the Allt a’ Mhuilinn; the name means Back of the Mountains. The closest hill is Sgùrr nan 
Gobhar, Peak of the Goats, which slopes up to the Cullin ridge; Frank Fraser Darling refers to 
the ridgeline as arcuate, curved, like a bow. Sgùrr Alasdair, Alistair’s Peak, named after Sherriff 
Alistair Nicolson of Skye; Sgùrr MhicCoinnich, McKenzie’s Peak, named after the climbing guide 
John Mackenzie of Sconser. The other mountain names are translated in the conspectus below.

poem & photograph, AF

word-mntn (Sgùrr Dubh Mor), AF




meadow, Culnamean

word-mntn (Sgùrr MhicCoinnich) poem AF; photograph, EN

in the meadow
a hidden corncrake
among ox-eye daisies
as rare as its rasp
   is ugly
along the strand
the low curlew
calls across
the green horizon
   a lone whim of dusk

A memory of my first visit to Culnamean, June 2011, with Emma Nicolson; the arable fields had 
been allowed to become meadow, filled with ox-eye daisies, neòinean mòr. We heard a corncrake,  
traon, croaking among the grasses.


Arne Naess

sand & marram frame views
well kent & fond to visiting climbers,
not all as eccentric in their treatment
of their tents as the philosopher
   & climber Arne Naess

I made myself a tent
with small holes
cut in the fabric

falling asleep
I could still see
the mountains

but the holes
couldn’t be shut
so I was freezing

& that was the first
of many, many
stupid things
   (Arne Naess)

The campsite by the beach at Glen Brittle is popular with climbers. These verses are composed 
from phrases in David Rothenberg’s introduction to Arne Naess’ thinking: Is it painful to think?:
Conversations with Arne Naess (University of Minnesota, 1993).

Sherry's Shadows of the Alps

David Sherry's Shadows of the Alps exist as drawings, photocopies, and paintings; he grew up in 
the Mourne Mountains and lives in Glasgow.

Le alpine Cullin           

Company of Mountains (tr.), poem AF, photograph LA

the first visitors to arrive on Skye
with the habit of referring to themselves
as 'mountain climbers', translated the Cuillin
   into their ideal terrain

parlez-vous alpine?


For a more detailed list of Alpine climbing terms, see this article.

poem & photograph, AF

word-mntn (Sgùrr Mhic Choinnich), AF





Rev. A. E. Robertson; poem AF, photograph LA

the alpinist cult was succeeded by Munroism:
mountain climbers & armchair loggers
   tabulated an index of verticality

the Munroist doctrine nominated peaks
as data points, founding an arbitrary tradition
that becomes, for some, the pursuit
   of a lifetime
their credo remains much debated;
their status quo is undermined
by the paradox, admitted by Munro,
that, although peaks can be measured & compared,
mountains are immeasurable,
their pursuit, even their definition,
   is irrational

fitting then that the first comprehensive Munroist
should be a man of the cloth, Rev. A. E. Robertson
who listed God’s blessings in a rambling sermon
   from Numbers

closely followed by another reverend
   A. R. G. Burn

Munroism derives from the calculations of Sir Hugh Munro, a founding member of the Scottish 
Mountaineering Club, who published the first edition of Munro’s Tables in the SMC journal of 
1891, listing the summits over 3,000 ft recognized to be separate mountains. The definitions of 
summits and tops have been matters of much debate, of the utmost importance to those who 
pursue Munro bagging.

poem & photograph AF

poem AF, photograph LA

poem AF, photograph CS

word-mntn (Sgùrr na Banachdaich), AF




pataphysical Cuillin

diagram from Mount Analogue, René Daumal

I rename the volcano that once towered
a mile high over these massive peaks
in honour of the writer-climber
   René Daumal

         O U N
         T A N
         A L O
         G U E

poem AF, photograph LA

rebalancing the equilibrium
between climbing & viewing,
paying heed to Daumal’s notion:
thought is motion, movement is all
   that we share in common   

walking, not the physical pretense of walking,
but consciously harmonizing, walking at our own pace,
there comes an entire rhythm, lighting life
   with joy & ease

but you cannot always stay on the summits
you have to come down again
   so what’s the point?

while climbing, take note of all the difficulties
along your path, during the descent
you will no longer see them,
but you will know that they are there
   if you have observed carefully

there is an art to finding your way
in the lower regions by the memory
of what you have seen when you were higher up;
when you can no longer see, you can at least
   still know

Daumal's Mount Analogue, sub-titled A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean 
Adventures in Mountain Climbing (tr. Carol Cosman, Pantheon, 1960) is a foundational text 
of mountain counter-culture. Pataphysics originates in the work of Alfred Jarry, who proposed 
it as the science of imaginary solutions, of laws governing exceptions and of the laws describing 
the universe supplementary to this one. These theories influence Daumal's experimental meta-
physcis, expounded in Mount Analogue. Here the final verses are based on passages from his 
essay ‘The role of Movement in the complete education of man’, translated by Mark Polizzotti. 

   (after René Daumal)

Dan Shipsides, A’ Chioch (The Cioch)

Dan Shipsides, summit of Sgùrr Alasdair, DS

this guide favours viewing over climbing,
but it’s time to expose ourselves to a bodily encounter
composed in Bone Scale by artist-climber
   Dan Shipsides

Cìoch: Bone Scale

one fibular taper
joins a ridged sternum
cause-weighing from the body mass
of Sròn na Cìche

mass lengthways sloping upwards
one femur over eighteen humerus
sideways tapered from a fibula to tibia   
steeply up and shallowing

to twelve clavicles wide
and then broadening
to flat frontal slope of eight femurs
fractured by grouped carpal cracks

thinning to two
then single phalanges
and raised seams
of at most ulnas

to at least metacarpals
running around and through
cracks radius depth at deepest
lobe slopes on seaward side

increasing pitch from femur : carpal
to carpal : femur
to precarious tarsal then metatarsal
then gone

steep proud, twelve spine deep
slice of eight femur
then thirteen humerous
on the sheltered clean edge

leading to an exposed
cantilevered scapula tip
past which a fall
way beyond Bone Scale

Cìoch, massive pedestal interrupting the climbing routes up Sròn na Cìche, Pap of the Prom-
ontory, on the face of Sgùrr Alasdair. Shipsides is an artist who climbs; a recent exhibition at 
Stephen Lawrence Gallery, Greenwich, refers to mountaineering and radicalism, including 
Aleister Crowley. The photograph (above) is possibly the highest 'ground-bound' (non-airborne) 
photo ever taken in the Cullins, made by Shipsides, using a 3m bamboo pole. Shipsides collab-
orates with the artist-climber Neal Beggs, whose work features in the guide to Sligachan. The 
extract below is from Colin Will’s poem 'The Cioch, A’ Chioch', first published in Seven Senses 
(Diehard, 2000).

 word-mntn (Sgùrr Alasdair), poem AF, photograph, CZ

word-mntn (Sgùrr Alasdair), AF

Colin Will, The Cioch, A’ Chioch

You are free, if you are brave, to stand up
on this steep rough rock.
Hands are not needed
except for reassurance.
This slab is so sound
you could run up, unroped,
facing in, looking up.

But back, behind,
there’s air below;
a thousand feet
until you’d hit
the crags and boulders -
and you’re no cartoon coyote.

   (Colin Will)

Rubh an Dùnain

Rubh an Dùnain, AF

your eyes see the point, but what’s known
depends on rounding the promontory
   beyond Càrn Mòr

for the full 4 miles reveals:
the ruined gable of the MacKaskills,
   comes litoris   

the ruined fort on the naze
& the stone-lined canal
that bleeds from the lochan boatyard,
   with noosts for Macleod’s birlinn

the cliffside cave for smelting iron
& the ancient chambered cairn
with its view from the rocky foreshore
   to the Cuillin of Skye & Rúm

Culnamean, departure point for the walk to Rubh an Dùnain; the point is visible in the photo-
graph. The MacKaskill clan motto, comes litoris, derived from their ancient role as 'coast-
watchers' for Clan Macleod. The fort, the boatyard at Loch na h-Àirde, the cave used as a Neolithic 
smithy and the chambered cairn are described in more detail in the guide for Rubh an Dùnain. 
Noost, boat stance, for birlinn, clinker-built longships.

Isle of Rúm

word-mntn (trollabhal); poem AF, photograph LA

Rúm, remains of volcanic frenzy
collaging a rock ecology
of sandstone, granite & magma,
the sandy topsoil & spitted slopes
of Hallival & Askival are covered in green patches,
flushed by birdshit, riddled with burrowed nests
which emit the eerie calls of the shearwaters
   renaming Trollabhal every night

It is sometimes said that the name ‘Rúm’ means isle of the ridge. Askival, Peak of the Ash. The 
noisy calls of shearwater, sgrabaire, when they return to their burrows at night are thought to 
have given Trollabhal its name, Troll Peak. On the hill of Orval there is the ruin of an old funnel-
shaped stone deer trap, eileirig.

Linda France’s iolaire, Eigg

White-tailed eagle; photograph, Geoff Sample

if the eagle is the eye
of the storm, I am nothing,
sitting on the edge
of the cliff waving
like someone lost

if the eagle is the door
of heaven, I am everything
that must pass
under the lintel
marked found

   (Linda France)

The poem by Linda France, titled ‘Two Sightings’, from You are Her (Arc, 2010), describes the 
experience of sighting an eagle over Beinn Bhuidhe, yellow hill, on Eigg. On Skye and Rúm there 
are white-tailed sea eagles, iolaire sùil na grèine (eagle of the sunlit eye), which were for a time
locally extinct, and had to be actively reintroduced. In the mating season they can be seen locking 
talons, tumbling down through the air. The golden eagle, iolair bhuidhe (sometimes iolair dubh), 
was also absent from the islands for some years, seemingly due to the effects of the pesticide ingested 
in their shearwater prey. Though the species later returned naturally, its numbers remained inhibited
owing to local pesticide useGeoff Sample made a recording of white-tailed eagles on Canna, for 
the Cape Farewell project Air falbh leis na h-eoin / Away with the birds, in collaboration with Hanna 

white tailed eagles, Canna; audio by Geoff Sample

 poem & photograph, AF


word-mntn (Beinn Bhuidhe), AF

Iolaire sùil na grèine

   for Geoff Sample





   finds me

on the

   of the


word-mntn (Orval), AF

Culnamean conspectus

This conspectus is composed from the names of some of the mountains that 
visible from this location. The centre-point marks the location of Culnamean. 

The typography represents the view as it is experienced by the human eye, 
an approximate impression of distance and scale. Mountain ridges are 
by overlapping names. The gradation of hill slopes is suggested by 
the use of grey-
scale, with the peak in black.

Click on this graphic to view the original and, if you wish, 
print it out for use in
situ. A booklet containing all 14 conspectuses is available from ATLAS ArtsThe
14 conspectuses have also been archived in an 
album, indexed hereA complete 
list of the mountains referred to in the Culnamean guide is given 
below, with links
from each one to its OS map. English translations have been 
given where possible.
A gallery of word-mntn drawings, including mountains visible from Culnamean, 
can be found on the drawing page.

AskivalPeak of the Ash
Beinn Bhuidhe Yellow Mountain
HallivalFell with ridge of terraces
Sgùrr a' GhreadaidhPeak of the tormented torrent
Sgùrr AlasdairAlexander’s Peak
Sgùrr na BanachdaichPockmarked Peak
Sgùrr DeargRed Peak
Sgùrr Dubh MòrBig Black Peak
Sgùrr Mhic CoinnichMcKenzie’s peak
Sgùrr nan GobharPeak of the Goats
TrollabhalTroll Peak


Alec Finlay (AF)
Luke Allan (LA)
Linda France
Gavin Morrison
Emma Nicolson (EN)
Norman Shaw
Dan Shipsides
Caroline Smith
Colin Will
Claudia Zeiske
Geoff Sample

Gaelic consultant
Maoilios Caimbeul


to view the next conspectus click here
to return to the map with links to all 14 guides click here
to read the project overview click here 

for basic project information, including acknowledgements, click here

Còmhlan Bheanntan | A Company of Mountains
commissioned by ATLAS, Skye, 2012-13


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