1. Sort of base camp at 1700m, where the dirt road ends
2. Two views of the summit
3. View: The carvings are at the bottom left of the photo
4. The climb down
5. Further down
6. The carvings
7. The carvings again
8. detail of the erosion
9. The rock with our estimate of 400 carvings on it
So I returned to the shieling again on Friday to look for the ‘thousands’ of cup markings I didn’t find the last time. We actually went to the top of the Vandalino mountain first and then down to the shieling and then even further down to find the carvings. It is amazing how much easier it is with only 5 kg on your back rather than 20!!. It was still quite a climb, from 1250m (4100ft.) where we left the bikes to 2121m (6,960ft.) on the summit and then down vertically to 1900m (6234ft) then back up and then of course down again. And I was surprised how much difference 15 kg actually makes. This time we did actually find the carvings and gob-smacked does not do justice to the impact of seeing them. I get the impression that all the articles about them, not that there are many, are just copying second hand information willy nilly without ever bothering to go up to take a look. The words “almost every outcrop is dotted with cup markings” would seem to be something of an understatement. One of the rocks, measuring about 15 by 8 meters we reckoned to have about 400 cup markings on it. There are at least another 6 or 7 comparable rocks one next to the other well exceeding the conservative estimate of 2000 cup markings for the site given in the literature. The numbers of carvings were so numerous that it seemed impossible for them to have been man made (they must have been total nutters) so we spent most of our time there trying to decide if they were natural or artificial. However due to their constant size, 5cm in diameter down to about two with the same depth, usually about two to three centimeters (like most cup markings in the valley seem to be), the fact that similar surrounding rocks do not have any such ‘pitting’ and that the markings are not present on the edges nor are there any broken ones on the edges of the rock and that despite having wandered about most of the mountain over the years I have never seen a geological formation even remotely similar and as the experts consider them artificial too we came to the conclusion that this was indeed a marvelous site created by man. After seeing it though what I cannot understand is why the site is not given more importance as it is truly spectacular. Even more so when, as there was, there is wind and fog. Several of the cup markings (from here on CMs), well, rather, quite a lot of the CMs, were arranged in straight lines of between 3 and 7 carvings. The whole series of rocks faces south , beautifully text-book south, dominating the vast airy space below.
A rock above the complex, also facing south, has CMs only on its eastern edge but we were too knackered to climb down to the flatter land below to see if there to the rocks were marked in a similar fashion. There should also be an old shieling hut there which may be usuful for a stay over some time.
The sides of many of the CMs are very worn but it would seem that they are worn in from the direction of the prevailing wind and rain. In fact the way the fine sand and gravel is deposited in the holes backs this idea up as the wind would carve out the back of the hole more than the front which would be lower due to the erosion externally from the front and from the vortex inside (but obviously I am no expert). The markings would seem to have been done with metal tools because they are just a bit too neat for stone. But I’m going to have to do some research. Also I had a root around where some boar had dug over just below one of the rocks and there were no pieces of stone any different to the local stone. I am only presuming again but with such a vast quantity of CMs if they were made using stone tools I would have expected quite a lot of chippings below the rocks from making tools or from sharpening them or quite simply from breakages. But because of the weather and the distance back we could not stay there too long so any meditation on site will have to wait.
The photos cannot do the area justice (but I will post a video as soon as I get it edited) without chalking the CMs which I had started to do on a rock above the main complex but seeing how many there were I gave the idea up.
Truly I have never seen anything like it. Hundreds and hundreds of CMs one on top of the other but none touching. Spectacular. So of course now we have to hunt out the others so this spring I feel a 3 day cup-counting trip coming on.