After slogging through the usual mile of trackless knee deep heather on ruggedly good but unspectacular Beinn a Choin with Alex last week I was almost howling at the summit..Arran and the Paps of Jura were in bright sunshine."Why are we here when we could be over there?" I asked him."We`ve missed a great opportunity to get back to the islands again"
".If its good next week we`ll go ."Alex said,a bit peeved himself as its years since he`s been on that golden ridge.
Sunday dawned cold and wet.It didn't look too promising after heavy overnight rain which was slow to clear.It was freezing on the ferry over but the forecast said it would start to turn into a fine day by 10am .We could only believe that and hope for the best.
We departed the ferry and quickly caught a bus round to North Glen Sannox as we intended to do the sweeping horseshoe of jagged peaks from Sail an Im round Carn Mor then Caisteal Abhail and then the tricky ridge of Ceum Na Caillich (the infamous Witches Step) back to the glen.I`d done Caisteal Abhail myself from Glen Rosa not that long ago but apart from the summit slopes of that peak all this route would be new ground for both of us.
Nice waterfalls in the glen were soon replaced by a deep roaring cleft then round boulders of granite and a faint path weaving upwards onto the ridge.We had several stops for me to have a munch of something and Alex to rest his foot.
All being well this will be our friend Brians last Graham over there...or so I was told by the groaning one.I only feel some sympathy for him as he could be doing great cycle rides or easy coastal walks which wouldn`t hurt his foot as much but recently he`s taken to doing the most rugged,ball breaking ,knee grinding ,out of the way Corbetts he can find instead.(Punish that foot boy give it hell!) I have nothing against Corbetts there are many fine ones I`ve really enjoyed but a few of them are a tad uninteresting it has to be said...After miles of bog slog and effort just large grey lumps of tussock,rock,holes and heather.Certain parts of Galloway springs to mind here.At this time of year with the vegetation at its most rampant and deep its very heavy going underfoot as there is little in the way of paths.Alex soldiers on though.A driven man. .I tag along....slightly less committed.
By contrast the Arran ridge is a joy to walk along.Sharp sweeping ridges....little sparking clear pools of water tucked in hollows between the boulders or just sitting in deep potholes on bare rock....short grass,golden in colour when the sun shines on it.....enormous strange shaped rock towers rising out of a flat plateau.towers so sublime and ornately stacked its hard to believe nature made them at all...it`s just special... it`s.... it`s..............its.......quick nurse the screens!
On a full days ridge walk we only met other folk on two occasions.This happy group passed us on the ridge early on and then a fit looking guy who was an even keener bagger than Alex.When my companion explained to him I wasnt counting Corbetts they both looked at me sadly as if I had an unfortunate condition to overcome. A short time later we reached the summit of Caisteal Abhail which must be one of the best summits anywhere.
You can`t go wrong up here photography wise.Just point and shoot which is why I know Alex will have a different set of photos to me.Normally I might take 80 shots on a day out and have ten clear best ones.I took over 200 on Arran and most are worth posting.Cutting it down to only a few is the hard part.
So far it had been delightful but easy walking.Then came the Witches Step,a deep notch in an already jagged ridge of Pinnacles and rock towers.Scrambling on Arran granite is not easy.Its like a beetle climbing a stack of oranges sometimes if there are few holds available to help you climb these smooth rounded lumps.
Alex made a better job of this than me.The boys still got it.
We had a look at the direct upward line on the pinnacle itself but it looked hard and neither of us were that keen so we took the easier option of the rising left traverse seen in the full pinnacle photo above.This was hard enough for me as it was cold and damp down here and the sun had been replaced by dark angry clouds by this time.Its amazing how your mood and the surroundings can change in the space of five minutes
with just one big black cloud hanging above you.The rest of the ridge was without problems and we made it back down to the road around six o,clock in the evening.
A fantastic day out.
Walking along the road towards Sannox we met some of our club who had been doing the Five Ferries tour on bikes.They also had been blessed with a smashing day. Brodick round to Lochranza then ferry across to Claonaig on Kintyre..then Tarbet to Portavadie ferry then round the Kyles of Bute to Colintraive ferry,across to Bute then Ferry from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay.They were doing it in reverse and were on the last leg.Although 56 miles and a lot of hills later they looked fresher than us.We were older and cream crackered ,Alex with his foot, me with painful knees.
A good Samaritan passing in a car took pity on us hobbling down the road and took us into Brodick.(thank you kind Sir) This meant we had time for a takeaway supper from the chip shop at the pier before getting the ferry.Mine was a steak pie,Alexs was a sausage supper I think.The seagulls enjoyed his leftovers as usual as he never likes his yet keeps buying the same one.(punish that stomach boy give it hell!)
Got the bike team back over on the ferry and arrived back in Ardrossan in the dark.A bit of a shock as that`s the first time for many months its been dark while we were still out after a hill day.You just get used to it then... bam...winters round the corner again and the land starts slowly shutting down preparing for the long sleep ahead.
As usual I`ll be avoiding that fate for as long as possible,hugging any pockets of green warmth and lush growth I can find like a limpet :o) Forth the old frost dodger!
The bike team.