Thursday, 5 June 2014

Beinn Nuis. Beinn Tarsuinn. A'Chir Ridge. Arran Traverse.

                                                 ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
I've always had a hankering to revisit Beinn Nuis. Beinn Tarsuinn and the A' Chir ridge. It's decades since I last climbed the first two peaks but I remembered them fondly as great little mountains. The photo above is the old watchtower on Horse Isle.
The Cal Mac ferry runs from Ardrossan to Brodick and takes just under an hour. I never get bored going on this journey as Arran is one of the best islands in Scotland and so easy to reach. A large  enclosed car park is available at the ferry terminal/harbour for safe parking which is well worth the couple of quid entry charge. The ferry is just under £10 pounds return so it's a modest amount for such splendid adventure: the Arran ridge being one of the best walks/scrambles in the UK.

A Chir Ridge.
It was a Friday on the recent May Bank Holiday weekend when I went over for the day and part of the reason for picking these hills was the realisation of how little I remembered of the actual ridge traverse itself when writing Autohighography By Bob Law ( my book on Scottish hillwalking , island bagging, caving and kayaking trips - now 98 pence which is a bargain for 500 pages. An action packed long, hopefully humorous, chapter of which is set during a multiday trip to Arran. The rest of the ridge I had traversed more recently on various outings posted on here but 20 years had passed since Beinn Nuis and Beinn Tarsuinn were walked over.

When I arrived off the ferry Arran was buried under a thick blanket of black clouds and looked very unwelcoming indeed. Would I be unlucky for once as I had never experienced bad weather or any rain on Arran since my conversion to Ra 20 years ago. The sun god is my best friend now... always, and Isis is my Queen of course. 
Glen Rosa
Straight off the ferry around 10:40am (7:00am is way too early to catch the first one as it's an hour drive from Glasgow to Ardrossan) Despite being huge the car park was pretty busy and a large queue of passengers waited patiently to get tickets in a line. I thought I wouldn't make it on board due to this hold up but luckily the ferry waited past its scheduled departure time due to the numbers involved. Arran has been discovered in a big way. Never seen it so busy on a Friday. (A catch 22 scenario I'll go into later.)

Glen Rosa campsite (A setting mentioned in the book, plug, plug and plug again (from chapter one- how to flog an underselling book on kindle by I No Richie :o) was as lovely as ever with a peaceful vibe as it sits beside a loop in the river. The way it should be but nowadays with the party culture you take your chances as a family since it's a matter of luck whether you get a noisy drunk/ drugged crowd  of club 18-30s beside you. (Camping as far away from the toilet block as possible is a good idea but not always practical) See a previous post on JULY 2010 for another memorable trip but a bad camping experience.
Spotted a large millipede on the track near here. It's not often you see these little beasts out in the open.
Beautiful caterpillar. After a trawl on the net this looks very much like a Drinker moth caterpillar which frequent reeds and grasses in Southern England mainly. Maybe climate change means it can increase its range further north?  Cuckoos arrive in Scotland every spring to breed and fatten up on caterpillars like these as they can devour the hairy or poisonous ones that most other birds avoid eating. Sadly, cuckoos may not be with us much longer as their numbers are in free-fall due to people eating them in Africa because they are hungry.(recent spring watch prog info) It doesn't take a genius to work out that population explosion will eventually wipe out most fauna and flora worldwide as hungry humans devour the planet. Humanity is the greatest threat to the world we know today and I cant see that ever changing unless we exterminate ourselves voluntarily or nature lends a hand by introducing a new plague to cut us down. (this might sound pessimistic but the sea is not flat anymore and our planet is small, round and filling up fast.)
Even in the short space of this blog (5 years) it already feels like a record of capturing what beauty remains as so many places I've explored in my own time here in Scotland have altered substantially. Wind farms, new housing estates, new roads, and a proposed new Scottish town (Shawfair) will eat up the landscape as progress never sleeps and it is always hungry for nature to gobble up. A new wave of house building as massive as the previous waves in the UK is just around the corner.
Maybe the best we can hope for is to somehow incorporate nature into our future mega cities. Luckily, rats, pigeons, seagulls, cockroaches, kissing bugs, vampire bats, flies, midges, clegs, and a host of other intrepid insects are better at adapting to live beside us so some forms of wildlife may remain in large numbers. Now that's a cheery thought to end this paragraph with. Or maybe we will simply pay to see these natural wonders that can prosper near humans in a petting zoo of the future. The Flea Circus may yet may a comeback. Who knows.

Beinn Nuis.
I'd forgotten there is a deep narrow canyon on the path between Glen Rosa and the first peak of Beinn Nuis where the Garbh Allt has carved a trench through the bedrock. No memory of that at all. The ridge traverse was more sporting than I remembered it as well with numerous little pinnacles, large granite tors and massive exposure peering off the various buttresses up here. This photo above was taken on the way down as the summit on the way up remained stubbornly covered in mist. Very spooky and atmospheric, not to mention lonely. Very few folk seemed to be up here inside the black, shifting clouds. No photos posted of black shifting clouds because there's very little to see within black, shifting clouds.

I did see this though which is an erosion sign. In the Lake District they have already had to deal with this problem and have constructed paths at great expense and effort up most of the mountains down there. Now it's our turn as many of the Munro's and more popular smaller peaks are badly eroded due to generations of hill walkers enjoying them. Twenty years ago a faint narrow path or a grassy sheep trail weaved across the Arran ridge and the campsite was quieter except on public multi day holidays but the popularity of hillwalking in recent years means Arran is firmly on everyone's radar now. I always wondered why cuckoos closely resemble birds of prey like a sparrow hawk and now I know.(Springwatch again and Mr CP.) It's evolved to look like that so its host species like meadow pipits, skylarks, etc. get scared and leave the nest long enough for it to nip in and lay its single egg. Sneaky or what! 
The path is now badly damaged in places as the ground here is a type of sugary sand that is easily worn away by feet then rain once the grass is stripped off it. Basically it's the Arran granite worn down to a sugar like consistency. Big change in two decades but the ridge itself is still a joy to walk across.
 My luck on Arran held as the mist cleared and the sun came out descending Beinn Tarsuinn. A cracking little scramble can be had weaving between the granite tors here, surprisingly awkward and complex route-finding away from the path, but good fun squirming between the house sized boulders. I met a couple of girl climbers here and we had a chat about this and that. 
I had hoped I would see and photograph climbers on either Pagoda Ridge (Severe) or  Mosque (VS) two routes which run up the steep slabs of number 4 buttress (seen here) but there was nobody climbing on them. A pair of classic routes which brought back happy memories though I'm too old and decrepit to enjoy adventures on that scale now.
 What I did see however was two girls just reaching the traverse of the A'Chir Ridge, a sporting scrambling route over the knife edged arête. One of them had a rope with her (blue jacket) and they both had helmets on so I was in a prime position to capture their ascent. Ya beauty! It made an old man's heart very happy indeed to watch this as my own memories of being young and adventurous on this very same ridge traverse flooded back ( also in Arran chapter in book, more plug, plug, plug.. blah blah blah...:o)

Would they make it... or would they slide back down the cruel granite slabs to be rubbed raw by the bottom. A sore one that as this bottom can testify on a previous misadventure here. ( I think they were both girls by the general way they moved, more graceful obviously, but I was too far away to know for sure.)  
Anyway, my little model climbers were the highlight of the day's traverse as I watched over them for 20 minutes from a higher buttress like a benevolent minor god looking down from Heaven until they were safe on the summit of A,Chir. ( If you are they feel free to nab any pictures you fancy.. and well done!)
By this time it was getting on and I still had a large distance to cover before the last ferry back. Beinn Nuis, Beinn Tarsuinn, the easier variation up A' Chir then the return along Beinn a Chliabhain (seen here) looked nothing on the OS map sheet 69 but in reality it was a hard slog and a fair distance back to Brodick. (around 18kms over rough ground with some moderate scrambling sections)
I think these are Meadow Pipit eggs which I found on the way down. Is it just my imagination or is the nearest of the eggs larger than the two others beside it? I did hear a cuckoo nearby. The meadow pipit is a tasty little brown bird of the high grasslands but you really need a few for a decent main course. Good starter dish or an omelette though. It's numbers are fairly steady which is good news for cuckoos and discerning chefs who enjoy these unexpected treats on the hill. My advice is to eat them while they are still plentiful. Better than most insects anyway which, (trust me on this), do not taste remotely like chicken.
It was a weary but happy man that staggered back along the beach shore walk towards the ferry. What a magnificent day. Found out in the Arran Banner (local newspaper) that they are building a coastal footpath round the entire island. A new long distance walk. Good for tourism on the island and as I have already completed some of it over the years I know it will be a worthwhile walk with a varied range of stunning scenery. 60++plus miles as the cycle round the island on the road is that length so I'm sure with all the detours the walk will be longer than that. This is a tale of two islands. Next instalment will paint a very different picture of another island adventure.

I've had a rethink on the video front. Rather than impose another modern obscure cult favourite on the masses I've plumped for an older track I liked years ago with a cracking atmospheric video to go with it. You might actually enjoy this one Jim :o)


The Glebe Blog said...

I took that same picture of Glen Rosa back in 2009 on my island hopping trip Bob.
Glen Rosa 2009

I know what you mean about hill path damage, saw plenty on the Snowdon climb.
Looks like you've still got plenty of energy to do that in a day, I think you're much fitter than you sometimes make out. I bet you even thought about joining the lady climbers.
I remember pigeon pie as a youngster, but you'd surely need a lot of meadow pipits to fill yer belly.
My pals were over just over on Arran last week. I think you've seen Gordons blog before.
Gordon on Arran

On the music front, nearly all my in car cd's are self assembled compilations. One I call 'easy listening' has 'Crazy River' on it. Loved the song from first hearing it in the eighties.One of my daughters thought I'd like it. Never seen this video before though. Excellent.

blueskyscotland said...

It's a weird cottage that as it doesn't matter what angle you turn the photograph it still looks squinty when matched against the fir tree and Goatfell. I still get around fine as long as I don't have to kneel down too much Jim. Getting back up is harder these days as I've worked mainly on my knees on hard surfaces since sixteen... and no I wasn't a rent boy!
At last. A five star review for a video. Maybe I can make it a gold star two weeks running :o)

Carol said...

Great pictures of the scrambling girls - is that the non-climbing end of the ridge at the back of Pagoda Ridge et al? I love that part of Arran (I love the whole island really but that bit is one of my favourites :-) )

Neil said...

Happy days Bob. It's also a long time since I did those hills, although the A'Chir traverse always proved too much for me! Still, its got a good by-pass path. I also enjoyed the Goat Fell, North Goatfell, Cir Mhor and Beinn Tarsuinn round; too much for me nowadays though. Your right about it being busy nowadays and the extension of RET to Arran will probably mean that they will need extra sailings. I'd better earmark January/February time to go over and do my remaining sub-2ks on the island!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol.
Where they are is near the Pagoda Ridge buttress. The rope was presumably for the descent off the summit ridge as traversing in that direction it's around 20 foot of a vertical drop. I've soloed up that way past a very awkward starting boulder if it's still there but never reversed it as if you slip near the top it's a hospital or body bag case. That was twenty years ago though so maybe there's an easy staircase worn into the rock face there now.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
It's a great island which still has a few hidden gems... less every year though as the new path round the island will no doubt discover them :o(

Kay G. said...

I know you might be worried about more and more buildings but honestly, you have such high regard for wild spaces and so many people fighting for it that you shouldn't be too alarmed.
In the USA, it only takes someone with lots of money to buy up all the land and cut down all the trees. That is why I am so happy to be near a protected area like Panola Mountain, it's very small and surrounded by subdivisions but protected all the same.

I am thinking that you could use some cheerful music, how about some Chas & Dave? :-)
Oh! And I am happy too that the girls made it over the ridge!

blueskyscotland said...

Same here Kay.
Large chunks of Scotland are owned by rich individuals but we chopped down most of our natural forests centuries ago and the midges and constant rainfall up the west coast tend to deter any major development. The world in general though is fast running out of resources, especially suitable farm land to grow crops due to climate change and the population only increases year by year so logic( not something I'm known for normally) suggests that the wild places will continue to shrink and disappear.
Scotland will soon be covered from end to end in wind farms as more get built every day. That's just reality.