Tales of great days on Arran – South Ridge Direct.

A few ascents of South Ridge Direct another Arran Classic!

South ridge Direct Arran

I was putting together my Blog for the last few days and as those who have been following will realise it has a great Arran theme. This reminded me of many great days I have had over the years in this wonderful place. I route I always enjoyed was the Classic South Ridge Direct an 855 foot Very Severe it is considered a classic and among the best anywhere in the country. It is on Cir Mhor and requires a sunny day to enjoy its delicacies. This was not true as the first time I climbed it was during a Summer grant when I was at RAF Valley in North Wales and we arrived in Arran for the wettest   spell in years. We only had three days on the Island and spent one day on the ridge and another on the Classic Sou – Wester Slabs in a downpour. These were the days of climbing in big boots and a rucksack 1979 my partner in crime Jock was a great climber –“Creag Dubh trained, Glasgow man. He was only 5 foot, even smaller than Wales but what a great climber brought up soloing the great routes in Glencoe and we terrorized Wales together.  I really struggled and had a real fun day on the famous route, slipping about. We were soaked but Jock was determined to try the South Ridge Direct, it got wetter and wetter and the wee man battled up to the S Crack which was now a river. I just managed to convince him that was enough and we abseiled out. The rest of the team were hiding in the cafes and were the only ones had done a route. We were away on the midday ferry next day but forecast was reasonable – we left very early about 0300 and were told if we missed the ferry they would leave a ferry warrant for us as it was long trip back to Wales. We battered in the foot of the climb with Jock out in front and we did not put on a rope till we were below the S Crack. I was made to lead it and then Jock ran up the famous Y Cracks leaving a lit cigarette on one of the holds. There was no stopping us and I am ashamed to say we climbed the route in 2 hours; we had a long way to go that day back to Wales.

My wee Glasgow mentor - Jock Cameron - where is he now - great days, thanks wee man! Hard as nails!

My wee Glasgow mentor – Jock Cameron – where is he now – great days, thanks wee man! Hard as nails!

We managed to get the ferry in good time and were in these early days very chuffed and full of ourselves as young men are.

The Crux "Y" Cracks  with Kenny in action running up the dry granite!

2007 – The Crux “Y” Cracks with Kenny in action running up the dry granite!

I was over many other times climbing all over the Island and did so many routes and always came back and climbed on Cir Mhor. Once on Calbins Creep with one boot and one rock boot as I had a broken pin and plated ankle, how daft was I?   The great Cliffs like Meadow Face and the Rosa Slabs rarely you see anyone else.  The last time I climbed in Arran was in 2007 just as I left the RAF Mountain Rescue and my old mate and ex-Team Leader Kenny came over. I wanted to finish my time in the RAF on the Isle Of Arran and climb South Ridge Direct again and take some photos and ponder over great days. I was a lot older, fatter and not half as fit but was sure Kenny would get me up my chosen climb.   Kenny now a full –time student was more than happy to guide for me. We left early to beat the crowds it was August Grant but the great cliff was empty when we arrived below our chosen route. This was amazing as in past due to its popularity it can be busy. We had a leisurely break and took in the ambiance of such a place, then the silence was broken by 3  men running up to the belay.  Is this South Ridge came the shout .Kenny in typical Northern bluntness answered. Soon we were joined by our new companions. I was as usual in a mess my gear everywhere getting ready and the youths they were younger than us trampled all over me. Kenny had a chat and I butted in and said let them go in front as we wanted an easy, slow enjoyable veterans day. They were from down South and had ticks to do. They would run up South Ridge – easy day then get to the real routes on the crag. They were off two climbing in approach shoes as it was a soft touch route compared with what they normally climbed. There was lots of bragging of routes that meant nothing to me or Kenny and getting lots of tales of desperate routes on real cliffs far from this wee island. Kenny was in the “land of Kenny “and ignoring his fellow countrymen plight which was getting worse by the minute as we watched them huff and puff up the climb. We gave them some time to get ahead  but soon caught them; they were a bit unsure of the route? “Follow the line” says Kenny helpfully and then they really struggled on the “S” Cracks. Kenny a man of limited patience was on their tails and keeping them right. I was briefed to climb as well as I could and kid on I knew what I was doing for once.  Then it started to rain and the sky darkened, the wind howled in from the sea just as the leader was on the crux (the hardest bit of the climb) and having an epic. Kenny ended up talking to him he fell of a few times and his mates had definitely lost their cockiness. The leader was left hanging and getting colder and wetter when he decided he had to come down, which needed the help of Kenny. We had warm kit with us they had left their gear at the bottom and all were frozen and they were all really struggling with the cold. They lowered the leader off to the belay and Kenny charged off looking at the booty they had left in gear on the route there was gear everywhere. He was just over the crux when the guys on my belay were faffing about trying to sort out an abseil. They were all by now pretty hypothermic and had no clue what to do. In the rain and wind I shouted to Kenny that they needed help and he came back down very quickly not happy and we lowered them off on our double ropes. They had only one rope and no clue; there was little chat on the way down. They soon recovered at their bags and we wandered back soaked, not one said much. We soon left them as we walked down a muddy wet Glen Rosa.

Cir Mhor Guide

Cir Mhor Guide

Next day was our last day in Arran, Kenny and me missed breakfast and were away early and had a great day on South Ridge finishing before the troops and other climbers had started. Kenny had lots of new kit left by our friends from yesterday on the crag, we left in a hurry. It only took a wee pull on the “Y” crack to get me going again and the route was dry and the granite magic. We sat in the sun at the top of the Rosa Pinnacle and enjoyed a great day.

Arran a place of great memories but never to be taken lightly.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Book, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, Rock Climbing, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Tales of great days on Arran – South Ridge Direct.

  1. Kenny says:

    I’d totally forgotten about this. All I remember about those 4 days on Arran were the Kinloss party animals keeping us awake every night!


  2. Colin Heaney says:

    Hi,Great to follow your Blog.I served with Jock Cameron at Machrihanish and Leuchars .Willie McRitchie and Nick Sharp gave me my first climbing lesson while we were on detachment in Cyprus and I never looked back and I’m still very active climbing yet. I worked in GEF with so many of the people you talk about.Graham Stamp,Willie McRitchie,Chris Whitcolm and the boss was Alister Haveron also Alwin Jones and ,Woody .so many memories if you have any adresses of them it would be nice to say hello. Thanks Colin Heaney


    • heavywhalley says:

      Nick is on Face book in Canada Willie is T/L Kinloss – No news of Jock – Stampy is near Leeming a civy also on Facebook. Alaister is also on Facebook send a friend message. I will mention I have spoken to you. Great that you still climbing!


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