Arran – is for lovers of mountains, nature and memories and I have so many.
The great cliffs were something else and with my Dad and Mum and the rest of the family we explored this incredible place. In the mountains we saw Eagles, deer,an albino stag and so much wild life and by the sea so many seals and other incredible wild life all over. We loved the Glens and rivers and the rowing boats at Brodick, every year we went and I loved this Island so much .
I was putting together my Blog for the last few days as I am away down South to visit the grand kids my club the Moray Mountaineering Club are off to Arran on the wild West Coast, the weather looks a bit wild. This reminded me of many great days I have had over the years in this wonderful place. My holidays were spent here as young lad from Ayr and familiy adventures were on the ridge from a young age 5 years old! I loved it and the swim paddle in Glen Rosa at the end and the chips in Brodick made special memories for ever. I was to come back and climb many times in all weathers with the RAF MRT and had wonderful times in this miniature Scotland.
The days on the ridge are interesting never dull and the scrambles varied and never fail to amaze me how rough the granite is. There are many aircraft crashes on the Island and worth having a look about when on these hills. The views of sea and mountain are always special and ever changing.
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 Souwester 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. The sparse rock protection was never a problem to him and big boots on VS routes was the order of the day we were hard men from the Welsh rock scene by then!
He was only 5 foot, even smaller than Wales but what a great mountaineer brought up soloing the great routes in Glencoe and we terrorized Wales together. There is so much scope for climbing so many varied routes on the rough Arran Granite and the new Guide book shows many hidden gems, watch out for the midges? Go visit the other cliffs as well?
I really struggled and had a real fun day on the famous route, slipping about, getting cols and scared but we thought then we were invincible. 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. We just got the ferry, but were we proud and what a day!
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.
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.
I love Arran a place of great memories but never to be taken lightly. There are many other things to do, cycle visit the many cafes and of course get on these great hills. A Chir, Ben Nuis, Tarsuin,Cir Mor, Goat Fell and the Witches step the great glens of Sannox and Rosa so many memories of wonderful adventures.
Sorry I will not be there but to see the mighty Goatfell from the ferry is magic and with a sprinkling of snow majestic – enjoy.
Climbing in the snow on Cir Mor character building Andy!
New Guide Book 2014. Climbing on the beautiful and remote-feeling islands of Arran and the Inner Hebrides is now more accessible than ever with this guide to both summer and winter climbs.
Including maps, photo diagrams and information on access and amenities, this guide also has action photos that will inspire you to book a ferry immediately. The astonishing number of crags across the islands will keep climbers busy in all conditions.