Friday, 22 October 2010

A perfect day in the Arran hills or Golden autumn light, roaring stags & the first snow

One of those really hard days at work: Heading out into the hills to count deer. Which of course can only be done on a nice clear day, making last Wednesday just perfect for the task. A cold and crisp autumn morning with stunning views... Later on, the chilly northerly brought the first snow. The corries were still echoing with the mighty roars, throaty grunts and clashing antlers of the red deer rut. After weeks of noisily gathering and defending their harems, the stags sounded a bit hoarse!

Without a doubt, this is my favourite time of year...


Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Jompy heater by Celsius Solar

The Jompy heater was on display at our festival evening event boiling water at the same time as making popcorn at the door of the corrie Hall.It has been nominated for the World Challenge 2010.

The Jompy Stove is a lightweight and inexpensive stove-top device that sits between a cooking pot or an open flame to rapidly heat water. Invented by David Osborne, a plumber from Scotland, this incredibly simple technology could save millions who die from drinking contaminated water.

The Jompy is a win-win technology, where householders can cook a meal whilst killing bacteria in dirty water at the same time. Gravity pushes the water through the Jompy, and it even works on simple three stone fires, making it perfect for use in the bush.

The voting opens on Monday 27th September until 00.00 GMT on 15th November Celsius Solar Ltd the "Jompy water boiler" is the a finalist from the UK among other 11 finalists from other parts of the world.

We are looking for your support by voting online at

It is exciting times for us here at Celsius solar Ltd with our jompy water boiler which can bring many benefits to the developing countries to reduce their fuel consumption and time spent over a fire.

We would be greatful for your support by voting for us online. We have been chosen out of 800 competitors and I hope you will agree we should be acknowledged for the huge benefits that the Jompy will bring to many countries.

Please support your fellow country men and pass on to your friends to vote aswell

Monday, 27 September 2010

Arran Mountain Festival Visit to Holy Isle with COAST

It was a stunning but blustery day that Sibbie Sangster and I led the Mountain Festival Walk on Holy Isle and we are grateful to the Holy Isle Ferry who pulled out all the stops to get us over there and back again in choppy conditions. The deteriorating forecast meant that we were working to a schedule to return to Lamlash. Happily, the team of walkers in our group were up for a good stomp and we headed up to the summit of the island with purpose. As we walked through the trees, on the lower slopes of the north of the Isle, it was wonderful to see how the conservation work by the Holy Isle community has helped to regenerate a native woodland. Once out of the trees, there were magnificent views across the bay and towards the peaks of the Goatfell Range.

There was also a chance on the way up to talk about the COAST (Community of Arran Seabed Trust) proposal for a community conservation area in Lamlash Bay. COAST’s vision is to protect maerl beds and other seabed habitats, regenerate fish and scallop populations and to enhance the marine biodiversity in Lamlash Bay through the creation of a No Take Zone (NTZ) and an adjacent Marine Protected Area. Whilst the NTZ was instated in 2008, the long awaited Marine Protected Area seems more distant than ever, despite promises from government politicians. COAST are also part of a campaign to reinstate the three mile limit in the Clyde, which it is hoped will help save the Clyde's dwindling fisheries before it is too late. We also heard how early survey work in the NTZ is already showing signs of regeneration of the seabed, after decades of damaging scallop dredging in the area.

A short scramble brought us to the summit of Mullach Mor (314m) with panoramic views all around the Clyde. It was possible to see the Arrochar Alps in the northwest, and Ailsa Craig to the south. Gannets patrolled up and down the east coast of the island, plunging in to the choppy waters to catch fish. Walkers can follow a circular route from the summit that descends the South ridge and returns to the jetty along the western shore. However, becuase of our tight schedule, we returned by the same route. Sibbie brought some fantastic photos of the marine life found in Lamlash Bay which we looked at over lunch. We were able to find a sheltered spot tucked away out of the wind between the two summits of Mullach Beag and Mullach Mor.

Many thanks to the
Holy Isle Community, the Holy Isle Ferry, and the Arran Mountain Festival for making this wonderful walk possible.
For more information about the Coast project and campaigns
click here to visit the website.

Lucy Wallace
Mountain Leader and Local Guide

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Screivin on willyart beasties

Friday, the first day of the 2010 Mountain Festival, and it seemed that the Red Squirrels had planned to steal all the lime light. Even before I was fifty metres down the road from Lochranza one had winkled its nose at me from a hawthorn tree while a second bounded across the road. At Sannox third russet rascal showed that it was Sciurus vulgaris and not cyclists, riders or walkers that I had to give way to. Despite their best efforts to distract myself, and the five other navigators, from orienteering around Brodick Castle the wildlife highlight of the day was lurking in the waters off Corrrie; a nine metre basking shark swimming back and forth opposite Corrie Primary School.

Saturday was the day of the Northern Eggar Moth caterpillar. While we paced on fixed bearings through bracken and heather intent on demonstrating our competence with the compass, they concentrated on gorging on the heather and competing to see who could do the best impression of a brown furry stripped chipolata.

Sunday I hoped to catch a glimpse of a ptarmigan on Beinn Bharrain, at the southernmost edge of their range in Scotland. However it was Red Grouse that encouraged us to go-back; despite frequent their exhortations we stayed the course to claim Arran’s sole Graham.

Monday the weather front, which the day before had moved north, rolled back overnight to park itself over Glen Sannox and Cir Mhor. And so it seemed that the only wildlife on view was clad in waterproofs of varied hues milling around the car park at Sannox Bay. Little did we appreciate the treats, avian, entomologic, herpetologic, and mammalian that awaited us in Glen Rosa.

As we dropping down towards Fionn Choire two Red Deer hinds crossed over ahead of us to join a third on the meadow below the Mauvais Pas on the A’ Chir ridge. With the lower skirts of the sirrus clouds shredding over the granite tors of A’ Chir we paused on our descent to see how many deer we could spy in the inner sanctum of Coire Buidhe.

Descending further down into Glen Rosa we gazed up the eastern wall of the valley to watch tree Golden eagles wheel and gyre over the Stacach Ridge and North Goatfell. Strangely it was the oldest member of the group that first spotted them as the youngsters fumbled to clean the rain smudges off their glasses. The eagles presaged the return of the sun but obviously not soon enough for the male Adder basking on the footpath by the close to the Garbh Allt footbridge. As he we stood around watching him he failed to spot the Mottled Grasshopper perched on his coils, until finally a passing shadow sent him on his way.

Our final animal encounter was awaiting us as Glen Rosa turned eastward below Glenshant Hill. On the hillside below Creag Rosa a recent landslide scar revealed itself to be a Meerkat gazing back up the glen to the shy peaks which finally cast aside their dreich shrouds to catch the warmth of the autumnal sun.


Monday, 20 September 2010

Climbing with the Ravens

On the 5 September, with the forecast predicting a breakdown in the fine stable weather, we headed down to west coast after breakfast with plans for a circuit of Coire Roinn and Sunday lunch at Pirnmill. Beinn Bharrain is one of my favourite Arran hills with the muscular rollercoaster ridge reminding me of youthful days in the Grampians. So with purposeful steps we headed up the Forked Burn, pausing to admire the aspen leaves quivering on the side of the gorge, before striking off cross country to the Suilven like Creag an Fhithich. The Victorian Ordnance Survey surveyors missed a treat in failing to capture the name of this peach of a ridge, or perhaps the thought that krag-an-eeuch was an unsuitable name for the rock of the raven.

Mike was in training for his first Arran Mountain Festival walk, Chae was field testing his suspiciously denim like technical trousers (not to be confused with jeans) and Iain was along for the ride. We scrambled and scampered along the spiny ridge back, catching our breath to admire the exposure and congratulate ourselves. When looking back we spied a senior walker in a blue cagoule and baggy shorts making short work of the scramble.

And so with our egos clipped we retired down the less demanding western ridge to the tea room; there we set to embellishing the tale of our Sunday morning adventure, feasting on beef pies flavoured with Arran ale and drowning our sorrows with great steaming mugs of tea. A perfect Sunday adventure we thought before settling down to snooze under the comforting blanket of the Sunday papers.


Thursday, 2 September 2010

A'Chir Ridge.

A week after Arranachs and our visitors had the company of Doug Scott, the first British man to conquer Everest in 1975 and a great inspiration to my life; I would like to share something more historic and emotive in my final summer climbing article unlike my previous detailed accounts.
On 30th January 1892 Messrs’ Douglas, Campbell, Gibson, Robertson, Fleming and Dr Leith completed the first South - North traverse of A’Chir Ridge (‘the comb’) between Beinn Tarsuinn and Cir Mhor. One of the party, William Douglas, an accomplished mountaineer of the Highlands and Alps, once said of Arran: “To know any hill well is indeed a privilege, but to become on intimate terms with a mountain group such as that of Arran, is something that adds much to a man's life.” I appreciate entirely his sentiment. 118 years later this classic traverse remains largely unchanged and it was our turn. On a crisp and slightly overcast morning my great friend Darryl Urquart-Dixon of Balmichael (MRT), myself and Tim Hobden, my surrogate brother from Buckinghamshire, set off to tackle the Ridge in the opposite direction to Douglas’ party.
Approached from Glen Rosa toward Coire Buidhe below Cir Mhor and up to a col at 591m we gained the Ridge along a path leading to the first section of easily navigated boulders. This brought us to A’Chir’s first great granite buttress whose Cyclopean wall dominated the foreground like a mighty rampart protecting what lay beyond. With Tim’s eerie broken spectre below us we scrambled our way up the arête with an airy void to the left which was only broken 40 meters below by a sea of mist.

The views were astounding as we crossed the top of the buttress to reach a sudden drop which, given I think we veered from the route, required a careful scramble descent and an uncomfortable crawl under an overhanging boulder to reach a gully where we prepared for the climb. The very amusing ‘Bicycle Step’ (or ‘Chimney’, SMC Journal Vol.3 No.4) offered the opportunity for some laughs on a damp day as I watch both my colleagues attack head on the slippery polished rock (pic1) as they tried to squeeze themselves through a gap only big enough for a child.

Tim Hobden squeezing himself through the Bicycle Step Chimney on A’Chir Ridge (pic1)

I decided a delicate approach was more my style rather than a full on frontal assault opted for by the bigger men. Traversing along the face on a seam for my feet and the edge of the upper shelf for my hands I pulled up to join my friends, grinning from ear to ear with their boots dangling over the precipice (pic2).

Darryl & Tim on the ledge before the climb up to the ‘Mauvais Pas’ (pic2)

Darryl led the way up the exposed mid-face ledge with its vertical drop at the edge of our fingers as we crept up to a head wall and our first short climb. I volunteered to lead, placing some gear into a crack half way up for the rope to secure me should I fall. Sitting on the platform at the top I body belayed (90kgs of) Tim as he admirably handled his sweaty palms and nerves on his first climb. From this section we reached the ‘Mauvais Pas’ (bad step) after a lofty scramble around some obstacles to reach a narrow flat block which we jumped down to before Darryl, rope in hand, gave us his impression of disco legs as he hopped across the gap in the rock which opened below to treacherous gullies on both sides – bad step indeed! (pic3, below).

Darryl carefully leading Tim across the ‘Mauvais Pas’ whilst Tim’s just hanging on (pic3)

Tim tentatively weighed up his options, knees trembling; crawl or go-for-it. He opted for both! Looking on, keeping to the left and the natural arête of the next buttress we scaled a gradually inclining chimney which was testing in the damp, particularly dodging Tim’s debris as I followed. After an intense deviation where Tim nearly broke his tibia in a deep slab crack as we down climbed, we moved on unhindered to the summit at 745m with about 1km of the Ridge completed. The views back under a clearing sky were breathtaking; the jagged pinnacles of Cir Mhor, the colourful ‘U’ shaped glacial glen of Rosa and Iorsa with Loch Tanna and the Kilbrannen Sound in the distance, and to the South; the blocky Consolation Tor and outline of Beinns Tarsuinn
and Nuis sketched by the sun through misty skies.

The exposure and environment were truly inspiring and thought provoking; more than once we discussed how insignificant we were in this mighty landscape. These views were enjoyed over a brew before we set off on the remainder of the Ridge which offered at least three other interesting challenges: a featureless 4m vertical block with only a rounded foot wide crack to use as best we could, a 10m crumbling chimney and a chock stone defying gravity, especially with me on it (pic4), all of which added diversity to the traverse.

A final contemplation was enjoyed as we looked back at the ridge from Beinn á Chliabhain (pic5), with the knowledge that experience, fair weather and proper equipment make A’Chir a thrilling day’s adventure across one of the finest ridges in Scotland with its own unique character and surprises.

David contemplating his future on the chock stone (pic4)

The 2010 team. Tim Hobden, Darryl Urquart-Dixon and David Lilly with A’Chir Ridge behind (pic5)

Article by D.Lilly, as featured in the Arran Banner, all photos copyright D.Lilly 2010.

Full Mead Tower, near Beinn Nuis.

The week after my ‘South Ridge Direct’ climb with Darryl the unusually long period of dry weather continued and a plethora of routes normally impossible due to the usual summer showers came into play. Many superb crags on the island are prone to seepage between the slabs of granite, making the rock dangerous to climb, one such is Full Mead Tower on the Nuis-Tarsuinn ridge which I have been dreaming of climbing since I moved here. This 120m jumble of granite blocks, one on top of each other, resembles a game of Jenga; one wrong move and the whole lot will come down. So, it was with heightened anxiety that I approached the foot of this intimidating tower with Stuart Wallace, a Mountain Rescue Team member from Lamlash. We agreed on the ‘severe’ graded ‘Full Mead Chimney’ route; a near vertical cleft in the mountain, sustained mix of cracks and right-angled blocks with good solid security. First recorded by GC Curtis & GH Townend in 1947, it is hard to find much written about it, in the end all we had were four lines attributed to it in the 1997 SMC Arran guide book. We approached the start via a 50m gully scramble to the right and across a thin grassy ledge leading to the Chimney. We arranged our 60m rope and rack of gear as we looked up excitedly at the Chimney for the first time. I set off on the first pitch with my heart in my mouth as I looked at a cavernous hole to my right and 6m section of overhanging blocks (pic1) that I had to make my way up before I could place some gear.

David Lilly leading 30m pitch 1 of Full Mead Chimney

My nervousness is always apparent to me, well hidden from my partner, when I start a climb on anything serious but anxiety quickly subsides once the first few bits of metalwork are in afterwhich calmness takes over. To reach the second section of this pitch I had to bridge across the dark abyss to my right in order to fix a cam in the opposing wall, which was a little unnerving. Then, following a pitch of another 8m with no gear placement I found good friction underfoot and some holds between each block to a ledge where I secured some rock-nuts. The final section of the first 30m pitch proved to be the most exciting for me, an exposed and technically interesting passage. Not only did the route become more vertical but it turned into a series of downward sloping flakes interrupted by grassed cracks almost as steep as the rock. The rear tread on my combi-shoes allowed me to use the grass where necessary and the sticky rubber on the toe to generate considerable friction on the rock when laybacks and a left knee drop were required to ascend this section freely. I must admit, before I reached the first belay point, the sustained nature of this pitch was apparent as I puffed like an old locomotive. Safely secured on a small ledge halfway up the face with a view across to the imposing face of Nuis, I slowly pulled the rope in as Wally ascended; it was a silent 20 minutes or so until I heard him puffing away like I had until he joined me on the ledge. The start of the second pitch was tricky, hard to balance and create force in various directions to overcome two facing walls on a 120 degree angle, but with his long gait Wally climbed well to reach a small rounded dome of weathered granite to place a sling and secure the lead rope (pic2).

Stuart ‘Wally’ Wallace leading 15m pitch 2 of Full Mead Chimney

The angle of the chimney then closed to 90 degrees making it more enjoyable to scale, but as he gained the upper section he had little choice but to use one leg as a piece of gear. By wedging it into a vertical opening in the rock he pushed himself upwards with a technique he described as ‘thrutching’; a word that sounds as attractive as the technique. With much effort he surmounted this right angled upper section to another ledge about 110m above the base of the Tower which offered tremendous views across Kintyre to Ireland in the distance. Above was a brutish end to an otherwise technically interesting yet rewarding pitch. The only way up was to hug a 7m vertical ‘V’ ridged block with the legs, squeezing the knees, both arms out straight with flat hands slapped on the granite, then push upwards until hand holds allowed for some normality to resume. At the top was a large table-top rock balancing above us which we pulled over to the next belay. I think Wally had a well earned laugh at my expense watching me fight gravity to get up this section; he did well to lead it. He ushered me on to lead the final pitch; a scramble up a broken gully to a featureless headwall which I was not keen on ‘thrutching’ up without security. On the right vertical wall was a thin diagonal seam for finger holds, so with my feet planted on the rock I pushed up and straightened my arms to work my way up and across. To get to the top of the head wall I placed two cams with foot slings in a crack about 4ms up the wall and ‘Aid climbed’ my way across. As I reached the top of the head wall with my outstretched left foot and clawed at a hand hold above I was able to reach down and remove the last cam, allowing Wally to work up to the first, remove it, down climb to the ledge and ascend the head wall whilst secured from above. This reminded me of how mentally challenging a first on-sight attempt can be and of a quote by Larry Kersten; “before you attempt to beat the odds, be sure you can survive the odds beating you”. In good company with the right conditions, Full Mead Chimney along with South Ridge Direct have shown me that Arran has granite climbing to rival the best in the World, and some Top climbers to boot! (Many thanks to Wally & Darryl)

Blue: approach. Red: pitches 1, 2 & 3 of climb.

Article by D.Lilly. As featured in the Arran Banner, all photos copyright D.Lilly 2010.

South Ridge Direct, Cir Mhor.

Now summer is upon us, with an unusually long sunny dry spell, I swapped my ski boots for my climbing shoes and took to the Mountains of Arran once again on Saturday 12th June. Darryl Urquart-Dixon, Mountain Rescue Team member, and I started out from Glen Rosa heading towards Cir Mhor to climb the ‘South Ridge Direct’ route up this Alpine style mountain. The route, first recorded in 1941 by J.F. Hamilton and D. Paterson in the days of army-surplus pitons, creaky karabiners and the first nylon ropes, has long been considered a classic by the Scottish Mountaineering Club. With our modern tools; one 60m 10.3mm dynamic rope, harnesses, lids, a rack of rock-nuts, cams and hexe’s and a few other essentials stuffed in our packs; including our wives’ monster sandwiches, the ubiquitous first aid kit and the mandatory 2lts of water each, we reached the base of the route about 1 hour later. We sauntered up the first few scramble pitches of the route which provided a healthy warm up before the more strenuous ‘Very Severe’ graded pitches to come. Some 80ms up Darryl led the famous ‘S crack’, attacking this distinguished ‘Serious’ grade pitch in his usual physical fashion with big raking hand grabs up the ‘S’ shaped granite flakes securing gear for protection as he went. Soon it was my turn and once secured above the call of ‘Climb!’ bellowed down the rock face. With my sticky rock shoes on I was immediately impressed by the friction that this high quality granite provided, allowing most of the upward motion to be controlled and driven through the feet. This proved essential as I was able to conserve strength in my arms for the most serious pitch of the climb; the infamous ‘Y crack’. It was my turn to lead and although this pitch is short by comparison it is the subject of bar room gossip, conjecture and even fear. On the day, with the sun making the granite sticky the alleged ‘polished’ nature of the rock was not apparent. With some composed planning, reading the rock, a few delicate foot movements up to the overhanging section to find an upper hand hold on top of the ledge, positioned as if chiseled there on purpose, I was able to pull up and over onto a ledge that made a perfect belay for the second climber to be secured (Pic1).

Some 200ms below we could see the multi-coloured helmets of other climbers starting out on ‘Prospero’s Prelude’ and we could hear another party chattering away to our right on ‘Sou’wester Slabs’; it was getting busy. Darryl vanished in the distance, traversing across a wide inclined ledge to reach the ‘Layback crack’ belay (pic2). Leading again he secured gear in the almost vertical right angled crack until he disappeared diagonally along a weathered hand seam protruding from the otherwise smooth but grippy steep inclined slab. Not until I reached this section did I realise the exposure he had been in, covering 20ms with one gear placement as no earlier opportunity had presented itself. Arriving at a large ledge we encountered an RAF Mountain Rescue group from the Cairngorms, who were the voices we heard echoing up ‘Sou’wester slabs’, so we stopped to devour our sandwiches and take on some liquid. After the obligatory rib-tickling banter with the RAF we took on the ‘Three Tier Chimney’, our final real climbing pitch of the day, which although not technically difficult certainly demanded brawn not brains and a scrap to get up.

After 3 hours we’d reached the summit; time for some back slapping, arrange the gear and head for the pub…another Arran Adventure in the Bag!
For all those thinking about attempting this or any climbing route always remember; ‘there are old climbers and there are bold climbers, but there are no old bold climbers’.

Article by D.Lilly. As featured in the Arran Banner, all photos copyright D.Lilly 2010.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

A Flying Bear!

A Flying Bear - Nicky Cairney flew a tandem paragliding flight above Catacol dressed as a bear to raise awareness and money for the Animal Asia Foundation and the plight of the Moon Bears.

Moon bears are kept in crush cages and milked for their bile which is used in Chinese Medicine. Nicky appeared on STV Television.

Paragliding Bear - Watch it on STV's Hour show (click on part two)

You can read more about Moon bears and other animal issues on
The London Guards currently use between 50 - 100 Black bear skins each year for their Bear skin hats. You can read more about this and add your voice if you disagree with it.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Sea kayak camping trip.

Had a great trip up the east coast of Arran a couple of weeks ago on a short camping break. Now this is sea kayaking at its best with bright sun and playful waves, lots of wildlife and a good breeze. We decided to head up from Brodick towards Laggan on the North East of Arran, this stretch of coast has some of the best views I know of anywhere in Scotland with the main hills and glens towering above.

The mackerel are here again and we got luck and caught our dinner. A lot of time was spent watching Mullet in the entrance of the North Glen Sannox burn, swimming in the shallows with there fins breaking the surface. There were a lot of birds with young about both on the water and the shore, the Eider chicks seemed to be doing well and the Mergansers with there young hugged the coast and found shelter amongst the rocks. Gannets circled high all day and showed us the way to the fish, tucking and falling like spears to catch their dinner.
We stopped to camp near Millstone Point with plenty of time to relax and dry our gear. Mark is a bush craft camp enthusiast and the fish where cooked without pans or plates, great, no washing up!

We had a close encounter with a badger later on at dusk, we heard it scratching about in the bracken and stood still and quiet. It didn't see us even though it was only a few yards away and we got to watch it for a long time as it foraged for food. This is one of the best things about sea kayaking, how close it gets you to the wildlife around our coast. Otters are more often seen than badgers and just the other day a group of us got to paddle up close to a basking shark, an amazing site when they are almost twice as long as our boats!

The return journey was fast and fun with a strong breeze pushing us back. The waves pick up the boat and surf you forward and we arrived home feeling happy and hungry for more.

See you on the water,


Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Arran Mountain Festival brings DOUG SCOTT back to Arran

We are thrilled to announce that Doug Scott will be returning to Arran this year. His presentation last year was so popular that we have asked him to come back to give another talk. He will be speaking at Lamlash Community Theatre on Wednesday 11th August. I missed last year's presentation, so can't wait! More details to follow...


Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Amazing mountains in amazing weather!

The weather has been incredibly kind to us here on Arran for the last few weeks. Sunshine and blue skies galore! So out into the hills it was for me, this time tackling Cioch na h'Oighe, majestically towering above Glen Sannox. A steep and long scramble up its northern slope was rewarded by incredible views out across the Firth of Clyde and its islands and sea lochs, the hills on the mainland and on the islands of Jura and Mull. The switchback ridge that leads from the summit of Cioch na h'Oighe towards the next peak of Mullach Buidhe is an absolute delight, with breathtaking views down the vertical granite walls of the Devil's Punchbowl. Head for heights definitely required! Passing the site of the Goatfell Murder at Coire nam Fuaran, I headed on towards North Goatfell. Another brilliant ridge to follow: The Stacach with its granite tors makes for more scrambly fun on the way up to Goatfell. There's always the option to by-pass the trickier sections on lower paths, but on a peachy day like that... And I hadn't met a soul until I reached this ridge! After that, the Goatfell summit seemed busy, and I didn't linger long, having had more than my fair share of great hill time for the day!
Fingers crossed for equally amazing weather during the Mountain Festival in September!


Thursday, 8 April 2010

17 -20 September 2010 Arran Mountain Festival

Join qualified guides to explore the island's amazing landscape & wildlife!

Exhilarating ridge walks & classic scrambles
Two day excursion walking the length of Arran
Holy Island & coastal walk
Sea kayaking
Mountain Biking
Evening events

Visit for more details.