Monday, 26 September 2011

2011 Arran Mountain Festival Coich na h'Oighe Walk

I'm sure I can speak for the group when I say that we were all chuffed to bits with what we achieved on this walk - some found it more challenging than others!!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

2011 Arran Mountain Festival Witch's Step Walk

This walk offered a bit of everything - scrambling, ridges, bogs, but most of all the fabulous views. Outstanding!!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

I thought I had tried all the ways up Goatfell until I heard Ali enthusing about his way. I had to try it myself. At last, at the end of July, the sun decided to shine. Ali is right about the route - it is splendid. From the tourist track, you cut across a broad corrie of grass and pools. There are views to the south over Holy Isle but otherwise the corrie is cradled by the ridges of Goatfell and has a hidden feel to it. The ponds were full of frog spawn, so they should be croaking nicely by now. Glenshant ridge is soon reached however, and the views open up at first over to Bens Tarsuinn and Nuis and then north and west to Cir Mohr and Caisteal Abhail and beyond to Jura and Mull. The ridge is followed by a short scramble up the gully towards the summit. Plenty of options here to make it as easy or diffcult as you want. Once again the route emerges into the open and the views which were good lower down become sensational. A final climb over a grassy slope and a few more knobly rocks of lovely warm,rough Arran granite and you are on the summit. After spending the whole climb alone, it came as a surprise to put my head over the last boulder and find the top crowded with walkers who had come up the tourist track. They shared my surprise for someone to appear over what, from the summit, looks like an impassible ascent. Great fun!

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Three Beinns and the Many

I took a walk around the Thee Beinns the other day. It turned out to be a magnificent short day out and much better than the ever-busy ramble up Goatfell. The wind was up and the cloud was doing strange things – all steam boiling out of corries and odd mists. At one point the grass – some sort of fescue or other – made me think there were a thousand little characters just on the threshold of my vision. Each top-heavy blade was moving busily and entirely independently of its neighbours, little heads nodding and chattering in the mist. It seemed that the mountain was home to countless Dr. Zeus creations and I was disappointed to take a few steps onwards and find I was alone.


Monday, 29 August 2011

Goatfell "Ali's Route"
Being the leaders for this walk at the Festival Andy and I decided to head up Goatfell the other day to see to suss out this route for ourselves. We're really pleased we did because the walk was fabulous, Fabulous, FABULOUS! Why have I never used that route before now!

As described on the website, this is a twist on the usual route to Goatfell, with stunning views that rival any mainland mountains.

From the usual 'tourist path' we cut west across to the ridge heading up from Glenshant Hill and above Coire Chatan passing the site of a plane crash. Awesome views into Glen Rosa, across Brodick to Holy Isle, out to the Kintyre peninsula, and across the rest of the Arran hills.

We went through the Watershoot and Rosa Slabs, popping up onto Goatfell from the west rather than the more usual east. Depending on the weather we may choose to do a more direct ascent onto Goatfell rather than using the Watershoot and Rosa Slabs. Coming down, being on such an adrenalin high, we bounced back down the main path :-)

The photos just don't do it justice. For more photos have a look at Goatfell (Ali's Route) The best way to see it for yourself is to come along and join us during the Festival! GET BOOKING NOW!

Jo Totty

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Kendal's Back on Arran...

The Best of Kendal film night was a big success - the hall was at capacity and the HF Holidays curry went down very well.

So... we've decided to do it all again during the Festival itself. On Friday 16 Sept in Corrie Hall, you can see the following films:

The Point of No Return
Kendal "Grand Prize" winner 2010 - about an American team's fateful expedition to China's Mount Edgar.

Argentine Project
Kendal "Best Short Film" winner 2010 - "did you see that?!" mountain biking.

The Pinnacle
Kendal "People's Choice" winner 2010 - Dave MacLeod and Andy Turner recreate one of the most famous weeks in Scottish climbing. (also featuring mountain guide/entertaining fellow Mike Tighe, who's giving a talk the following night).

This time, the food is being supplied by Arran's famous bakery: Wooleys will be providing home-made soups, filled rolls, mini pizzas and more.

Full details are on the mountain festival programme. Should be good!


Sunday, 21 August 2011


Home Baking

I remember once seeing a trailer for a TV documentary about ‘feeders’. As far as I can gather from the 30 seconds of footage (I didn't watch the programme itself) there are people in America who demonstrate love for their massively obese partners by bringing them obscene amounts of food, to the point that they’re practically immobile and just lie in bed waiting for more burgers to arrive.

If I understood correctly, there are some deep-rooted psychological conditions involved, and I fear my colleagues may be suffering something related. The kitchen at work has a dedicated area for communal cakes, and fresh bakes are added daily – sometimes tasty bought ones and sometimes home-made. There’s such a cake culture that I feel guilty if I don’t partake, and this is especially the case as the walls are adorned with slogans like “in cake we trust” and “cakus uniticus”. I don’t want to be the skinny guy in the corner who doesn’t fit in.

But now I’m having to live with the side-effects. I was up in the hills the other day – feeling slow and full of fat but managing to waddle around a bit, and I found some terrific looking bits of rock that I’m pretty sure nobody’s climbed yet. Once I would have thrown some gear onto my back and headed out to the rocks to sample their delights at the earliest opportunity, guns and abs a-blazing. Alas, I fear that it’s no longer my six-pack that’s rippling, and that I’ll be lucky to lug a bouldering mat into the hills, let alone to climb anything when I get there. At this rate it’ll take a winter of hard training to reach my previous form (meagre as it was…) and by the time I’m ready John Watson or somebody else will have stolen in and picked all the ripest plums.

Maybe there are clinics for the rehabilitation of feeder victims...


Saturday, 30 July 2011

Kendal Comes to Arran

As a teaser for the Arran Mountain Festival, there's a 'Best of Kendal' film night at Corrie Hall: Weds 3 Aug (this Weds!), 7.30pm. There are three films being shown:

Wild Water (extreme kayaking);
The Swiss Machine (Ueli Steck climbs big things fast);
A Life Ascending (Thought provoking film about mountain guide Ruedi Beglinger).

£8 a ticket, with optional curry, drink & pud' for an extra £8. "Bargain!" Bring your own bottle.

There'll be more films at the Mountain Festival itself if you miss these.

"Whoop whoop!"


Saturday, 25 June 2011

Twenty Reasons

We know what you are thinking: you’re looking for the…

…Ten Top Reasons to Visit Arran’s Mountains

1. No Munro baggers
The baggers are all off looking for high altitude peatbogs in the Cairngorms, which means the spiky little ‘uns are kept for the connoisseurs.

2. Ridges
From the Three Beinns ridge (steady) to Midnight Ridge Direct (a bit poky) there’s a magnificent edge for everybody. If you don’t like ridges, there’s a shop in Brodick that has fridges for everyone. It’s win/win!

3. Cool rock climbing
From the whispered-of boulder field of Fionn Coire to the sizzling quality of the Rosa Pinnacle, the coarse granite of north Arran is worth a day or two of any discerning climber’s time.

4. Cir Mhor
It’s really good! The best mountain on Arran(?) and up there with the best of hills in Scotland.

5. Classic mountain topography
In the spring time, the Brodick Co-op is packed with geography/geology students. They’re presumably on the island for the funky glacial features and not the fine bargains and friendly staff (or maybe they are!) – cavernous corries and lofty ridges abound.

6. The Arran Mountain Festival
20 events packed into four days, with good craic in the evenings. Get booking now! (Plug over…)

7. Multi-storey mountains
Whether you like to potter around in the bottom of wildlife-packed valleys, stamp over windy passes or scramble to lofty summits, Arran has accessible pleasure at every altitude.

8. The weather
“Holy moly! It was fine on the way up and now it’s raining upwards.” The complete experience!

9. Eagles and seagulls
Arran’s a bit of a stronghold for nature. On an average day out in the hills you might see gannets (you start by the sea), red squirrels (through the woods), and then butterflies, golden eagle, roseroot, adder etc. It’s all very jolly.

10. Accessibility
Arran’s two hours from the middle of Glasgow, it’s the southernmost bit of the highlands and the mountains are within walking distance of the ferry port at Brodick (just head towards the Co-op and keep going).

But we have to be balanced. So here’s our best attempt at the…

…Ten Top Reasons not to Visit Arran’s Mountains

1. No Munros
Okay, so they’re not the biggest mountains in Scotland. (But since when did height matter?)

2. Fear
With all those serrated ridges and lofty summits, fear is a common reason to sack it off and go to the Beach (or the Co-op). Those in the know should sign up for a Mountain Festival guided walk and let someone else do the worrying.

3. Dodgy rock climbs
Back in the 1890s, the rock climbing in Arran’s hills had a reputation for being damp, dirty and vegetated, so if you’re a Victorian that’s stuck in time then you may not be that keen to give the crags a try.

4. They’re mountains
Some folk are fat, unfit, old, and their joints aren’t the ones they were born with… for whatever reason, some people can’t or don’t want to climb mountains. This website has some high quality alternatives.

5. Midges
Scotland’s own airborne piranhas love to hang out in the still, warm glens of Arran.

6. The weather
“Holy moly! It was fine on the way up and now it’s raining upwards.” Nightmare.

7. They’re in Scotland
Look; It’s hard to think of ten reasons… but if you live in Basingstoke or Newton Abbott then Arran probably doesn’t seem the closest place to visit. If this applies to you, you could always leave your job/school/family and move up here… they’re recruiting in the Brodick Co-op.

8. Allergies?!
This is getting harder. Maybe you have an allergy to heather?!

9. Okay. I give up. There probably aren’t ten reasons. Get up there.

These are not the opinions of the AMF Board, and may not even be those of the author.
Other supermarkets are available (‘though not on Arran).


Monday, 9 May 2011

The Old Man of Tarsuinn & the Goblin of Mullach Buidhe

If you look closely, Arran's mountain ridges are home to an amusing variety of stone characters. Towering granite tors teetering precariously over cliff edges give the impression of a giant's game of jenga. Many of those massive boulder stacks hide a face, the shape of an animal or whatever else your imagination reads into them. Spotting these characters and creatures is great fun - especially on a day when there's not much of a view!

The Old Man of Tarsuinn is a well-known example of those characterful tors. He is unmissable if you're heading south along the ridge from Beinn Tarsuinn to Beinn Nuis, perched high above Coire a'Bhradain.

Queen Victoria overlooks Glen Rosa from Beinn a'Chliabhain.

I noticed this chap for the first time last week, enjoying an amazing day out walking from Glen Sannox back to Brodick, taking in Cioche na h'Oighe, North Goatfell and Goatfell. I've christened him the "Goblin of Mullach Buidhe".


Sunday, 1 May 2011

2011 Arran Mountain Festival set to thrill!

We're now in the late planning stages for the 2011 Festival with the walks programme almost finalised. As last year, the majority of walks will take you along Arran's breathtaking mountain ridges and have you conquer the island's lofty summits. Some shorter and easier walks will be included - they are a great way of discovering Arran's natural and cultural history. Of course, we'll also be putting on some evening entertainment for a chance to exchange the day's mountain tales with your fellow hill walkers. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Winter traverse of A’ Chir Ridge

8/12/10 David Lilly and Darryl Urquart-Dixon

Some early snow and sub-zero temperatures presented an opportunity for some rare pre-Christmas winter mountaineering this year on Arran, so last Wednesday Darryl Urquart-Dixon (of MRT & Balmichael) and I decided we would attempt a winter traverse of A’ Chir Ridge. Having completed the ridge often in warmer clines we knew the route well and fancied our chances in winter. Obviously the gear differs in winter, notably with crampons and axes. I wondered whether Messrs’ Douglas, Campbell, Gibson, Robertson, Fleming and Dr Leith completed the first traverse of A’Chir Ridge on 30th January 1892 in similar conditions - certainly, they had hob-nail boots, woollen socks and tweed, not crampons, multi-layered Gortex and Down jackets!

Without a cloud in the sky we were walking up Glen Rosa enjoying the Sunrise lighting up the summit of Beinn รก Chliabhain in silver-white rays, pink fell upon Goat Fell and orange on Cir Mhor. By 9 a.m. we arrived at Coire Buidhe with Cir Mhor’s ‘South Ridge Direct’ lit up above us. We pressed on to join the saddle at 591m where we prepared ourselves for the ridge. Despite the -5°c temperature, perhaps -15 with wind-chill factor, we marvelled at the most breathtaking views across our Western hills and beyond to the Paps. It was a winter wonderland - a carpet of snow from where we stood to as far as we could see, only interrupted by the still icy blue waters of the Sounds of Kilbrannen and Jura. We started to gain height toward the top of the first buttress at about 9.30 a.m. creating the first foot steps in the virgin snow as we went (pic1).

(pic 1/David Lilly ascending 1st buttress North end A’ Chir Ridge)

So far so good, but that soon came to an end. We arrived at the first down climb into the gully that leads to the Mauvais Pas section. In the summer this is an easy scramble but in these conditions we needed to abseil. The first abseil to a horizontal ledge went fine (pic 2). For the second abseil we slung the rope around a conical spike of rock at the far end of the ledge to traverse down the face of the wall below. I remained attached to the rope at the spike belay so Darryl could abseil in safety. I followed, edging my way off the ledge but was unable to guide the rope through a crack, as Darryl had, to keep me close to the face. With the rope running around the outside of the wall I felt myself being pulled away from the face and toward the 100m drop below. At this point the rope started to rise up the spike and with no-one on the belay I was in severe danger had I continued (pic 3), so I climbed up and fixed a new belay, from which I could suspend a Scottish Prop Forward, and made my way down. Any passers-by please note; the 8ft sling and Simond Karabiner on a jammed-rock are mine!

(pic 2/Darryl Urquart-Dixon 1st abseil off buttress 1)

(pic 3/David 2nd abseil off buttress 1)

Nerves in check I readied for the bicycle step chimney, the first part of the ‘Mauvais Pas’ section. Darryl led in his usual voracious fashion, whilst I followed by gentler means only to find again that this ridge in winter shares none of its summer hospitality. Snow and haw-frosted rock aside, I managed to get my right crampon stuck in the chimney and had to lower myself down on one axe to lever it out with the other, then haul myself up until I could get some purchase with my feet. I sat on the 1ft wide ledge looking down the 50m sheer face below thinking how utterly useless I felt. I blethered on about summer sun, vertical hot granite walls, sticky rock shoes and how I was made to go up; not down, sideways and in holes with unforgiving crampons on my feet! Darryl - in his element said; “I don’t do all that fancy dancing about on rock stuff, this is my kind of climbing!” And with that, off he went up the ledge to the next belay under the vertical section (pic 4).

(pic 4/Darryl moving up Mauvais Pas Ledge)

As I arrived at the belay, enjoying the exposure, Darryl asked if I was going to lead my usual bit. Absolutely; it was a perfect almost vertical climb up good rock with a few cracks for solid gear placement to protect me on the way. Clearing the snow out of the seams and flakes with my axe, about half way up I placed a good Cam (pic 5) and then continued up to the top to body belay Darryl behind me. As soon as he arrived, looking at my Cheshire grin, he knew I’d redeemed myself.

(pic 5/David leading the climb from the Ledge to the Mauvais Pas section)

Ahead, we crossed the ‘Mauvais Pas’ (Bad Step) with an abyss either side of the 1ft wide hole, as we approached the chimney leading up the third buttress. We cut our way up the steep 20m chimney, which often wet through summer, was surprisingly void of ice. Instead, unconsolidated fresh snow often gave way under foot and the quartzite rich granite in this section broke repeatedly under the lightest axe placement (pic 6). With little gear placement possible, it became hard work for both of us and at the top we could see our hands trembling with adrenaline from our battle with this unforgiving pitch.

(pic 6/Darryl working hard to lead the Mauvais Chimney pitch onto the 3rd main buttress)

We continued up the ridge toward the summit taking lines as conditions dictated, forgetting our prefixed ideas about the the route from previous summer experiences. Topping out at 745m we considered our options seated in a wind free hole at the summit whilst tucking in to our lunch and some much needed hot brew. At 2.30 p.m. we agreed to call it a day, we were both wearier than expected at this point and needed a further 1&½ hrs to complete the remaining ⅓rd of the ridge plus the down time. We took an exit route Darryl had previously used with Mountain Rescue which leads to an outcropping crag directly East of the summit, from where we looked back at our work on the Ridge (pic 7), and then descended 300m down the northern slope to Corie Buidhe.

(pic 7/A’ Chir Ridge, east facing Mauvais Pas section with line of route, and the top of Glen Iorsa below to the west)

To remind us of how our day started out, we were just down in time to see a different array of colours as the sun set the mountain tops ablaze with crimson. We didn’t feel beaten by the ridge, we felt privileged, perhaps accomplished to have achieved what we did on our first winter attempt. With this experience, no doubt we will be back to complete it another day, hopefully on some harder snow to assist progress. A’ Chir Ridge (Nth-Sth) in winter is possibly a Grade III or IV depending on conditions and a long haul; possibly a 5-6hr traverse with good snow and weather conditions, plus the 4hrs to walk in and out. A high level of endurance is a must and it bears no resemblance with the nature of the route in summer!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Can we have more of the white stuff please?
I'm definitely enjoying cold and snowy winters more than the usual stormy and rainy ones...