Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Gaelic in the Mountains walk

Gaelic in the Mountains
Arran Mountain Festival walk. May 21 2012.

Crossing North Sannox Burn, the name being
a mix of English, Norse and Gaelic
Apparently Gaelic has about as many words for mountains as the Inuit are reputed to have for snow. For example, beinn (Beinn Nuis) refers to a mountain, whilst mullach (Mullach Buidhe) means a top specifically, and torr (Torr Nead an Eoin) is a hillock. (Don’t be put off by the terrifying spellings; the sounds are much easier.)

A lesson in pronunciation ....... or not!!!
Andy Walker, head forester of the Forestry Commission Scotland on Arran and leader of our AMF group doing the Gaelic in the Mountains day, explained why Gaelic is so important to his work: the Gaelic names actually contain far more precise information about the land than any OS map. For example, the Gaelic name of one particular burn at North Sannox translates as “the burn with the fist-sized pebbles”.

Views into Garbh Coire (rough corrie), and
along the Creag Dhubh ridge to Sail an Im (Heel of Butter)
The wild and empty glen we walked through was once full of people tending their cattle; Andy showed us the ruins of their summer sheilings. We climbed up the graceful Cuidhe Mheadhonach ridge to the summit of Caisteal Abhail where we enjoyed almost 360 degree views in the sunshine over mainland Scotland and other islands. The pace was leisurely and bird sightings included a golden eagle and a male hen harrier. Co-leader Jo Totty pointed out tiny wildflowers amongst the heather: yellow tormentil, pink lousewort and purple milkwort, and explained how they were used in past times; again illustrating the intimate knowledge of nature of the Gaelic people.
A view from Caisteal Abharil

The infamous Ceum na Caillich
We also learned that garbh, dubh coires are to be avoided because they are rough and dark, and that the translation of Ceum na Caillich as the Witch’s Step is maybe a bit unfair - caillich means an old woman and is used in the Gaelic for owl (cailleach-oidhche, old woman of the night). I pictured a wise woman, collecting bunches of tormentil to ease troubles. The people of Sannox had to leave their beloved land for a new life in Canada because of the Clearances. I hope their ghosts could hear the words of their language ringing out in lively conversation in the glen today.

Kathy Mawson

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Cir Mhor - Arran's Matterhorn

A good weather forecast at last, so I decided to set off up to Cir Mhor. It was pouring with rain when I got out of the car in Glen Rosa but I persevered and was eventually rewarded with sunshine - and showers (hail on the tops)
As usal the view ahead going up Glen Rosa was superb with my path to the summit stretching out in front of me. I was welcomed by a stonechat singing on a rock beside the burn. It flew away of course just as I pressed the camera shutter.
The path up to the ridge has been greatly improved, the old eroded section replaced with boulders (thank you SNT!) I met two groups who had been attempting the climbs on the Glen Rosa face of Cir Mhor but who had abandoned because of the water still running off the face of the rocks.
Cir Mhor sits at the centre of the Arran ridges and their sweeping curves can be enjoyed to best advantage from here.
There is also a fine view down the valley into Sannox and, if you are lucky and the air is clear, to the northern hills on the mainland.
 A quick lunch, followed by a blast of hail, and I was back in the valley in warm sunshine. The burn was full and the wonderfull swimming pools in the Glen were bubbling away like giant jaccuzzis. Tempting - but just a few degrees too cold !
An excellent day and Cir Mhor figures on both the Glen Sannox and Castles walks of the Mountain Festival. Not to be missed!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Glen Etive excursion

Mainland adventures - Clachlet Traverse & Buachaille Etive Mor

The weather forecast looked alright for the May bank holiday weekend, so it was time for this Arran Mountain Festival walks co-leader to get her camping gear out and head for the hills.
I caught the train up to Bridge of Orchy on Friday evening and set up camp for the night just across the bridge.The temperature was to drop below freezing, so a good soul staying in one of the cottages across the river, who'd seen me pitch the tent, brought me some hot water for a cuppa. He also produced a wee plastic bottle he filled with the remaining contents of the flask - et voilĂ , a hot water bottle! Don't say there's no kind folk in this world anymore.
Saturday morning began with snow flurries, which soon gave way to glorious sunshine. With a pack weighing a ton because I was carrying food to last me three days and luxury items such as a book, I set off for the Clachlet traverse. This high level route takes in four munros between Bridge of Orchy and Kingshouse. Stob a' Choire Odhar and Stob Gabhar towering above Loch Tulla were my targets for the day, then I would camp high and carry on north for Creise and Meall a' Bhuiridh. The walk in to the start of the route at Inveroran was a perfect leg stretcher, the views of  Loch Tulla and the surrounding mountains stunning.

Loch Tulla & Glen Etive hills
The willow warblers were singing their little hearts out, and I was even lucky enough to watch an osprey quartering above the loch! Soon, it was time to peel off from the crowds enjoying the West Highland Way and start the ascent of Beinn Toaig, the top neighbouring Stob a' Choire Odhar. The spring sun was producing some heat, and I was moving significantly slower with the weight of my pack. Not to worry though, the views unfolding were amazing and I had plenty of time to reach the spot I'd picked to spend the night. From Beinn Toaig, it was a comparably short pull to the summit of Stob a' Choire Odhar, the first munro of the day, with a nice close-up view of a ptarmigan enroute. I savoured more great views north to a watery Rannoch Moor, before descending onto the bealach towards Stob Gabhar. Down I went, and up I had to go again! The ascent to munro no. 2 towering above Chorein Lochain was steep but rewarding, as it was nice and scrambly, made more interesting by having to balance a big rucksack. The mountain panorama from the summit was even better, including the rarely out of the clouds Ben Nevis and the sea to the west. I fancy I even was able to see Arran!
Rannoch Moor from Beinn Toaig
Approach to Stob Gabhar
Glad it was all downhill from here, instead of following the few other walkers back to Inveroran, I turned north to descend to Bealach Fuar-chathaidh via chunky Aonach Mor ridge. I was definitely ready for a rest when I found a nice sheltered spot at the col. Snow flakes were gently pattering the tent as I fell asleep.
High camp at Bealach Fuar-chathaidh
After a lie in and a latish breakfast - it was Sunday after all! - a steep climb up to scree-strewn Clach Leathad soon got the blood pumping. Luckily, with that first ascent behind me, the summit of Creise, munro no. 1 for the day, was within easy reach. Views kept coming and going, with clouds holding flurries of snow moving in from the north. To reach Meall a' Bhuiridh, I had to retrace my steps for a short distance to drop down a rocky col. Walking the opposite way, I met a chap with his dog who hardly managed a "hello". Maybe it was to do with the load he was carrying. I thought I had it bad with a heavy but still reasonably compact pack, but this chap carried a wee bag on his front as well as a biggish rucksack! Never mind, after a bit of exertion, the summit of Meall a' Bhuiridh was reached. From there, I was able to survey the route I had travelled, and I congratulated myself on the amazing conditions I'd had for it.
Meall a' Bhuiridh from Clach Leathad
One happy tr(c)amper on Meall a' Bhuiridh summit!

As a guy with no rucksack and just a thin jacket to protect him from the prolonged snow shower arrived at the top, it was obvious the Glencoe chairlift was operating. Hurrah, I could cheat a bit and hop on it to save those knees for the next day! it was quite weird to pop over the summit and see the top of a ski tow looming. No problems finding the way down here! After stopping for a sunny picnic halfway down, I gratefully hopped on the lift, watching the mountain bikers tackling the steep downhill route below. A very welcome soup and coffee at the cafe at the bottom was followed by another coffee out in the sunshine at the Kings House hotel, from were I had a fantastic view back up to Meall a' Bhuiridh and Creise.
Kings House hotel with Meall a' Bhuiridh & Creise towering behind
I'm still always amazed what distances you can cover just travelling on Shanks' pony! A few more kilometres to go for me yet, to camp at the bottom of Buachaille Etive Mor, ready for an assault on the iconic mountain at the head of Glencoe the next day.
Buachaille Etive Mor, Mamores & Ben Nevis in the distance

Buachaille Etive Beag at sunrise

After getting up at a bracing 5.30am (JoT, you'd be proud of me!), I cruised round the Buachaille ridge on Monday morning. It was such a joy to leave behind the weight of the camping gear, I managed to climb the two munros and get back to base in time to pack up, hitch a lift to Bridge of Orchy, and hop on the 13.03 train back to Glasgow whilst the rain was arriving. A great time was had by me!


Stob na Doire & Stob Coire Altruim on Buachaille ridge
Loch Etive from Stob na Broige on Buachaille ridge

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Arran hills, some of the best in Scotland!

Here's a few pics taken yesterday of the Arran mountains seen from across Brodick Bay. Breathtaking! Definitely up there with the best of Scottish hillwalking!

Bookings are going well for this year's Arran Mountain Festival, some of the walks are fully booked, and a couple are over subscribed! Don't delay - check out www.arranmountainfestival.co.uk and book your walk!

The Three Beinns Horseshoe, a classic ridge walk, sponsored by Merrell. So popular that we're running it twice, and currently there are just a couple of places left on the Friday and Monday walks. Tempting isn't it - go on, get booking! http://www.arranmountainfestival.co.uk/friday-18-may/three-beinns-horseshoe.html

From right to left Am Binnein, Mullach Buidhe, North Goatfell (not in view) and Goatfell.  This walk, sponsored by the Friends of Brodick Castle is being led on the Monday of the Festival, and currently there are only 5 spaces left.  Don't miss out on this wonderful, but little walked, walk.


Friday, 27 April 2012

NEWSFLASH - there are still a couple of spaces left on the Sunday A'Chir walk, don't miss out, get booking! Have a look at the posts below written by participants in 2011, which I've just refreshed so it's easy to find!!  Please be tempted - just call 01770 302244 to book :-)


2011 Arran Mountain Festival A'Chir Ridge Walk

I had never set foot on Arran before, which is shameful considering I live in Glasgow, but I have always heard it is good for walking and climbing. My friend, who has been on Arran several times, heard about the mountain festival and saw there was a guided walk along the A'Chir ridge which he had bypassed on previous walks and thought it would be a great chance to walk it.

We just made it to the outdoor centre in time to get a quick instruction on how to put our slings on, which is when I thought it was going to be more extreme than any scrambling I had done before.

The walk started in Glen Rosa and the weather was perfect, warm morning sun and blue skies. The group walked up Glen Rosa at an easy pace giving the group the chance to get to know one another and hear the guides point out places of interest and tell some stories about the area. We stopped for some lunch just below Cir Mhor where we were told that if we didn't fancy the ridge we could turn back.

A short climb took us to the the start of the rock climbing section where the guides set about putting a safety rope up. It was just as well they did, I was the second person to go along the section and had a wee slip but managed to get to the end of the section safely. There were plenty of other moments where the ropes were in use and I think the group was thankful for that especially at the bad step on the ridge. This was only a gap of half a metre which had to be jumped, but with vertical drops on each side the exposure was something else.

By the time we had reached the top I was a lot more tired out than what I would have expected, mostly from using muscles that aren't usually put to the test. But the wonderful views from the top made it worthwhile and I quickly forgot about my aches and pains. We could see Jura and even all the way over to the Antrim coast.

After the top it there was one more section which required the rope then it was a steady walk back down to Glen Rosa to catch our lift.

Having lacked any previous rock climbing experience i knew this was going to be an exhilarating, challenging and at times apprehensive walk. But with the guides always there to reassure you and advise you along the way everyone got passed the trickiest sections with no problems. I will certainly be back to Arran to walk the rest of the hills and ridges after this.

I must say a big thanks to the guides, Ali and Mick. They were full of knowledge and stories of the area and their times on the hills and you felt in very safe hands with them helping you along the hardest sections of the walk.


2011 Arran Mountain Festival A'Chir Ridge Walk Take 2

By David Lang, Lamlash

As a result of the great care taken by local mountain rescue guide Alistair and visiting guide Mick Tighe, our intrepid group thoroughly enjoyed the adventure of walking on Arran’s potentially dangerous A’chir Ridge last weekend. Many of us had travelled a long way to be part of this year’s Mountain Festival, including one from Australia! A few manoeuvres necessitated the indignity of an odd push from behind, however it was all worth it as we were able to ‘boldly go where none of us had dared go before’.

I also attended the excellent film show and illustrated talks on the two previous nights, both effectively building up the excitement, while showing the fun and challenges to be had when exploring mountain areas.
Arran is blessed with superb and extensive hill walking routes that many visitors sadly miss, and the festival celebrated these, while also enabling a wide range of abilities to access them in a safe way. The views from the top can best be described as ‘awesome’!
All those involved in its organisation should be very proud of this year’s success and if I find out they are ever organising a trip up Everest then you can count me in, as I am confident it would be equally well planned! To be honest I would still rather continue exploring Arran and am already looking forward to next year’s festival.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Girls' night out on Arran!

A Friday in January, four girls headed out on a girlie night out.  It was very wild, wet and windy .....
..... but we didn't head to the pub ....
..... no, we chose a nasty night to go out on a night navigation exercise ....
..... and got home safe and sound!


Monday, 16 April 2012

So, what do some of your mountain leaders do in their spare time!  Obviously we spend a lot of time on the Arran hills, but we do occassionally like to travel a little further afield!! 

Here are some wonderful snowy shots taken in February as I wandered some of our fabulous Scottish hills :-)  I was up in the Glenshee area, a bit of battle at the start through the ski lifts and runs, but once off the beaten track the peace and tranquility was so well worth the effort. 

Another 'hill day' to add to my Mountain Leader log book, and another 3 munro ticks, if you're into that sort of thing ;-)


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Arran Mountain Festival ceilidh

Saturday 7 April was the first of the Arran Mountain Festival events - the Easter family ceilidh. A brilliant evening at Lochranza village hall, with fabulous live music from the Arranach ceilidh band. There was an Easter bonnet parade, which was won by Hannah for the children, and by me for the adults - very very special yummy Easter egg prizes donated by James of Arran, Arran's Chocolate Factory! The Lucky Dip was particularly popular with the children, and the shove ha'penny (pound) to win a bottle of whisky was good entertainment for the interval! See
http://www.facebook.com/#!/ArranMountainFestival for some video clips and some photos - the evening was great fun, and went by in a bit of a blur ;-)


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Hurrah, we've made it onto Facebook!

The Arran Mountain Festival has finally arrived in the 21st century and can now be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ArranMountainFestival. Please check out the page and "like" us!