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Cir Mhor – and the challenge of cleggsville

Cir Mhor – and the challenge of cleggsville

Postby old danensian » Wed Jul 24, 2013 12:30 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn Tarsuinn, Caisteal Abhail, Cìr Mhòr

Date walked: 18/07/2013

Time taken: 8.15 hours

Distance: 20 km

Ascent: 1612m

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I’ve been defeated by wind and rain. I’ve turned back in the face of soft, unstable snow. Days have been curtailed as the clock and light have conspired.

So, I was determined not to flee from the hills as a consequence of a mere insect: and I don’t mean the midge.

But it came close.

With Arran’s three Corbett ridge of Beinn Tarsuinn, Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail in my sights, failure became a distinct possibility before the first one had even been reached.

Early morning mists over Beinn Nuis from Cladach

Walking from Cladach up Glen Rosa was pleasant. At 7.30am it was already 17C, but the heat hadn’t begun to intensify. Early morning clouds played with the top of Beinn Nuis, suggesting that the day ahead would be a tantalising tussle to get the views.

But where the Garbh Allt flows into the Glenrosa Water, the bloodsucking tabanidae lay in ambush: in droves, swarms, or whatever their collective noun may be. The air was hotching with clegs.

The scene of the battle - up the Garbh Allt to Beinn Nuis and Beinn Tarsuinn

The battle was progressive; defensive measures and their debilitating consequence increasing with every step.

The phase of mere irritable tolerance didn’t last long.
Sleeves were soon rolled down, and then buttoned at the cuff.
To diminish the acreage of exposed flesh further, the shirt was then buttoned to the collar.
Fortunately, a midge net had survived my cull to save weight for water: it too was donned a few minutes later.
Still they persisted. I recalled a former teacher’s dismissive response to my complaints about midges on Skye. “Flies like bad meat,” was the extent of his sympathy.
As the clegs worked away at the last vulnerable expanse of skin, I was reduced to putting my gloves on.

And so that’s when the overheating began: headache, nausea, giddiness, and being thoroughly wrung out. You subconsciously move more quickly in the midst of the aerial beasties in a vain attempt to outrun them: which made things worse as the temperature soared.

How long would this go on for? How much more sweat could a man perspire? Could I face returning and having to admit defeat at the proboscis of a fly?

Upon such questions reputations are built or destroyed.

At last, as giving up became an option, a breeze picked up and the clegs were left behind and below. Determined that a potentially great day would not be lost, I sat for twenty minutes, rested, munched on salty snacks, and drank half the energy drinks I’d earmarked for later in the day. Then I began a slow plod upwards. I’d plenty of time; there was no need to rush. The day was back on.

Inevitably the cloud then decided to descend. In the middle of the best summer for ages, and just as the Factor 25 had been slapped on, the hoped for panoramas disappeared.

Mists begin to envelope Beinn Nuis

Given the start to the day, there was relief when the pyramid of Beinn Nuis was reached: a moody, atmospheric ridge stretched ahead - apparently.

A succession of granite tors, each masquerading as the top of Beinn Tarsuinn, were passed as the cloud thickened, creating a sense of mystery rather than frustration. You could almost “feel” the setting and its lofty position without necessarily having to see it.

Occasional navigational checking endorsed the fairly clear path that ran along the ridge. With a brief opening in the cloud at the pinnacle of the Consolation Tor, I knew I’d avoided a path to the right where lurked the danger of dropping too far down and finding myself in Glen Rosa.

Bealach an Fhir- bhogha from the Consolation Tor on Beinn Tarsuinn

The path clearly split at the Bealach an Fhir-bhogha below, offering the option of either an unknown scramble or a contouring traverse.

Solo scrambling heroics in the mist on unfamiliar ground could be left for another day: why miss out on enjoying the position. I was perfectly happy to pass below the massive slabs of A Chir, admittedly dropping to 540m, but was soon back at a decent height for the ascent of the cloud-clad Cir Mhor.

The slabs of A Chir

I knew from seeing from the other side earlier in the week that I just had to keep going up. I’d know when I was there: the drop plunged. And it did. There was an occasional glimpse of the ridge disappearing to The Saddle below, so I knew I was there.

As the mists swirled, that mood and atmosphere overcame any disappointment at not seeing: it was a place where you just knew.

In time, snatches of the sweeping line of the Hunters’ Ridge, stretching across and up to Caisteal Abhail, emerged. Coming down from Cir Mhor it was easy to see where the path split off to the right, heading to the final Corbett of the day. Not that a path or track was needed for navigation with the steep drop into Coire na h Uaimh falling away to the right all the time. Cloud seemed to bubble like a cauldron and flow over the ridge.

Hunters' Ridge on Caisteal Abhail

Cir Mhor from the Hunters' Ridge on Caisteal Abhail

A pair of “castles” sit atop Caisteal Abhail, and both were visited: just in case. By now, views to the north and west were beginning to open up, but Cir Mhor, Goat Fell and A Chir only briefly graced the view with their presence between the parting clouds. They maintained their mystery to the very end.

Views to the west finally emrge from Caisteal Abhail

All that was left was the Witch’s Step. Negotiating each pinnacle along the eastern ridge I expected the ground to fall away suddenly. From one side I’d seen it while on Goat Fell; from the other it looked equally impressive and daunting when driving over from Lochranza the previous day. Now I stood above it.

Across the With's Step to Suidhe Fhearghas

Travelling from west to east it’s a straightforward easy scramble down that can be done facing outwards all the way. The dodgy bit is the four or five feet that form a crumbling knife-edge at the very bottom; but unless you intend climbing out by the direct route or just want to get a few feet higher for a more impressive photograph, it doesn’t have to be negotiated.

Out across Coire nan Ceum from the Witch's Step

On the other side, two or three options offer themselves to get back to the ridge, each decreasing in difficulty as you drop further down the gully to the left. Soon the ridge can be rejoined and the final stretch to Suidhe Fhearghas is opened up.

Suidhe Fhearghas and the end of the ridge

A moody look back to The Saddle and Cir Mhor

Blue skies ahead and a great view across to the mainland accompanied the gentle drop to the end of the ridge. I’d made better time than expected after the stuttering start to the day, and my lift from the North Sannox Bridge car park wasn’t due for another hour or more. There was time to relax and soak it all in, to ponder what had, in the end, proved to be a fantastic day out in such impressive surroundings – even if I hadn’t been able to see a significant proportion of it.

The end of the ridge - and the mainland beyond

In just a couple of days out on Arran I’d come to appreciate that the “hills” seen from across the water are far, far more than that. Moody and atmospheric are the adjectives that have kept on springing to mind as I think and write about them: they could command an entire thesaurus to themselves.

But there was one last fear for the day.

I’d not yet dropped back into the cleg-zone. Was another clan of clegs lurking at the northern end of the ridge? Would their cousins be waiting to feed as a multitude thronged the North Sannox Burn? Did they collude with midges to ruin what had come close to a perfect day?

Release was merciful. Their aerodynamics couldn’t cope with the breeze that persisted until my motorised rescue arrived.

Can’t wait to go back.
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old danensian
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Re: Cir Mhor – and the challenge of cleggsville

Postby spiderwebb » Wed Jul 24, 2013 5:42 pm

Sorry but that did make me laugh, them buggers can drive you to desperation can't they ? :lol:
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Re: Cir Mhor – and the challenge of cleggsville

Postby Gavin99 » Wed Jul 24, 2013 5:55 pm

A fine account OD , well worth pushing on until you were above their maximum operating altitude :D
This report makes me even more ashamed that I haven't had a proper walking trip to Arran , need to fix that soon ,
Cheers 8)
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Re: Cir Mhor – and the challenge of cleggsville

Postby Collaciotach » Wed Jul 24, 2013 8:41 pm

Creithleag ann's a Ghaidhlig - horse fly (tabanidae) also known as a cleg ..... wee bas'ard's indeed ,but I m sorry your description of the gauntlet has made me laugh :lol: :lol:

They are really desperate bad this season though , I work in them all day no stopping them :(
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Re: Cir Mhor – and the challenge of cleggsville

Postby ScottishLeaf » Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:16 am

I got dozen cleg bites on Saturday up at Glen Finnan and they are still itching like hell. Usually midges don't bother me too badly, but this seems to be the clegs' year. A couple of their bites actually drew blood! Wee bams!!
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Re: Cir Mhor – and the challenge of cleggsville

Postby Mountainlove » Thu Jul 25, 2013 9:57 am

Oh I had to laugh so much...I know exactly what you mean...and still covered with red marks all over my body!
They are evil!!
I havent done these hills either, but guess will wait until the dreadful cleg has stopped breeding 8) :lol:
Great report otherwise and nice pictures :D
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Re: Cir Mhor – and the challenge of cleggsville

Postby wilkiemurray » Thu Jul 25, 2013 11:14 am

Great report , enjoyed that :clap:

Ca sympathise with the chase uphill trying to get away from clegs!! Dam beasties!!
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