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Caisteal Abhail Low cloud occasional atmospheric views

Caisteal Abhail Low cloud occasional atmospheric views

Postby desmondo1 » Thu Jul 27, 2017 4:57 pm

Route description: Caisteal Abhail, via North Glen Sannox

Corbetts included on this walk: Caisteal Abhail

Date walked: 25/07/2017

Time taken: 6.11 hours

Distance: 11.36 km

Ascent: 825m

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Caisteal Abhail from Sail an Im
First time out with the KOIR group and it was a very early alarm call, the 07.00 ferry from Ardrossan. Our destination Caisteal Abhail (Ptarmigan stronghold, we didn't see any) (859m), one of Arran's 4 Corbetts. Some routes combine this with the infamous, scary and dangerous Witch's step route but today we hoped to get a close look at this ridge without the scramble.
As always an unhealthy, but enjoyable, ferry breakfast then the Stagecoach bus to North Glen Sannox bridge parking area where our walk started.

There is an excellent circular route described in Walkhighlands which we used but in reverse, going clockwise. Arguably the views and the walking conditions are better on the descent, but your choice. There are at least 3 burns to cross which could be awkward following heavy rain.

After yesterday's hot blue sky day the walk began with optimism as more of the same was forecast but the low cloud on the hills was sadly never to fully clear for us until we were on the ferry home. However, soon after we began our descent it would tease with us, lifting its grey cloudy veil for a few seconds of stunning views, teasing and tantalising us with what might have been, then just as quickly as it rose the cloud veil was pulled down again.

Garbe Choire
For just over a mile the walk follows the well managed track in North Glen Sannox following the delightful North Sannox burn twisting and turning its way back to the start. Some good deep pools for a cold dip later!
At the open deer fence we followed the burn straight ahead but if walking anti-clockwise cross the burn here, slippy stones, beware.
This way ahead on a good day would have full views of the hills but despite the low cloud it still allowed enough to feel good about the day. Where the burn forks we made a tricky crossing across very slippery boulders, there were a few wet feet and help required for some. At this point a few of us saw what looked like the white head of a deer bobbing into Garbh Choire. Tantalising, there is an albino white deer on Arran but was this it? The full group also had a good sighting of a golden eagle gliding over Sail an Im for at least a minute before soaring upwards into the clouds.

After the burn this next section was very wet and boggy with some deep hidden holes to capture the unwary. We then made another tricky crossing of the same burn before starting the climb proper and heading up the flanks of Cuithe Mheadhonach. This section is a mixture of steep granite slabs and tussocky heather and grass. Although the climbing is relentless the ascent didn't feel too bad, probably because every time you looked up there was cloud a short way ahead and the reality of the climb was hidden. But occasionally it did clear and through the veil of mist the summit looked a long way away.
Looking back on climb

But it was not all doom and gloom, to our right there were good views into Garbh Choire and of the ridge we would descend. Indeed, once I spotted some red deer on the flanks the eye was in and there were at least 50 hinds and calves for our group to enjoy, they would be aware but unfazed by us.

Onward we climbed and scrambled until we arrived at the summit area, 3 miles from the start. A brief scramble took us to the summit. Sadly, it was an anti-climax, I was so excited about this walk but we were so enveloped in cloud that you could have been anywhere. Still the rock formations were outstanding examples of what nature is all about. Even a peppa pig lookalike if you use your imagination!!

A 10 minute walk westwards and we stopped for lunch. Guess what, the gods took pity on us. The clouds lifted a bit to give us glimpses of the Witch's Step, Cir Mhor and the North Goatfell ridge.

Cir Mhor & North Goatfell ridge

Witch's step peaks out
Interestingly the clouds never cleared from the eastern flanks, stopping right at the ridges. Glen Iorsa twisting and turning down below, the Mullach Buidhe ridge & Meall nan Damh, looks a right good but long ridge walk. Loch Tanna shining away. Further west the Mull of Kintyre and to the north Lochranza. Just relax, enjoy and take it all in and until it all started to slip in and out of view as the clouds one more descended and danced around.

Care was needed descending as the track leading down was like marbles at times with the small scree but enough room to the sides to help walking. It sooned eased off. Sadly views down into the Choire remained limited but looking back I almost got a full view of the mountain but not quite.

We had time on our hands before the bus and considered descending into Glen Iorsa and follow the track we could see on the other side of the burn to Lochranza. Not a popular suggestion as it was felt the terrain would be too hard going for some of the group.
So down and over Sail an Im with superb views back down the North Glen, over the water and it looked like the Ayrshire coast was in sunshine!!
After the steep descent another marshy section before reaching the last burn and then retraced the walk in. An hours wait for the bus.
Despite not getting the full views it was an excellent walk in good company.
I know I will be back to see it in its full glory.
Time: 6 hr 11 min with a few stops
Distance: 7.06 (11.36km)
Ascent: 2706 (825m)

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Outstanding rock piles
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