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A lucky horseshoe around Glen Rosa

A lucky horseshoe around Glen Rosa

Postby Driftwood » Wed Jul 01, 2015 11:29 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn Tarsuinn, Caisteal Abhail, Cir Mhor, Goat Fell

Date walked: 03/06/2015

Time taken: 10.5 hours

Distance: 23.5 km

Ascent: 2100m

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I have hoped/planned to visit Arran, especially some of the highest hills, for several years. With the ferry prices slashed and a longer trip to Scotland this year, I grabbed my chance and arranged a couple of nights on the island. I'd head up Kintyre towards Glen Coe on Wednesday, but left Tuesday night uncommitted, maybe to spend in Kilmartin Glen on the way.

Scottish weather can send the best-laid plans astray, especially when it takes the form of a "Winter storm" at the start of June. The ferry crossing from Ardrossan was breezy and saw a few showers falling nearby, then I enjoyed a beautiful late afternoon and evening. That was just the lull before the storm; Monday's forecast was terrible and turned out almost as badly as threatened.

Things improved a bit on Tuesday. The forecast (and weather once it occurred) weren't great, but passing showers rather than the deluge that had been Monday afternoon. I ventured over to Beinn Bharain on the northwest side of the island, enjoying a blustery day, but pining for the higher peaks just a few miles out of reach.

That was a moment of decision. I chose to remain on the island for another day, staying at the campsite in Lochranza in order to prepare for an early start the next morning, and in case of lingering weather in wilder spots. There was still a likelihood of wind and showers for Wednesday, but (I hoped as much as reasoned) conditions should be easier below 3000 feet than if I'd caught the last ferry and tried for some Munros on the mainland.

I was rudely awakened by a jackdaw intent on Twocking (or just curious of their own reflection). Once my car was safe, there was no time to waste, especially with such a promising look to the morning.
Lochranza campsite

The central hills were also taking their time to wake up, heads hidden in a coverlet of clouds. But that was white and fluffy, rather than yesterday's more menacing greys, so I didn't dally long on my drive around to Brodick.
From Glen Chalmadale

I picked a spot in the NTS car park and booted up for a 7 AM start. The morning didn't take long to feel warm, especially with beaming sunshine and while sheltered by the trees. The path is as well signposted as it is constructed, so even I wasn't tempted to wander off-course (yet).
Brodick castle walks

After 10-15 minutes of dense forestry, the track has turned to a path and there's some pleasant open woodland. This offered expanding views over the Cnochan burn to my left, as well as the still-distant Goatfell ahead. It still felt slightly warm for hill-climbing, prompting a few brief breaks to take a sip and some snaps.
Goatfell from Cnocan Wood

Clouds traversing from the southwest offered some respite and the breeze carrying them also helped. I kept to the built path as that swings onto the east ridge of Goatfell, joining another route from that side. The final approach to the top is made of granite boulders and tor, but looked fine going, especially in the current conditions.
Coire nam Meann

A semi-scramble (hands mostly optional) finds the white-painted trig point along with a view indicator, handily placed to support a camera for timed self-photography. The clouds were gathering, threatening to hide the tops again, so I took care of snaps before snacks.
Goatfell trig point

I'd taken slightly longer than expected so far (about 2 hours 20) and knew that had been the easy stage of the route. But I felt fresher once out of the sun (and after breakfast part 2), so decided to head north along the ridge. This descends easily for about 1/4 mile, then reaches a series of towers similar to the top of Goatfell but much smaller and steeper. I did indulge in a brief scramble, then hurried myself along a bypass path that wends beneath the rest.
Goatfell north ridge

I promptly went astray by deciding to head further north and visit Mullach Buidhe (the 830 metre top), adding at least 1/2 mile and 80-90 metres. This is another good viewpoint, though the cloud and dropping temperature nudged me into donning waterproofs soon after.
North Goatfell from Mullach Buidhe

There was a shower as I returned to visit North Goatfell (having bypassed it on the east side en route to Mullach Buidhe). The cool damp air meant that I felt comfortable to carry on, especially since the rain soon passed. I kept my waterproofs on as the descent turned into a scramble, a bit steep and rather eroded, though it never felt too bad even in the damper conditions.
The path improves and gradient eases, with several almost-level shoulders, to approach the Saddle, where I started to meet other walkers (it was getting towards 11 AM by then). But much of my attention (beyond where to step) was drawn forward to Cir Mhor looming larger-and-larger ahead. I could make out a path, though the hill face looked precipitously steep and still bore traces of the shower.
Cir Mhor east face (from Mullach Buidhe)

The path proved very helpful, guiding between slabby rock and equally-steep heathery ground, though I spotted a few deer making their own way. I did wander off for a brief scramble just before the ascent eases off to a shoulder, but things looked trickier and more exposed further up. So it was back to the main path, which skirts beneath a dramatic outcrop, rather than trying to find a way up this:
Nearing Cir Mhor

The path curves south of the top, joining another (from the west) before turning back to meander up through the last few boulders. Noon had arrived and the skies were clearing again, encouraging me to take in the views (as well as some lunch). Although the lowest of the Arran Corbetts, Cir Mhor is well-placed to see each of them. About the only thing missing is the hill itself, since it drops away so steeply that all the drama is hidden from the top.
Glen Sannox from Cir Mhor

One of those neighbours was next, adorned with a cluster of towering tors, though this angle showed an easier approach to the highest top.
Caisteal Abhail tors

I rejoined the path west, descending around the edge of a plunging corrie at the head of Glen Sannox. This also showed another of the magnificent ridges that my route missed out, giving plenty of incentive to return and walk these hills again from different approaches.
Caisteal Abhail and Ceum na Callich

There's a small cairn and path leading south from the shoulder of Cir Mhor at about 630 metres. I took note of this as the easiest way to cross the bouldery (though not terribly steep) ground and reach the bealach for either Glen Rosa or the southwestern ridges, if time still allowed.
Following the path up Caisteal Abhail, I met other walkers, one group with a dog that took objection to me (or possibly the brightness of my jacket). This angle shows the scale of Cir Mhor's north face, hidden from the Glen Rosa side, making me wonder "Did I really just walk up that?"
Cir Mhor

I took the easy option on Caisteal Abhail (following a well-worn path around the highest tor to ease up from the eastern side). After another quick break, I retraced my steps to just past the bealach with Cir Mhor, then took the bypass path noted earlier.
This dips to a junction and called for another decision. A'Chir was out of the question, though I've read that it can be reached by a merely very-steep up-and-down from the bypass route. And I couldn't help wondering whether it's approachable by the short ridge that runs northeast into the top of Coire Buidhe. But my reach choice lay between extending the walk to and over Beinn Tarsuinn, or heading back by Glen Rosa.

The hillier option won out, though the afternoon was flowing by. And the A'Chir bypass proved slower going, with a rougher path and height lost that would need to be regained. The path improves again once back within the NTS estate and starting to climb Beinn Tarsuinn.
This lacks the height of Goatfell or drama of Cir Mhor, but has its own charms including some bizarrely-shaped stones that I knew to look out for from previous walk reports. One of the first came soon after the paths split between Beinn Tarsuinn and the lower top Beinn a'Chliabhain.
Natural arch on Beinn Tarsuinn

I reached my fourth Corbett for the day just after 3 PM, so needed to get a move on for the rest of the walk. That was made difficult not by my feet or legs, which were fine, but the splendid conditions and the scenery all round. Quite a difference from the grey clouds and blustery wind I'd had when walking to the west just one day before.
Beinn Bharrain

At this stage, I opted to continue south over Beinn Nuis (a Corbett top of Beinn Tarsuinn) rather than retrace my steps to cross Beinn a'Chliabhain. That may have been slightly quicker, but I didn't have to wait long for my choice to pay off.
Beinn Nuis

The path descends easily towards a slight top before the main bealach between these hills. I met a mature couple at this point, exchanging greetings with the lady who was walking ahead. Then, just as I reached her companion, glanced to my left before declaring "I've found the old man!"
Old man of Beinn Tarsuinn

Pointing out the boulders in question saved me from a walking pole around the ear, though I was so delighted by the discovery that I took a moment to realise quite what I'd said. There aren't any further boulder folk on Beinn Nuis (so far as I know), but the summit above Coire nam Meann offered a magnificent (and distracting) vista back up Beinn Tarsuinn and of the morning's hills.
Beinn Tarsuinn from Beinn Nuis

Goatfell group across Beinn a'Chliabhain

I tried to speed up from this point. The walking is nearly all downhill and mostly gradual in slope, becoming flatter and boggier approaching a large burn with sides that become deeper further down. I crossed that on stones, joining another - also damp - path along the north side of Garbh Allt, with a moderate descent until that joins the main path through Glen Rosa.
Glen Rosa

Hurrying along here, I briefly considered - but quickly dismissed - crossing Glenrosa Water and trying to make a way through or around Glenshant Wood on the north side. I marched onward instead, though the afternoon was running out and about 2 miles of road walking remained to be covered.

There was still time for another bit of luck and, in this case, kindness. A lady driving down the Glen offered me a lift, which I accepted eagerly and gratefully. She dropped me off at the NTS carpark, saving at least 20 minutes. That ensured I could reach Lochranza with plenty of time to catch the last ferry, then drive north to the hostel bed booked in Glen Coe.
I might have finished the walk - and left the island - in a rush, but I hope to be back and walking more of those wonderful hills. After all, there are Maidens and Witches to scramble and any number of other delights still in store.

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Mountain Walker
Posts: 312
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Re: A lucky horseshoe around Glen Rosa

Postby dav2930 » Sat Jul 04, 2015 10:30 pm

I'll bet you're glad you stayed that extra day!? Very enjoyable report and really great photos. A big walk that with lots of ascent - good going. Just love Arran - what fine hills and impressive granite crags; must go there again some time but keep being distracted by those darn Munros! :)
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Location: Cumbria

Re: A lucky horseshoe around Glen Rosa

Postby Driftwood » Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:09 am

dav2930 wrote:I'll bet you're glad you stayed that extra day!? Very enjoyable report and really great photos. A big walk that with lots of ascent - good going. Just love Arran - what fine hills and impressive granite crags; must go there again some time but keep being distracted by those darn Munros! :)

I was (and am) delighted, yes. Though I can't claim credit for the photos, it should really go to my rugged "models".

It was a day where everything went right, despite other weather before (and after) it. I was maybe a bit greedy in wanting to walk all four Corbetts at once, but it was good practice in doing steeper days and a fantastic experience getting the variety of terrain and views this affords.

Plus it means I can pick and choose routes when I do make it back to Arran without feeling guilty about the lack of hills ticked. The Glen Sannox ridges look fantastic.
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Posts: 312
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Grahams:19   Donalds:24
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Joined: Jun 9, 2011

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