An Arran-demption: Brodick to Sannox

Corbetts: Beinn Tarsuinn, Caisteal Abhail, Cir Mhor

Date walked: 19/05/2018

Time taken: 7.75 hours

Distance: 21.7km

Ascent: 2028m

As an arranged trip to the Ailsa Craig got cancelled, I decided to return to nearby Arran as a backup. I last visited for hillwalking purposes on the 1st September 2016 - my first solo walk above 750m. My plan at the time had been to ascent Goat Fell then Cìr Mhòr, Beinn Tarsuinn, Caisteal Abhail and also Fionn Bhealach if I had time (what was I thinking?) I was in clag by the 600m mark on Goat Fell's southern ridge but made it to the top. I had made mapping errors, assuming the saddle began at Goat Fell, not North Goat Fell, where I had a very close call sliding down a slab on the way over. I made it to the first pinnacles of Cìr Mhòr, at which point visibility was so low that I went in circles three times and ended up lying on my back with thigh cramp. To add to that I had no map or compass, so essentially chose a ridge, hoping it was either Sannox or Rosa. Fortunately I descended into Rosa and sprinted back to Brodick, with 10 minutes to run a mile for the final ferry. Rookie error after rookie error. Seeing as the weather was to be great, I decided to redeem myself and re-climb the hills that would continue to haunt me until the end of time if not dealt with!

[Full gallery available here: http://ianparkphotography.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/sannox-horseshoe-redo-19th-may-2018.html]

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Got an early bus for the 06:4(7?) train to Ardrossan Harbour and the 08:20 ferry across. Interesting that the cost of a full Scottish there is now more than the return ticket itself! Stopped off in Co-op for the long walk ahead. Was sweating in first 5 minutes. 45 minutes later saw me properly inside Glen Rosa with a spectacular view of the first targets ahead.

Glen Rosa:
1 - Glen Rosa.jpg

Beinn a'Chliabhain:
2 - Beinn a'Chliabhain Ahead.jpg

Cìr Mhòr and Witch's Step (Ceum na Caillich) beyond:
3 - Cir Mhor and Witch's Step Beyond.jpg

I had toyed with ascending Beinn Nuis instead of a'Chliabhain but the narrow ridge of the latter was too tempting in the end (and had less ascent). In the mind of a bagger, a Corbett top and Graham top would be essentially identical. There was some dried-up moorland to cross before I found the path. I had been scanning for Adders since the bottom of the glen but to no success. I'm quite certain at this point that I live in a 'The Truman Show'-esque world where Adders aren't actually real and pictures of them are created by artists and distributed to all other hillwalkers except myself.

Beinn Nuis:
4 - Beinn Nuis.jpg

Ridge up:
5 - Ridge Up.jpg

Beinn Tarsuinn:
6 - Beinn Tarsuinn.jpg

The ridge was perfectly airy and did involve quite a bit of scrambling (there was a bypass path to the west however). A notable aspect of hills here is that there is often no feature to indicate the summit (something I much prefer if I'm honest). I didn't visit the first of the 3 potential summits, only the northern two. I think the middle one is the true top, but I may be mistaken. The views from here were excellent.

A'Chir, Caisteal Abhail and Cìr Mhòr:
7 - A'Chir, Caisteal Abhail and Cir Mhor.jpg

From here it was an easy wander down and up to Consolation Tor, where the going up to Beinn Tarsuinn was much more than work than I had assumed.

Great little easy section:
8 - Great little easy section over to Consolation Tor.jpg

Where I would have otherwise been:
9 - Ailsa Craig.jpg

After a tricky serpentine up to the top of Beinn Tarsuinn, complete with sunbathers, I visited both potential tops and made my way down to an unnamed burn beside the Bealach an Fhir-bhogha to refill the flask.

Pagoda Ridge, summit of A'Chir and Cìr Mhòr:
10 - Pagoda Ridge, A'Chir summit and Cir Mhor.jpg

I decided to have a crack at the southern end of the A'Chir ridge, which can be negotiated as a moderate scramble, and includes the summit. Met a couple of guys who were glad to see me as they weren't sure if they were on the right section (I wasn't either!) Said if they see me in the newspaper then they'll know my fate. Some parts were a little testing but the only true crux move was the ~4m drop about 40m south of the summit area (most notably mentioned on here by oap2046). I didn't think my small stature would allow a back on one wall-feet on the other approach so decided to just go for a 2m jump down (hearing both knees pop on impact - at almost 22 I must be getting too old for this).

Crux move:
12 - Crux Move.jpg

From there it's an interesting little gully to reach the summit block. I managed to belly flop onto it from the boulder beside and wobble my lower body onto it from there. Not an easy one. From the top, I heard a guy I had seen in Ardrossan and again at the top of Beinn Tarsuinn make a yelp as he realised he was going to have to jump down the difficult bit.

A'Chir summit block. Harder than it looks:
13 - A'Chir Summit block.jpg

Beinn a'Chliabhain from near the ridge:
11 - Beinn a'Chalaibh.jpg

Just after a brief narrow section, I stumbled upon the ‘Le Mauvais Pas’ section with a group of climbers below. I hadn't been able to figure out from the computer whether this section is infact safely doable without ropes, and would much rather have not embarrassed myself infront of people that actually knew what they were doing, so headed back. They must have thought "What is that boy in a chequered shirt and hiking boots doing there?"

Out of my depth a bit here:
14 - Climbers thinking I'm mental.jpg

I hadn't planned an escape route and ended up making my way very precariously along a few very narrow rockfaces with platforms below (that famous Edward Whymper quote came to mind!) Eventually I stumbled upon a gully (probably the one at NR96552 42327) that allowed me to safely get down and join the bypass path. It was then a tiring climb up to Coire Buidhe, the point at which I had joined Glen Rosa in 2016. I took a break on an outcrop there.

Rest of A'Chir ridge:
15 - Rest of A'Chir ridge.jpg

Paps of Jura with Beinn Bharrain in foreground:
16 - Paps of Jura from Beinn Bharrain.jpg

The climb up Cìr Mhòr was steep and I had really slowed down.

Caisteal Abhail from ascent:
17 - Caisteal Abhail and ridge.jpg

Witch's Step and Suidhe Fhearghas from Cìr Mhòr summit:
18 - Witch's Step and Suidhe Fhearghas.jpg

I had a look about for where I had got lost last time, and although I have a picture of the point at which I reached, I couldn't identify it. It was likely the first pinnacle or the second which I couldn't see from the top.

Around here somewhere:
19 - Where I got lost last time.jpg

The descent was just as steep and I blasted past some climbers I had met on their way down. I had mistakenly thought the next ascent was the last of the challenging parts.

Back up Cìr Mhòr:
20 - Back up to Cir Mhor.jpg

The ascent up Caisteal Abhail was the slowest I'd gone all day, but the summit tors eventually showed up. It was unbelievably windy at the top so didn't attempt the tricky scramble to the NW of the highest tor, instead going around the back first.

Ascents of the day:
21 - Ascents of the day.jpg

Cìr Mhòr with he-who-shall-not-be-named in the background:
22 - Cir Mhor with unreachable island.jpg

Over to Suidhe Fhearghas, the last hill of the day:
23 - Suidhe Fhearghas.jpg

I had seriously misunderestimated the difficulty of navigating the Witch's Step. I'm not sure if I went off the path (I assume I did), but slowly edged my way down to the bottom of the notch and trepidatiously joined a narrow but obvious path that skirted Ceum na Caillich's north side. Someone without a head for heights could just drop right down to the north but the ascent would take a bit of a toll. At a particularly scary bit, I saw someone had dropped a water bottle (after having last drank out a rock pool at Caisteal Abhail, it was quite tempting). I decided to ignore it, as it was just a bit too risky. After that it was an easy but rocky clamber as the ridge gradually got easier.

Looking back to Ceum na Caillich and Caisteal Abhail:
24 - Looking back to Ceum na Caillich and Caisteal Abhail.jpg

The wind kept on blustering the whole way along the ridge, especially at the summit of Suidhe Fhearghas. The top had a few rocky outcrops that could have been the summit so I touched them all. The descent path was one of the worst paths I have used. Sandy, very deep and sporadically vanishing. I went to refill the flask at a burn but the bag slid down the heather into it! Fortunately nothing fell out of it. I could spy a decent track that went straight SE so joined it when I'd finally made it down. It was surprisingly still a bit boggy and also tended to disappear briefly, but eventually led to a dismantled railway, where it was plain sailing to the spectacularly beautiful Glen Sannox path and burn.

The track went past disused mine features until reaching a great information board about the area, with the main road just beyond. I was exactly an hour early for the second last bus back to the last ferry back. A walking troupe showed up who had clearly had a great day out and were great fun. The bus was already nearly full when it arrived so plus an extra 15 or so people made for an interesting (but hilarious) journey back. Final ferry was absolutely packed but I was glad to have resolved a potential hillwalking nemesis.

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