Report on Arran Weekend
A’CHIR RIDGE PART 1
The Arran October trip saw Kathryn, Mark, Michael B and myself being ‘escorted’ for the first time along the A’Chir ridge by Peter and Malcolm. We set off in the land rover Peter had borrowed for the weekend up the bumpy track of Glen Rosa as far as we could possibly go to shorten the long slog up the glen onto the ridge. We got kitted out with our helmets and equipment and set off what seemed like a never ending climb up the path and finally onto the ridge.
The first part of the ridge was a good scramble with some pretty narrow ridge paths along the top, then came a steep upwards climb where Peter roped us up and helped us to climb up – yes girls Kathryn and I had a great day being tied up by men with ropes all day! . Next we came to the best bits of the day – the abseiling! The first bit was a short abseil down onto a ledge and then we traversed along to the next bit where there was a very steep drop down to a wee bealach which then led up an even steeper climb to the next part of the ridge. Because we were sharing harnesses this took a fairly long time, with Malcolm gallantly going down first to check out the route, he had to maneuver a tricky bit of the rock which resulted in him swinging into the rock and scraping his arm and hand – yes there was blood - and I remember thinking at this point – what on earth am I doing here and Kathryn also had a ‘moment’ where she thought the same! But I have to say I loved it! Because I have abseiled often before I knew the basics although doing it without a safety rope and picking your own way down the side of a mountain to get from A to B is a whole new experience! Everyone did really well considering it was a whole new experience for us and I really can’t thank Peter and Malcolm enough to give us the chance to do it. The rucksacks were lowered next and then Peter climbed down and the ropes were disengaged to carry on to the next bit. By this time the mist was starting to gather along the top of the ridge and the steep climb upwards was hardly visible, we made the decision to skirt round this part of the ridge and cut up onto the latter part which was a good scramble with Kathryn and I again being tied up with ropes and lowered down a large sloping slab of rock onto a narrow path to continue along the last bit of the ridge for that day, then again it was the long slog down Glen Rosa which included a spectacular tumble from Peter who disappeared from view on the path into the heather at the side, Malcolm and I rushed to his assistance as he was lying face down in the heather but as we got nearer we could see his shoulders shaking with laughter – all that way along the A’Chir Ridge without any mishaps to end up falling down in the heather on the lower path – typical!!
I was never so glad to see a land rover in my life – sitting there waiting for us at the end of Glen Rosa!
PART 2 – A’CHIR RIDGE REVISITED
The April Arran weekend was here again. As usual, around the fire in the cottage on the Friday night, we were deciding what walks etc everyone was going to do the next day.
Peter, Malcolm and Mark had decided on the ferry coming over that they were going back to do the middle section of the A’Chir Ridge that we missed out the last time we were there and of course assumed I would be doing it as well! Well what could I do – I had to give it a go as it is such a great opportunity to do this type of ridge with men with lots of equipment and ropes! So off I went early the next morning, minus Kathryn, so I had nobody to blame but myself for being there this time around!
Irene very kindly ran us up Glen Rosa, again as far as we could go to the first gate, in her car. We were all kitted out with the new harnesses and equipment bought recently with the club funds and we were looking forward to trying them out.
The sun was shining in a clear blue sky as we again did the long slog up Glen Rosa onto the ridge doing it in the opposite direction this time to do the bit that we missed out the last time.
It all started out fine with a nice walk along the ridge. There were a couple of heart stopping moments for me on some of the narrower bits and I had an interesting climb down a slab of rock where I learned lots of skills about using my hand and feet holds on either side of the rock – I really enjoyed this and got a great buzz out of being able to work my way down to the next level. Then we came to the big sloping slab of rock which had a crack running along the middle of it – I can’t go over there I said – oh yes you can said Peter – oh no I can’t said I, starting to sound a bit like a pantomime now! Mark managed to cross the slab and settled himself down at the other end camera in hand to make sure he got pictures for the website of when I fell to my death! With a lot of encouragement from Peter and Malcolm saying you’ve only got wee feet they will fit in that crack no problem and don’t look down just lean into the rock I inched my way across safely - so photos were not as exciting as Mark had expected!
Next we worked our way along the path until it seemed to end at a large jutting out piece of rock, Mark decided to climb around it only to find out that we couldn’t go anywhere from there, he had a heart stopping moment when he tried to climb back over to us and Peter decided that it was time to be roped up! We looked around for another way up onto the top of the ridge and Malcolm found a narrow chimney which had an overhanging piece of rock jutting out which took a bit of maneuvering around and under to get to the top. This was where I managed to get my head stuck under the rock and couldn’t move! For some reason I started to laugh – hysterics probably – which didn’t help. Eventually I managed to free my head much to the relief of Mark and Malcolm who were up above me and really didn’t want to have to climb back down to decapitate me! However that was not the end of my problem – I had my usual short leg syndrome – couldn’t get my leg to reach where I wanted it to go! But help was at hand in the form of a gallant stranger who appeared from nowhere underneath me and offered me his leg to stand on – I kid you not girls, you meet some very nice men up them there mountains – stand on my leg my hero said, pretend it is a rock! So I did, and a very nice rock it was too! It gave me the wee lift I needed to pull myself up onto the top. Thanks very much I said, anytime he said as he disappeared into the distance never to be seen again! Awhhhh!
Anyway, back to our adventure – we continued along the very top of the ridge which was spectacular until we reached the first drop that required us to abseil. Someone had very kindly left a belay anchor in the rock and Peter and Malcolm set up the ropes ready to go. It was great! We had a nice wee abseil down finding our way down a chimney of rocks with our feet. Then it was onwards and upwards back up onto the top of the ridge until we came to our next obstacle – the next part of the path was below us and we could not see how we could get down to it as we were on a shelf of rock that seemed to have no belay points for the ropes. It was at this point that I started thinking helicopter! Yes I thought the mountain rescue helicopter could reach me no problem on this shelf of rock and I was actually getting quite excited at the thought of more men with ropes pulling me up into their helicopter! But alas it was not to be – we could use a sling, says Malcolm, over this piece of rock and abseil down to the next bit. Let me say that this did not look very appealing to me – what if the sling slips off I said – oh it won’t trust me says Malcolm, well what could I do Mark was already getting ready to go over the edge so I didn’t want to be the wimp! Over I went where a wee slip on the rock took me slightly off course for a moment and I landed on my bottom – another bruise to add to my now growing collection. Then we had to do the same again to get down from this ledge to the next bit then we walked along to what was to be the last part of the ridge – the very, very long drop which would take us down to the wee bealach that we abseiled down to from the opposite side the last time we did the ridge.
This drop was much bigger than we had anticipated and after great deliberation on whether the ropes would be long enough to get us down and how long would it take us to get four of us down safely in stages we decided that we would climb down off the ridge down a very steep grass and heather strewn slope, skirt round the side of the ridge up onto the saddle and then down into Glen Sannox and home – via the pub of course! The descent down the grassy slope was exhausting! Thank goodness there was plenty of heather to grab on to! The backside of my trousers by this time were wet, muddy and full of heather and I felt as if I my pants had disappeared somewhere in my nether region! This was probably due to me still having my harness on! At last we reached the path leading up to the saddle where we stopped for a wee breather and toilet stop – not easy being the only women with 3 men who take great delight in winding you up by saying they are going to take photos of you when you go to pee! I really missed you Kathryn!
At last we reached the saddle and began a very steep scramble down into Glen Sannox.
Mark and I were doing a pretty good pace and we were nearly at the road having a good discussion about what we were going to drink in the pub when my mobile rang – it was an SOS from Irene and Jacqui who needed picked up in Glen Rosa – after a few swear words from Mark we decided that we would forgo the pub and head to the cottage instead to get Irene’s car to rescue the damsels in distress – as after all they would have done the same for us!
So what can I say about the A’Chir Ridge – it is amazing, exhilarating and very very scary! It has everything from scrambles to climbs, abseils to spectacular narrow ridge walking! We certainly could not have attempted it without Peter and Malcolm’s expertise with ropes and abseiling equipment and it was certainly one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had on the hill. Thank you so much Peter and Malcolm for making it happen!
Photos: Mark Kinnon
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