Mr Cake

12:10

Chir Mhor

Under an assumed name I battled my way along the snow covered ridge to the summit of Ben Lomond. The sleet and wind in my face combined to have the effect of someone machine-gunning me with frozen peas. At the summit a marshal, dressed like an arctic explorer, proffered some Jelly Babies and took down my race number. A loop round the cairn and then, with the wind now at my back, I carefully descended the rocky ridge before going for it on the stony path.

The Ben Lomond hill race was an exciting experience, and one that I would have missed if it wasn't for a chance meeting with John from the running club (CAAC) last week at Moy. He couldn't make the race, although he had entered, so I took his place and his name and ran as John O'Hara. John had also organised a lift with his friend Tommy, which I was also able to transfer my way. Tommy, his brother-in-law Malcolm and Martin Hulme all passed me on the way up but I was satisfied to overtake Malcolm at least on the descent. Martin was the 3rd SV. At the fast end, there was some intrigue because an American trail runner had entered and no one knew what he could do. He set off at the start at a crazy fast pace. He has a great all-American name too: Judson Cake. In the end Brian Marshal, from HELP, caught up and overtook, but the contender hung on for a dead-heat mudslide finish. All made for an entertaining organiser's report.

I was happy to get through the race with no pain from shin splints. Nevertheless, after the race, in sunshine (!), I joined a few other nutters cooling their legs off in the loch and then got a bowl of soup in the hotel. Martin mentioned that he was heading to Arran with Ptarmigan Mountaineering Club, and that there was still space on the bus. The club is based around a bus trip to the hills on the first Sunday of each month. Unless you have an irrational fear of coaches (bustophobia?!) its a great idea, and I'd been meaning to come along since Martin told me about it months ago. The three most pertinent advantages as I see them are these.
1) A-to-B walks are possible by picking up the bus at different points. So you are not limited to circular walks to get back to the car.
2) You can read a book, or sleep on the journey.
3) After the walk you can have a beer.

The forecast was for a bright sunny day, so when the ferry arrived it was, of course, raining. Nevertheless, we caught a bus to Sannox and headed of up the glen. We cut up right onto the steep heathery end of Suidhe Fhearghas, tough work. Fortunately, fuelled the cup of tea and bacon sarnie on the ferry, we made short work of the climb. Just in time for another rain shower as we waited for the rest of our party to catch up. The view of the peaks and ridges opened up with Goatfell towering over the rest but outclassed by the shapely Chir Mhor. Along the ridge on the way to Caisteal Abhail there were several granite boulder pinnacles. One of these is followed by a sharply cut bealach called Ceum na Caillich or The Witches Step. Peering over the edge at a precipitous drop, we scrambled down a less ardous alternative.

Martin climbing on a boulder at the Witches Step

With views over the Firth of Clyde, Islay, Jura, Kintyre and Bute surrounding us, not to mention down Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa, we took stock at the summit of Caisteal Abhail. With time (and ferries) waiting for no man, we needed to make a decision whether to attempt the A-chir ridge or drop down to Glen Rosa. Whichever, first we had to go up the absurdly pointy Chir Mhor, Martin called it "the Matterhorn of Arran". We met a photographer catching, no doubt, beautiful shots of peaks hidden behind wispy clouds. Pity he was stood on the best one.

At the turn off for the Glen Rosa path we shunned the easy way and headed off to have a look at the ridge. Initially the scrambling was fairly straight-forward, but it became a little slippery and exposed as we approached the bad step. This, a rock climb, was dripping wet and we skirted around it. Following Beinn a Chliabhan, we dropped, as Dave put it, "at warp factor 10" to the bridge over Glen Rosa Water. Here we met up with a group of Spanish people in the club y he tratado de practicar mi español con ellos. Back in Brodick we had time before the ferry for a swift Arran Sunrise in the pub.
Dave demonstrates the graceful bumslide

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