Wild camping on the Isle of Arran

Posted by Sam Harrison on April 23, 2014 at 20:52.

 Mountaineering and climbing

a'chir arran climbing ferry glen rosa granite lochranza multipitch wild camping

I first went to the Isle of Arran almost three years ago with the Hiking Club. We were only there for the weekend and due to a very rainy Sunday, we only managed a walk on the Saturday (around the Glen Rosa Horseshoe). I've been wanting to return ever since, and with the University being closed over Easter and a few cheap train fairs to Ardrossan still available, last week was the perfect opportunity.

We caught the 0654 train from Lancaster and after a two-hour wait at the harbour in Ardrossan, we arrived at Brodick on Arran mid-afternoon. We had previously decided that it wasn't worth the £4pppn for the campsite in Glen Rosa - it doesn't have showers or hot water - and so instead we carried on past the cart track into Glen Rosa to find a suitable wild camping spot for the week. Concious of not wanting to be too close to the campsite, we ended up lugging our gear a few kilometres into the glen, whereupon we realised it was futile to trying to pitch completely out of view from the track and so settled for being far enough away from it to not be too much of an eyesore; something which is difficult to do in a bright red tent! After pitching the tent, we walked back to Brodick to pick up supplies for the week from the Co-op; we hadn't wanted to drag that up the glen at the same time as the rest of the gear. Thank goodness it was sunny, all of that would have been misery in the rain. We needn't have worried about being discrete; a familly with a couple of turned up later and pitched right next to the track!

The view of the Glen Rosa mountains from the ferry.

Looking up Glen Rosa from our camping spot.

Tuesday was forecast to bring the best of the weather and that meant it was time to drag our climbing gear further up the glen. Wanting to get a climb and the A'Chir ridge done whilst the weather was good meant that Boundary Ridge (Diff*) onto the ridge was the most logical option for a mountaineering day out.

Heading up Glen Rosa to the Coire Daingean was our climb started.

Tuesday: Boundary Ridge

‚ÄčA broken rock and heather slope to the base of the route ensured we were already worn out before we began. After a bite to eat I set off on the first pitch, immediatedly comitting myself to a move I didn't really want to make. Number 4 cam provided security as I inelegantly hauled myself over the step, hoping I wasn't going to make such a meal of the rest of the climb; I'm sure there must've been an easier way. A dodgy off-balancing grassy ledge led up to a large block for a belay, with me hoping things improve on the next pitch.

They did, fortunately, though perhaps moreso for me as I watched in amusement as Lorna tried to squeeze through a large man-eating crack that lead the way. After ditching the rucksack and still finding it impossible, a delicate traverse over the crack from the right onto slabs on its left was found, which led to ample belay opportunities.
At the top of pitch 1, with the aforementioned crack in the background.

I'm not sure if I did the "proper" pitch three or not, but I somehow found myself at what appeared to be the correct belay ledge overlooking Boundary Gully to the left, after a series of rocky steps and grassy ledges, none too difficult. The route then steepened and Lorna lead a tricky pitch up steep slabs and cracks to another ledge overlooking the gully.
At the start of pitch 4, with steep slabs to the right leading the way.

Great views of Beinn Chliabhain accompanied us all the way up the climb.

Pitch five (supposedly the final pitch) was devious in nature, but probably the finest pitch on the route due to this. Firstly, a rightwards horizontal traverse lead on narrow and exposed ledges past a small pool of water, from which the route departed upwards, climbing a featureless slab to a large grassy ledge. I got to the featureless slab, spotted the complete lack of protection to be placed, and reversed my route back to the previous belay so I could change from my boots into rock shoes; if I was going to be doing some unintentional soloing then I was going to give myself the best chance possible! I managed to find one cam placement at foot height before starting on the slab, so at least if I fell I'd only fall the 2m to the ledge with the pool of water and not topple completely off the rock face.

Fortunately the slab wasn't as hard as it looked and after a couple of tentative moves excellent handholds were reached to haul myself up on. Due to the cam placement the rope drag was getting a bit too much and I decided to take a belay at the top of the grassy ledge. The route description at this point said to "climb the Y-shaped crack" and I found myself starring at a Y-shaped crack that looked more like VS than Diff, wondering how on earth we were going to get up it. Fortunately Lorna had the nouse to explore the area properly and found another much more friendly looking Y-shaped crack, which - being the one with the climbing shoes on - I lead to the top of the climb to a picture-perfect belay spot overlooking Goatfell and Beinn a' Chliabhain.
Last few moves of the final pitch.

The climb - moreover the route finding on the climb - had been time consuming and it was fast approaching 6pm by the time we'd sorted gear out on the top. We decided it was probably sensible to leave the A'Chir ridge until another time and instead walked back to our tent of Beinn a' Chliabhain.

The start of the A'Chir ridge. The climb we did is the steep ridge line in the foreground.

Wednesday: Glen Rosa to Lochranza via Caisteal Abhail

The weather wasn't looking as good for Wednesday, with high winds and rain forecast for later in the day. We realised just how strong those winds were on the ascent to Coire Buidhe and over the col towards Caisteal Abhail. By the summit of Caisteal Abhail we were being blown all over the place and we decided to ditch the original plan of traversing Cir Mhor on the return to Glen Rosa, and instead walk out to Lochranza via Gleann Easan Biorach, a plan that I was particularly keen on as it gave an opportunity to walk somewhere other than around Glen Rosa.

Sheltering from the wind on the summit of Caisteal Abhail.

The descent was long and the path down Gleann Easan Biorach not very good, but there were good views out to sea all the while. After checking out the castle in Lochranza we attempted to hitch a lift back to Brodick (it was two hours until the next bus). We weren't very successful and so after a while we gave up and retreated to the Arran Distillery café to wait for the bus.

The castle in Lochranza.

Thursday: Touring Arran by bus

The weather had decided to deteriorate even further and after an evening of our tent being battered by the wind and rain (we were glad to have the Hilleberg!) we thought a touristy day touring the island by bus was in order. On the journey we alighted in Mackrie and walked along the coast to Blackwaterfoot, which was only marred by getting off the bus 3km too early (my fault!).

Great views down the west coast of Arran.

It was an early start the next morning to pack the tent away and squeeze all our belongings in to our rucksacks, and although we were welcome of the sunny weather that greeted us when we got up, it was frustrating that the two best days had been when we were travelling! Hoards of tourists (mainly golfers) flooded off the ferry when it arrived in Brodick, and we were glad that we were travelling the other way. I was rather envious of all the cyclists kitted out with all their touring gear, and so I feel a cycle touring trip of the island coming up in the next few years.

Packing up on Friday morning; great weather!

Our ferry coming into harbour.
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