Wednesday, 23 November 2016

ARRAN: Primary Features, as Seen From Mainland

Stunning day today for some Arran viewing (22nd November 2016)

We all know the view.

Arran's main hills from the Ardrossan - Seamill front.

But lets fill in the gaps, and add a few extras.

Photos taken today from the car park just after the Rowantree.  Full camera rig, tripod etc.

A number of the photos are at 20x zoom; hence the detail.   

I'll add the main features, then photos will be added taking a closer look at each area.

The above image, with primary features named:

If you're a local, you'll likely use local terms for certain features:

The Devil's Punchbowl (Coire na Ciche)
The Oink (Cioch na h-Oighe)
The Castles (Caisteal Abhail)
The Witch's Step (Ceum na Caillich)

A select few also call Beinn Nuis Khufu's Pyramid.  

You'll rarely hear it these days.

And you need to be qualified to say it.  

If you even mutter the term quietly under your breath, you'll wake Arran winter climbers from their cave-dwelling permanent hibernation.  When they ask how many Alpine north faces you've ascended and enquire if the Hornli is still full of cowardly Frenchmen, you'll be chased with an adze if you reply "none" or "I don't know". 

For safety from crabbit climbers, call the hill Beinn Nuis.

Or, if you're bold enough to wing it, tell them you danced your way across the Liskamm whilst laughing at the Grenz.  They'll smile and you'll have a friend for life.  

...Who'll drag you up & over steep scary stuff.  Can't lose face now.


Beinn Nuis Area

Looking at each section in more detail (again, 'clean' image followed by image with text):

If you're a winter climber, Beinn Nuis is famous.  

Big on the tick list is the Nuis Chimney - probably the most famous winter climb on Arran.  

Winter climbing on Arran is a fickle affair, as conditions are very unpredictable.  

The Nuis's Tooth is a very distinct feature on Beinn Nuis.  It was actually a friend who achieved the first ascent.  I was free the day before the planned ascent, so headed over to the base of the cliff with a camera to capture a bunch of photos and give a condition report (snow isn't just 'snow'; very specific conditions are required for successful winter climbing).  

Maol Donn: the hill itself isn't very distinct - but if you're on the bus to Sannox, you'll certainly notice the crag.  It makes for a good short rock climb.  


Goatfell Area

Goatfell's South Ridge should be avoided, if inexperienced.  There are a few crags on it that could pose problems for some (the crags themselves are graded rock climbs).

Probably the most distinct feature from the mainland is the Corrie Burn - especially after heavy rainfall, when the white line of the waterfall is clearly visible.

The Stacach Ridge isn't as bad as it may first appear.  That is, if you have hill experience.  If you don't have the correct equipment, avoid it in snow, and opt for the bypass path (more at he end of the article on Arran in winter).

Almost never ascended is Am Binnein.  Unfortunate, as it has a great ridge.  Views from it are also spectacular.

I have a great route that ascends Am Binnein; if the snow holds through the weekend, I'll head over and film it.  Truly brilliant run: especially in snow.

PS if anyone has ascended Am Binnein, by all means do let me know.  I imagine only true Arran aficionados have ascended the ridge.

Mullach Buidhe is the name either given to the ridge, or to the highest point.  Most use it to refer to the highest point.

PS if you're a boulderer.....  Coire nan Larach (i.e. centre corrie of Arran's Three Great Corries) is a bouldering paradise....


Glen Sannox Area

This is the more serious side of Arran.  

In winter, the Cioch is a climb.  Avoid it if you aren't a winter climber.

If you aren't an experienced mountaineer, consider avoiding everything but the Goatfell tourist path when Arran is in winter conditions.  

Ceum na Caillich is also technically tricky in snow.  The difficulty is the descent (if coming from Suidhe Fhearghas) into the gap.  Tackling it direct is committing to a rock climb.  

If you're not a climber, you'll probably stumble and die.

Which would mean I would have one less blog reader.  

Don't be selfish now.

The Bastion is a famous rock-climbing cliff.  And not necessarily for good reasons.  

The ledges are infamous.  They crumble as you ascend them.  Some say the most dangerous part of climbing The Bastion is reaching it.  

Ascending the ledges is equivalent of ascending a near-vertical bowl of cereal.  With bits of heather added to the mix.

There's a memorial plaque on one of the ledges, marking the spot where a climber fell & died.  

Don't go here if you're not a climber. 

And even then: proceed with extreme caution. 


The Bastion is, however, home to some full-on nutcase hardcore climbs; the allure of potential termination is too strong for some.  

For full appreciation of how steep the cliff is, click Here and Here.

Not quite what you'd likely expect from Arran if you've only ever ascended the Goatfell tourist path...!

The Cioch Pinnacles are well documented in the Cioch-Nuis Sky Run video.

If you're a runner, the pinnacles will likely be terrifying enough, let alone a monstrous cliff face!


Far North

The jutting headland to the N is known as the Cock of Arran.  

This is actually a misnomer, as 'Cock of Arran' refers to a specific point on the headland; however, most simply refer to the entire area as the Cock of Arran.  

I've left out many points of interest, and have only mentioned the two main points of the Cock.  

Pro Tip: Fionn Bhealach is the exact height of The Saddle (444m).  If you're planning a crossing of the Saddle but have concerns RE potential snow conditions, have a look to Fionn Bhealach.

Of course, if you live further N you'll clearly see all the way up Glen Sannox; but assuming you're travelling to the ferry from the train etc, you can use Fionn Bhealach as a good guide.

If there's snow on it (even a dusting), The Saddle will be plastered.


Arran in Winter

During summer, the Arran hills are great.  They are like a granite Skye, but with paths.  

Exposure can be considerable in certain spots, but there's never any real danger.  

However, under winter conditions the paths are frequently obliterated by snow, and the hills are returned to their natural state.  

The ridges are often very steep in winter.  

Mountaineering experience should be considered essential for winter travel over Arran's hills.

You'll be fine for an ascent of Goatfell via the tourist path, and for the round of Beinn Nuis.  The Western Hills also provide a good, safe winter round.  

But everything else could pose problems:

The ascent of Cioch na h-Oighe should be completely avoided, and also consider avoiding Ceum na Caillich, the descent from N. Goatfell - The Saddle, and the Stacach Ridge.  

If you have good mountaineering experience (mountaineering experience - not just hillwalking experience), you should be OK.

To the outsider, climbing often looks very dangerous - but it's actually one of the safest of our mountain games.  Consider the equipment climbers carry to safeguard themselves.  Climbers know they'll be in extreme situations, therefore they plan accordingly.  

Most hill accidents in the UK are to hillwalkers - not climbers.    

But there's no denying it: mountain running in winter is high-risk.

Mountain running over ridges (i.e. Arran) in winter is seriously risky.  

Have fun, but be careful
All best

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