I awoke to the sound of my very mellow alarm clock at 3am on Sunday morning. I pretty much had zero sleep after my partner Mark had a life boat callout just before midnight and there may of been a chance that me and Caileag might have been needed with the MRT in the search for a missing person. Thankfully all ended well with the person being located safe so no callout for us!
It was a dry but claggy start as me, Lucy and wee Caileag set off from Pirnmill post office and headed up the woods, hand-railing the Allt Gobhlach burn. Mark, after zero hours sleep and being out for a few hours in the lifeboat, kindly ran us through to save going back for a car late in the evening – He’s a keeper!
Caileag was completely oblivious as to what her day entailed with two crazy woman so she was her usual mad energetic Collie self all the way up the Pirnmill ridge!
It seemed like no time at all that we had completed all three summits of the Western ridge and were re-tracing our foot steps in the Clagg to find our descent Bealach down into the wilds of Loch Tanna.
Lucy made me giggle on the ridge, as although we were doing this huge, epic hill day, her bird spotting/wildlife skills and knowledge, never seem to switch off and i learnt all about the Golden Plover who seemed to be following us and giving us a display of vocal skills from every nook and cranny.
The descent from the Bealach was a very steep and stoney negotiation so care was needed. It dawned on us that this ground was really different terrain compared to our typical Arran landscape and interesting that we have so much variation all on one small island.
As we cleared the bouldery ground and lost some height from the ridge, the clouds started to crack open to reveal some beautiful blue skies projecting a golden glow over Loch Tanna, lighting it up like a mirror.
Our next objective of the day was one that i think both me and Lucy had been trying not to think too much about. A great long slog was ahead of us up from Loch Tanna on pathless terrain, skirting around mini Beinn Tarsuinn and heading below the east side of Beinn Bhreac until we met the Iorsa burn. It was then a very steep push up the Leac an Tobair onto the connecting S/W ridge of Caisteal Abhail. The good thing was that we both knew if we put our heads down and battered on, when we reached Caisteal Abhail, that would be the Western hills complete and we could high five and focus on our next mission – The Northern Hills!! Hats off to the folk at SiS who created their caffeine gels – Lucy brought a few to share and they definitely gave us a boost and some extra mental focus for the steep slopes of the Leac an Tobair!
One very interesting discovery was when we found a small slither of Aluminium plane wreckage on the East side of Gleann Diomhan sticking up out the ground. We weren’t aware of any crashes on this part of the island but thanks to Lucy’s detective work it belongs to a Vought Chesapeake Mk.1 AL941 of N.22 Squadron, Royal Navy, that crashed on the 22nd July 1943 after taking off from the then Naval Air Station at Machrihanish. It sadly struck the hillside in poor visibility, killing both the pilot and Observer. A great site for finding information on any crash sites discovered is here – Peak District Air Accident Research ( Cheers Lucy!)
We were relieved to reach the ridge leading up towards Caisteal Abhail and made good progress to the first summit on the Northern hills! Spirits were high and Caileag was feeding off our mood, also excited to be scrambling up the summit Torr of Caisteal abhail. The views were intermittent but the sun was getting higher in the sky and the heat was burning massive chunks out the clagg.
After descending down off the summit and out the wind, we stopped for a re-fuel and giggled with joy looking back to the distant ridge of the Western hills and the great mass of open hillside we had just tackled. We had agreed that even if we didn’t feel hungry we had to force feed every hour and drink fluids as a crash from lack of food is never great when you need to keep going over such a long day!
Our next mission was Cir Mhor, a fascinating mountain with great complex gullies to its North Side and amazing granite shelfs to it’s South( Great climbers territory – Not that I’m much of a climber!) The view fro