|The journey begins!|
Day 1: http://my.viewranger.com/route/details/NjIxNzk=
I set out from Catacol later than planned but buzzing. The pack felt heavyish but ok and the slopes of Cnoc Leacainn Duibhe were steep but gave way before me. It wasn't long before I was triumphantly leaning my pack against pillar no 1 and updating Twitter. Soon I was striding purposefully through Lochranza and waving cheerily at everyone I passed. Bring on the challenge!
Things got tougher above Laggan. It was windy on the ridge- really windy. Near the Laggan trig I
|No 1: Cnoc Leacainn Duibhe|
Who does a trig point challenge without a map? Come to think of it, who does one without a spare?
I headed onward, grateful to Viewranger mapping on my phone (musing that I might be about to become a statistic- a foolish hillwalker caught navigating with just their smartphone). I was totally phased by this, and spent ages searching the cliff edge at Crogan for the North and South blocks- forgetting that they were listed as destroyed. Giving up eventually, the North Sannox Pillar came in to view and I headed down in to the woods past another destroyed trig- the Middle Transit. I sent a text to Wally, feeling deflated by my lost map and failure to find the Crogan blocks.
|North Sannox... still smiling.|
Maol Donn was a bit of a slog across the bog- at the time I thought it was hard fought and won, but with hindsight I had it easy. I made good progress up Goatfell, but the weather deteriorated with altitude, and I began to realise that getting off and finding a safe campsite would be difficult. In planning, I'd known this would be the main hazard of the expedition, and I'd assumed that at the time I'd make a sound judgement based on the conditions (mine and the weather) about my onward journey. Instead I ignored the signs and pushed on regardless.
It's an endurance test right? So I will endure.
This isn't right... Not right at all.
Suddenly I realised how close I was to actually becoming a statistic. A messy one that my own MRT would have to deal with.
Not good. Sorry everyone.
I climbed back up to the ridge, where the wind was too strong to stand, and crawled on all fours until I found a better looking gully that turned out to be the right one.
I avoided North Goatfell to stay out of the wind, and cut back underneath and then up again to the
|One word: grim!|
The Saddle didn't arrive soon enough. I'd always planned to camp here, but had considered whether it would be more sensible to continue in to Glen Rosa to find shelter. However, when I arrived, compared to the ridge, it seemed pretty calm, and I was exhausted so I pitched my tent and got dinner on.
Day 2: http://my.viewranger.com/route/details/NjIxODA=
Through the night, every half hour or so, a big gust of wind would rattle the tent and wake me up. After a while I tuned in to the telltale sounds of it roaring up Glen Rosa to meet me, and I'd be awake before it hit. My scrappy sleep continued until shortly before 5am, when all hell broke loose. Me and all my gear were soaked through and with my back hunched against the wall of the tent, I contemplated my options. I only had one.
Not long after I was high on Cir Mhor recovering in the shelter of steep craggy slopes and counting my blessings. The early start had given me extra time for what was to be a long day. Lack of sleep? Piffle. Endure.
|Abhail- A wee bolt for a big lovely mountain.|
Below, a new day was emerging from the wet one that had gone before. The clouds rolled back to reveal a clean and golden world of Molinia white grass and blue lochains. I stumbled headlong through the tussocks in to Glen Iorsa. After wading the river, I spread my dripping gear out on a gravel bank and let the sun do it's work.
|The clouds roll back.|
Day 3 http://my.viewranger.com/route/details/NjIxODE=
I allowed myself a little lie in but was still moving by 7.30 am. The sun was shining on the dark slopes of Ard Bheinn and I was keen to get going. An old trackway leads to the edge of the forest in Glen Craigag. It wasn't far from here to the
|Working up a sweat on Ard Bheinn|
At the road I met my mum, who walked and talked with me a while. Eventually she left my side and I joined the Kings Cave path that took me close to Tor Righ Mor. It was weird seeing holiday makers, who looked and smelled clean and happy.
I realised as I continued to the coast that I had a problem. Water. Or lack of it. The burns on the Tor were dry, and here at the coast the streams were dank and full of farmy stuff. In Blackwaterfoot I was forced to stop to buy 1.5 litres bottled water. I hoped I'd find some more later. I took the opportunity to buy an ice cream too. Cheating? Possibly.
|Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!|
I attempted to walk the coastal path, but it was stony, boggy and peppered with scary looking cows. I was beaten- the tarmac above called me. I apologised to my feet and hit the road after 1 km. From here I pounded tarmac at a solid 4km an hour. A proper pace at last. My feet got hot, and my head was sore. I ran out of water, but after a few kms was able to fill up again at Kilmory Village Hall. Evening drew in and it began to rain. I'd planned to camp at my final trig for the day- on Kilbride Hill, but
Wally was way back on the road- surprised by my progress, he was still searching for me in the van near Kilmory. He eventually caught up with me close to the Eas Mor track up to Garbad. We pitched my tent in the rain and darkness on a pocket sized patch of grass by the track and I stole a hot drink in the van.
Day 4: http://my.viewranger.com/route/details/NjIxNzg=
My feet were blistered, but I'd convinced myself I only had 20km to go (wrong!), so I was optimistic when I set off for the Garbad trig. Armed with essential info about the maze of forest and firebreaks I was entering (thank you Wally for seeking out my route), I found it lurking in a
From Glenashdale I was on turf I knew for a while, and thought that I'd have no problems pushing on up to Tighvein, the highest point on Arran's South End. Wrong again! It's different with tired legs, blisters and a heavy pack. At less than 2kmph the going was tedious beyond measure. Heathery banks, dense willow thickets and reedy riverbeds barred my way. I received a couple of impatient texts from my mum- who was waiting for me much further down the road. Morale dipped. I howled
|Tighvein. The middle of nowhere.|
Looking at the map- I could see that the 2km over the moor to Tighvein was nothing compared to the 6km to the Sheeans. I prepared myself, ate as much as I could and plugged the ipod in. I set my face against the rain showers that were rolling by and tried not to think about the end. I tried not to think about anything except one foot in front of the other.
This is what I do. Walk.
I must have picked up the pace because I arrived at the Sheeans an hour earlier than I'd expected. Food is wonderful and so is music. I'd only been there once before- nearly ten years ago- and then a path had existed that cut down to the forest road above Cnoc na Dail. I could see from the summit that much had changed since then- with felling, wind blow and new trees all over the place. Damn.
|Not my happy face.|
I recalled reading somewhere about how to escape quicksand. Like steering in to a skid- you break the suction by pushing against it's force. I kicked, I squelched, and I rolled free, with both my boots still attached to my feet.
Cowering in the forest. I texted Wally my grid reference so he would know where to look for me if I never made it out. I really had hit a low! I considered my options once more and again I only had one. I crawled back in the direction I had come to reach the first ride where my way had been blocked by timber and fresh spiky young sitka spruce. Pushing my way through it was the only way. It wasn't long before my knuckles were bleeding, but I made progress. I saw light to the right, and a glint of something man made. More scrabbling through trees, and I broke out on to a quad track that led me straight to the forest road. One more to go- It's in the bag!
Crossing tarmac for the second time that day, I was suddenly surrounded by loved ones. Wally, my mum and her husband Alan plus happy waggy dogs were walking beside me. I ought to feel happy but all I feel is sore.
|Finally there- with Wally and Mum (Sue Weaver).|