Friday, 14 December 2012

Stob Ban (Mamores) North Ridge and Mullach nan Coirean

Yesterday I grabbed a sneaky day out in the Highlands, hoping to catch the last of the good weather for a while.  As it was, it proved to be a misty day with constant light snow, so I didn't get the promised fine weather, but still managed to have a good day out on Stob ban and Mullach nan Coirean.

 When I parked at  the lower falls carpark in Glen Nevis it was a cold and frosty morning, and the tops were just visible in the pre dawn light.  However, as I climbed the steep grassy slopes that lead up to Stob Ban's North ridge, clouds were already gathering over the summits. Before long it began to snow.

 The north ridge proper looming in to view. 

 My last view of Mullach nan Coirean. 

 The North Ridge of Stob Ban. The snow was good and firm on the ridge, and the difficulties over very quickly.  There was just a short bit of scrambling and before long I was cresting the ridge and heading for the summit.  

 Much more challenging was the poor visibility that descended once on the ridge. The top of Stob Ban...
Looks very much like the top of Mullach nan Coirean to the west.... Mostly the ridge is a fun switchback, but there are one or two broad sections that need to be navigated on a bearing, and keeping an eye on which non -descript top you are on is essential for finding the right way off again.... A fine ridge leads north from the top of Mullach nan Coirean, and towards a path by the deer fence that leads in to the forestry above the road in Glen Nevis. A great route, I'll be back for some views next time.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


Like the rest of Scotland it has been incredibly cold on Arran over the last few days, but unlike the mainland, the snow cover did not survive the weekend's thaw quite so well.  Wally and I headed in to Coire na Caillich today to see what was left.  There is one recorded route in the coire, the stunning line of White Magic (iv) that follows a shallow groove and chimney to the highpoint of the witches step on the East side.  This was almost dry and not going to go today, but we managed to tinker about on some grade 1 ground, with mostly continuous neve from bottom to top.  In fact, we followed a really nice line to the top of the Witches Step, decended to the coire again, and then followed another line, up to the top of the Castles.  Good fun.
The turf is bomber, what remains of the snow is good, and ice is starting to form. We saw lots of possible harder new lines that might have gone under fatter ice or with a bit more snow.  Sadly, more thawing is on the way by the end of the week.
See below for photos from today:

. A pre dawn start in Lamlash Bay. 

Heading up to Coire na Caillich, the profile of the "Sleeping Warrior" clearly visible.

Yours truly, in the first gully of the day.

Lovely light and views of Cir Mhor when we gained the ridge. 

Descending from the bealach between Caisteal Abhail (The Castles) and Ceum na Caillich (The witches Step)
Second snowy line of the day, a little to the right of the first.  (See below for topo). 

By the afternoon the sun was starting to soften the snow on the ridge. 

On descent down the north Ridge of the Castles,  a little look back, at where we had been.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Arran Otter Road Casualty Survey

Its a year since I took this photo of an an injured dog otter who had been knocked down on the road near Blackwaterfoot. He was tucked up in a wheelie bin and on his way to Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Trust.   Sadly, he didn't survive, and my heart was broken in to many little pieces. Despite trying to be hard nosed and unsentimental when it comes to wild animals, I'm just not! I wrote about the incident at the time, and it has stayed with me ever since.

There is very little data or information about the state of Arran's otter population. Anecdotal evidence suggests that their numbers have increased in recent years, and this may be reflected in a rise in road casualties.  There certainly isn't anything to suggest from my own observations that Arran's otters are in trouble or that their numbers are being affected by the death toll on the road.  However, there is a welfare concern when animals are being killed on the roads- especially if orphaned cubs are involved, as is sometimes the case.

The subject came up at a talk on otters that I presented to the Arran Natural History Society on Thursday evening. It was agreed by the members that it would be useful to find out if there are any particular accident blackspots for Arran's otters, and I agreed to be a point of contact for gathering the data.  So there it is, a survey of otter road casualties.  You heard it here first.  If you find a dead otter on the road on Arran, please report it to me at  I'm keen to know the precise location- a grid reference if possible.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Winter Wonderland

Arran's snow survived the brief thaw at the start of the week, and more arrived high up.  By Wednesday, it was looking like a true winter paradise and a day of settled weather coaxed Wally, Mike and I in to the hills for one of Arran's classic ridge routes. The high level route from Cioch Na h_Oighe to Goatfell in summer is great fun, with some sections of grade 1+ scrambling, mostly avoidable, but not entirely.  In winter it takes on a new level of challenge, that varies with the conditions.  Yesterday we found many of the harder sections banked out and easy, but some of the steepest scrambling felt more tenuous under a thin layer of sugary snow and rime.We had the mountains to ourselves, breaking trail all the way to the summit of Goatfell.

 The route follows a steep path up the eastern flanks of Cioch na h-Oighe from Glen Sannox, via a series of slabs and corners, nicely icy yesterday... Once established on the ridge, its a good scramble until the ridge broadens in to Mullach Buidhe.

 From Mullach Buidhe itself there were wonderful views of many of Arran's fine ridges, undulating away to the west. 

 Easy walking over the top of Mullach Buidhe. 

 Dramatic views of the small, but perfectly formed, Cir Mhor. 

 Resting briefly before the scrambling begins again on Stacach Ridge, to Goatfell. 

 The blocky tors of Stacach can mostly be avoided with a path to the east in Summer, but in winter this regularly gets banked out with very steep and unstable snow.  At times like these it is better to brave the teeth of Stacach.  Steep in places- needs a head for heights and and some winter climbing skills (this is not a walk).

The reward is the view from Goatfell- with great views of Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail.