‘Jeez Christ. Crease Bunningtone hud a leeter beg then this wen he deed the ole mun of hoy’; so said the animated Scots taxi driver as he tried to lift the rucksack from the boot of his car.
Mountaineering: Multi pitch routes; Long day’s adventures. Scottish mountaineering: long walk-ins. We’d put an adventure together – South Ridge Direct (VS) on Cir Mhor, a perfect pinnacle in the middle of the beautiful Isle of Arran. 1000ft of classic route. Two and a half hour walk in? No problem. We’d wild camp; spend a couple of days there playing on the ancient volcanic rock. A voice in my head said: ‘but you hate camping’. I countered with: ‘it’s only one night’.
We unpacked and packed our rucksacks, casting aside anything superfluous …and unpacked again, but it made not a bit of difference to the weight. I grunted as I attempted to swing the rucksack on my back in one swift move to avoid future back problems. I had a full rack, two ropes and all the other climbing paraphernalia while Chris carried the camping comforts of oversized tent and sleeping bag, over-heavy food and clothing. I was envious of those who could afford rush out and buy the latest teeny tiny lightweight equipment but also in awe of those pioneers who had had no choice but to become beasts of burden.
As we walked up Glen Rosa, our knees creaking and hips bowing, it drizzled, and then it rained. The shifting thick cloud on the summits was a slight distraction from the exquisite pain in my shoulders. As we neared Cir Mhor the amenably level path steepened – and we realised we’d missed a turning. So off we went across bog and heather where there was no sign of a sheltered flat dry camping pitch. My boots had taken in enough water to soak my socks by the time the perfect spot decided to reveal itself: an emerald green croquet pitch behind a Cromlech-type boulder.
The rain relaxed long enough for us to put up the tent and then throw the gear and ourselves inside to wait for the rain to find another place to stay. We accepted the fate of so many Scottish plans- we’d only be climbing for one day and that wouldn’t be until tomorrow.
At 5pm it went quiet and I peered out. The world had completely changed. The sun shone on the jagged summits of Goatfell , Cir Mohr and Bheinn Tarsuinn which surrounded the small speck of our blue tent. Just above us was a folded and creased tower of smooth grey rock- the Rosa Pinnacle – and the ‘s’ and ‘y’ cracks were grinning at us. No route finding problems tomorrow then.
There followed a night of intermittent sleep while we fought with slippery sleeping bags on slippery mats and creeping mountain chill, but kept the faith for the expected forecast. And it came good: under a bright blue sky a multitude of merging alpine -esque ridges filled most of the horizon, while beyond the smoothly curved sides of the Glen, I could make out the white speck of the Androssan ferry on the azure sea.
After breakfast of tea and biscuits we repacked a rucksack for the day’s work, went to the foot of the huge hunk of gritty grey slab and found our way to the first of the VS pitches – the S crack – by which time other climbers had scampered up the Glen and were nibbling at our toes.
‘How do fat people climb?’ I grunted like a Yak up the crack with the bag on my back bulging with wet boots, layers and sustenance for two. We hauled it up the thrutchy and slightly overhanging ‘Y’ crack making the climbing experience so much more enjoyable.
In that manner of multi-pitch routes time shrunk as we set belays, flaked rope, handed over gear and climbed the meandering 14 or so pitches. Towards the top, where the climbing is easier but the exposure more difficult, I had to be reminded by the party behind us that I’d conveniently left the rucksack behind. I retraced my footholds. ‘Wishful thinking’ I muttered. And, as is the manner of mountains, cloud gathered and sunk down to cover the summits and a wind blew in from the artic.
I was glad to see the distinct tip of the summit but was fully aware that the day hadn’t ended yet. After the long descent down to the tent, we had to de-camp and become beasts of burden again. The walk out only took 2 hours but it was gruelling – but all bad things come to an end and by 10pm we were sipping an Arran malt listening to some fine live Blue-Grass music with full bellies … and with very, very tired bodies.