The route has some simply excellent, airy scrambling, and I am sure had we been able to see, it would have been spectacular! We found our way easily enough onto the ridge of the sensually named 'Coich na h-Oighe', despite many of the guidebooks and trip reports suggesting it was tricky, but I doubt you ever go the same way twice. In the dry it would be a joy. The wet added a certain frisson to say the least.
The summit ridge has all sorts of variations, and it's just a case of picking the best route depending on the conditions and how brave you feel. Before long we were at the summit of North Goatfell, and starting the dodgy down-scramble. It is never really more than a very steep path, but strewn with loose rock and the weird ball-bearing like granite granules that abound on Arran, it commands care.
Then after hitting the low point at the famous Saddle, it's back up very steeply indeed to Cir Mhor. Caroline had (as ever) been concerned about her fitness, but on this relentless climb she kept a steady and more than respectable pace, and despite the murk, we made the summit in good time. Zero views maybe, but atmosphere aplenty. After a sharp break, it was find the path down to the bealach and on to the corbett of Caisteal Abhail.
Here it really started to feel serious; the wind was up, it was throwing it down, we could see nothing and it was very confusing. Despite having my GPS, I still felt I needed my trusty old compass, and using the two, we only made one short false attempt at a descent before getting back on track. Then we decided on a quick re-read of both Dan Bailey's route descriptions and Walkhighlands. Dan's mentioned scary 'grade 2/3 pinnacles', which in the cold, wet, wind, and against the clock for the ferry would be a real challenge. I was convinced that in my memory, my Andrew Webster scrambling book mentioned bypass paths, so after briefly considering an easier, more circuitous route off, we girded our loins and just went for it. Yes, there were moments, but it was actually fine until the loose, steep and committing down scramble at Ceum na Caillich, the famous Witch's Step. This had one very hard and unnerving move at the bottom. Once that was done, (very carefully!), and the bypass to the Step was found, it was plain sailing, albeit wet and windy. There was no way we were attempting the climb in these conditions, rope or not.
It was nice to get below the cloud and actually the cloud lifted briefly as we descended towards Cnochan Donna, Glen Sannox, and to some dry clothes.
8.5hrs was a very good time indeed in the conditions, and testament to some very efficient moving and fitness, so well done Caroline.
Arran is unique.
There isn't anywhere else that I can think of with this weird granular granite, and despite the erosion that can arise due to the sandy soil, the paths are good. They have been worked on by SNH to good effect, so well done to them too. It is always challenging though. As for the scrambling, the views (when you get them) and the feeling of satisfaction when the big routes are 'in the bag'....well, you need to go and give it a go.