I have also always wanted to do the 'rounds' of the two main glens, Rosa and Sannox, and so when a relatively dry forecast was given, I made plans.
Obviously the first challenge when going to the isles is the ferry, but a 7am sailing from Ardrossan seemed to fit the bill. But there was no space for my van, or my car, or even a scooter! The idea of wrestling a bike on board, when Calmac say 'they will endeavour to fit them on, but no guarantees' meant I resigned myself to being a foot passenger. I could see there was a bus for Day 2 when I planned on Sannox, so all looked good. Now for accommodation. The bunkhouse is handy, but too dear in my opinion for what facilities it has, and the camping up Glen Rosa is no better than wild camping, and too far from the pub. I resolved to treat myself to as cheap a hotel as practicable, and found one en route to the hills, handy for dropping off my bag. It was a typically quirky, run-down but friendly island place, on which a whole blog could be written in itself, but it did serve excellent haggis, neeps and tatties, so all was forgiven...even the 9am breakfast time. 9am! In an outdoorsy environment!
So with the spring in my step that comes with a spontaneous arrangement and a good forecast, I set off up Glen Rosa. I hate walking on tarmac, so was relieved to get off the road from Brodick and onto the hill properly, passing the Glen Rosa 'campsite' en route, (it has to be seen to be believed!). It was cold, breezy and cloudy, but it promised to clear up early, and I believed them, fool that I am.
I took the wee path that cuts the corner at the Garbh Allt, and that was an error. Firstly it was overgrown and felt 'ticky', and true to form I had to brush a couple of monsters off me as I walked. Then I got to a gate with a sign that said the gorge had become dangerous, and to cross at the weir, not marked on my map. The path had obviously fallen into disuse, but I resolved to press on, and eventually came to the weir, indeed dilapidated too, with treacherous greasy rock to cross. Not nice, and I was glad it wasn't in spate - NB. Cross lower down at the bridge where the Garbh Allt meets the Rosa Water!
After that it was a brief section of well-made path before it petered off into a boggy trace as it made its way towards Coire na Cuiseig and onward towards Beinn Nuis. I paused for a snack, but the wind was cold and the clouds had yet to lift, so I was pretty miffed as I finally made the summit with poor views. As I descended though, things did start to clear, finally giving me a much better afternoon, albeit gusty and cold. Beinn Tarsuinn came next, the first Corbett, and then my first real taste of the slabby granite nature of Arran's higher hills. The path split many times, and the descent wasn't at all easy, involving a good few back-tracks and reassessments. All the time I could see the famous but challenging A'Chir ridge, but knew that was out of bounds for today, solo as I was, and with the nasty cross-wind. I could also make out the by-pass path, welcome as it was, out of the wind and in the sun, despite the height loss.
The spectacular summit of Cir Mhor was next, with simply wonderful dramatic views of the rest of the island's rocky offering all around. If it hadn't have been so cold, I would have stayed a while. I was getting a little tired by now, and I knew the descent to the Saddle was steep, so I carefully made my way down the worn path East. But it was tricky. I negotiated a steep face-in down-climb, then a loose hold-less gully. 'My, I don't like this, and I am certain my clients won't' I thought. One more hard down-climb, and I was stuck. Surely I don't need a rope?! I could see folks below, and the easy ground probably only 20m, but it was impossible. This can't be the way. After a bit more casting about to try and force the route, I realised it just wasn't justifiable solo, and with a little difficulty I climbed back up, angry and feeling foolish. The well-worn path was no doubt as a result of folks doing just as I had, and the easier, more circuitous way went off to the South for a while, before contouring back East. Back on route.
I had read about a dangerous and loose scree gully on the ascent back up from the Saddle to North Goatfell, and it was indeed unpleasant, but thankfully after some great pathwork by the NTS, not quite as bad as it could have been. Again, there were a number of dillyings and dallyings as the route wasn't obvious, but that's par for the course on such terrain, and I got to the top without too much time wasted. There the wind hit me again, and despite the late afternoon sunshine, it was raw. The views back over Glen Sannox were excellent, and the rocky towers between here and Goatfell proper begged to be scrambled. I did the first one, but in the wind, elected on the path for the rest of it - Next time.
Goatfell was deserted, it being gone 4pm by now, but I passed a few parties of occasional walkers on the descent, hobbling and dawdling with various sore knees and feet. I was footsore too, but able to plod on through years of self-abuse ;)
I could see Brodick and the incoming 5pm ferry, and knew I would need to rush on tomorrow's route. Being able to see it all made it seem all the further, but it bloody well was - As I said, I hate road walks, and the last few of my 27k were on tarmac, and my feet were singing. The route took 10 hours, and although I had not hung around much, the extra traipse from Brodick and back told on me. I grabbed a pint at the Wineport (to fortify myself you'll understand ;), and was back in the hotel and showered by 7pm.
So, having showered, eaten and packed for tomorrow, let's read the route description in detail.....what? 9-12 hours? Another 1700m of ascent?. OK, a toughie. What about the bus and ferry times? That's easy, not possible. Forecast? A nice day, eventually, but cold and windy after a wet start. Y'know, some days aren't meant to happen.
As Arnie said, 'I'll be back'.