Big Stones of Arran

Well that’s two more crags ticked – only two more to go!  And like the big stones of Arran, the next two require a boat trip.  Looking forward to that for sure.

Given the recent weather – certainly here in the East – I was pretty chuffed to get three good days on Arran at the weekend. My injury-induced inactivity of recent months meant I was never going to be pushing the boat out myself, but by hooking up with Messrs Stone and Small I was assured there would be more than a modicum of adventure in store!

Tony following me up the rather moist second pitch of Abraxas E4

Tony and I received a proper education in ‘The Art of Arran Granite’ with an ascent of the classic Abraxas (E4) on Friday.  This was certainly an engaging route and with some nice climbing, but I have to say that if it was in the ‘Gorms it would be regarded as somewhat inferior on account of the disintegrating nature of the first pitch.  Beautiful crag and setting though, and the big E8 of The Great Escape might well be unique amongst routes of its grade in Scotland – an outstanding natural line taking the full height of the crag.  When I go back, that’s the line it will be for – 100m static line at the ready!

The beautifully poised Hardlands E5

On the Saturday Mr Small turned up, and we made our way up to the east aide of Cir Mhor.  Now this is surely a crag that would stand it’s ground in comparison to any in the UK.  Impeccable, multi-pitch, grit-quality rock in a setting to die for; in many ways this crag epitomises what the book is intended to be all about.  We started by climbing the three star E5 Hardlands (in fact more like your typical E4) before Ian strapped it on and boldy went where no on-sighter had been before with an outsdtanding lead of The Sleeping Crack.  Both Tony and I felt this route was porbably was nearer to E7 than E6, although it’s always difficult to comment on the end of a tight rope (a very tight one in my case).  The difficulties are short-lived, but a fall from the slopey traverse would be disastrous…you have been warned!  Irrespective of grade, the first ascentionists’ quality rating is spot on – one of the best mountain routes of this grade in the country.

Ian getting ready to strap it on – the Sleeping Crack E6/7

I won’t bore you with Sunday’s action – suffice to say we all got scared to death on an E2 which turned out to be more like a lethal E4!  And that’s one of the take-home themes from Arran – always expect the unexpected, and if in doubt assume it will be very hard!

Ciao, G


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