Goatfell – 874m
North Goatfell – 818m
Mullach Buidhe – 829m

Sunday 13th July 2008

Weather/Conditions: Sunny day with cumulus and some wind. As the day went on it became hazier until by the time I was down there was thicker cloud cover.
Accompanying: Solo

The summer holidays would be in Arran for the next two weeks so it meant I had a lot of time to climb some mountains. Before leaving for Arran, I'd spent some time checking the different routes on the Arran mountains but on our first full day there, I would "take it easy", and spent the late afternoon up Goatfell.


From Brodick, Steve dropped me off at 2.20pm. At first I hadn't a clue where the start of the trail would be, and ended up asking about to see if anyone knew it. I got it without too much trouble but the “Goatfell” sign had been half covered by leaves so it was no wonder I couldn't see it. The initial path was enjoyable and wasn't a climb so much as a walk through the forestry. The sun was out but it was cool underneath the trees and I was enjoying myself. That was until I'd realized that I hadn't brought a drop of water along. Oops... Yet I was still going to head up the hill – I'd find streams along the way.

I began to emerge from the forest and was passed by many people on the way up – a lot of dads taking their kids up. Yet Goatfell stood above and I kept going with the final goal clearly in sight. Walking out of the forest, the land gave way to heather and I began to feel increasingly thirsty so headed off to the river to get some water. (the river lay off to the left of the path) I cupped my hands into the water and took a couple of sips of the water although wasn't sure how much to take – there better not be a dead sheep upstream but once I'd had enough to hopefully sustain me, I continued onwards.

The last section on Goatfell became a bit of a slog although the views out to the south and east were superb. The path disappeared, giving way to some boulders which were easy enough to clamber up. To my right, the range was revealing itself gradually and the pinnacles (or tors – I still have to make my mind up) above Coire Lan sort of set the tone for things to come. On the distant horizon, I could make out the southern highlands – Narnain, Ime, Ben More and Stob Binnein and what was probably Ben Cruachan to the north. Clambering over the final rocks, I was at the summit right on 4pm.

I came to Goatfells summit and the other peaks of Arran came into view all at once. It was all identifiable but so much more spectacular than I had thought. It was also so much more vertical and to see Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail with the “Witches Step” to the right came somewhat as a shock. I knew it all from the photographs but seeing it in front felt like a totally different experience. It was so much more inhospitable than I had thought it would be and for a brief moment the thought of climbing those things over the next two weeks nearly frightened me. I knew I would be searching out the easy route up all of them, that was for sure but from here they all just looked so un-walker-friendly. And my scrambling skills aren't anything to be proud of.

I spent some time at the top, got plenty of panoramas and made sure I had enough pictures of distant peaks to keep myself identifying what all the distant bumps were. I talked to some other guys briefly about the hills to the west but looking back down from where I came, I had decided that it would be no fun to go back along the wide track where there would be nothing happening but the impulse to get back down. Instead, I decided to give the north tops of Goatfell a go. And with views like these, Goatfell isn't a mountain to climb when the clouds down.

Goatfell North Tops and Descent

I left and walked/scrambled down the boulders before reaching the col. In front, the Stacath pinnacles began which I hoped I could keep to the crest as much as possible. They went up and down and up and down in succession though as much I wanted to be able to scramble, I knew that I couldn't climb into an obscure situation. I had learned lessons on previous trips and if I needed the bypass path, it was there.

On the first pinnacle, it was an easy enough climb up a groove. I blanked out the drop to Glen Rosa behind though when I looked down and remember the consequences of a fall, I had to take it out and think about where I was going. I really wanted to scramble and get used to the heights a bit without scaring the living shit out of myself. Getting up the first pinnacle was fine but when I tried climbing down a groove to get off the other side, it was too hard and I knew I was out of my depth. I found an easier route down the eastern side which joined with the bypass path so I had sort of climbed the pinnacle.

The second though came as too much. It was far bigger and by this time, I was so on my guard (and alone) that I thought screw it from the minute I approached. I took the bypass path on the western side but even that required some scrambling and even it its own massive and steep drop into Glen Rosa. As it turned out, North Goatfell was also its own pinnacle yet I was bloody determined to get up. The first approach I took was difficult – too difficult. I may get up without incident but if I shouldn't it was a long way down. If I had been rock climbing then I may understand my capabilities but it had been many years since I'd properly climbed. I might get better at scrambling if I understood how well I could climb. It's certainly one of these things I'll do when I have the time and money.

I took a route around the back of North Goatfell (which was still exposed) and soon enough, I was standing on top. Time was getting on and I planned to be in Corrie for 6pm. It was now 4.45pm and I still wanted to climb Mullach Buidhe. I phoned mum and said I may be a bit later than 6 so headed up Mullach Buidhe, the last top of Goatfell. It was a simple walk up the eastern side of the ridge but when I approached the top (5pm) the north west side dropped startlingly into Glen Sannox. The western peaks were still stunning but there wasn't much else to do but head down. I hadn't even touched any food since I began and my throat was getting drier so I descended to find some water on the way. The upper rivers of Coire Lan were completely dried out but as I descended the rivers grew in size and part the way down, I stopped for a drink.

From there, it was an easy but long walk down to Corrie, although it became wearing on the legs – I had left the trekking poles back at the house and remembered why I spent all this time using them. Nevermind, just an inconvenience, it wasn't too bad at all. The path gave way to a road and before long I was down in Corrie.


Brodick & Goatfell

Coire Lan

Arran hills from Goatfell

Arran hills from Mullach Buidhe

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 2.20pm Brodick
(1.40) 4.00pm Goatfell
(1.57) 4.17pm Goatfell (left)
(2.25) 4.45pm North Goatfell
(2.40) 5.00pm Mullach Buidhe
(2.50) 5.10pm Back at the bealach
(3.50) 6.10pm Corrie

Written: 2008-07-14