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Issue 53 - The perfect mountain

Scotland Magazine Issue 53
October 2010

 

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The perfect mountain

If you asked a child to draw a picture of a mountain it would probably end up looking something like the magical peak of Cir Mhor on the equally wonderful Isle of Arran.

Standing in splendid isolation at the head of Glen Rosa Cir Mhor’s renowned granite slabs rise to an impossibly sharp summit which only has enough room for four people to sit comfortably and marvel at the breath-taking panorama that circles her walls. Cir Mhor sits among her bigger neighbours of Beinn Tarsuinn, Caisteal Abhail and Goat Fell and affords views of all three.

Translating from Gaelic as The Big Comb, it is the last few hundred feet of Cir Mhor that really sets it out against the competition. Her slopes are a mass of contorted columns of rock which twist and turn to the summit demonstrating quite clearly the immense pressure and movement within the earth that took place when this wonderful landscape was formed around 400 million years ago. The layers of rock, including Dalradian and Ordovician Schist’s, have made Arran a playground for geologists, walkers and mountaineers alike for decades.

The mountains of Arran have always fascinated me - the distinctive profile of the Sleeping Warrior and the jagged, razor-like crest of the islands’ peaks viewed from the mainland had intrigued me from an early age – it was a very different world from the Glasgow environs of my childhood. As R. Angus Downie wrote in his 1933 book All About Arran, “If the Arran peaks were in England they would have been mapped out long ago and the climbs described, and each handhold and foothold detailed in a dozen books”. I was hooked when I came upon W. A. Pouchers’ seminal book The Scottish Peaks in my late teens which included some exemplary photography of Arran’s’ mountains.

Over the next few years I visited Arran on several occasions to climb and explore the island’s hills and mountains, and I found the ridges, summits and geology to be enthralling.

But it was Cir Mhor that I continued to climb time and again, each time anticipating the remarkable view from the summit.