|Sometime in 1959, five of us, two from Greenock Mountaineering Club (GMC), Davey McKelvie and myself, and three affiliates from Ardrossan, Dick Sim, Alastair Glen, and another whose name escapes me, ventured to the base of Ben Nuis chimney on the Isle of Arran. We knew it had been climbed once before, about six years previously, but we were reasonably certain that it had not been climbed since.
The first pitch, which normally had a trickle of water running down it, had become badly overgrown with vegetation, moss and generally green slimey stuff. We spent our first visit cleaning up this first pitch, and agreed to return the next weekend to complete what we were sure would be the second ascent. The plan was that we would meet up on Arran on Saturday evening and do the climb on Sunday.
During the course of the following week Davey and I decided that it would be better to catch the early boat on Saturday from Fairlie at about 07.00 hrs, and we could be at the foot of Nuis chimney by about 10.30 hrs., before the Ardrossan bunch had got out of bed. Then we could have the pleasure of seeing their faces when we met them in the Ormidale Arms that evening.
We travelled to Fairlie on Friday night on Davey’s motorbike, sleeping on a porter’s trolley in the peir station, and caught the boat in the morning, reaching the foot of Ben Nuis by about 10.30. After slipping and sliding on the first pitch, which was probably the most difficult, we carried on, through leading to the top of the chimney, and then on jubilantly to the summit. An USAF Liberator had crashed into the face in 1944, and there were still bits of the plane jammed in the chimney here and there. I notice the chimney is now graded VS. What it was graded then I can’t remember, but I would have put it at hard severe, with perhaps the first pitch as very severe. It was however relatively strenuous and we were ready for a pint.
We were on our second or third pint when the others turned up, and on seeing our condition, bloody knuckles etc., to our delight asked where we’d been. Fortunately sense of humour prevailed, and Davey and I came out of it in one piece.
dxcamer - 13/Jun/05