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A lesson in river crossing

A lesson in river crossing


Postby BlackPanther » Thu May 15, 2014 12:34 pm

Route description: Am Faochagach

Munros included on this walk: Am Faochagach

Date walked: 28/04/2014

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 14 km

Ascent: 700m

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Am Faochagach would be one of the easy and easily forgettable Munros, if it wasn't for the notorious river crossing. Some folks go very far to avoid it - like climbing the mountain form Strath Vaich or from Glascarnoch Dam, which may be an option if you want to make a long trip out of a single mountain. We considered such options, but in the end it was the obvious route we took.
The day's forecast was good and technically, we should have gone for the whole Beinn Dearg group, but somehow we felt a bit lazy and decided to do Am Faochagach only. The whole walk is only 7km to the summit plus about 700m of ascent - some Corbetts require more climbing. But as weather was said to be good, we hoped to see good views and spend more time on the summit - eventually, we sat by the cairn for almost an hour. And again, if not for the river crossing issue, this would be an ideal mountain for a winter climb.
The morning was misty but we kept fingers crossed for the mist to lift which it did. We parked in the small car park by the weather station - no other cars in sight, we were most likely going to be alone.

Track_AM FAOCHAGACH 28-04-14.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


We crossed the road, jumped over the low fence and suddenly, found ourselves in the world of mist... If it wasn't for the compass and the just-about-visible path, we wouldn't have the FOGGIEST idea, where to go:
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The first 500m or so is a bogfeast. We deliberately choose a very dry day to tackle this (also hoping for easier river crossing), but it was still quite squelchy and I can't imagine doing this after prolonged period of wet weather. Gloop...Glooop... Now, where's my snorkel?... :lol:
Luckily, dry spring made this swamp at least bearable, and as the mist began to lift, some interesting shapes emerged...
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No more bog, please...
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We reached the river and here came the big question...
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Good news: Abhainn a'Ghrabainn was not in spate, so crossing, one way or another, was possible. Bad news: it was flowing very fast, and we couldn't find a good set of stepping stones, though this picture may suggest otherwise:
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We tried in different places and Kevin finally made it across, using his walking pole to do a pole-vault. I managed to get to the place where he jumped, but retreated with shame - the gap was far too big for me, my chum is much taller and has longer legs. OK, I'm also far away from being a midget :lol: but I still had a bad memory of falling into the river after slipping of a stepping stone (An Socach trip in March). And climbing a Munro in wet boots didn't really sound appealing...
A bit disappointed in my pole vaulting failure, I walked a short distance up the river, where to my delight I found a prefect place to dabble across :D Abhainn a'Ghrabainn divides in two here, with a small, grassy island in the middle. Getting to the island using a few half-submerged stones was not a problem. The second leg of the river looked about knee-deep, so it was time to sink my feet:
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All the way across the river I giggled and squeaked, as water was very cold :? but the crossing wasn't too difficult. A pair of plastic flip-flops would be useful here - the rocks on the bottom are very slippery, covered with some sort of slimy algae - yuck! But I soon discovered, that it was much easier to walk on the underwater grass - it felt like walking on hay, not slippery at all.
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Kevin couldn't stop wondering why I giggled so much during the crossing and he said, he was going to take the plunge as well on the way back. I guess he was not sure if he could repeat his pole-vaulting manoeuvre again :lol:
We picked a vague path and found our way across an area of small hillocks. The mist was almost gone and the cloud was burning of, too, creating some interesting shapes above the tops of the Fannichs:
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Am Faochagach was now looming above us - a straightforward slope, though the summit cannot be seen from here (just the lower tops):
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Loch Glascarnoch:
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More of the misty-cloudy spectacle revealed as we started gaining height:
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Loch a'Gharbhrain - if the river can't be crossed, one would have to walk around the loch to gain access to Am Faochagach:
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I read different description of this route and most describe the slope as "pathless but easy". I was then pleasantly surprised by the presence of a path all the way up to the summit ridge. In wet conditions, this would be a very swampy, squelchy trudge though. I was glad we picked a dry day!
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On the lower slopes, the path follows a small burn with some interesting little waterfalls en route.
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Views west-southwest are captivating from the very beginning, 'cause we were close to the Fisherfields and even closer to the Fannichs:
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Beinn Dearg and Cona Mheall due west:
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It was getting warmer and we were glad that the little stream supplied us with fresh, cold water...
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The more distant hills still hazy:
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Sgurr Mor and Sgurr nan Clach Geala behind:
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We didn't hurry too much as we knew it was going to be a shorter day, so we could take it at a slower pace and simply enjoy the climb :D Just below the summit ridge, we met a pair of ptarmigan - mister and missus:
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From the Fannichs all the way to the distant An Teallach - it might have been hazy, but Am Faochagach is a good viewpoint in the end:
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Zoom to An Teallach. This was my first seriously scary mountain (though I didn't traverse the pinnacles, I used the bypass path) and I'd love to return and climb it again, this time with all the scrambling.
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We reached the ridge (the col is called Droachid a'Glass Tuill, a little tongue twister) where the ascent path ends at a small cairn. The final stage is easy - one has to traverse a couple of lower tops (I'd rather say - lumps and bumps) before a short climb to the summit. By now, the sun has become a serious issue for me, I smeared sticky +50 all over my skin, as walking in long sleeves would be like boiling alive!
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Ben Wyvis:
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We picked another path (more a VT track) climbing directly to the first top, not named on the map, at 844m:
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Another short snap-snap break on the 844m top, views were now stunning:
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The summit was now only a short wander away:
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One more portrait of An Teallach:
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Looking back from the final climb to the 844m top - the distant hills on the horizon hardly visible due to haze:
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The Fannichs "in full bloom" :lol: We've got four left in this group to tackle, luckily they form a nice long ridge ( From An Coileachan to Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich) so on a good summer day they can be climbed in one go.
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That's a piece of cake... easy slopes... Wish all mountains were that simple... Or maybe not. It would be a boring hobby then!
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We reached the summit, which was a bit cooler than the near-scorchio on the lower slopes. It wasn't even midday yet...
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Am Faochagach is a better viewpoint than I expected. Firstly, Beinn Dearg and friends are really close and An Teallach pops up just behind them...
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Beinn Dearg and the long ridge of Cona Mheall:
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Secondly, Am Faochagach offers a good view towards the Fisherfields and Slioch:
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And finally, on a good day Assynt hills can be spotted. We had some hazy conditions, so Suilven and Cul Mor looked a bit blurred...
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Of course, The Fannichs panorama is breathtaking...
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...and let's not forget about the notorious Sheana Bhraigh...
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...and not so notorious Ben Wyvis:
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Kevin happy to tick another Munro. It was a new hill for him, too, though he has already climbed the Big Four behind.
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We sat down by the cairn and spent the next... I think 50 minutes... sipping tea and talking about possible ways to climb The Big Four. Kevin did them in one go (a big day) but it seems possible for me, too. Nothing more painful than Mullardoch round or MacDui-Derry Cairngorm or the Kintail Sisters. I'm not affraid of a multi-Munro adventure. Just bring on a good day - it would be a shame to miss views from this round of hills.
Even Seana Bhraigh, which is the only hill on this side Kevin hasn't done yet, doesn't now look too remote at all :D
We left the summit eventually and strolled down the slopes with big smiles and still talking about future adventures.
Shame we have to go... But beware Beinn Dearg! I'm coming! Meow!
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On the way down:
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Back down by the river, the giants still looming...
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The crossing point:
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We took boots off and the cold water felt like a blessing to our boiling feet :D We dabbled across the river, again stepping on the grass rather than slippery stones... What a nice ending to the seriously hot day!
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If we get a very cold, frosty winter, we may come back to this hill. Does Abhainn a'Ghrabainn ever freeze?
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It would be nice to see these peaks covered in white. But for now, I'd like to see the view FROM THEM as well :lol: :lol:
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One last look at Am Faochagach. A shorter day, an easier climb, but it doesn't make this hill less of an adventure and whoever classified it as dull must have no imagination at all. There are no pointless mountains and this is the best example.
This route, if river crossing is done quickly, can be done in 5-6 hours, our 7 hours time was due to us being laaaazy :lol:

Tuesday still looked like a reasonable day for hillwalking, so we added two more Corbetts to our list, TR to follow :D
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Re: A lesson in river crossing

Postby rockhopper » Thu May 15, 2014 1:37 pm

Very nice BP especially after the mist disappeared !
Flipflops for me too on this one.........cheers :)
Boots, socks and trousers off, flipflops on with poles to balance...... :lol:
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Re: A lesson in river crossing

Postby AnnieMacD » Thu May 15, 2014 1:51 pm

Another great report BP. I've only once had to take my boots off and I know what you mean about the slimy rocks. Good to know that there is grass on the riverbed here. Flip-flops sound like a great idea and I've heard of people taking two bin-bags to put over the boots - may try that!

Views are amazing especially of An Teallach.
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Re: A lesson in river crossing

Postby Sgurr » Thu May 15, 2014 2:47 pm

We had a resounding failure with bin-bags. Maybe the ones we bought were too thin....they don't stop the seagulls pecking through anyway. One single rock only has to make one small hole, and you are WET. I've walked over in boots and changed my socks the other side. Wet boots don't seem so wet with dry socks, and if you want dry feet too, a dry flannel does the job. The other alternative is take wellies and leave them the other side if the river isn't too far from the car. Unfortunately it came over the top of my boots here, but only on the way back. Below, coming back from Beinn Reidh
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Re: A lesson in river crossing

Postby Mountainlove » Thu May 15, 2014 3:53 pm

Oh I know the pain of river crossings...always end up bare footed and even though slimy rocks are always an issue I find that the freezing cold water specially in winter is worse! I am usually sqeek because usually half way through a river I loose the feeling in my toes :lol:
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Re: A lesson in river crossing

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Thu May 15, 2014 5:48 pm

Great report again, I agree with you - this hill has an undeservedly bad reputation - but the views from it are outstanding. There is a longer route that avoids both the river crossing and the peat hags - will post it when I find time. (Like you I've bee on the hills so much I haven't got time for the TRs - a great situation though :lol: )
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Re: A lesson in river crossing

Postby spiderwebb » Tue May 20, 2014 8:47 pm

Nice report BP. Few people have trouble with this crossing.

I attempted it where the path meets the river but I too had to bail out there as it was too fast and deep, even though I had an old pair of neoprene beach.canoe shoes.

recommend buying a pair for such crossings as they are easy to pack, wiegh next to nothing and together with a small towel makes for dry feet the rest of the day.

I had them on my attempt crossing where the path meets, and given I failed left them on and walked upstream to a point where the river outflows from the loch. Here the river is relatively shallow but more importantly only a gentle flow. Walking up in the aforementioned neoprene shoes I didnt care about any mud either !

Once over changed back into the boots after drying the feet and neoprene shoes tucked in the rucksack outside the dry bag ....simples.
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Re: A lesson in river crossing

Postby Fife Flyer » Tue May 20, 2014 9:28 pm

Another cracker BP with the usual good photo's :clap: :clap:

River crossings are always a problem, I always seem to spend far too long looking for a suitable point to cross, hoping that there will be an easier spot further up or down stream :lol: This usually ends up with me returning to the original spot :lol:
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Re: A lesson in river crossing

Postby Pedro52 » Sun Feb 17, 2019 11:41 am

What a great report!
I climbed Am Faochagach on Friday 15th February 2019 and, even though I was aware of the river crossing implications and had made some rudimentary mitigation plans, I still learned an enormous amount that I will shortly share in my own report.
I wish that I'd read this report and others before I started!
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Re: A lesson in river crossing

Postby past my sell by date » Sun Feb 17, 2019 12:53 pm

In 1999 there was no problem driving up to Loch Vaich from which it's a very easy walk - avoiding the river crossing. Sad that so many of these access roads are closed now.
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Nice pine trees just above the start, but I have no summit pics so guess the clag must have come in
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