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Am Faochagach the hard way

Am Faochagach the hard way


Postby Yorjick » Sat Jan 02, 2016 11:24 pm

Munros included on this walk: Am Faochagach

Grahams included on this walk: Meall a' Chaorainn (Easter Ross)

Date walked: 01/01/2016

Time taken: 13 hours

Distance: 47 km

Ascent: 1596m

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The weather forecast was good with the Mountain Weather Information Service giving a chance of clear Munros as being 60%. I wanted to start the year doing what I like to do most; climbing hills. I considered an easy day up Ben Wyvis - As the crow flies, the nearest Munro to home (36km/22miles) and good roads all the way. A friend of mine was heading up Ben Wyvis with her family and she seemed to think that a lot of people would be heading up there. Ben Klibreck is second nearest at 41km 25miles but I headed for the third nearest, Am Faochagach. My chosen route was from from Alladale, partly because the start is nearer to home and partly because I wanted to include the Graham, Meall a'Chaorainn. This is a much more challenging day! Most ascents of Am Faochagach are made from Dirrie Mor to the south or Strath Vaich. The route from the north is much longer and crosses a lot of pathless terrain. Icy conditions on the track up Gleann Mor necessitated great care and a reduced speed.

I set off from home in the dark. The main roads were fine but the lane up the south side of the River Carron was icy and I momentarily lost control of the car at the bend before the bridge across the River Carron. Crossing the ice patch, I was able to regain control. There is a lot to be said for selecting hills that can be approached from the main roads at this time of the year.


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I knew that there was a good car park as I had used it for Carn Chuineag in 2011. My setting off from the car coincided with first light. The route follows a very good track until turning left opposite the tradesman's entrance to Alladale Lodge. There are a number diverging tracks at this point but the main track heads uphill for 60m before reaching the almost straight track up Gleann Mor. The water in the potholes was frozen so there was a loud crunching noise and loss of momentum in every hollow. Rising out of my saddle to attack the uphill sections resulted in wheel spin. I was glad to reach the bridge near to Deanich Lodge where I gained my first view of the day's first objective, the Graham, Meall a'Chaorainn.

DSCF2785.JPG
Meall a'Chaorainn


I had considered including this in my route after Beinn a' Chaisteil as its ascent looked so easy, albeit rather steep, but with the weight of bothy gear in my pack, decided to push on to Glenbeg bothy. The "route" follows the left skyline in the photograph above. It is a strenuous but safe pull up to the summit.

DSCF2796.JPG
Summit Selfie


It is always nice to reach the summit and enjoy the views, but as one grows older and climbs more and more hills, the peaks are more than shapely forms within a wild landscape, they are links to all the memories of past adventures.

​The descent down Meall a'Chaorainn was a gentle gradient though there was a certain amount of peat hag before the rise to Meall a' Guaille​. This does not seem to appear on any lists, but I like to include every little bump, if time allows. The photo below was taken between Meall a'Chaorainn and Meall a' Guaille and shows the Corbett Beinn a' Chaisteil and Loch Vaich.

DSCF2810Panorama.jpg
Beinn a' Chaisteil and Loch Vaich


The route ahead saw more extensive peat hag. The crust was frozen but sometimes my feet broke through to the bog beneath. As I looked towards Corrach nan Calman, I thought that I could see a walker. I thought that I saw it move; perhaps a moving cairn? On reaching Carn Gorm-loch, I skirted around the summit as I was aware that I was going to run out of daylight and I wanted to be safely down in Gleann Beag before nightfall. My tired legs meant that the final climb to the summit Am Faochagach seemed steeper than it really was. The summit provided good views of Seana Bhraigh and Carn Ban.

DSCF2811Panorama.jpg
Seana Bhraigh and Carn Ban


DSCF2817.JPG
Am Faochagach


Am Faochagach only has a small cairn and no trig point. However, the slight rise of Meallan Ban to the north sports a much finer cairn.

DSCF2820.JPG
Meallan Ban


The final photo of the day - The Munros Cona' Mheall, Meall nan Ceapraichean and Eididh nan Clach Geala. Loch Tuath and Loch Prille can just be seen.

DSCF2824.JPG
Cona' Mheall, Meall nan Ceapraichean and Eididh nan Clach Geala


Good visibility, even in fading light made navigation easy and I descended the hill directly to Glenbeg bothy where I finished my coffee and had a bite to eat. I hadn't stopped for food much while out on the hill and up to that time just eaten a single sandwich. By the time I left the bothy, it was completely dark. The walk down Gleann Beag only has a faint, intermittent path and crosses rough and boggy ground. There is a small dam where you can cross the river and join a track. From here onwards it was much easier going, though it was still another 4-5 km of slippery track to the bike. On several occasions I could see the alien-like eyes peering at me through the darkness. They were the eyes of deer reflecting the light of my torch. At a distance, only their eyes could be seen.

I left the bike near to the bridge as this would act as a landmark to find my bike. I would not want to be searching for my bike in the dark. The shiny brake levers and reflectors meant that I saw the bike before I saw the bridge.

The temperature had rose a little and the track down Gleann Mor was not quite as icy as it had been in the morning. I took it steady, though on one occasion, a big gust of wind saw me accelerate forward and forced me to break. Going up, I found that cycling up the middle of the track avoided the ice covered pools in the ruts. However, a vehicle had clearly been up the glen during the day and displaced the ice, so steering between the pools saw me hitting large chunks of ice. Descending into Alladale, the track was much smoother and clear of ice and I was able to speed along back to the car, arriving at 21:20. This was over thirteen hours since I had left the car!

Next New Year, I may opt to join the crowds for an easy day up Ben Wyvis!

Return to Am Faochagach 9 January 2016

It is unusual that I should return to the same mountain so soon after a prior ascent. I lost my sunglasses somewhere and one possibility was the summit. The sunglasses were kept in the lid pocket of my rucksack and it is possible that I took them out when I took out my compass which may have been while on the summit. I tackled the mountain by the shortest route form Dirrie More. This is notorious for crossing a swamp followed by a (sometimes difficult) river crossing. I do not like water filled boots. Wet fell shoes are nowhere near as bad. So, although winter, I adopted the unusual combination of fell shoes and ice axe. The "swamp" is more of a bog and was partly frozen. It really was not much of a problem and on reaching the river, I rolled up my running tights, I skipped across shallow water to an island, walked downstream and ran quickly through knee deep water to the far bank. I headed up to Sron Liath, where there is a small but well constructed cairn, rather than the bealach to the north. I marked the route back down with arrows in the snow. Visibility was poor and the terrain a little confusing so I had to rely on my compass. Fresh snow slowed down progress a little. There is a small cairn at spot height 845 before the final push for the summit. I searched extensively for the sunglasses, kicking the snow and digging with my axe, but to no avail. The cloud precluded any photographs of the neighbouring hills and condensation on the lens meant that the selfie below was the best I could manage over several attempts. The best photos were obtained close to Loch a' Gharbhrain a little after 2pm when the cloud began to clear from the hills.

DSCF2832.jpg
Summit selfie



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DSCF2847Panorama.jpg
Taken with my camera and stitched L 2 R Beinn Enaiglair (Corbett), Beinn Dearg and Cona' Mheall.


IMAG0343.jpg
Taken slightly lower down with my phone - also L to R Beinn Enaiglair (Corbett), Beinn Dearg and Cona' Mheall.


IMAG0345.jpg
The river had been crossed and I looked back to Am Faochagach which had cleared! The summit is out of view. [Phone panorama]


Footnote regarding my 1993 ascent

I used Irvine Butterfield's The High Mountains as my main guide book as the route descritions/maps were clearer and they provided more challenging days. Also the book was written with routes designed to cover all the tops , not just the Munros. I believe, I followed his recommended route. It sets off from Strathvaich Lodge on the basis that one could park there. This is now discouraged, necessitating a bike ride or extra run/walk at the start.

Am Foachagach_0001.jpg
Irvine Butterfield's suggested route
Last edited by Yorjick on Sun Jan 17, 2016 10:37 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Yorjick
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Re: Am Faochagach the hard way

Postby Jaxter » Sun Jan 03, 2016 1:08 pm

Wow great effort!! What an amazing day :clap: Great photos too :D
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Re: Am Faochagach the hard way

Postby dav2930 » Sun Jan 03, 2016 6:58 pm

An inspiring report of a very big day for this time of year (or any time of year for that matter!). :clap: 8) I'm completely unfamiliar with this area so this TR will be a useful reference when I get round to bagging Am Faochagach. I might miss out the Graham though!
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Re: Am Faochagach the hard way

Postby Beaner001 » Sun Jan 03, 2016 10:40 pm

Nice report, enjoyed that and well done on such a big day :clap: :clap:
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Re: Am Faochagach the hard way

Postby Yorjick » Mon Jan 04, 2016 1:27 am

dav2930 wrote:An inspiring report of a very big day for this time of year (or any time of year for that matter!). :clap: 8) I'm completely unfamiliar with this area so this TR will be a useful reference when I get round to bagging Am Faochagach. I might miss out the Graham though!


Glenbeg bothy is worth considering. This is strategically placed for an ascent from the north and it would be a relatively easy day from there. The bothy is very small, though it has two rooms. It could do with a bit of work on it. there are signs of rot in the ceiling. The annex burnt down several years ago. Of course it means that you would probably be using three days of your trip to Scotland - fine if you are retired or just like to do things at a more leisurely pace. :)

Thanks for the positive feedback.
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Re: Am Faochagach the hard way

Postby dav2930 » Mon Jan 04, 2016 7:06 pm

Yorjick wrote:
dav2930 wrote:An inspiring report of a very big day for this time of year (or any time of year for that matter!). :clap: 8) I'm completely unfamiliar with this area so this TR will be a useful reference when I get round to bagging Am Faochagach. I might miss out the Graham though!


Glenbeg bothy is worth considering. This is strategically placed for an ascent from the north and it would be a relatively easy day from there. The bothy is very small, though it has two rooms. It could do with a bit of work on it. there are signs of rot in the ceiling. The annex burnt down several years ago. Of course it means that you would probably be using three days of your trip to Scotland - fine if you are retired or just like to do things at a more leisurely pace. :)

Thanks for the positive feedback.

Thanks for the info. The bothy sounds like a good idea - though, as you say, three days for one Munro seems a bit extravagant! I suppose there's always the 'easy' option from the south, but I don't like the sound of the 'swamp' or the river crossing. :shock:
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Re: Am Faochagach the hard way

Postby Yorjick » Wed Jan 06, 2016 12:30 am

[/quote]
Thanks for the info. The bothy sounds like a good idea - though, as you say, three days for one Munro seems a bit extravagant! I suppose there's always the 'easy' option from the south, but I don't like the sound of the 'swamp' or the river crossing. :shock:[/quote]

Glenbeg bothy seems to have disappeared from the MBA site. I found it with the door open (New Year's Day 2016). The door had been tied shut with copper wire but this appeared to have been cut (not by me). Anyone know the story here? I wonder about the relationship between the Alladale estate and the walking fraternity following opposition to their plans to introduce wolves.

There is also talk of a wind farm in the Glen Calvie area. If this is (rightly) opposed by walking and mountaineering groups, the estate is likely to get back at the hillwalkers by denying access to the bothy.

The previous entry in the bothy book was a stalker defending their role in the highlands. I should have read previous entries to pick up the thread. Relations do not seem to be good!
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Re: Am Faochagach the hard way

Postby basscadet » Wed Jan 06, 2016 10:55 am

Wow that brought back some good memories - My sister used to work at Glencalvie Lodge so I know the area very well, but haven't been up that way for 20 years! :D
What a route - brilliant :clap:
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Wild things

Postby sr03 » Tue May 09, 2017 6:03 am

Personally, I think we have sufficient space in which to roam and the most important factor is to re-educate humans to understand they don't need to dominant everything. Paul Lister has an admirable heart and I refrain from calling it a vision as the subtext is one of innovation by a man born outside of the Glens which locals are intolerant about. His desire to recapture and regenerate the landscape to its original state is admirable and we are too consumed with a cultured and manicured wildness in the UK which has little integrity with nature's intent. Arguing that estates will lose money is a commercial, selfish and short sighted argument. We are custodians of the land and have no intrinsic right to dominant another species. For farmers to argue that their sheep will be culled is a knee jerk and protectionist stance and disregards the fact that sheep were introduced by man and have changed the landscape of Scotland significantly. They have been allowed to let sheep roam with complete disregard to the damage they cause. The boar - and they were board, not Tamworth's as some previous writer believed, were a success but people fail to understand that a predator was required to address the balance and without these, the boar did become troublesome. The same happens the world over if man interferes with the true pyramid of nature.
We should be applauding Paul Lister, not making knee jerk and selfish responses based on our greed to wander everywhere on this planet and exploit everything for commercial purposes.
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