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Fraochaidh: from Ballachulish to Delhi

Fraochaidh: from Ballachulish to Delhi

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Sep 21, 2016 3:30 pm

Route description: Fraochaidh, from Ballachulish

Corbetts included on this walk: Fraochaidh

Date walked: 17/09/2016

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 22.3 km

Ascent: 1205m

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The title of this TR may sound strange to some. The Delhi reference has nothing to do with the city itself but rather with a certain syndrome concerning guts :sick:

In plans, it was going to be a magnificent day. Kevin's birthday hill and my half way point on Corbetts :D Fraochaidh is 2 hrs drive from Inverness, but we chose it because the route from Ballachulish lies within Forestry Commission grounds, meaning no stalking issues even in September. Weather forecast was also good, suggesting low winds, sunny spells and only patchy cloud.
Our route started from Ballachuslish and followed the good path up Gleann an Fhoidh (right of way to Duror), then up the ridge between Fraochaidh and Sgorr a'Choise, finally along the ridge to the summit:

Track_FRAOCHAIDH 17-09-16.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

This route looked like giving true justice to this magnificent mountain, so neglected due to its location. Fraochaidh is a shy hill, hidden behind Beinn a'Bheithir, it can be climbed from south or west, but the Ballachuslish approach despite being the longest, gives the best views and possibly the most fun :D
So in theory all looked perfect, but when the day arrived, the odds were against me :(
I woke up with upset stomach, but really didn't want to give up the dream without even trying, so I popped up cinnarizine and got in the car. Just after we passed Drumnadrochit, my breakfast muesli decided to retrace its steps back up, with nasty consequences :sick: :sick: I ended up returning it all over different laybys... Felt better when we landed in Ballachulish so decided to give the route a go.
From the car park we walked through the village up to the start of the right of way (past a small stone house and two gates). There was more cloud than suggested in the forecast, but we hoped it would disperse when the day develops.
Sgorr a'Choise with lingering cloud from the path just outside Ballachulish:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 001.JPG

Feeling OK at the moment:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 007.JPG

View back to the village from the path:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 011.JPG

The right of way is a bit wet and boggy in places, but generally makes for fast going. Sadly, as we approached the first bunch of trees, my stomach bug stroke again... I'll save you any drastic details.
Mhmmm... It's a wet walk up Gleann an Fhoidh...
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 018.JPG

I managed to pull myself together, drank some water and swallowed some chocolate to provide glucose to my muscles, felt a bit better, didn't even want to hear about turning back!
We marched on, looking for the ford mentioned in WH walk description. Luckily, River Laroch was not in spate, so we had no problems crossing.
The ford:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 024.JPG

The ground on the other side looked wet and was overgrown with grass and heather, so we decided it was gaiters time!
Kevin getting gaitered:

Black Panther facing the waves :lol:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 027.JPG

On the other side we immediately drowned ankle-deep into mud. WH description mentions "a path up the slope beyond" but we couldn't see it, maybe it was overgrown with vegetation. We just charged up the slope, trying to avoid the boggiest bits. The going was harsh, up waist-high heather, grass and bog myrtle, across countless little bumps and lumps and pretty steep, too. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give it 8 points for annoyance :?
Reaching the col up Mam Uchdaig was a true relief. Plus the cloud has lifted and we were treated to some magnificent views towards Sgorr a'Choise:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 039.JPG

Zoom to Aonach Eagach:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 055.JPG

Once on the ridge, its much easier terrain. Basically there is a path all the way, it follows a rusty old fence:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 060.JPG

I wish I could remember more from that traverse, but strangely, every time I think back to it, all I can recall is my Delhi belly :(
A couple of Kevin's panoramas, taken from different spots on the ridge:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 074.JPG

2016-09-17 fraochaidh 069.JPG

The whole ridge is a delightful traverse, over three lower tops, two of them Graham tops of Corbett. There is some boggy ground on the bealachs, but generally good going.
Wish I had been in a better shape to actually enjoy it to the full... looking towards the summit from the middle top (718m):
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 084.JPG

Because I was losing my strength quickly, Kevin ordered lunch break just below the second top, where he found some flat rocks to sit on. I forced in two sandwiches, didn't enjoy them at all, but the food powered me up to my feet again. I knew I could defeat the Delhi syndrome, and my half way point on Corbetts was only a short climb away...
Fraochaidh summit from the last top (671m):
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 093.JPG

Looking across Coire Dearg to Beinn a'Bheitir, still hidden in cloud:Clag over Glen Coe hills:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 094.JPG

2016-09-17 fraochaidh 096.JPG

Looking back to the countless lumps and bumps on the ridge:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 099.JPG

The final climb is a steep push of about 200m to the summit of Fraochaidh, but no real obstacles apart from the acute angle. We followed a well-worn path. I was desperate to finish what I started:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 111.JPG

View back along the ridge again:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 112.JPG

It took us some time and effort to crawl up to the summit... The true top lies about 200m along the ridge and is marked with a cairn made out of fenceposts:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 124.JPG

Beinn Sgulaird in the sunshine:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 122.JPG

I heard that Fraochaidh offers superb views to the west, but on that particular day, the cloud was low in the western sky, we could see next to nothing:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 125.JPG

Half way through Corbetts! Hooray! This was the last target to achieve in 2016, now I can rest assured that despite bad luck, blowing winds, injuries and Delhi bellies, I didn't disappoint myself.
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 126.JPG

Kevin's birthday hill, Lucy's 27th Corbett:

As we rested on the summit, the mist lowered and cut off whatever views we had left, so not many photos from the top that I can present here. Panoramic view down the ridge and to the east (Glen Coe):

Lucy, Panther, cairn and not much more...
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 127.JPG

We were more lucky on the return traverse of the ridge. After we left the summit, the sun came out again and brightened the way, the clag lifted again if only for a short period of time and we could actually enjoy the ridge properly.
Back to the summit:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 149.JPG

The ridge:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 150.JPG

Beinn Fionnlaidh:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 170.JPG

Beinn Sgulaird:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 161.JPG

Upper Glen Creran:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 172.JPG

AE again:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 175.JPG

Sgorr Dhearg (left) and Sgorr a'Choise (right):
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 182.JPG

Glen Coe hills, Meall Lighiche and Sgurr na h-Ullaidh to the right:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 183.JPG

The sunny spell lasted until we reached the final top on the way back, then the cloud thickened again and the world turned gray once more.
The last glimpse back to Fraochaidh:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 187.JPG

It's a long way back, especially from Delhi to Ballachulish :wink:
2016-09-17 fraochaidh 191.JPG

The slope leading to Gleann an Fhoidh was marginally easier in descent than in ascent and soon we were back on the wet path. We were slow on the return, which is understandable, I simply had no strength left to run it... This route can be easily walked in 7 hours at brisk pace, we took 9 but that counts in all the breaks and stops... And there were many of them, believe me :lol:
Four days later and I'm still suffering, slowly getting better, hopefully it's nothing serious. I will always remember Fraochaidh as a painful experience, but despite my rambling tummy, I can't say a word wrong about this hill. It is indeed a hidden gem of Glen Coe, shame we didn't get the full summit views, but what we saw was good enough. Might come back and do this route again, in clear weather and without any extra bugs to carry.
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