954 m. |
Translation: The place of the shells
Pronuncation: am foechakach
The third day of our hillwalking holiday in Alba was to be a day of transiting from Ullapool to Torridon. So the Munro bagging goal of the day was to climb Am Faochagach, a hill which is not very far from the A 835 which should be doable in five to six hours. We parked at the small parking beside the bridge over the Abhainn an Torrain Duibh. The day was overcast and sported the occasional rain shower at glen level. So it was a constant question of wearing your rain gear or not. From the road we followed the very wet path that leads to the Abhainn a’ Gharbhrain, the short river connecting the Loch of the same name and Loch Glascarnoch. With the last weeks of a very wintry spring still leaving their mark and quite a bit of melting going on nonetheless it was likely that this river which is notorious for being difficult to cross would call for some wading. And that’s what we soon found out to be true. When we reached the right-hand bank of the Abhainn the boots soon went off, the trousers were rolled up and we waded the river. That was ok even though the water was very cold.
Once over the river we climbed up on the moraine that leads in a north-easterly direction towards the hill of the day. Where it ended we picked up a path beside the Allt na h-Uidhe and steadily climbed towards the whaleback of the hill. We reached a wide beallach on the ridge at about 700m and turned due north. Here the hill was covered in maybe 10 cm of fresh snow. We climbed another 120m until we found ourselves on a plateau-ish ridge which we followed north. Visibility was only moderate but after another kilometre we reached the start of the final steepening that signalled the last 130m leading towards the summit dome of Am Faochagach. These consisted of banks of deep snow alternating with grassy and stony sections (solifluction forming the slope). The going was not easy with strong winds and driving snow making progress laborious. But at least on the way up orientation was easy since you just kept on walking up the incline. Then we reached the summit with its two cairns which both of which we duly visited (to be sure).
The weather now resembled a full-blown snow storm and we were glad we could turn back and try to retrace our steps. On the way down from the summit we erred too far to the left (east) and had to change course in order not to aim too low and end up in the gully between Meall Gorm and Am Faochagach. But everything became clear when the clouds and driving snow gave us 30 seconds of respite and some views. Then what was left to return via the whaleback-section of ridge towards the col a 700m, turn towards the valley below, stroll down the side of the hill and reach the flat terrain south of the overgrown moraine leading towards the Abhainn a’ Gharbhrain.
When we reached the river we realized that a decent amount of melting had been going on in the glens while we fought a snow storm on the ridges. The water level had risen considerably. We searched for an acceptable spot for wading the river and picked one close to where we had crossed the river heading for the hill a few hours earlier. The current was strong, the water chilly and the rocks slippery. This resulted in one of us getting quite wet (arms and legs up to the buttocks) while crossing the river while the other one (Frank) made it to the other bank rather more elegantly.
From the south bank it was another kilometre to the car which we spent hopping over puddles of water and avoiding the worst sinkholes in the grass. When we reached the road and the car another heavy snow shower extended its stubborn welcome to us and proved rather consistent with the rest of the day weather-wise. Naturally the change from wet hiking clothes into a pair of dry jeans, socks and shoes was a rather unceremonious and hurried affair executed in the lee of the car.
It felt good to have bagged this unpretentious and bulky hill in late winter conditions since that added an adventurous note to this otherwise straightforward hillwalk: Five and a half hours of Alba some of it spent in full “immersion” mode. Be it in a snow storm or a river! 🙂
Max elevation: 975 m
Min elevation: 244 m
Total climbing: 813 m
Total descent: -824 m
Total time: 06:10:34
Description Am Faochagach is situated in the Strathvaich Forest to the north of Loch Glascarnoch. It is a very big hill in terms of its area, for it has long broad ridges and wide grassy corries, particularly on its east and south sides which slope down to Loch Vaich. The west side above Loch Coire Lair is much steeper and in places craggy.The ascent is most easily made from the north-west end of Loch Glascarnoch, but it should probably not be attempted during or soon after wet weather, for the Abhainn a' Gharbhrain which has to be crossed at the beginning of the day may be impossible. However, in dry weather the crossing should not be difficult. Once across, go up the grassy glen of the Allt na h-Uidhe which gives an easy way onto the main ridge of Am Faochagach 2 kilometres south of the summit. The walk up this ridge is similarly very easy. Altogether a rather featureless ascent, but there are good views west to the Beinn Dearg group.