I had planned to try and get out this week the weather was against me the last few days. The forecast on the MWIS ( Mountain Weather Information Forecast) was for winds from 20 – 30 mph and getting stronger later in the day, with snow showers. I am trying very slowly to finish my Munros again and the great high rounded hill that is Am Faochagach is one outlying mountain I have to do. It has a great situation though and is near Glascarnoch and Strath Vaich. This is on the road to Ullapool near the Aultguish Inn ( not open and what a base for these hills) and the gateway to the wonderful North West. It is in the heart of big mountain country with its lofty neighbor Beinn Dearg and on the other side the wild range of the Fannichs. This is also an important part of Scotland Hydro industry with the huge dam at Loch Glascarnoch and the feeder dam on up the glen at Loch Vaich. There is a metaled road that serves the dam and the estate and a bike can help with a long walk in. The area abounds with wild life and if you want to see deer this is a place to go. Unfortunately as you arrive at Black Bridge on the Fannich side of the road a new wind -farm is now clearly visible and can be seen from the hill for most of the day. Welcome to the wilds of Scotland!
We were soon at the massive Estate house at Strathvaich Lodge A solid granite estate house next to the dam and followed a very rough track marked on the new map. It was an Argo cat track and very muddy and soaking but this is wild country and there are few paths onto the main ridge. The steep hill soon gets you going and you try to get into a routine, there was a cutting wind as well. We were doing some navigation with Mark and took a few breaks enjoying the views as always magic. Loch Vaick dominates the landscape it runs for 5 kilometers and is a grand walk or cycle in its own. Eventually we hit solid ground and the ridge our first top at 666 meters Meall Coire nam Laoigh has a great cairn and we had a break out of the wind from here the wind was with us all the way, with a very bitter wind, we had to keep moving. Unfortunately from here you can see the wind – farms that now dominate the Fannichs.
We were hoping for better ground but as soon as we hit the snow it was very deep and so wet, incredibly hard going. Where the wind had blasted the ridge it there was ice but not enough for crampons and with the wind getting stronger it was not easy going. Our next top along the ridge was Tom Ban Mor at 742 metres and we were now in the wind pushing 30 plus mph. The snow was incredibly still very soft and incredibly deep and as we went on to Creag Rainaich it got worse. Here we saw two ” white grouse” Tarmachan Mark and a white hare. We had a reappraisal and with 4 kilometers to go and over 300 meters and 9 kilometers back, it was a simple decision lets get out of here. It was the right decision as we were now walking straight into the wind and after 30 minutes we were all struggling. Worth noting!
The wind was now gusting about 40 mph plus so we decided to drop down another ridge a longer walk out but we hoped easier. The snow was very deep wrenching knees and hips and then came the tussock grass with minefields for your feet at every step. It was not an easy walk off but we were out of the wind. Then we met a huge deer fence and then the deepest heather ever my joints were in bits at the end. I dropped a glove and a gaiter ( found by my companions) and it was like the retreat from Stalingrad at one point. We stopped and had a laugh but looked at the views for 10 minutes and it was worth it.
All that remained was the awful track to the dam and home after a hot cross bun and cup of tea at Mark’s. The Highland cattle in the glen had a new-born calf and the weather though windy was lovely lower down. The drive back was great the sun out and when we arrived home it was like summer in Morayshire. I sorted my gear out when I got home and ran a bath which I struggled to get out of later on. Pete arrived later from a wild days climbing in typical Cairngorm conditions. He told of meeting the “great” in the Gorms and a wild day on a route, and his gear was soaked and so is my wee house. I used to climb and do that but I am alright now!
I sneaked off during the football to bed, feeling my age, my joints aching but very alive! It was not even 2100!
I looked in my diary and I had done the 6 Munros from Seanna Bhraigh in one long day, “it said at the end the descent of Am Faochaig is purgatory back to the dam and that was a dry summers day”
When will we ever learn!
There are many better ways up this big hill, many call it a “big boring rounded lump” but the views are incredible and on dry day it is a great ridge. In winter it is a serious hill with little shelter and navigation is not easy in full on winter conditions. As we got to our last wee top the view of An Teallach were magic, Beinn Dearg Loomed and the Fannichs were peak after peak of snow-covered mountains. They were all plastered with snow and looking as always magnificent. There is also a grand wee ridge with a big walk in the trackless other side of the hill, it is sporting in winter for the more adventurous. Thanks to Mark for the bacon rolls and hot cross buns and to Yeni for the company.