A failed attempt on Fraochaidh

Fraochaidh is a hill that I have seen from the surrounding summits, and wondered how to get to it. You see, it lies between Glen Duror and Glen Creran, but from the west it is virtually inaccessible thanks to the dense forestry plantations. The same is true for a north or south approach, further hampered by the steep slopes. This, therefore, only leaves the approach along the long ridge from the east - a route which from what I saw is very do-able, just long.

Setting off

The start, obviously enough, was in Ballachulish and I set off up the glen on the Glen Duror path above the River Laroch. I have often wondered why this glen is called Gleann an Fhiodh rather than Glen Laroch, but not found the answer yet! If you read my account of climbing Sgorr a'Choise on my way to Meall Lighiche, you will know that past attempts on this route have seen me leave the main path and cross the river too early. I have finally worked out why!
The problem is that the OS map is wrong. It shows a long diagonal ascent of the contours, splitting from the main path near a cairn. In point of fact, the path climbs perpendicular to the contours up to the forest gate on the ridge. Mind you, this time I reckon I was closer than ever, and I have now got the start point fixed in my head so I will never go wrong again!

A word on the weather now! In line with other parts of the British Isles, the west highlands have had a great deal of rain in recent days, but as you saw from Yesterday, that had changed. I had checked the forecast the night before, and found clear skies depicted, so set my alarm early (ish) and left the house just gone 9am. There was some cloud in the sky, but it was bitterly cold and the sun was shining behind the hills. As I climbed up the glen, I witnessed the sun rise over Meall Lighichie, and then 'set' behind Sgorr a'Choise!

The Ridge

After climbing up to the forest gate - on the path in the latter stages - I found a rough path forking off to climb the ridge. It wasn't the clearest route, nor was it the driest after all of the recent rain, but as I climbed higher the squelch turned to crunch with a thick frost on these high slopes. The going was, therefore, surprisingly easy. I had gained the ridge at just under 400m, and before long I had reached the fenceline nearly 200m higher up. By now, the wind was bitingly cold, the kind of wind that can find its way through five layers and penetrate your very soul. To make matters worse, the cloud was starting to roll down the back of Beinn a Bheithir across the glen, and another bank of cloud had hidden the weak winter sun.

The fenceline is in actual fact a shiny new fence, so I crossed it at a rather dodgy stile thing (dodgy in that whilst brand new it wasn't really fit for purpose) and climbed back up towards the ridge. As I neared it, a face suddenly appeared above me. No less than six feet away was a mighty Stag, with enormous antlers. I have to admit to being very very scared for a split second, but then it had gone, turned and fled. I think it must have been more scared than me! A few moments later, as I stood on the ridge and looked round, I saw a pair of stags bounding across the hillside heading back the way I had come.

I fought on, with the freezing wind constantly on my back, and some icy rain starting to drizzle down too. The view ahead, however, drove me on, a stunning sight looking out of the mouth of Glen Duror, across Loch Linnhe to the hills of Morvern beyond. It was worth getting this far at least, and I was sure that the view from the final summit would be even better.

The Abandonment

However, that final summit was now in view, and a quick check on the map confirmed that it was still about 2 miles away. I was freezing cold, being battered by icy drizzle and facing the prospect of climbing into the cloud if the weather deteriorated any more. Therefore, with a heavy heart, I decided that caution was the best plan and I turned back. What I do know, of course, is that those last two miles can't be much tougher than the first four are, so when the weather is a little kinder in the spring I WILL conquer Fraochaidh, and get some photos of the view from the summit! For now, you'll just have to make do with those taken from the 626m point on the ridge.