Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Beneath Fraochaidh

I woke at the same time as Louise but whereas she got ready quickly and left for work I had a much more relaxed morning with a leisurely breakfast of boiled eggs on toast and then packing a rucksack before getting washed. I was in no hurry and was looking forward to enjoying the long walk in to my destination. I parked up in Ballachulish around 13:30 – 14:00 and set off to the rear of the wee village to exit into Gleann an Fhiodh.

The sun was hot and there weren’t many clouds in the sky as I quickly found myself wandering along the glen with towering, pointy peaks on either side. The lambs were out enjoying the heat but I never got any decent photos of them as they were quite skittish and moved off any time my route took me near them.

The going was (even for me) quite slow as the sun beat down pleasantly and the track rose steadily but gently upwards. I kept stopping to look around and marvel at the beauty of the glen and it’s hemmed in feeling with the soaring ridges on either side. I really was enjoying the feeling of remoteness despite only being a few km’s from civilisation.

I was burning through my water supply with gay abandon as I knew I had to ford the River Laroch soon but now my thoughts were turning to food and my belly started to rumble. I had just enough left for rehydrating a meal and a small drink so settled down on the cairn marked on the map to refuel (The weekly brew 10) and have a rest. A welcome breeze accompanied the warm sun now and made short work of drying out my damp back. This was bliss, peace and quiet, sun and mountains. I didn’t care about my pace (or lack of it) too much, I was just enjoying being out.

After I’d rested and fed myself I packed up and set off at an angle down towards the river and made another quick stop to refill my water bottles. Gaining access to the ridge running from Sgorr a Choise onwards was my next objective and I wasn’t looking forward to the imminent heather bashing to be honest. I took my time and slowly dragged myself upwards. It was only approximately 200m height gain but every metre was a hard fought one. My lungs and chest were heaving in and out with the effort and I had to stop far more often than a man of my age and fitness should. I really detest these Sarc ruined lungs of mine at times but I won’t be beaten. I’ll eventually get there; I just have to do it slowly and at my own pace. There were ticks everywhere I looked, scurrying underfoot and along the heather stalks looking for a free ride and a free meal. I couldn’t wait to get up on top of the ridge.

Eventually I made it; I topped out on the ridge and almost flung my pack off as I checked myself and my clothing for any of the horrid wee beasties. I couldn’t find any so quickly settled down as my breathing rate returned to normal. I drank in the views, hoovered down about a litre of water and took my hot feet out of my Keen’s to breathe for a bit. I think it’ll soon be time to swap the Keen’s out for my Salomon’s.

I set off along the ridge, still gaining height with every step. The going was much easier now that I was above the heather. The sun gradually got lower and despite it still being very bright I could feel the mercury dropping with it. The evening cool had a refreshing pleasantness to it after the baking I’d had earlier on. As I arrived at a small top on the ridge around 620m I could see the Shape of Fraochaidh in the distance. There was still plenty more descent and re-ascent to do before I got to the summit yet I was tiring now and thinking about stopping soon. There wasn’t much left in the tank, time to find a pitch and get the tent up then. I was also aware of my again dwindling water supply and knew there was a lochan just over the next rise according to the map. I’d resupply and camp near there if possible and grab the Fraochaidh's summit in the morning.

I found a flat spot just beyond and slightly above the lochan but just beneath the rocky rise to 718m. I flung the tent up having another panicked paranoid full body search as I spotted a tick hopping onto the back of my hand as I placed a peg. The sun was setting rather quickly behind me so I reckoned I should get a nice silhouette of the mountains in front of the tent door with the sunrise the following morning. I could feel the exhaustion creeping in now so went back down to the lochan and filtered the murky looking water before retiring to the tent. I had another dehydrated meal, a pasta carbonara one from Bla Band which I thoroughly enjoyed. One last tick check with the mirror and I hopped into bed and drifted off quickly.

Despite it being quite sheltered in my wee camp spot which meant a quiet rustle free tent I woke every couple of hours to find my shoulder and hip pushing through my mat to the ground underneath. Seems Mr Exped Synmat has a slow leak. I re-inflated each time and nodded back off waking again when the tent got light. I peeked out and had missed sunrise but doubt I’d have seen anything as the tops were all hidden beneath the cloud cover. At about 650m I was just beneath it and it felt like I’d be able to just reach up and touch it. My enthusiasm for the summit waned and I wanted more sleep so I nipped out for a quick pee, hopped back into bed dozing for another hour or so. There was still no breeze and the clouds refused to budge. I dragged myself up and had a think about what to do while I ate my breakfast and drank my coffee.

I pondered it for a while and came to the conclusion that I’d seen the inside of enough clouds in my time to not be that fussed about seeing another. I’d done what I intended, i.e. get out with the tent, walk in amongst some beautiful scenery and wild camp somewhere peaceful with a view. With the pressure of making it up to the summit and back gone I now had a bit more time to potter about camp. I put the kettle on again and had another brew before leisurely packing up and wandering slowly back the way I’d come, smiling to myself about how I was finishing this trip the same way I’d started it.


  1. Brilliant mate, keep on keeping on & salomons a good choice 😤

    1. Cheers Brian, as long as I'm still getting out I'll be a happy camper!


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