Footprints Across Scotland

Why not make a few of your own!

21st & 22nd June 2019

A summer solstice high camp en route to Fraochaidh at the back of Glen Coe.





Route Map



I had been weighing up the various options for climbing Fraochaidh, my original thoughts were to traverse the hill but that added the usual complication of getting back to the start point. In the end I decided on an out and back from Ballachulish which seemed to offer up a more scenic approach than Duror, especially as the latter has suffered some recent tree felling operations. The forecast was for an improving day after starting with some heavy showers, this meant I could have a more leisurely start, leaving home at around 8am. The fact that I was planning what turned out to be my first summer solstice high camp also meant I did not have to be on the hill until the afternoon. I stopped on the shores of Loch Earn en route to enjoy some breakfast and duly arrived at the car park by the information centre in Ballachulish after midday. A bite to eat and a brew was had before I was eventually on my way around 1pm. A short walk out of the village and up the lane past the primary school and I arrived at a gate with a sign post for the path to Duror. A light shower sailed over quickly and the skies started to brighten as I made my way through the glen under the steep slopes on Beinn a' Bheithir.

Beinn a' Bheithir

Beinn a' Bheithir

The path up Gleann an Fhoidh was generally good and although showing evidence of the mornings rain was only a little boggy in short sections.

Sgorr a'  Choise

Sgorr a' Choise

It was very pleasant walking, weaving my way through some patches of birch gradually gaining height as the glen widened out. I reached the cairn marked on the map after about an hour, this shows a path branching off down to the River Larnoch before making a rising traverse up to Mam Uchdaich. I continued on past the cairn a short while until I was roughly adjacent Mam Uchdaich, an obvious notch at the top of the hillside opposite. I dropped from the path toward some river flats to locate cairns on either side of the river. The cairn on the opposite side of the river marks the start of a boggy path up to the bealach. Some grassy tussocks allowed me to ford the river dry shod before embarking on the climb up to the ridge. The path was a bit feint in places, partly down to the boggy ground. Higher up it passes through some small trees but always to the right of the burn and developing gorge. It was here I passed the only other walker I would see on the hill, he was a little surprised to see me seeing as it was now mid afternoon. He had drooped to the river from the cairn and found it difficult to get across the river, he said he had almost turned back.

Sgorr a'  Choise from River Larnoch

Sgorr a' Choise from River Larnoch

I emerged at the bealach near a stile giving access to Glen Creran before turning right to head up the ridge line. There were fine views across to Beinn a' Bheithir as I continued up along the ridge. The ridge alters direction at around 620m from SW to SSW heading for point 718 over some undulating ground. It was here that I could feel the rather stiff breeze and my thoughts turned to finding a sheltered camp spot. I managed to set the tent up behind a grassy knoll after a descent from point 626.

Beinn a' Bheithir (Sgor Dhonuil and Sgorr Dhearg)

Beinn a' Bheithir (Sgor Dhonuil and Sgorr Dhearg)

Camp gear unpacked I had a brew and a bite to eat before continuing on over the next rise to find the large lochan that I had originally hoped to camp by, as it was there were no suitable pitches near by. The lochan had a small grassy floating platform that I assumed had been put in place to entice visiting red throated divers to nest. The platform had however been blown to the side of the loch despite being reasonably well anchored down. I would try and relocate it to a more central point on my return but only got out so far before I retreated after my feet started sinking into the muddy bottom!

Beinn a' Bheithir

Beinn a' Bheithir

There was still a bit of work to do as I worked my way over points 718 and 671 before dropping a little before the final step pull onto Fraochaidh. The summit proved a fine viewpoint with the peaks of Glen Coe over to the east, the Glen Etive hills south and sea views over Loch Linnhe to the west. Northward views were still dominated by the peaks of Beinn a' Bheithir the Munro's, Sgor Dhonuil and Sgorr Dhearg.

View east from Fraochaidh

View east from Fraochaidh

The breeze seemed to be easing and I enjoyed the late afternoon sun for a good while before making my return to the tent. I filled water bottles from the water dribbling off a section of boggy ground on my way back. The wind had died almost completely when I got back to my campsite and fearing a likely assault by the midge I decided to move to a spot I'd seen up on point 626.

Bidean nam Bian

Bidean nam Bian

Even up here there was little wind but I guessed the dropping temperature had been enough to ground the midge, in the event I was left to enjoy the onset of sunset in peace. It had actually cooled sufficiently to see me don hat and gloves as well as extra layers.

Sgorr Dhearg sunset

Sgorr Dhearg sunset

A hydrated beef stew followed by a wee dram and coffee were enjoyed while the light faded thorough reds and pinks. It never really got dark and I didn't need my head torch to see my watch when checking the time at around 2am. I opened the tent door at about 4.30am to catch the rising sun and what was looking to be the start of a fine day. I had some tea before dozing off to sleep again, eventually rising about 7am to start breakfast.

Sunrise Over Glen Coe

Sunrise Over Glen Coe

Fraochaidh

Fraochaidh

Beinn a' Bheithir (Sgor Dhonuil and Sgorr Dhearg)

Beinn a' Bheithir (Sgor Dhonuil and Sgorr Dhearg)

I took my time on the way off the hill, although I did have ideas of doing another walk in the afternoon.

Sgorr Dhearg

Sgorr Dhearg

The weather started to close in after I had descended to the River Larnoch and deteriorated further over the last few km back to Ballachulish.

Arriving back at Ballachulish

Arriving back at Ballachulish

The higher peaks were now shrouded in mist so thoughts doing another hill in Glen Coe were replaced with the idea of going up Schiehallion on the way back home. Back at the van I cleaned up then had coffee and cake in the café at the information centre before heading off to Perthshire and a much, much busier hill.





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