A very boggy ascent – [# 273]

Am Faochagach (954m)

  • Pronunciation:             Am Fookagach
  • Translation:                  The Heathery Place
  • Total distance:             14.6km
  • Total time:                    4hrs 34mins
  • Total ascent:                 803m
  • Weather:                       Very dull with intermittent showers driven through on a strong wind
  • Start / end location:    Parking just off the A835 at the west end of Loch Glascarnoch. [OS Map Sheet 20 – Grid Ref: NH 277 743]
  • Map:                                A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

Loch a' Gharbhrain with Beinn Dearg (L) and Cona Mheall (R) in the background

We’d been avoiding Am Faochagach for the last couple of weeks because it has the reputation of being extremely boggy and necessitates a serious river crossing which some of the guidebooks suggest “may well be impassable after heavy rain”. Well, we’ve certainly had plenty of heavy and persistent rain, which has been enough to dissuade us from attempting what is after all only a very short 14km route. However, we have reached the stage where we must tackle this Munro – come sunshine … or more likely rain!

A very wet path is the order of the day on the ascent of Am Faochagach (domed summit on the right)

Unsurprisingly, the forecast for today was for showers in the morning followed by more sustained rain come the afternoon. Armed with this we chose an early start to avoid the worst of the weather.

We parked by the bridge on the A835 just to the west of Loch Glascarnoch and crossed the road to the north side to begin our walk. After stepping over an old fence we entered a flat, boggy, wet hinterland between the roadside and the bank of the Abhrainn a’ Gharbhrain river. For just over 1km we dodged as best we could the worst of the mud and pools of water before finally arriving at the riverbank. Needless to say, our boots were pretty soaked by this point.

About to cross the Abhainn a' Gharbhrain river - in the background lies Beinn Dearg (L) and Cona Mheall (R)

Our next obstacle was to cross the river, which, although only a kilometre in length as it flowed from Loch Gharbhrain into Loch Glascarnoch, was nonetheless quite substantial in size. We joined the river just where a small island sits in its midstream: the bifurcation in the river around the island is often cited as a place where it can be forded via some boulder stepping stones – but unfortunately the river was too high for that to be possible today. We searched upstream until we neared the outlet from Loch Gharbhrain but there was nowhere to cross that didn’t involve getting our feet wet. Once again we had packed our sandals and so put them on to wade across the river at its widest and shallowest point.

The rounded summit dome of Am Faochagach (R) from the top of Meall Gorm

Safely across we dried our feet and got back into our boots and gaiters before traversing round the west side of a small hillock that guarded the south end of Loch Gharbhrain. Once around the hillock, we picked up a muddy path that ascended alongside the east bank of the Allt na h-Uidhe burn. Just as the course of the burn veered north the path diverged and we aimed for the low point on Am Faochagach’s long south ridge: a point 600m north of Sron Liath. A long slog up thick heathery slopes brought us out on the broad ridge.

Cameron at the summit of Am Faochagach

The terrain on the ridge consisted of short wind-clipped grass interspersed with patches of flat dinner-plate like boulders. It was very easy-going and made a drier and pleasanter contrast to the damp ascent from below. Although the cloud level was above the height of Am Faochagach, its summit couldn’t yet been seen until we’d climbed to the top of a subsidiary peak at 845m. From here we could see the rounded Munro summit arcing away from us to our right with another subsidiary rounded peak lying just in front. We didn’t really drop much in height from 845m before ascending again over the first peak and then onto the summit of Am Faochagach at 954m or 3,130ft. The summit was very flat with an equally flat pile of stones as its cairn. We did get some good view to Seana Bhraigh in the north and to Beinn Dearg and Cona Mheall in the west. However, to the SW and over the opposite side of  the A835 road the Fannaich range was busy playing host to some very squally looking showers – that were regrettably heading our way.

The view north to Seana Bhraigh (L) and Creag an Duine (R) from the summit of Am Faochagach

We stopped at the summit only long enough to grab a snack before retracing our steps back to the point on the ridge where we had to turn west and descend back through the heather towards the river crossing. On our descent we met a chap ascending on his own. He asked us about the state of the route once on the ridge and we asked him about his experience of crossing the river. It turns out that he managed to cross with his boots on near to the little island and his feet “didn’t get too wet”. He said that it had taken him about an hour of trying though as he surveyed up and down the river before deciding on a suitable crossing point. Our conversation with the chap did give us hope that we might not need to change into our sandals this time – especially as the showers that we had seen brewing over the Fannaichs were now with us.

When we arrived at the bank of the river I still could not see a safe crossing point that didn’t involve standing on submerged stones: stones that were covered in green algae and under very fast flowing water. We might have eventually found somewhere to cross, but decided that it would probably take as long to find as simply putting on our sandals and wading across once again – which is exactly what we did. This time, though, the position of our crossing was deeper and faster flowing and at one point Elaine was worried that she hadn’t quite rolled her trouser legs up high enough. Just when it looked likely that the next step would result in wet trousers she found a convenient boulder to step on and from there the depth of the water began to decrease.

After drying our feet for the second time on the walk we made the soggy 1.2km journey back across the flat ground to the road and our car. Am Faochagach had been duly bagged leaving us with only 10 more to compete our challenge by 1 October.

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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