Fraochaidh - 879m
Thursday 23rd February 2017

Weather/Conditions: A quiet wintry day. Occasional snow showers (rain below c. 300m) blowing in form the west, but little wind, little sun, just a high white blanket of cloud, which only just shrouded the summit of Fraochaidh.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 12.6km / 900m / 3h 45m
Accompanying: Alone

Fraochaidh is a large but anonymous mountain rising above Glen Duror and Appin. It's a quiet hill, hidden and overshadowed somewhat by the flanks of Beinn a' Bheithir. Even from Duror you get little hint of it's structure and bulk. It's also one of the closest hills to my new home and it was pretty clear that before long I'd find my way to it.

The 23rd was a pretty glum day, and it was lunchtime when I finally decided to head for the hills. It would have to be quick too, for I hadn't a headtorch and I'd be against the clock.

Parking is quite awkward in Duror; there is very good parking (signposted) for the glen itself, but this takes you to the north side of the glen. I wanted to head for the south side, via. the railway track and Acharn.

The hardest bit of the day was actually getting going. I'd sat in the car for a while pulling motivation together, but as always I've found that once I've started on a hill, it takes something pretty exceptional to stop me. It's almost as though once the decision has been made to do something, I'll go for it with everything. But some days it takes a bit longer to arrive at that than others. I ended up tucking the car in against the roadside at the Abhainn cottages and set off on my way.

I walked down the old railway to Acharn, where there is an information board. Acharn is where James Stewart lived prior to being arrested, wrongfully convicted and executed for the murder of Colin Campbell. The Duror area makes no secret of this past, and a number of information boards throughout the locale help inform about its Jacobite past prior to the Clearences.

I headed up forestry tracks into Glen Duror. Unfortunately, it looks like a bit of a bomb site at the moment. Today's drab weather made it look no better. Everywhere are blocks of conifer, or blocks of clear-felling. Some folk passed who were obviously up working; a JCB was busy at work on the hillside below the track. These lands were bought by the Forestry Commission for the very purpose of eventually felling them. But when the place looks like a bomb hit it, it seems a bit of a shame.

Nonetheless, I reached the top of the track and cut off onto the hill above, the first couple hundred metres of which were a frustrating combination of felled woodland, slippery branches, and a wet white blanket of snow to cover it all.

Things were a bit easier when I cleared the old forestry works and got engaged with the hill above. Not pushing any particular pace, I noticed my time slowly slipping on as I had no desire to be out after dark (no headtorch after all). Some way up the hill but nowhere near the top, a lochan slices across the ridge line. Upon reaching this I felt I'd put a good effort in. But this wasn't yet the case; I still had miles to go. And so the day was slogged out through fresh snow, gaining on the top bit by bit.

I began timing myself between landmarks, which actually worked, and gave the motivation to push harder against my comfort level. I rounded Coire na Capuill, and with wild views out to my right down Appin pressed onto the summit ridge. This rose in hummocks, flattened out, then a cairn of fenceposts appeared ahead.

The summit itself was quite non-descript, covered in snow and with the thinnest of mists sitting on the very summit. I took ten minutes here, then set off back down the way I'd come, following footprints all the way back down the hill.

Showers drew in across Loch Linnhe, lowering the cloud base and brining snow to Fraochaidh. Below a few hundred metres this turned to the pattering of rain, and I returned in the gloom of late afternoon.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 1.15pm Duror
(2.20) 3.35pm Fraochaidh
(3.45) 5.00pm Duror

Written: 2017-03-04