Thursday, 21 March 2013

Meall an Fhreiceadain

We climbed Meall an Fhreiceadain yesterday morning, leaving the Sanna road in bright sunshine but with a cold southeaster blowing.  We've been to the top of this hill before, but coming at it from the other side.  The route we took started from one of Kilchoan township's apportionments, seen in the foreground, and is marked on the picture with red arrows.

From a hill within the apportionment we looked back to the Sanna road and the lochan which lies between the Sanna and lighthouse roads.  It's a lochan that's lost its name on the modern OS maps, but on the older OS maps it's marked as Lochan nan Ealachan, the lochan of the swans.

As we climbed we looked north across the hills which are formed by the rocks of the Ardnamurchan volcanic complex to the next volcano in the line which erupted some 60 million years ago - all that's left of it is the island of Rum.

Then we looked back across the apportionment.  An apportionment is a section of a crofting township's open common grazings which has been assigned to a crofter to enclose.  This one has been much improved - the line of the fence between it and the heather-covered common grazings is clearly visible.

But this land had a previous use.  Old stone walls criss-cross the apportionment land.  They once demarcated worked, arable fields.  The earliest good map of the area is dated 1806, and those fields weren't in use then, so they must be much older.

Higher still, we looked into the volcanic ring.  The curved hills of the hard rock, eucrite, of which they are formed can be clearly seen.  The dark ridge to the left is Beinn na h-Imeilte, and the more distant peaks include Meall Sanna.

As is typical of the hills around here, the summit of Meall an Fhreiceadain has a pool of water available to slake the thirst of weary climbers - except that, in the bitingly cold wind, it was frozen solid.  At this point on our walk it began to snow, only a few flakes drifting in the wind.

This is the view northwestwards from the summit.  Strung along the horizon are the peaks of the mountains of the Outer Hebrides.  The lumpy hill in the foreground is Creag an Airgid, and the small township of Achnaha can be seen in the centre of the volcanic ring.

We dropped down the other side of the summit to Lochan Choire Chruinn, frozen in one corner, before following the slope around to the left and heading back to the road across the north side of Meall an Fhreiceadain.

The walk took about two and a half hours.  It doesn't look far on the map (see here), but it's up and down hill, and much of the route is covered in thick heather, which makes for hard going.  But it's worth the effort, as there's a 360 degree view from the top - which probably explains the name of the hill, since freiceadan means 'watch' or 'guard' in Gaelic.

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