Once you have planned your main route you than need to consider if you need any foul weather alternatives. Often this is the hardest bit of route planning just when you thought you were nearly there! Scotland’s weather is notoriously (we would say gloriously!) unpredictable. You need to think what may impede your progress. Rain can be unpleasant but in itself is not a problem unless you are faced with a raging unbridged burn. It’s what often comes with the rain that causes the problem. This is one of the world’s windiest places and quite frequently in high places it is difficult to satay on your feet let alone make progress and when the clouds meet the ground mist will also impede navigation.
We are commonly asked – when do I need an FWA? The answer is – it depends! Not terribly helpful we know but there are a number of factors to take into consideration.
Anything over 900m definitely needs a FWA. Between 50m and 900m you need to think about it taking into account the other factors. Below 500m you won’t need an FWA unless you have large unbridged burns to cross.
If there is a good path or track to follow you are less likely to need a FWA as in mist you at least have a “handrail” navigationally. Pathless ground needs more concentration to navigate and if there are peat hags or rocky outcrops to negotiate you will be travelling slower and therefore at a higher altitude for longer. Not all the paths marked on the map are clear on the ground – Jock road being a good example.
How long does your route run go over high ground? If it is a quick up and over a high col (eg Bealach Dubh) that’s less of a problem then 3 or 4 km over high ground (eg Jock’s Road)
High sided cols can act as a wind funnel. The best example of this is the LairighGhru where wind speeds can be far higher than at a similar altitude elsewhere.
If you have significant burns or rivers to cross these may be impassable in spate so you need to think of a FWA. Crossing both the Carnoch and the Tromie now need a FWA since their bridges have been lost and the Fords of Avon always need a FWA on this basis.
If you have lots of experience of Scotland’s terrain and regularly navigate across pathless ground in adverse condition we will have a higher threshold for requesting a FWA. If in doubt though add one! For certain routes FWAs are compulsory regardless of your experience. These are; Lairig Ghru, Jock’s Road, Fords of Avon, River Carnoch, the Kilbo path and all Munro and Corbett summits.
The next question is where to take the FWA. Often the answer is obvious but when it isn’t you may need to look at a substantial diversion and the route going over 2 days. For example the easiest solution to a FWA for the Lairig Ghru is to go along Glens Feshie and Geldie to meet your original route at Braemar. For Jock’s Road there isn’t much option other than via the Ballochbuie Forest over to Spital of Glenmuick then via Shielin of Mark over to Loch lee and down to Tarfside.
If you are not sure whether you need an FWA it is probably best to put one in but as ever we are always happy to help and point you towards a solution