Ben Alder and the surrounding Munros are fairly isolated and require a bit of effort to reach. We'd organised this trip, starting with a bike in on the Friday afternoon and walking over the mountains on the following day. The trip took place right at the end of the stag stalking season, therefore we contacted the estate to make sure we wouldn't disturb their activities.
We all met up at the railway crossing and got kit organised - some folk wanted to hire our tents and backpacking gear, all shiny and new ! Rain drizzled as we biked it down Loch Ericht to Loch Pattack, over the wire bridge, the track gets rougher, so shaken, but not stirred, we arrived by Culra bothy. There's an excellent spot for a few tents just opposite the bothy on the other side of a small burn. Tents up, we blethered in the bothy as we ate our food. There were a couple of guys staying there who were walking out to Ossian the next day and two others being guided by Tim Hall.
Next day we awoke early to fine autumnal colours lit by the morning sunshine. Our plan for the day was to bag the four Munros on the ridge immediately north of Culra. So directly up from the bothy on grassy slopes we hiked. Some wildlife played for the camera, including a hare that didn't seem over bothered by our presence. In no time we were on Carn Dearg's summit with fine views in most directions. Westwards next and we blethered and walked up the ridge between two lochans to gain a high plateau then onto Geal Charn, in cloud with a light dusting of snow. Aonach Beag next was only half an hour away and also sulked in cloud. We dropped to the next col, out of the cloud and met up with Tim and his crew - they were doing the same route as us, but in the opposite direction. One final pull and we were up the day's last Munro, Beinn Eibhinn.
We had the option of returning past the last Munro and descending via the Lancet Edge - an easy graded rock scramble. However, with the cloud above 850m, we decided just to drop to the glen below and return to base following a fine path. The estate had kindly left some wood for burning in the bothy's stove, so after our dinners and some chat, we eventually turned in around 9pm.
Well rested, we were up early the next day, ready for Ben Alder and it's neighbour Beinn Bheoil. Weather looked excellent, although the higher peaks (including Alder) were being stroked by mist. The hike started on a fine path, which we were on for the best part of an hour, before leaving it to strike over heather for Beinn Bheoil. Further up, the heather is left behind and we walked on a fine carpet of grass to reach our day's first summit. We briefly stopped here for a photo, then, due to the mist, breeze and cold, continued along the mountain to have a break for food at a more sheltered point.
A faint path is easily lost and regained and we were at the col before Ben Alder. Above and infront of us rocky outcrops meant a direct line couldn't be made, but we seemed to take a decent line up and in a very short time we were on the mountain's crest. A bit of navigation is required on the flat plateau to find the lochan, then the summit. Time for a few more photos, even in mist !
The easiest way out is to return to the col and take the path out, but not our intrepid explorers - they fancied trying their hand at the Long Leachas. So we progressed northwards, with some navigation and began to drop out of the mist. We reached the start of the ridge, it looks scarier than it actually is ! The team clambered over the rock, enjoying the views on the way. Further down and back into heather, we picked up our path in and returned to Culra. Tents and gear packed up, we began the long cycle back to Dalwhinnie. The finest weather was saved for this part of the day and we stopped frequently to take in the views.
A couple of things could have spoilt our trip, has we been of a sensitive disposition. Firstly a group had been in the bothy prior to us and left a large pile of rubbish on the table, including a rotting chicken carcase. Not nice and too much for us to carry out. Secondly, when cycling back and reaching the wire bridge by Loch Pattack, someone had just left a fresh crap under the bridge, in full view. Just disgusting - I suspect it was one of the cyclist we passed coming in the opposite direction a few minutes earlier. Really not nice !
More photos of the trip are on our Flickr site.