Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Ben Alder Munros' May'13

Ben Alder is a vast mountain, tucked away out of view and only really glimpsed from afar by travellers as they zoom past Dalwhinnie on the A9. It and its neighbouring Munro summits were the targets for myself and hardy group in late May.

Cycling in, nearing Culra
On the Friday evening we cycled from Dalwhinnie down Loch Ericht and past the various quaint and somewhat slightly gothic buildings. Over a pass and down to Loch Pattack. John, to Dave - 'Look at the horses !' at which point Dave abruptly went head over front wheel. No real injury, just some sore ribs fortunately - when on rough tracks like what we were biking over, you've really got to concentrate. We reached the bothy and set up camp not too far away. Apart from a group of 3 walkers passing through, we saw no-one else that evening - so peaceful !

Sunrise over the Fara from Culra
Early the next morning we awoke to a fabulous sunrise over The Fara. Breakfast sorted, then we headed off directly up the slopes behind Culra. It's a combination of grass and heather, keeping to the grass makes for an easier ascent. We were on the summit of Carn Dearg in just over an hour, time to phone home, just to let loved ones know we're all ok !

On Carn Dearg
After an initial dance across boulders, we crossed pleasant grassy ground and the Munro Top of Diollaid a'Chairn - if Dave's nearby a Top, he'll bag it ! Up the narrow nose between the two lochans, where a patch of snow lurked, we were quickly on the vast plateau of Geal Charn. In mist this moor is a challenge to navigate on, but although mist did occasionally blow across, we could make our way fairly directly without consulting map or compass.

Heading to Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn
Two Munros down, two to go ! The bulk of the ascent had now been done and Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn were quickly in the bag. Down to the glen below, we sat on the path and tucked into our lunch-boxes. Decision time - should we return to Culra along the fine path, or detour up Ben Alder. I reckoned we'd get back to Culra by around 4pm direct, or around 6pm if we went over Ben Alder.

Beinn Bheoil from high above on Ben Alder
Unanimously the guys opted for Alder ! So, rucksacks back on, we headed directly uphill on Ben Alder's western shoulder. It's a slog, no doubt, but this was a fit group and they were on the high plateau fairly quickly. And into mist ! We reached the summit trig and magically the cloud lifted for a view or two. It was pretty cold up here and the cloud rapidly returned just as quick as it had left, so we opted not to hang around. We followed the rim of the massive corries, encountering some pretty large cornices - the remains of a long winter this year. Down to the col between Alder and Bheoil, we got out of the breeze and into some sunshine for a well deserved break and take in some food before the last climb of the day.

Ben Alder
We were on a faint path for the pull up Beinn Bheoil. Dave noticed on his Hill-Lists iPhone App that there was a top here, so Dave and I detoured to this (Sron Coire na h-Iolaire), while John and Neil aimed directly for Beinn Bheoil. The short detour is worth it just for the views up and down Loch Ericht ! Up to Beinn Bheoil, we regrouped for the walk back to our tents. Upon returning, we found a few folk had arrived at the bothy and another tent was near our small group, but still no-where near as busy as I've seen this in years gone-by.

Our camp near Culra
The overnight was cold, it couldn't have been much above freezing and my OMM competition sleeping bag just isn't up to these temperatures ! So, next weekend backpacking in the Cairngorms I'll have something more substantial. Daybreak and the skys weren't quite as nice as the previous morning. Dave's ribs were complaining a bit - he was delighted that we were just aiming back on the bikes and not heading out on the hills ! Breakfast eaten, gear packed all that was left was the enjoyable cycle back to Dalwhinnie !

More photos of the trip are on our Flickr site .