|Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil|
On this occasion, somewhere in the night, there was a suicide on the line. All the trains were disrupted, and very delayed. I got as far as Blair Atholl and for the last 20 miles hitch-hiked, eventually arriving at Dalwhinnie at 4 in the afternoon.
The mountains around Ben Alder are 'remote' - which means a long walk in. Many cycle the route beside Loch Ericht to Ben Alder Lodge and the open countryside beyond.After 2-3 hours a small pause in the continuous rain reveals the welcome sight of the bothy at Culra Lodge. 3 rooms for shelter.
|Showing the ridge route up onto Ben Alder from Sron Coire|
In May the days are pleasantly long and this first walk lasted little more than 6 hours so on return to the start there was time enough to reach a new area. Past Loch Pattack I headed north along the Pattack river and found a camping spot close to the falls in a bit of woodland full of signs of deer.
The next day I looped round to the north and west past the first of two lochans to approach Geal Charn from the North side. The route is served well by a landrover track and on this Sunday morning without a soul on foot, bike, or landrover the landscape is picturesque in a desolate sort of way.
Geal Charn has a curious North side - deeply scored by several streams with banks 20 or so metres high on each side. The dips are pleasant to walk in, alongside a stream - but you can't actually see if you're going in the right direction. Eventually it is necessary to leave these and head up to a bealach where a path invites you into the arms of a Coire below the top. Using my walking poles shortened to act like ice axe sticks I pulled myself up over a small snow field onto the ridge.
The characteristic top of Geal Charn looks down onto the neighboring Munro Creag Pitridh.
Here the wind was very fierce and it was good to get down to a recognisable path. This dropped down to the second of the two lochans with an attractive sandy beach.
On the map both Lochans are called na h-Earba. The path divides a little further on - one branch towards the A86 and the top of Loch Laggan just a couple of miles away. The other heads south back towards the mountains, passing the ruin of Lubvan which make a beautiful remote and exposed camp. The trailstar once set-up shrugged off the wind which quietened in the night.
The path follows the stream up to a spot marked 'stepping stones' on the map. On the ground - no sign, just a river to wade across and then the path disappears. Time for some heather bashing towards the top marked Beinn Eibhinn.
This impressive and interesting ridge heads east over several munros. It is commonly approached from Loch Ossian, and this route misses the relatively minor top Meal Clas Choire. Continuing from Beinn Eibhein over Aonach Beag, Geal Charn (another one!) towards Carn Dearg, there are great views on both sides and a dramatic (but not exposed or even scrambley) rocky route down between two lochans in the move from Geal Charn to Diolliad a Chairn.
At the last top Carn Dearg it is possible to head down East & South to the bothy at Culra and Loch Pattach and the route out. Me - I headed north-west to the top of the trail through An Lairig to pick up a small path which heads east on an upward diagonal across the side of Beinn A Chlachair which was the target for the next day.
|Ben Alder group from Carn Dearg|
|Beinn a' Chlachair from Carn Dearg|
This is my last day. As the train leaves from Dalwhinnie at 10pm, a full day is still available for walking. From the map the obvious next option was to ascend Geal Charn again, this time from the south and then follow the path from the bealach on the north side to the east down towards Pattack river.
This proved a rewarding choice with fine views and some deer and ptarmagin, and a pleasant stream in which to bathe my battered feet.
|Loch Ericht looking towards Ben Alder|
I had the station to myself for a couple of hours which gave me good time to apply first aid to my feet, to repack my bag, and to cook up my last cup of mulagatawny soup.
[note: you can click on any picture to see it in enlarged ... ]