Ben Alder August 2005

Helen Rose Hill Diary

Photo: Loch Pattack. Although I am struggling through these Munros, many of them are just hills to tick without any outstanding features but one which stands out as everyone seems to have heard of is Ben Alder. It is mostly renowned for remoteness and sheer bulk. However, it is also reputed to be where Bonnie Prince Charlie?s treasure is buried. I suppose I should have taken a metal detector to sweep the mountain but it would have been extra weight to carry on the long walk and climb to it!

Ben Alder and the adjacent Munro Ben Bheoil are located on the privately owned Ben Alder Estate. In Scotland there is a right of way over private land but with certain restrictions. Often during the deer stalking and shooting season, access will be denied to certain areas but alternative routes suggested. However, we walked to these mountains in June so no restrictions applied.

Ben Alder is a big walk whichever way you do it, camping or cycling and walking. Walking from Dalwhinnie and return would be around 25 miles (40 kilometres) and about 4,000 feet of ascent, really too much for one day. Walking into Culra Bothy one day and climbing the next day is one option but we chose the cycle and walk option. We stayed in the Pottery Bunkhouse at Laggan only 15 minutes drive into Dalwhinnie and made an early start. From Dalwhinnie, we crossed the railway and started the cycle on a good private road through the Ben Alder Estate along Loch Ericht in reasonably good weather but we could see the mountains ahead in a heavy mist. The road was undulating and required us to dismount and push the bikes up the short hilly sections to save our legs for the mountain climb.

Photo: Mountain Orchid. After five miles we reached a small bridge and followed a flat track towards Culra Bothy passing Loch Pattack. At the bothy, it was tea break time by the river where many were camping out or staying in the bothy. The paths towards Ben Alder were good starting along the river and as we gained height the terrain became more rocky. There was a choice of a shorter sharper scramble or a longer route with easier scrambles. Given the severity of this walk, we opted for the easier scramble and made our way towards the summit plateau. We were now in the mist although it was warm and humid and it was difficult finding the trig point but the use of a GPS makes this much easier.

After lunch without any views inside a cloud, we descended to the col for the climb to Ben Bheoil but this was tricky navigation without any paths. As usual, Tom and Stephen were excellent on the navigation and we reached the top. By this time the mist had cleared and we had good views all around although the top of Ben Alder remained in a mist all day. I have seen it previously from other mountains around the area.

Photo: Ben Alder Mist.The descent was down through the corrie back to the river to pick up the path to Culra Bothy where the horses were hanging around looking for food. These horses are used for carrying down the deer in the stalking season so were effectively on holiday!

It was a long cycle ride round back to Dalwhinnie and we reached the bunkhouse at 10pm, a long day but an achievement as a mountain I had always wanted to climb. Noreen?s Irish Stew that she had prepared and brought with her was eagerly eaten and appreciated by us.

Although this is supposed to be a very remote mountain, it was very busy with walkers as it is so popular so I did not get the feeling of remoteness. By contrast, the following day we climbed the very accessible Ben Teallach in ?Monarch of the Glen? country which is at the road but we did not meet any other walkers making it feel more remote!

Photo: Culra Bothy. I was impressed by the investment and management of the Ben Alder estate which is well maintained and good paths and tracks provided.

Coming attractions; Arran again, Cairngorms and Glen Affric again.

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Thanks to Frances Rickus for the photos

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