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Ben Alder

PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 10:47 am
by whitestone
With the realisation that 2017 was nearly upon us and we hadn't had a trip to Scotland this year we decided to do a circuit suggested by Colin (Scotroutes): Dalwhinnie, Loch Garry, Loch Rannoch, in to Ben Alder Cottage, then back via the Bealach Dubh, Culra Bothy and along Loch Ericht. A first trip bikepacking with the fat bikes as well.

The first fifteen Km or so are along the cycle route by the A9, not pleasant with all the traffic next to you but gets you down to Dalnaspidal Lodge where you leave the road for Loch Garry. This (and the track along Loch Garry) was into a stiff headwind. For a CTC route, it's one of the LEJOG options, it isn't a good surface at times.

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The estate track finishes just past the end of the loch so this is at the start of a bit of pushing. Even with fat bikes there were bits where progress just wasn't possible.

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But you'd get the occasional rideable bit.

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After a long drop down to Loch Rannoch there's more road, but since this is a dead end road (it leads to Rannoch Station on the West Highland Line) it's pretty quiet. There's then a long pull up from Rannoch Lodge to get to the southern end of Loch Ericht. This is part of the Highland Trail route, we'd follow it as far as Loch Pattack.

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The good track ends a Km or so along the loch side, then you've got a Km or two of hike-a-bike across bogs :sad: Eventually you cross a rickety bridge and get to the bothy. Fortunately there was firewood available so we soon got warmed up.

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The weather had started to turn by the morning so the climb up to Bealach Cumhann and then Bealach Dubh was a damp affair, rain along with snowmelt meant that a couple of the burn crossings were "interesting" and we had to make our own stepping stones by building cairns in the river bed :o The initial track rises 300m or so in 5Km and is in pretty good nick - it looked like someone had been along and trimmed back encroaching vegetation, the edges looked very straight and well marked.

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The track is very rideable but you need to be good at getting over water bars, there's lots of them. The descent from Bealach Dubh is great though on this occasion we had several large steep banks of wet sugary snow to negotiate. Every time you thought you were going to get a good run you'd turn a corner and there'd be another snow bank. Then we came to the burn that's the outflow of Loch na Sgoir. The stalkers path crosses close to where it joins the main burn but the current was too strong there so we headed back upstream and after more building of stepping stones (40Kg rocks that we dropped into the burn were getting trundled away and you could hear them thumping on the stream bed) we gave up any pretence about keeping our feet dry and jumped and waded our way across. After this the going got quicker with only the occasional dismount to deal with swollen streams, we were also getting better at the water bars having now had plenty of practice. :roll: After Culra Bothy (closed because of asbestos) it was plain sailing with the wind on our backs.

At Ben Alder Lodge we saw our first person since leaving Loch Rannoch over 25hrs earlier, generally not a place to have an accident! All that was left was to spin along the estate track back to the car.

Re: Ben Alder

PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 12:35 pm
by ScotRoutes
I did say it would be wet... You were very unlucky as a couple of weeks ago the whole area was as dry as I've known it.

The fatbike does handle waterbars quite well - even loaded up.

Re: Ben Alder

PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 12:52 pm
by whitestone
Forgot to mention that I saw my first ever Mountain Hare in winter plumage as we were riding by Loch Garry.

Also despite over forty years of Heading to the Hills (see what I did there?) I realised that Ben Alder cottage was only the fourth bothy that I've actually stopped in.

Re: Ben Alder

PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 2:55 pm
by benp1
Looks like a great trip

I do wish Scotland was a bit closer to me, maybe swap place with Norfolk and Suffolk?

Re: Ben Alder

PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 4:03 pm
by Ray Young
benp1 wrote: maybe swap place with Norfolk and Suffolk?


Err, no, you can keep Norfolk and Suffolk where it is thanks.

Re: Ben Alder

PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 7:00 pm
by ScotRoutes
benp1 wrote:Looks like a great trip

I do wish Scotland was a bit closer to me, maybe swap place with Norfolk and Suffolk?


If the mountains will not come to Muhammed......

Re: Ben Alder

PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 7:23 pm
by padonbike
it looked like someone had been along and trimmed back encroaching vegetation, the edges looked very straight and well marked.

Ben Alder estate have always looked after their estate very well. There used to be two guys who stayed in the other half of the Ben Alder Cottage but Jerry retired, while Owen still looks after the paths of the estate. I hadn't seen him for a few years but I bumped into him and had a brief chat when I was last riding there in August.

Re: Ben Alder

PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 4:37 pm
by Scud
Unread postby benp1 ยป Sat Dec 31, 2016 2:55 pm
Looks like a great trip

I do wish Scotland was a bit closer to me, maybe swap place with Norfolk and Suffolk?


You're lucky, some of us have to live in Norfolk... happens when you marry a Norfolk girl and can't keep her away (one head, ten toes, i checked)..

The mountains here are pretty bad, but on the plus side the beach 8 miles from me (wells next the sea) has just been voted best in the UK, so at least i can ride fatty along the sand and get an ice-cream!

Re: Ben Alder

PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:38 pm
by ianpv
I didn't realise that Culra was shut for asbestos. That's me poisoned a few times then :lol:

There are some great trails around there. Are the remains of an old ww2 air crash still at the bealach dubh between alder cottage and culra, or am I getting that mixed up?

Re: Ben Alder

PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:38 pm
by ianpv
I didn't realise that Culra was shut for asbestos. That's me poisoned a few times then :lol:

There are some great trails around there. Are the remains of an old ww2 air crash still at the bealach dubh between alder cottage and culra, or am I getting that mixed up?

Re: Ben Alder

PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:46 pm
by whitestone
Not sure about crash debris - it was pretty murky and horizontal rain when we were on the Bealach Dubh so weren't hanging about. Looks like there is debris there: http://www.aircrashsites-scotland.co.uk ... -charn.htm the last photo on that page shows debris very close to the path but all the burns were torrents so we could well have missed it.

Culra - it's been shut for a while, lots of paint daubed on the outside walls saying "Shut, keep out, asbestos", no idea when/if it will get sorted.

Re: Ben Alder

PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 8:48 pm
by htrider
ianpv wrote:I didn't realise that Culra was shut for asbestos. That's me poisoned a few times then :lol:

There are some great trails around there. Are the remains of an old ww2 air crash still at the bealach dubh between alder cottage and culra, or am I getting that mixed up?


Yep, just on the north side of the the high point of bealach dubh - Diamond pattern aluminium sections and various other random bits from a wellington bomber.
I've slep in culra a few times - the main room seems to have solid timber panelling so I can't see there being much of a problem.