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.
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.
But you'd get the occasional rideable bit.
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.
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
Eventually you cross a rickety bridge and get to the bothy. Fortunately there was firewood available so we soon got warmed up.
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
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.
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.
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.