I walked this route some years ago after spending a night camping near Culra Bothy. I was reminded of it when, during the lockdown, I was sent a link to a U Tube video of Muriel Gray on Ben Alder. The video was made around 30 years ago as part of the TV series “The Munro Show”.
or an internet search for “Muriel Gray and Ben Alder” should also find it.
Unlike Muriel, who cadged a lift to Loch Pattack, I cycled in from Dalwhinnie, having parked at the railway station a little before 08.00. Dalwhinnie (360m) is one of the highest villages in Scotland and the site of a famous distillery. As it was September, I had contacted the estate a few days earlier to seek permission and ensure my hiking would not interfere with their stalking. The large, impressive gate at the gate lodge entrance to the estate was closed and I was wondering how to gain access when a large estate SUV drove up and the gate opened automatically. It’s about 16kms of a cycle (or walk) from Dalwhinnie to Culra Bothy with around 250m of ascent. It’s a pleasant enough cycle though from Dalwhinnie as far as Ben Alder Lodge. The track is quite smooth and well maintained and there are nice views over Loch Ericht. As I passed the lodge I heard several rifle shot as stalkers practiced and tested their aim before heading out. Parts of the track beyond Ben Alder Lodge are rough and steep and I had to dismount and push the bike uphill in places. Crossing the shaking suspension footbridge at Loch Pattack with bicycle and camping rucksack was an experience also. Before reaching Culra, weary with cycling carrying a heavy rucksack while there were lovely hills all around, I abandoned the bike and camping gear at NN530 785 and rambled over Carn Dearg (1035m) as far as Diollaird a’ Chairn and back. After returning to retrieve bike and tent, I cycled on to Culra and pitched camp at NN525 764, across the river from Culra Bothy. Culra Bothy has an asbestos problem and staying within it is not advised. The stag ponies were grazing nearby but after investigating the tent they were content to leave it alone. I had a comfortable night as the ground was level so wasn’t slipping off the sleeping mat as happens on some other nights “under canvas”. There was rain overnight but I slept through it undisturbed.Room with a view
The following morning, due to the wet grass, the waterproofs were useful while striking camp. I put the tent and camping gear in a large dry bag and stored it and the bike out of sight before heading off for Ben Alder.
I ascended Ben Alder via the North East ridge - the Long Leachas Ridge - overlooking Coire na Lethchois. This is the route that Muriel took and described as a “sporting scramble”. It’s not nearly as tough as it looks from below and can be ascended with little difficulty.The NE Ridge of Ben Alder - Long Lachas
It was quite claggy above 1,000 m and the GPS was very useful for finding the exact summit. Visibility improved through the day though and I think I could see as far as Schiehallion, Ben Lawers and the Glen Lyon Munros. Looking back to Srón Bealach Beithe and Ben Alder after the clag cleared
The trickiest part of the route was the descent into the col between Srón Bealach Beithe and Srón Coire na h-Iolaire. Had my lunch in that col before heading back to Culra via Beinn Bheoil (1019m). Looking North East to Beinn Bheoil and Loch Ericht
Gathered up my camping gear and cycled back to Dalwhinnie. The cycle out was much easier than the cycle in as there’s less ascent and more descent. Couldn’t help looking up towards Meall Cruaidh (897m) and The Fara (911m) as I cycled out along Loch Ericht but their delights will have to wait for another day.
( P.S. As Irving Berlin used to say to Bing Crosby " Thank you Mark ! ")