I’ve put together a few notes and photos for anyone thinking of climbing Ben Alder and not sure about a route.
It seems a big route, but the biking / pushing the bike bit takes up 18 miles out of the 30 miles and I reckoned at the time, using my altimeter watch, that the total ascent was a bit less than 5,000 ft.
On 10th June 2001, I left the car near the railway crossing at Dalwhinnie and set off on my bike along the unsurfaced estate road towards Ben Alder Lodge. I noticed that there was work being done on the house shown on the maps as The Shieling, as well as the road there being surfaced with small blocks of granite. Further along, at the entrance to Ben Alder Lodge, I stopped to have a chat to some workmen who were busy laying little granite blocks on the road down to the Lodge. They told me that the Lodge had recently been sold and the new owner (a foreigner) had already spent around 3 million pounds on repairs and improvements, including renewing nearly a mile of wrought iron fence around the house grounds. The estate road along the loch is good for cycling, the surface wasn’t loose then and there’s very little in the way of hills. I had read that it was possible to drive past the lodge and park near Loch Pattack, but decided not to take a chance on any delays that would occur if I was turned back.
From Ben Alder Lodge, the track climbs steadily but not steeply, up hill, levelling out for a while alongside a forest plantation, then dropping gently down towards Loch Pattack.
After nearly 1km of travelling in a straight line, the path towards Culra Lodge is on the left of the estate road, which goes on to cross the river by the head of Loch Pattack and a left turn there will also take you to Culra Lodge.
The first time I came this way, I left the bike by the forest plantation and walked from there, as the map showed only a footpath, but this time I took the bike well past Culra Lodge on the opposite side of the river. The path is quite wide and in good condition for cycling and for quite a way along it, you get excellent views of Ben Alder and the Lancet Edge of Sgor Iutharn, which is an interesting scramble that‘s worth doing.
View from start of path towards Cura Lodge, Ben Alder and Lancet Edge
Similar view on a better day
Ben Alder and Lancet Edge of Sgor Iutharn, with Culra lodge and Bothy
I left the bike and set off up the path towards the Bealach Bheithe, looking at Ben Alder and trying to decide whether to climb up the Long Leacas or the Short Leacas, in the end deciding on the longer ridge as it seemed more interesting. After finding a suitable place to cross the burn, the climb up the Long Leacas to the plateau was relatively easy, with the only hands-on scrambling being nearer the top.
Looking North, from the top of the Long Leacas ridge of Ben Alder
The ridge ends suddenly at the Ben Alder plateau and it was an easy, gently rising walk along the edge overlooking Loch a Bhealach, before leaving the edge to cross a few late-lying snowfields on the way to the summit cairn which is a couple of hundred yards from the corrie edge.
View along the edge of Ben Alder plateau, with Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe in the corrie.
View across the Coire to Beinn Bheoil
There’s not a great view from the summit of Ben Alder, but a short walk to the South West edge of the plateau gives a great view towards Loch Ossian and Ben na Lap, with distant views of the mountains of the Black Mount, Buachaille Etive Mhor, Glen Coe, Mamores and Ben Nevis.
View from Alder plateau, South West towards Loch Ossian
From there I went back to the coire edge and followed it round towards the Bealach Breabag, quite a gentle slope at first, then becoming quite steep as you descend into the pass, but the views North down the loch are good.
Eastern cliffs of Ben Alder, with the summit being the highest point on the horizon
The climb up onto Sron Coire na-Iolaire isn’t too steep or long and the summit is a great view point for seeing the way ahead to Beinn Bheoil.
Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe and Beinn Bheoil
The ascent of Beinn Bheoil is relatively easy and the summit is a good viewpoint for the eastern corries of Ben Alder and northwards along Loch Ericht. From the summit, I followed the ridge Northwards to Sron Dreineach, then angled downhill to the corner in the path below, that leads back towards Culra.
It’s a long day out, but the use of a bike is a big help here, as it is if you’re climbing the 4 Munros between Culra and Loch Ossian.
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