Basecamp Benalder Cottage Day 4 (exit-walk)

Date walked: 22/06/2024

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 19km

5 last Alder Bay.jpg
It was goodbye to Benalder Cottage, nestled lonely in Alder Bay.

4 map full Ericht.jpg
Keep the big lake to your right, you can't go wrong.

This walk was preceded by 'Basecamp Benalder Cottage Day 3 (Ben Alder)'

So, after having got Ben Alder and the other one in so inspirationally yesterday, I could now look forward to a delightful and easy 11-mile stroll along Loch Ericht to Dalwhinnie. I could afford to dwawdle until 6:30 a.m., even then leaving a generous 7 and half hours to walk or limp through in order to catch my train. I felt the need to put in a dull and dour bothy book entry to counterbalance the previous people's (a tale of Mexico and lesbianism, with possibly more truth in it than the Cottage ghost), and I was off, and I quickly discovered one should not presume on 'easiness' anywhere at all in Scottish terrain. The path around the first mile or so of headland out of Ben Alder Bay is a touch precarious, overgrown and exposed, with a real chance for the careless or weary to fall into the Loch and die. I do not exaggerate, and I would be sceptical about the route even being open in winter or whenever the water level is high. A young cycling couple arrived from that direction the night before, camping outside the bothy, and they must have had an awkward time indeed getting through. Thankfully, things did become simpler and flatter after this, all the way to Dalwhinnie, and simpler still once you reach the high civilization of Ben Alder Lodge at about half way.

3 packed & ready.jpg
I'm ready: 6.30 a.m. Train from Dalwhinnie is at 14:02.

1 humorous entry.jpg
My somewhat dour entry contrasts with previous 'charismatic' ones (if you care to zoom in).

4 out to headland.jpg
The initial headland required care.

6 round headland.jpg
Scenic it may be, but not 100% convinced I could get round.

7 Coire Bhachdaidh Lodge.jpg
Across there is Coire Bhachdaidh Lodge and a power station.

8 further along.jpg
And on it goes.

9 Stob an Aonaich Mhoir 858m.jpg
The Corbett, Stob an Aonaich Mhoir, overlooking Coire Bhachdaidh Lodge.

10 further still.jpg
On it still goes.

I cannot vouch strongly enough for the beauty of this walk, and that is saying something as I really was aching and stinging from all my endeavours, but it didn't stop me appreciating its tranquillity and vastness. Loch Ericht sure is a long one, and one feature you notice on the opposite side is the little power station and Coire Bhachdaidh Lodge. Neither spoil the landscape, but there is a steady hum, unless that was coming from inside my head. I noted the striking elongated form of the isolated Corbett, Stob an Aonaich Mhoir, over there too, which overlooks the Lodge. This is splendidly remote, accessed only by long and winding track from Rannoch (itself remote, accessed only by long minor road or two trains a day). I'm excited by the prospect of venturing out there one day, over said Corbett and then back via the track perhaps. Today, though, the Lodge of importance was Ben Alder, which meant I was just beyond halfway to Dalwhinnie. From this point, cyclists came thick and fast mostly in the opposite direction, making their morning start to a day in the mountains. The gravel track on this section made for good progress but little sense of luxury for beaten-up feet.

11 McCooks Beinn Bheoil.jpg
If you're heading west, the photogenic sign would reassure you you're heading 'somewhere'.

12 full perspective back.jpg
It's farewell to Beinn Bheoil and Ben Alder.

13 reach Lodge.jpg
Reaching civilization at Ben Alder Lodge, the track that would lead you to Culra Bothy.

15 deer stalking.jpg
Saw more cyclists than red deer if I'm honest, but that's not a complaint.

17 Ben Alder Lodge.jpg
Some place to live!

map terminus.jpg
You're not there until you're there. A crossing that is not a crossing, and a diversion.

18 The Apiary.jpg
The Apiary cafe at Dalwhinnie, what cultured bliss, finally.

One would think nothing could go wrong for the rest of this route, but getting to a railway station in a small Scottish Highland village is not the same as a large English town. Grimacing from my raw toes and chafed ankles, I found only a wire fence and locked gates barring my way to Dalwhinnie. A sign says walkers must use the yellow phone to request permission to pass through. I was pleased to find it was immediately answered, but it was a bit more of a downer to be told the crossing is not just closed (as in at the moment, physically) but 'closed'. It does not get opened for you, but you have to take a diversion out to an underpass and walk around into the village for a mile and a half. He was a nice fellow, and explained this well, probably used to flustered and tired wanderers wanting to get through. They could do with putting a sign up further back, though, where said diversion is. I had plenty of time and hobbled into Dalwhinnie, even having the luxury of 45 minutes at the Apiary Cafe.

One extra moment of no worse than mild panic was finding that my train had been cancelled beyond Perth, but it turned out there was plenty of time to catch a connection from there to get to Edinburgh Waverley on time for my England train. It was chaos that day (it was a Saturday), although I think the Perth guard used a different word, with a lot of hassled staff and screen-gazing travellers at Waverley. My phone had died on me by this point, meaning I couldn't open the barriers to get through to my platform. Rather than wait indefinitely for assistance or possible refusal, I crawled under. I wasn't the only one. Probably not the most sensible thing to do, but I was rather keen to get home without further hassle, and I felt it an acceptable risk in the context of the adventures I had just accomplished. 8 Munros! Fantastic! That's 64 with 218 to go.

19 me on train.jpg
Train was heading in the direction of England, that was the main thing.

20a right foot rash & patch.jpg
Some way from trenchfoot I guess, but it wasn't half sore.

20b left foot patch & rash.jpg
Cumulative over 4 days, the 20 mile Aonach Beag day and Bealach Breabag being chief culprits.

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Ascent: 1000m
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The English Alpinist

User avatar
Location: Lancashire England.
Occupation: Food delivery driver.
Interests: Mountaineering, music, movies, writing.
Activity: Mountain Walker
Pub: Loch Lomond Arms
Mountain: Ben More on Mull.
Place: Strathmore, Sutherland.
Gear: DMM cirque mountain axe.
Camera: Samsung smartphone.
Ideal day out: A blue-skied midwinter day in the high mountains.
Ambition: Compleation of the Munros

Munros: 64
Tops: 34
Corbetts: 11
Fionas: 27
Donalds: 28+16
Wainwrights: 214
Hewitts: 136
Sub 2000: 2

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