Dalwhinnie to Corrour - an eventful Journey.

Route: Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil from Culra

Munros: Beinn Bheoil, Ben Alder

Date walked: 10/05/2019

Time taken: 55 hours

Distance: 58km

Ascent: 2891m

This was an expedition which had been long in the planning. Myself and Simon had been hatching a plan for a couple of years at least, and it had been called off once due to family circumstances, and so when we got the green light this year there was much excitement. Simon’s brother-in-law, also Simon (this could get confusing – so we’ll call them Simon and Sippi – don’t ask….) was also up for the trip. One other potential dropped out last minute. This was Simon’s first multi-day trip and Sippi’s only experience was of the West Highland Way. I’m a bit of a veteran of these events so I guess you might call me the responsible adult… :shock: ..So we picked our dates (starting on Simon’s 45th Birthday) planned our train tickets, arriving at Dalwhinnie at about 11am on Friday and exiting at Corrour at 18.25 on Sunday. A lovely linear walk lay in prospect.
The morning dawned all too early, Sippi and I on an early train from Glasgow to Perth to meet Simon and head to Dalwhinnie,
where at 11.10 am we set out, spirits high, sunshine on our backs, to walk down Loch Ericht to Culra.
Image20190510_111848 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Views down Loch Ericht
Image20190510_121040 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr

Full packs maybe slowed us slightly, but we made good time along the lochside – the view down to Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil drawing us on, enticing us with their grandeur. A spot of lunch by the lochside was perfect, and even the light showery rain which followed wasn’t enough to dampen our enthusiasm. As we passed what felt like the end of civilisation the heavens opened a little more – but still we strode on manfully, undeterred. Soon the path branched and we were heading up towards the bothy at Culra, where we would erect our tents by the river in a welcome break in the rain, and largely empty our heavy sacks.
At 15.30 we headed towards Ben Alder, significantly lighter. Already our bodies were feeling the 15 Km walk into Culra as we plodded up the beautifully well maintain stalkers path and hunted for the alleged small cairn (turned out to be a few small pebbles) that indicated the start of the path across to the long Leachas ridge. Here the interest began. Did I mention, it’s mid-May, but someone forgot to send the memo and the weather is Baltic. Lots of snow up on the hill above…..not quite what we had in mind when we set the dates.
Image20190510_171400 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr On the snowy lower reaches of the Long Leachas
As we began to ascend the ridge there was a slight concern in my mind that it might not be passable. We had no winter gear. But while it was snowy, and definitely a bit sketchy in places we began our ascent. It was at this moment that Sippi decided to inform us that he was more than a little bothered by the now precipitous drops on the ridge. To his great credit he got his head down, and we made it onto the plateau without incident. A lovely wee ridge - though a bit tamer than the Cuillins where I'd been the weekend before! First sigh of relief.
The plateau was a vast sea of whiteness……snow as far as the eye can see. But in our favour the cloud has lifted and we can see for miles in every direction. Navigation should at least be straightforward – one less concern.
Image20190510_180602 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Ben Alder Summit plateau
We trudge through soft, energy sapping mid calf-deep snow reaching the summit in good order.
Image20190510_181533 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Sippi on the Summit of Ben Alder
It was stunning to then traverse round the rim of the corrie pasted white with snow to find the descent into the bealach between massive Ban Alder and its smaller neighbour Beinn Bheoil.
Image20190510_184756 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Snow plastered corries on Ben Alder
An unpleasant steep descent on slushy snow and wet grass ensued – Simon romping off into the distance, Sippi and I more cautiously picking our way down. Then the re-ascent. We were definitely feeling the rigours of the day and it was at what felt like snails pace that we trudged up over the bump of Sron Coire na h-Iolaire. As we cleared the summit the cloud was building up on the east side of the mountain, a stunningly beautiful sight.
Image20190510_200252 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Clouds on Beinn Bheoil
As we topped out on the second Munro of the day the sun was beginning to set – yet more beauty to behold.
Image20190510_202908 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Simon and me on Beinn Bheoil summit.
Image20190510_204014 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Setting Sun #1
Image20190510_204216 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Setting sun #2
And then the long walk along the ridge, descending just before the end, crossing easy slopes to the great stalkers path. We summoned a last burst of energy to get us back to our tents just before the use of a head torch became obligatory. Food and a long deep sleep was to follow.

At 7.20 the next morning we were awoken by Jacob arriving. He had caught the train to Dalwhinnie and cycled in to join us in the first hill of the day – the only one in the area he still had to pick off. We pottered, ate breakfast, packed up and were ready to go at 9.30.
Image20190511_093751 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Ben Alder from Culra
The initial ascent was brutal, especially after a 32Km day the day previous, and with full packs. Simon and I plodded up at a very slow pace while Jacob and Simon (their combined ages less than mine) romped up the hill. To their credit, they didn’t rub it in too much and stopped to wait for us periodically. Despite what seemed like interminable progress, we were soon over the worst, and we were on the summit of Carn Dearg in two hours on the dot. It was now that the “fun” began. Simon was not looking good. He was pale, lethargic, quiet, feeling cold and muttering under his breath “I don’t think I can do this”. All my alarm bells are ringing. My mountain leader head is assessing all the possibilities – do we return to Culra?; do we go forward and see how we do – assessing in all the possible escape routes and permutations. In my mind we’re almost as close to Corrour, our final destination, as we are to Dalwhinnie. And then there’s the personal thoughts – I’m nearing the end of my Munro round and on a bit of a rush to get them finished this year. Going back would really screw that up. Having done the long walk in I really want to get this done. So what to do? I came up with a plan. Feed Simon energy giving food and drink, get him moving a bit and see how far we get – we can always descend and put up tents and rest if necessary. So, half a litre of Irn Bru (sugar) and a bagel or two (carbs) later we set off again. Simon seemed slightly better and we were pretty quickly at the foot of the intimidating looking ascent to the plateau of Gael Charn.
Image20190511_120647 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Setting off towards Gael Charn from Carn Dearg
Image20190511_124902 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr The foot of the Ascent back to the plateau - "We have to get up that?!!"
Simon was starting to improve, but the sight of this was not the best encouragement to him. We decide to reduce the weight in his pack, so I take his tent and Sippi takes his sleeping bag and some clothes. Slowly we make our way up and to my delight Simon seems to be getting stronger. We reach the top of the ridge and now just a kilometre across the snowy plateau to the summit of Gael Charn.
Image20190511_125548 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Near the top of the Ridge looking across to Sgor Iutharn
Image20190511_134223 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Crossing the arctic plateau to Gael Charn
Image20190511_135934 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Sippi (stood) and Simon (slumped) on the summit of Gael Charn
We’ve made it and Simon is getting brighter by the minute. We push on, walking along the lovely edges of Aonach Beag and finally to Beinn Eibhinn.
Image20190511_141908 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn from Gael Cahrn
Image20190511_152032 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Looking up to Beinn Eibhinn from the bealach
Image20190511_154829 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr The view back from Beinn Eibhinn summit

My second major sigh of relief! From here it’s plain sailing, making our way down the easy-angled, broad grassy ridge in to the valley to the east of Loch Ossian. We make a beeline for some nice green patches by the river and end up pitching our tents on a flat island in the river (well, it would be an island if the river was full). A leisurely meal and game of cards was enjoyed before turning in.
Image20190511_200123 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr The view from our campsite back towards Ben Alder
Image20190511_201309 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Camping at close quarters to combat the wind
The last day dawned bright and warm. We lingered over breakfast enjoying the sun on our backs. Eventually we packed up and got going at around 11am. About a 3 km walk down towards the head of Loch Ossian and then cutting up beside the forestry onto the lower slopes of Beinn na Lap. It was a slog, but we persevered over heather, slabs and grassy gullies and at 2pm we arrived at the summit.
Image20190512_134017 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Looking back to Ben Alsder from the slopes of Beinn na Lap
Image20190512_142700 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Beinn na Lap summit view
Yesterday’s drama forgotten we sat behind the shelter at the summit cairn enjoying the warm sunshine and reminiscing over the weekend. Now all that we needed was to descend the normal ascent route down to Corrour,
Image20190512_144352 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Descent - the beers are calling our names!
where several beers were waiting with our names on and an excellent meal to reward our tired bodies.
Image20190512_161232 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr These slipped down very nicely thank you!
Image20190512_171801 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr Locally sourced venison casserole definitely hit the spot
There with plenty of time to spare we relaxed. We listened to the culmination of the premiership season - Sippi the Liverpool supporter disappointed, and Simon's beloved Woking town made it to the playoffs! Seven Munros for us all – taking Simon to a total of 107 and me to 263. Only 19 to go – the end is in sight!!
All that remained was a delightful train journey on a lovely sunny evening through Rannoch Moor, Bridge of Orchy, Crianlarich, Tarbert and back into Glasgow, with the hills shown in their best light and our hearts buoyed by a successful conclusion, even in the face of adversity. Weekends don’t get much better than that! :clap: :clap: :clap:
Image20190512_182516 by Mark Spicer, on Flickr

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Comments: 8


Munros: 282
Corbetts: 18
Grahams: 7
Wainwrights: 21
Hewitts: 26
Islands: 26

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Trips: 1
Distance: 58 km
Ascent: 2891m
Munros: 2

Joined: Apr 12, 2011
Last visited: Sep 18, 2020
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