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Ben Alder

 Length 45 Kilometre(s) | Highest point 1,148 metre(s)

North of Culra Bothy from Dalwhinnie

Start/Finish Dalwhinnie Station

Distance/Time 45 km (bike 30 km, walk 15 km) Approx 10 hours (with bike)

Peaks Ben Alder, 1148 m, NN 496 718
Sron Coire na h-Iolaire, 955 m, NN 513 704
Beinn Bheoil, 1019 m, NN 516 717

Introduction These are highly prized hills with excellent views in all directions. Both the Long and Short Leachas ridges are very easy scrambles. Ben Alder is very prominent when driving S on the A9 past Dalwhinnie.

Route (1) Park at or near Dalwhinnie Station then walk S along the minor road alongside the railway. There is some limited parking about 30 m before the level crossing. Cross the railway and follow the track along the N side of Loch Ericht past some new imposing buildings. If the gate at one of them is locked, it is easy to circumvent it (even with a bike) by going up the obvious grassy bank. Continue to just before Ben Alder Lodge where the track forks right uphill then starts a long gentle descent towards Loch Pattack. If cycling, don’t take the grassy track towards Culra but go a little further where there is a better stony track. Although not a track all the way, it is relatively easy to cycle all the way to Culra. Cross the obvious bridge a few hundred metres before the bothy and leave bikes at the bothy.

(2) Cross back across the bridge and follow the generally well constructed path SW by the river then S, climbing towards Lochan a’ Bhealach Bheithe. When the path starts to steepen, look for a small cairn on a corner where a faint path leads off towards the Long Leachas – the most northerly of the 2 long ridges facing Culra and the river confluence at about NN 512 752. Climb the lower ridge which has a cairn on the first significant top. A distinct path now weaves through steep crags with 2 easy rock steps and 2 easy gullies before emerging on the Ben Alder plateau at a cairn. Walk S past the top of the Short Leachas (cairn) then up gentle stony slopes to the summit trig point of Ben Alder, passing some circular walled shelters just below the summit. Continue along the E edge of the plateau past Lochan a’ Garbh Choire and either continue to follow edge (goes NE at one stage) or head SW to descend easy slopes to the wide grassy Bealach Breabag (a stream can be used as a guide but be careful not to end up N or S of bealach).

(3) From the bealach, an obvious path goes NE onto the NW shoulder of Sron Coire na h-Iolaire. Make a short detour SE to the summit of Sron Coire na h-Iolaire. Retrace to shoulder and follow the main ridge NNE to Beinn Bheoil. Continue along ridge for about 2 km then go NW down faint paths to rejoin the good path from Lochan a’ Bhealach Bheithe to Culra and Dalwhinnie.

Notes (a) This walk took place on 15th September, 2009.

(b) The Short Leachas provide a shorter route to the summit with only slightly harder scrambling – but still easy. To reach the, stay on the good path to Lochan a’ Bhealach Bheithe until almost at the lochan then traverse W to their foot.

Karl Nelson

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