M25 | 1148 m. | 3766 ft.
Translation: From the Alder Burn, meaning rock water
Pronuncation: byn awlder

This was truly a tour which we had been looking forward to doing for a very long time. The remoteness of the hills. The great setting of the Geal Charn Group, huge and central Ben Alder and Beinn Bhoill as the whaleback ridge towering above Loch Ericht. All easily accessible from Culra bothy.

But wait: Easily accessible? Did we mention that remoteness has drawbacks and, hey!, that there was the long three-hour hike in from Dalwhinnie? Or for us, the more technology minded, the long bicycle ride from Dalwhinnie to Culra? We didn’t mention it? Ouch.

So the morning of 31 May 2014 saw Frank and me unloading the car: rucksacks, boots and bicycles. After all equipment was stuffed into the rucksacks and the bicycles prepared for action we crossed the railway tracks at Dalwhinnie station and set out on the 15 km ride towards the remote bothy. The dirt road was level most of the way and the surface was hard and flat. On the ride towards Ben Alder Lodge a small number of rises, one of them significant, need to be climbed only to experience exhilarating speed afterwards when cruising down back towards the shore of loch Ericht. At Ben Alder Lodge the track starts to climb for a kilometre or so and I for one had to be content with pushing my bike for a few dozen minutes. Frank cycled on being in good shape and enthusiastic. I met him again on the right bank of the Allt a’ Chaoil reidhe sitting in the grass quite some time later. On the opposite side of the river there was Culra Bothy.

We left the bicycles there and continued up the perfectly well-maintained path leading to Loch Bealach Beithe. After maybe 25 minutes the path reached a white boulder (mentioned by Storer) from which an indistinct rough path headed across the moor and heather towards the foot of the north-east ridge leading up to Beinn Alder’s plateau: The Long Leachas. We crossed the burn coming down from Loch Bealach Beithe and started climbing the Long Leachas. This ridge became more and more defined and offered some nice scrambling as we made our way up. All the climbing was fun and it was never dangerous. Nonetheless the ridge does have its thrills and we both liked it very much.

Once the plateau rim was reached remaining snowfields made for a change in the terrain as we climbed steepish slopes close to the headwall of Coire na Lethchois. Then the slope eased off and the summit of Beinn Alder came into view. I struck a direct line towards the highest point of the hill. Frank was already waiting for me at the cairn. The day, however, was so warm and the views so good that we lingered at the summit for quite some time enjoying the stupendous scenery.

Then we headed onwards along the corrie rim towards Sron Bealach Beithe. There we took some time to study the rough (as the name says) Garbh Choire of Beinn Alder. Somehow this place reminded me of Beinn a’Bhuiridh in the Northern Cairngorms. From the environs of Sron Bealach Beithe we descended towards Bealach Beithe. In doing so we heeded Mr Storer’s advice of first going south and only then west in order to avoid craggy ground. Steep grass slopes led to the wide Bealach Breabag.

From there distinct traces of a path led all the way to summit of Beinn Bhoill. We did not stop at the intermediate bump of Sron Coire na h-Iolaire because somehow the surrounding scenery dragged us on and did not allow the wish to take photographs of Loch Ericht to surface in our minds. The final stony slopes of Beinn Bhoill represented no real obstacle anymore and soon we sat beside the cairn greedily drinking some water and munching sandwiches. It’s a fine viewpoint but sort of an anti-climax compared to the greatness and complexity of Beinn Alder.

All that was left was the return to our bicycles. We continued on the whale-like ridge of Beinn Bhoill for a kilometre and then dropped down steep grass slopes directing our steps towards the path leading from Loch Bealach Beithe to Culra. On the descent we met a group of three hikers intent on bagging Beinn Bhoill as an afternoon stroll from Culra. Soon we were on the well-maintained path which in due time took us back to the white boulder and then back to our bicycles waiting for us by the Allt a’Chaoil-reidhe. From there we cycled back towards Dalwhinnie exactly retracing the course taken on the outward leg of this long tour.

This was a hike which offered many different impressions and unique views of a remote part of the country we had never seen before. This combined with the good weather made for a great day in the Central Highlands. I for one would gladly have skipped the bicycle part of the outing but you can’t have your cake and eat it. Thanks Alba!

NB: Apart from Beinn Mhanach bagged the day before, Ben Alder and Beinn Bhoill were the only hills that Frank and I ever climbed having the same number of years under our belt: On 30 May 2014 Frank turned 48 and I turned 49 on 1 June 2014. So every year there are only two days when we are of the same age.

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Total distance: 46177 m
Max elevation: 1158 m
Min elevation: 356 m
Total climbing: 1258 m
Total descent: -1230 m
Total time: 09:18:20

Description Ben Alder is one of the great remote mountains of Scotland, a vast high plateau surrounded by steep corries in the heart of the central highlands that might justify it being described as the finest mountain between Ben Nevis and the Cairngorms. From a distance its character is well seen from Dalwhinnie, the great expanse of its north-east corries and flat summit plateau dominating the view along Loch Ericht. By comparison, Beinn Bheoil is a much more modest hill, forming a long ridge running from north to south between Ben Alder and Loch Ericht, but its slopes dropping directly into the loch are remarkably steep and wild.As befits such a remote mountain, all approaches to it are very long, and the ascent of Ben Alder has something of the feeling of an expedition. From Dalwhinnie the route goes along the side of Loch Ericht past Benalder Lodge to Loch Pattack. A bicycle may be possible thus far. Continue up the Allt a' Chaoil-reidhe to Culra and take the path leading to the pass between Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil. Leave the path to climb either of the two fine narrow ridges, the Long Leachas or the Short Leachas, to reach the plateau of Ben Alder and go south across it to the summit.Continue round the edge of the Garbh Choire, descend to the Bealach Breabag and traverse north over Sron Coire na h-Iolaire and along a fine ridge to Beinn Bheoil. Descend down the long north ridge, leaving it after 2 kilometres to rejoin the ascent path which leads back to Culra and Loch Pattack.