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Ben Alder Forest (with one tree...)

Discussion in 'Footloose' started by Basemetal, Apr 1, 2017.

  1. Basemetal

    Basemetal Administrator Staff Member

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    18/7/15. A two day forecast of reasonable weather appeared this week, to be bookended by gales and flood warnings even for Scotland, so I headed into Ben Alder Forest to make use of the long summer days.

    Ben Alder is one of those ‘big hills’ that takes a bit of getting to, and getting round, so it suits an overnight trip. And there are 5 more munros nearby to fill a couple of days (athletes can get all six in a day and still be home for tea). Anyhoo, I went for a round of Ben Alder and Bein Bheoil (pr. Vyawl) on Day 1 and the other four (Carn Dearg, Gael-Charn, Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn) on Day2.

    The hills sit about ten miles from public roads, down the west side of Loch Ericht from Dalwhinnie, at the heart of the roadless section of the Central Highlands between the the A86 and the A9. Since the ten miles is uphill from the loch on the way in it takes the best part of two hours for me by bike, but the tent is up quick and the pitch is idyllic. Ben Alder on the left, the dramatic Sgor Iutharn ( a subsidiary top of Gael-Charn) on the right.
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    There is a bothy in the area, officially closed for asbestos, but I prefer camping when I’m on my own anyway.
    My route up Ben Alder is the westernmost of the two northern ridges that has a little moderate scrambling on it –nothing to raise the pulse –but airy enough to deliver elevated views into the corries and passes.
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    From the top of the ridge there’s a good view of the simple route up Carn Dearg…. (start at bottom, walk to top)…
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    … and then on southwards to the other three of tomorrow’s ridge-linked munros across the Bealach Dubh. The stalkers path back over the watershed and along the bottom of the glen is visible too.
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    From the top of the ridge it feels like the summit should be a hop skip and jump away, but it’s well over a mile of bouldery going. It’s when crossing these plateau summits that you get a feel for the scale of these hills –it feels odd to be so high for such an extended time on one hill.
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    I read that Ben Alder has 400 acres above the 1060m contour. In blizzard or storm conditions navigation becomes critical not only because the plateau has very definite limits, but the undulations can mislead you as to where you are on it. GPS is a Godsend in cornice weather.
    Like Ben Nevis, Ben Alder has a complex and interesting north side and a comparatively simple rounded southern side (as you’ll see later).
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    Looking across the sizeable elevated (700m) Lochan Bealach Breabag, Bein Bheoil is a simple 5km long north south ridge by comparison, though that makes it an ideal place to see Ben Alder’s rough corries from.

    The sprawling summit cairn…
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    My route goes along the top of Ben Alders Crags, then down into the dip (bealach) between the two hills at 800m, then up and along Beinn Bheoil’s summit. Seen here over some residual snow formations (15 July).
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    Down in the dip…
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    ..and up the other side, looking back to Ben Alder now
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    ..and across into its northern Corrie Garbh
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    This shot shows the Long Leachas ridge (dark diagonal) I started off with today, and also the connecting lower pass between two of tomorrows hills, behind.
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    The weather is playing fair, though lowring occasionally and colder and windier than forecast. As anywhere in the Central Highlands, Schiehallion’s conical profile photobombs any easterly view.
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    North along Loch Ericht looks a bit damp…
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    Several hours descent through short heather have me back in my tent for an early night. There was a little rain overnight but a lot more wind than expected. I could have done with the tent pitched the other way round but that’s a common downside to a single end entry tent. A couple of folk I met later said they had baled out of their tents into the bothy – must have been worse where they were camped.
    Day 2 dawns claggy and I’m in two minds whether to pack up and go home or trudge round a possible viewless day. But around 0530 a crack opens in the grey giving a possibility the cloud might burn off.
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    Several sachets (well, four (they’re tiny‼)) of instant porridge and a pint of coffee help me make my mind up.
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    So it’s off for Carn Dearg at 0630 in a light misty drizzle thinking I’ll take it one hill at a time and decide further as I go. The clag stays with me all the way to the top at 0800 –which isn’t any great hardship as it’s a dreich heather slope from the glen to the top, visible in yesterday’s pic way above. Nice views would be had of Ben Alder, but I’d just been there, done that… here's the cairn on top of Carn Dearg...
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    The clouds do burn off though, quite suddenly at about 0810. These four hills connect into a north-south ridge with reasonable dips.
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    #1
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  2. Basemetal

    Basemetal Administrator Staff Member

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    The route continues pretty much self evidently and winds its way gently through even the steep rises that look a bit intimidating from a distance.
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    This is the west side of the Lancet Edge of Sgor Iutharn ( a top of the hill I’m on)–a nice scramble that would be a decent ‘bad weather option’ as it is interesting in itself without views. But it brings you to the middle of this four hill ridge which would be frustrating if you wanted to visit all four tops.
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    Looking back to see Carn Dearg for the first time today (though that’s where I’ve just come from) now the clouds have lifted
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    Above the north facing crags of the twin corries, the summit of the Gael-Charn is an unexpectedly grassy expanse. You can see across the acres to the top of Ben Alder, over the cleft of the Bealach Dubh between the hills.
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    To the west the weather is looking ‘suspended’, like the cloud could drop 50 feet and obliterate everything. It’s sunny, but glove-wearing chilly in a firm breeze. The weather really does feel like it will simply do whatever it wants to, so it’s an encouragement to get on while the views are there to be seen!
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    Looking south, the tops of Aonach Beag and Bheinn Eibhinn look blissfully close and the ridge proves an absolute delight, opening up gem after gem of lofty situation with continuous easy going between.
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    Here’s the pudding bowl side of Ben Alder, from the South west, Loch Ericht just poking through to the south, behind…
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    Finally only Beinn Eibhinn remains. The ridge turns ninety degrees West half way up and its twin cairns are designed to take in the views…
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    The visibility is superb, and playing “name that hill” passes the time so quickly that the final munro summit arrives almost unexpectedly. Having worked to get here I plonk myself down at the cairn and soak in the view for fully half an hour.

    Here’s Glencoe from the north –Left to right -the dark triangles of the big and wee Buachailles, the high tops of Bidean nam Bean, and to the right the notched ridge of the Aonach Aegach. Loch Ossian in the foerground at the foot of Beinn na Lap (to the right).
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    And here’s Ben Nevis from an unusual angle. At 4409 feet it’s almost 1.5 munros high, and it shows .
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    Mandatory delirious selfie...
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    The gentle ridge over the last three tops (Gear Aonach, Aonach Beag, Bheinn Eibhinn)
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    My way down is from the last bealach (the low point on the ridge in the pic above), straight down the rough ground to the river at the base of Ben Alder, which takes an hour....
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    And from the very welcome river at the bottom, looking back up:
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    Then the glen goes north over a watershed at the Bealach Dubh and there’s a pleasant 6km by stalker’s path back to the tent.
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    Via excellent views of the western crags of Ben Alder
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    Passing under yesterday’s 'Long Leochas' ridge (the way up Ben Alder):
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    Past Drumlins, specially built for geography teachers…
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    and under the Lancet Edge… the top bit is a decent scramble.
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    Through miniature landscapes back to the tree (singular) line…
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    Then reaching the tent in time for a late lunch (~15:00) before packing up and heading out. Quite a change from 10 hours ago.
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    This final shot, just before dropping down to Loch Ericht on the cycle out, shows Beinn Bheoil, Ben Alder, Sgor Iutharn and Carn Dearg, arranged around Culra.
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  3. Basemetal

    Basemetal Administrator Staff Member

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    Route map and profile...
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    (Two days, remember ... but excluding the bike ride.)

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  4. Basemetal

    Basemetal Administrator Staff Member

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    This looks like my last surviving walk report as Photobucket has killed all the others. So long and thanks for the fish... :cool:
     
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  5. MaC

    MaC Moderator Staff Member

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    Beautiful, really beautiful.

    I am so sorry that photobucket has killed any of your reports :sad01: because they are all excellent.

    I wish I could walk distances easily :zen: but it's lovely to see the photos and read of the jaunts :D

    Here's to many more of them :D

    M
     
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  6. noddy

    noddy Member

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    I wish photobucket hadn't done what they have .. though my guess is that most of the pics that turned up on BB (for instance) were adverts ... it is lovely to see these trips hosted here, D. Thanks for making and moving them.
     
    #6
  7. Basemetal

    Basemetal Administrator Staff Member

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    Thanks guys, but I think the pics will be replaced by ransom notes soon. In the early days PB was just about the only game in town and almost all the tutorials etc were hosted on it. This must be affecting forums worldwide unless they had their own onboard hosting.
     
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  8. MaC

    MaC Moderator Staff Member

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    BcUK does, but it has to be a Full Member's account to access it, I think…I'll check that again.

    M
     
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