Alder Munros bike-n-backpack, 18-20 October 2019

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. An extended weekend of guided biking and backpacking into the heart of Alder for 2 hillwalking days bagging Munros including Ben Alder and Geal Charn. Richard Kermode was leading.

Alder Munros bike-n-backpack

Day 1 - the cycle in

The weather forecast was for some cold and possibly wintery weather as we met up in Dalwhinnie to load our chariots hope for the cycle in to Culra lodge for our trip to climb the Ben Alder hills. I was cycling in with Jon, Mike, Andrew and Steven with some fine weather and impressive loads on the bikes. We made good time except the sections where the forestry work had had the track resurfaced these were fairly soft.

It was meant to rain at 16:00hrs so we pushed on hoping to get the tents up before that as well as to meet up with Debbie who had walked in earlier that day. As we left the land rover track for the rougher section we could see weather behind us, but the mountains were clear ahead making for a great vista. Luck was on our side and we met Debbie and had the tents up before some heavy showers came in so not quite the star gazing night as we all hid in tents and cooked our meals quickly to avoid a soaking.

Day 2 - Carn Dearg to Beinn Eibhinn

After some overnight windy and wet spells, we awoke and headed out of our tents to climb Carn Dearg. Brr, it was a cold start and clouds where on the summits as we made our way up the steep and heather-clad slopes. Good time was made and were soon in the fresh winds in the ridge to Carn Dearg's summit. With the cold winds, it became quite clear we wouldn't be having leisurely stops today. Making use of the summit cairn's shelter, we had tucked into food and drink, as well as adding some clothing before heading in the direction of Geal Charn. There were plenty of Ptarmigan grouping up and trying to avoid us as well as the wind. On the crest we met a couple of walkers retreating - we didn't see anybody else all day. This section of our day makes for a lovely ridge walk and we were soon climbing the steep buttress onto the plateau of Geal Charn, a truly fantastic mountain.

Higher up, we took a wee detour to fill up our water bottles and have some lunch by a stream, then set off for Geal Charn's summit. The clouds began to blow away revealing some great views towards Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn, our other summits for the day. The cameras came out, though not for too long, as it was much to cold. We continued on, the wind was bouncing over the ridge slightly and above us, making our progress quite pleasant, otherwise we may have been forced to abandon. The walking over Aonach Beag is beautiful and we enjoyed views in all directions as we traversed it to find some shelter on its west ridge.

Looking ahead we could tell it would be very windy getting onto Beinn Eibhinn. And so it proved to be as we battled the gusts for a couple of hundred metres to gain the ridge and resume our slightly protected ridge walk. On the top, the classic discussion about which is the summit so we visited both just to make sure before beginning our descent and walk down to the Beallach Dubh. There's a good path through the pass and once on this we enjoyed a lovely settled spell of weather and were soon back at camp brewing up and relaxing. It wasn't as wet for our second night by Culra and the stars even put in an appearance thought proved a much colder night than previous...

Day 3 - Beinn Bheoil and Ben Alder

Our final day saw us wake to see a dusting of snow trying to emerge from behind the clouds on Ben Alder and we were all wrapped up for a cold start on our walk. Given the gusty north winds we made the decision to avoid the Leathad ridges and headed for Beinn Bheoill first to see if the winds would drop. This suited Debbie as she ideally wanted just Beinn Bheoil today, having been up Ben Alder before. It wasn't long before we were up in the wind and mist heading for the summit and a quick high-five and farewell to Debbie, since it wasn't a place to linger for long.

We were now on our way to Ben Alder, our final Munro of the weekend. At Beinn Bheoil's summit height, there had been snow, but lots more Ptarmigan all over the bouldery hillside, their white plumage beginning to form. We were soon in the very windy Bealach Breabag then weaving up the rough slopes onto the Ben Alder plateau . Weather was trying to clear, though the odd flurry of snow in the wind made us just a wee bit cautious. We were hoping for winds to blow over us like yesterday, but we kept away from the cliffs to be safe. Luck was with us and as we gained Ben Alder's vast plateau, it started clearing and we did get some protection form the wind. The views were sensational as we walked around the rim of massive Garbh Coire and eventually reached the shelter of the summit cairn. It was doing it's best to turn into a lovely day though a cold one and the wind was never far away.

Taking a sensible approach, we left the Leachas ridges for another day and retraced our steps to the Bealach Breabag. It didn't take us long and we were soon walking around the side of Loch a'Bhealaich Bheithe and back to the tents via the well-constructed stalkers path.

Upon our return we found our tents dry and the sun shining better than it had been all day. The winds weren't as strong down here either, so packing up was very pleasant, though it would have been tempting to stay another night given how lovely it was...

A much easier cycle back in the cold winds and we were all safely back out and heading for home also having heard from Debbie who had walked back out before us. Time to warm up and have some more food!

More photos by Richard Kermode are here on Flickr.

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