Date: Friday-Sunday 30th June – 1st July 2018
Distance: 5.6 + 19.9 + 25.9km
Ascent: 605 + 1050 + 610m
The high pressure had lasted throughout the working week and was forecast through the weekend (instead of the usual Friday collapse to torment the wage slaves).
Being near solstice with a 10pm sunset we pondered getting out after work on Friday. Route planning allowing a drive from the Central Belt after work and enough time to get high in the evening produced the possibility of camping on The Fara above Dalwhinnie, then heading on past Culra on Saturday.
Parked up in Dalwhinnie (in the village as the level crossing parking is blocked off for forestry lorry access). Booted and moving at just past 6pm we set off across the railway and then south on the Loch Ericht track to ascend the forestry break at NN 614 835.
Despite being evening it was still hot and sweaty work with a plague of flies up the forestry break before reaching the open hillside.
We had been a little worried about water, but there was a nice spring up at 800m which we filtered enough for cooking and the first part of Saturday.
We’d planned to camp around the 901m top of the Fara rather than the northern 911m summit. This has better views south down Loch Ericht.
As we often do, we stayed up and watched the light lower into deeper reds. It was interesting to see the lights of cars on the A9 passing by.
I got up at 0100 – hardly dark at all. A couple of headtorches were moving over on the Drumochter Munros across Loch Ericht. A bit of night navigation I presume.
Went back to bed – no rush. We planned to walk south and then up onto Ben Alder to camp so plenty of daylight for our modest ambition.
Part of the plan rationale had been to get a better approach walk than the Loch Ericht track – the nice ridge of The Fara certainly counts. We’ve done this a few times in winter where it affords superb views into the Ben Alder group.
Dropped SW then S to drop through the large forestry break above Ben Alder Lodge to pick up the estate track to Culra.
Once below about 600m the density of clegs picked up to quite irksome unfortunately. The downside of the planned walk was a considerable yomp in the Cleg Zone.
Still, nothing like a horde of personal trainers nipping at you to pass a few hours of approach!
The bog plants are flowering, I was wishing I could spend more time taking photos of them, but mu personal trainers were insistent.
Took the track up towards Loch Bhealaich Bheithe. There is now a little path breaking off at about NN 516 744 (we went a bit higher last time). This cuts across the bog to ford Allt a Bhealaich Bheithe (no trouble in this weather) before approaching the Long Leacas.
The clegs having thinned out, we sat and had lunch, had a wash and picked up some water for the ascent. A nice wee spot.
We were glad to get to the top. From there it’s another 150m gentle ascent to the summit of Ben Alder. This was our first ever summit camp in 2006. Lugged an 18kg pack up on a hot July day. By the time we summited I had brain fog and flaked out for most of the evening. This was a chance to do better by the hill.
Got to the top and had a wander. Summit camping on big, rounded hills often presents a lot of potential pitches, but rarely a 360 degree view.
No different here, we looked around and decided to pitch south of the summit as the views out across Rannoch and into Lochaber were great.
Went to sleep from 5 til 6pm. Nice to nap in warm sunshine. Cooked up tea after 6pm and then put the boots back on and wandered around for a while. The air clarity changes as the sun swings round so different views become clearer or hazier as the hours pass by.
Off to sleep – rather soundly. Alarm at 0100 to have a look. Despite being a colossal hill there are relatively few roads visible. The A9 at Dalwhinnie of course, spotted headlights on the A82 at Lochan na h-Achlaise too. Something to look out for next time we’re up the wee monument hill near the road.
A few noctilucent clouds visible to the north too.
Back to bed for me. There was enough cloud around that sunshine failed to become solid until about 0730. Got up at 0800 as the tent got hot. A long walk out to come, but no rush.
Always nice to have a big hill to yourself for several hours.
Saw a Merlin whipping round the cliffline just below me.
Then a steep drop down to the bealach with Beinn Bheoil. Spotted a juvenile Golden Eagle briefly – it didn’t hang around.
Carried on up Sron Coire na h-Iolaire. This point has views from top to bottom of Loch Ericht. It also had 2 juvenile Peregrines sat about 50m below the summit waiting for food. Nice to see.
Leaving the Sron I nearly stepped on a ptarmigan. This was very loathe to move even with me standing there. I wonder if it had seen a Peregrine or Eagle…presumably they rank much higher in the hierarchy of terror for a ptarmigan.
Carried on along the Beinn Bheoil ridge northwards to eventually head NW towards the path.
…..and so onwards back into the Cleg Zone. Stops from here became shorter.
Got water from a stream then it was on with the long march back to Dalwhinnie.
The personal trainers were in even bigger numbers than Saturday. I imagine the average Scottish BMI would drop if these things were flying the street of the Central Belt. 😉
Cracker of a weekend, certainly well-filled. Great to return to the first summit camp – a fond memory, but we got a far better quality experience this time.