It was indeed windy!
This was Alastair’s second attempt to climb Ben Alder and its neighbouring Munro (Scottish peaks over 3000 feet) summits.
Last year we had abandoned the attempt in advance, in favour of day walks, due to a poor weather forecast. [Our report on that trip is here.]
This year we set off from Pitlochry Backpackers Hotel on Friday morning in good spirits despite the light rain. An hour’s drive took us to the head of Loch Rannoch and a good parking spot by a deer fence that marked the start of our route.
By now we had seen red deer and red squirrels and assorted birds of prey…and the rain had stopped. As we strolled along a good track towards Benalder Cottage it was briefly t-shirt weather, but the forecast colder air soon arrived, with a change of the wind direction to north.
Fine views of the Glencoe summits opened out to the west, whilst our path headed unerringly towards Ben Alder, with its summit cloaked in cloud.
Laden with supplies for three days, the 13 km to Benalder Cottage took us 3½ hours, the last 5 km being over increasingly boggy ground beside Loch Ericht.
So up we went, with excellent views across to Beinn Bheòil from the steep route up to the heavily corniced rim of Garbh Choire.
Eventually we regrouped for a walk above the huge cliffs of Garbh Choire, taking care to steer clear of the massive cornices.
After descending with great care for a while we arrived at a minor col before another rocky section. Here the soft snow provided us with an enjoyable 200 metre bum slide into the depths of Coire na Lethchois.
No such luck!
Beinn Bheòil succumbed without a fight, by 8.30 am.
The bothy was a tip. Not from accumulated rubbish but from the current mess of its occupants.
A man in pink trousers was in residence, but he would soon be heading off towards Benalder Cottage.
We found a space to brew up and enjoy an early lunch, pleased that the bothy was there to provide shelter from the wind for a while, but also pleased that we had our own shelter and did not have to endure the messiness of others.
As we navigated our way through stinging spindrift along the broad snowy ridge, the weather cleared briefly to show the way ahead (over Sue's right shoulder in this picture - steeper than it looks).
There was a steep snow slope in severe weather to be negotiated to reach the Geal-chàrn plateau. We were moving at differing speeds. Visibility was between poor and non-existent. It was blowing a gale. Blinding spindrift was a bit of a hazard...
We retreated towards Bealach Dubh down a gentle snow slope from Diollaid a' Chairn.
It was an excellent, if snowy, path that led us over Bealach Dubh, then Bealach Cumhann, to the relative tranquility of the valley by the Alder Burn.
By 6 pm we had set up camp on some flat, springy heather at about 540 metres at NN 476 705.
Here we are, with a snowy Beinn a' Chumhainn behind the tent.
Alastair was on the leeward side so we made him cook breakfast.
2. Drag out inner, folding as you go.
3. Fold flysheet as you unpeg it.
Easy really, then you shoulder your pack, if you can find it, and head down the hill.
Alastair's rucksack still sat at the jaunty angle that had become a distinctive feature of his rear profile - it was actually usually worse than illustrated here!
Here's an overview of our route, if you can make it out. In total we walked about 60 km and climbed about 2700 metres during this most excellent three day trip.