Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Geal-charn by Lancet Edge

Ben Alder and Lancet Edge from near Loch Pattack
Loch Ericht

Ben Alder Lodge

Trick cycling

Culra Bothy, Ben Alder and Lancet Edge

Ben Alder

Lancet Edge

Loch Ossian from Beinn Eibhinn

Beinn Eibhinn and Aonach Beag from Geal-charn


Eastern face of Geal-charn and Lancet Edge

Allt a' Chaoil reidhe by Culra bothy
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
Ascent:        1240m plus 300m by bike
Distance:     20km plus 25km by bike
Time:           5hrs 57mins plus 2hrs 10mins by bike

t    Sgor Iutharn (Lancet Edge)     1034m     1hr    42mins
m  Aonach Beag                           1116m     2hrs  44mins
m  Beinn Eibhinn                          1102m     3hrs  11mins
m   Geal-charn                               1132m     4hrs   8mins
t     Diollaid a' Chairn                      925m     4hrs   39mins
m   Carn Dearg                               1034m    5hrs    8mins       

The June high pressure had arrived and brought sun and heat to the central belt but all the hills I have still to climb, both munros and corbetts, are further north where cloud cover was predicted for the morning. The four munros north of Ben Alder require a long walk-in from Corrour, Laggan, Dalwhinnie or Rannoch so I decided to take my bike and ride to Culra bothy from Dalwhinnie. It was warm work riding along the forested shore of Loch Ericht. The sumptuously restored Ben Alder Lodge and its gatehouses are symbols of foreign investment and are passed before the open moorland to Loch Pattack.  There were some boggy sections by Loch Pattack, a dodgy suspension bridge and then a boulder strewn section to the bothy. I dumped the bike in the long grass by the new bridge and began the long but scenic walk up to Bealach Dubh. It was a good path gaining ascent gradually and the burn was gurgling with snow melt.

I had never ascended Sgor Iutharn (Lancet Edge) on previous rounds of these hills although I had always intended to do so. I had always combined these four munros with various combinations of Ben Alder/Ossian/Laggan munros on two day walks.  Lancet Edge looked well named and inviting as I turned off the path to ascend the burn tumbling down from Loch an Sgoir. It was a steep climb over mainly grass and scree until about 850m when it became a narrow rocky ridge but an enjoyable easy scramble with amazing views across to Ben Alder and down to Loch an Sgoir. My left foot was badly blistered and I was in agony on the climb so I took ten minutes at the summit to plaster up my toes and replace my socks. It made a real difference as I had been considering abandoning the walk, something I have never done before. I decided to traverse below the summit of Geal-carn by crossing some snow fields and then contour round to the bealach before Aonach Beag.

It was a good decision and I was now walking with comparative ease. I wasted no time pushing on to Beinn Eibhinn, where I met an elderly man at the cairn, he looked about 80, and his companion. He was trying to compleat the munros and was on 220, the same as me. They had walked in from Corrour station climbing Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn. I finished my lunch, took their photos and began the walk back, I had scheduled 2 hours to get to Carn Dearg and by undercutting Aonach Beag and then not stopping at Geal-charn, I made it. The plateau of Geal-charn is immense and I watched four deer prancing about in a remaining snow patch as if they were reindeer. The steep descent from the eastern edge was amplified by the noise of the raging torrents from the snow melt and there had been a massive snow avalanche. The walk over the top of Diollaid a' Chairn was a bit of an anti climax before the stiff pull up to Carn Dearg. The sun had been fighting to get through all day but by now it was burning my neck.

From Carn Dearg I descended to the east aiming for Culra Lodge with its wind turbine. The long heathery sections were interspersed by boulder fields and it took longer than I had hoped. There were a few campers alongside the beautiful river revelling in the late afternoon sunshine and the breeze that was keeping the midges at bay. I collected the bike and decided to return by the path alongside the river rather than taking the track round Loch Pattack. There were occasional boggy sections but all was going well until I hit some rocks on the path at speed. The rear wheel was buckled and several spokes had snapped. I removed the spokes, released the cables from the rear brake and gently wobbled back to the track and then down to Loch Ericht. It turned out to be less of a problem than I had anticipated and the cycle out was quicker than the journey in, although I was assisted by gravity and not having to negotiate the bridge and the bogs by Loch Pattack.

After crossing the railway track at Dalwhinnie and as I reached the car I asked a local woman walking a dog if there was a shop/garage where I could get a drink. Everything had closed at 6pm so she took my water bottle and when I passed her house having changed shoes and loaded the bike she was at the garden gate passing me a litre of cool water and wishing me a safe journey. Dalwhinnie is the highest settlement in the UK and on summer evenings like this with friendly local folk it seems idyllic. The A9 was quiet and after an initial scare when the bike toppled over on the roof but stayed on thanks to the wheel straps, I was able to travel south with only two traffic disruptions. The new pylons were shining in the evening sun and marched over the Drumochter pass with a jauntiness that made me think they could have been designed by Andrew Gormley. 


  1. makes you wonder what all the fuss was about with the new pylons you would not even notice them half the time if the nimbys had their way we would still be in the stone age

  2. Although I dislike pylons the SSE consulted widely and made some good route adjustments to reduce the impact of the Beauty to Denny power line. The alternative of burying power lines is far more intrusive as well as ten times as costly. So a good decision but it took four or five years to overcome all the objections and probably resulted in fewer wind turbines being built in the north of Scotland than might have been the case.