This year will see at least four camping expeditions, and the past weekend will probably be the toughest-going as it will be the only actual wild camping, where we were in the middle of nowhere with no facilities. Trowel on standby…
A group of us spent two nights wild camping by Allt Na Bealach Dubh (river of the black pass) near Loch Ericht, the long and pretty loch running southwest from Dalwhinnie that you can see from the trainline.
Cycling out with all our gear, it was a thankfully sunny day, perhaps the best of the year so far, and over a leisurely hour or two’s cycle through some beautiful scenery (left) we made it to our destination.
Only just, mind – I suffered a puncture close to the end, and was lucky that someone else in our party had not only a spare tube but also the know-how to kindly fix it for me. Note to self: learn how to maintain a bike, and always carry a spare tube.
It was a beautiful spot by the river, just along from Culra Bothy and in the shadow of a number of mountains including Carn Dearg and Ben Alder. We did one climb on the Saturday afternoon upon arrival, then cooked in the glorious evening sunshine afterwards.
The Sunday was not such a good day, though as we took in two peaks, the angry clouds over Ben Alder miraculously parted just long enough for us to be able to get great views from the top in all directions for miles around, rather than ascend into uninspiring and potentially dangerous mist.
Of particular note was Loch Ossian, to the west (see right). I’d been there before a number of times (1|2|3), and in fact one year climbed Ben Alder from the youth hostel there. That was a hard-going slog, I seem to remember, of over 20 miles.
I’d never really figured in my head that Ben Alder was actually about midway to Dalwhinnie, making me realise just how relatively close the West Highland Line and Highland Main Line are at that point. It was nice, therefore, to climb Ben Alder again from a different direction and in such good weather and see the familiar shape of Loch Ossian from a different angle.
The late afternoon and evening, however, was a bit miserable weather-wise, making our cooking and eating of dinner more of a chore than the relaxing fun it had been in the previous day’s sunshine. The second night’s sleep was much worse than the first, interrupted by rain and wind – though the tent held firm and dry.
On the Monday morning, we packed up camp in the rain and cycled back to Dalwhinnie, and I was glad to avoid any more punctures.
It was an absolutely exhausting weekend, but a great challenge, great company, and spectacular scenery in such a wild and rugged spot.