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Ben Alder

Ben Alder.   Photo: Scott Muir

Ben Alder is a complex mountain with a large plateau, clearly visible in the distance from the A9 when heading south.  The approach is long, and may deter most, but in relatively dry conditions, most of it can be done by mountain bike, taking the sting out of a day trip.  The lines described here are in the remote Garbh Choire, on the east face of the mountain.  On a clear day, you should be able to see into the corrie from Dalwhinnie, which should help decision making as to whether to make the long journey or not.

Approach

By far the easiest and most logical approach is from Dalwhinnie, starting from the level crossing (make sure you do not obstruct the crossing when parking).  Follow the well maintained track along by Loch Ericht, passing some grand looking buildings, before the gradual climb up to the start of the superb stalkers path at NN548787.  From here, the path is cyclable, all the way up to the outflow of the Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe at NN512727 if you have the legs for it (and want a superb run down).  Alternatively, it's reasonable to dump the bike at the 500m contour, beyond the now closed Culra Bothy (as of March 2014) just as the path starts to climb (NN515751).  The path marked on the map on the east side of the loch is very boggy, but crossing the outflow of the loch may not be an option, so rounding the southern end of the loch to gain access to Garbh Choire may be your only option.  As an indication, 3-3.5 hours should see you well into Garbh Choire from Dalwhinnie.

Other possibilities

"Right Gully" in Garbh Coire Beag may be worth a exploration.  The current SMC guidebook for the area (2002) grades it as a III, but i've read elsewhere that it is only a Grade I, and that would agree with what I have seen of it.  It's defined in it's top half, but then you would have to find a way through broken ground below.  There are also a couple of nice looking lines into Coire na Lethchois, between the Short and Long Leachas.   If anyone is interested, I can send pictures of these lines.  There are many attractive looking shallow gully lines descending off Beinn Bheoil to the lochan as well. It's possible the north side of the mountain may yield something, but I haven't checked it out.

I've indicated that the Creag Meagaidh avalanche forecast is the nearest relevant forcast.  Whereas this avalanche forecast does not actually cover Ben Alder, the mountains are relatively close to one another, and the cliffs have similar aspects.

Relevant Weather Forecasts

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Relevant Avalanche Forecasts

There is one relevant Scottish Avalanche Information Service forecast for Ben Alder.

Central Gully is the right slanting gully line at the back of Garbh Choire, just to the right (North) of the apparent high point of the corrie rim, as seen from below.  It is most defined in it's lower reaches, with a narrow section at mid-height.  

If ascending the gully first, there is a short arete on the right hand side just below the cornice.  This is likely to offer the easiest way up, and down!  Following the steep entry, the descent is straightforward until the top of the narrow section at mid-height.  Following a thaw, this narrow section can be quite icy, but luckily, there is an alternative.  In descent, move to the left of the gully down an easy angled slope to the entrance to a rightward facing scoop.  This scoop is actually an easy way back into the main gully line.  If the narrow section isn't icy, there's no reason why it can't be skied.  The lower section is straighforward, and there is a decent sized run out to the corrie floor.

Central Gully from the corrie floor.  Photo: Scott Muir
Central Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
Central Gully from below, showing the entry point above the arete, and the easy alternative to the narrow section.  Photo: Scott Muir
Garbh Choire  Photo: Scott Muir
Garbh Choire, and Garbh Coire Beag  Photo: Scott Muir
The narrow, possibly icy section on Central Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
The view down Central Gully, showing the alternative to the narrow icy section.  Photo: Scott Muir
Grid Reference: NN495715

Approximate Start Height: 1120m

Approximate Descent: 270m

General Aspect: East

Climbing Grade: I

Notes: The narrow mid section will be tricky to ski if icy.
 

With an easy entry, a more amenable angle, and a wide open line with much variation possible, this line is a good mellow companion to Central Gully,  It is even less defined than Central Gully, but it doesn't matter - it's a long way to come for a single ski descent!  It's not named as far as I am aware, but the shallow gully runs to a small col on the southeast ridge of Ben Alder, so i've suggested "Col Gully" simply for easy identification.

The wide gully twists its way up the northeast facing side of the corrie.  At the top of the gully, on the righthand side, is a rocky ridge that has a relatively flat area above it, and a very easy exit onto the main ridge.  This can provide a nice easy entry back into the gully on ski.

 

The obvious line, starting above the rocky ridge that offers a break in the cornice.  Photo: Scott Muir
Garbh Choire  Photo: Scott Muir
Garbh Choire, and Garbh Coire Beag  Photo: Scott Muir
Grid Reference: NN497711

Approximate Start Height: 1080m

Approximate Descent: 230m

General Aspect: Northeast

Climbing Grade: n/a

Notes: Not steep enough to be graded.
 
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