Ben Alder bikepacking, attempt 1

Ben Alder

First time I’ve been out bikepacking and photographing for a while. Here was the route I planned to do

I didn’t do all the route, left the Rannoch Tearoom a little late, and was only getting to Loch Ossian by about 11:30, so from Loch Ossian went straight to Ben Alder. Corrour Lodge is lovely, a small cluster of cottages and the main Lodge, which is sympathetically designed to fit the landscape. The first part of the track from the Lodge is rideable, but the last 2-3 miles are a walk as the path is very boggy and awkward for a bike. To go up Ben Alder it is worth going straight up from Bealach Cumhann, as further up the pass actually drops a little and goes through crags. But, from the saddle below Meall an t Slugain round and down to Ben Alder cottage looks like it would an awesome bike descent. Either way, it was a long carry with the bike on my back from the path all the way to the summit. I tried to camp on Ben Alder summit, but didn’t have enough warm gear so dropped down to Sgairneach Mhor in the dark. It’s nice little lochan if a little boggy. This is a good descent off Ben Alder.

Ben Alder 02

Things learned:

  1. Need dry clothes for the tent at this altitude and time of year.
  2. An inner tent is probably warmer than a bivi bag with a fly sheet/bivi.
  3. Sleeping wearing a down jacket may actually be colder. I think you need your body to heat the inside of the sleeping bag, but if the body is encased in warm clothing then it puts out less heat, leaving the legs to get cold which then draws heat out the core.
  4. A hot water Nalgene bottle might help legs to feel warm if trying to save weight elsewhere.
  5. A winter sleeping mat is essential on cold high wet ground. I probably lost more heat, or felt colder, due to a thin summer mat than anything else.
  6. I like this life, pushing myself. I felt complete. It was hard but I could do it despite the doubts. And I realised when I got home that I felt more at home in that environment than in the house.
  7. I enjoyed making photographs, but would like to slow down a bit to watch and wait. Having warm clothing and being warm would have helped with the headspace and practicalities here. I was in the tent trying to get warm on the summit of Ben Alder at the only time that the light went off.
  8. The bike is great for land rover tracks and easy to ride sections, but I’m not sure if it the right thing for taking over summits. I can do it, and I’m glad I did. It was ok. But perhaps better route planning would have helped. For reference I was only doing about 8km/hr. It’s hard to tell if paths are going to be rideable or a push from the map. 
  9. Maybe satellite imagery to help route plan. Had a look at the OS Maps Satellite images and there is a clear path shown in places where I know there is good surfaced rideable track.

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