The day starts fine, but a bit fresher than the last few days, and with the promise of turning breezier and wetter still as the day goes on. I’ve already decided that I’m taking my Foul Weather Alternative today, missing out the climb over Beinn Bheoil in favour of the simplicity of the lochside path. With that in mind I take my time packing up.
It soon becomes apparent that I made the right call last night by not attempting to carry onto Ben Alder Cottage. It takes over an hour to cover the 3km through the wood and across scrubby, boggy ground where I lose the path several times. I’m not sure I would have been in the mood for company at the bothy last night either, and am still not feeling particularly sociable as I arrive for a small rest. I exchange a few words with the people hanging around there and press on.
It’s a bit of an obstacle course climbing around the little rocky headland, which I assume will soon ease off to a more viable path. It doesn’t. I’m thwacking through overhanging vegetation as I try to follow a narrow strip that winds its way up and down and around. Then the path simply ends at a rocky slope. It needs quite a bit of care to cross this sloping peril – one slip and I’ll be in the loch. This starts to remind me of the more treacherous parts of the South West Coast Path.
It’s a relief when the rocks end and a more level grass track appears. But now there’s a suggestion of rain coming up from behind and the wind is picking up. I try to outpace it.
Today is now a matter of head down and slog it out, and very slowly the distant trees draw near and I find myself at Ben Alder Lodge. The road walk from here is long and tedious and it can’t be over soon enough for my feet. As I approach Dalwhinnie, I decide that I’ll try to seek a room at the Loch Ericht Hotel rather than camp. My feet deserve it.
When I get to the Loch Ericht Hotel, I manage to get a room and am soon braving the new treachery that is the shower – twice I nearly slip over taking the whole shower stall with me – is it too much to ask for a bath mat ? In the Snack Shack I devour a three course meal and have a chat with the only other Challenger there overnight – Colin. It’s not a late night, as I have some thinking to do…