Published 25th March 2014, 14:39

    THERE will have been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the closure of Culra Bothy. 

    The famous green shelter stood at the gateway to the Ben Alder mountains and was key to many climbers and walkers’ expeditions to climb the six Munros.

    The bothy has been closed with immediate effect because of safety fears due to asbestos sheeting in the roof. Although much of that has been replaced over the years, the Mountain Bothies Association has been advised that the bothy is unsafe for public use.

    It is likely the building will be demolished and a new structure built in its place. That will take time however and in the meantime those heading into the Alder Forest will have to make other plans.

    Those who know it well will be saddened by its demise, left with just some fond memories of nights spent on its floors and shelves. But at least we have the memories.

    Those who had been banking on its use in their pursuit of the Ben Alders may be more distressed at its passing. Now it’s more likely they will have to take tents or make several long trips to do the hills piecemeal.

    When we first did these hills some 20 years ago, we claimed our space in the bothy and lightened our loads at the same time before setting off up Carn Dearg, then walking along the ridge to Geal-Charn, Aonach Beag and finally Beinn Eibhinn before walking back up the pass.

    The next day it was up the Long Leachas ridge to Ben Alder and then round to Beinn Bheoil before picking up all our gear and heading back out to Dalwhinnie.

    On recent visits, I have done these hills in smaller takes, to get the full benefit of tackling them from different directions. Taking the train to lonely Corrour Halt and then walking along Loch Ossian is one option but you have to move fast to catch the train home. Most fit walkers should be able to do at least three of the Munros in the nine-hour window, but it’s an even longer journey home if you miss that train.

    Cycling in from Dalwhinnie is another way to go, but climbing all six after that is a Herculean task. And remember, there’s still the small matter of the weary cycle back out.

    You could, of course, rent one of the holiday cottages at the head of the loch and then pick off the mountains at your leisure. We did this a couple of years ago and apart from the constant monsoon conditions and raging rivers it was a good week.

    Doing Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil from the Loch Rannoch road is a great day out, but it’s also a long one. A bike would help here as well and there’s also the option of staying at the other bothy, Benalder Cottage, at the foot of these two hills.

    Also sometimes known as McCook’s Cottage, this shelter is not well situated to climb the other hills. It’s also reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a dead ghillie and many otherwise sane people have reported strange goings-on. 

    I would suggest taking your own spirits. A few wee stiffeners and ghosts become the least of your problems. Especially when you try to figure out how to get round these hills.

    (First published Daily Record, March 20, 2014)