…more waiting

21st February 2023

(Above) By Balsporran Cottages just off the A9, looking SW to A’Mharconaich 975m – on left, summit in cloud  – and Geal Charn 917m.

Very modest snow cover in the Drumochter hills either side of the A9 and definitely less than we have at Creag Meagaidh 18km away to the NW.


(Above) The wee stone shelter at the summit of the bealach at the head of Coire Fahr (750m) with Geal Charn approach slopes in the distance. Quite breezy here today but mild and dry after some overnight rainfall.


(Above) Welcome sheltering spot utterly besmirched by something unspeakable beneath tissue paper weighed down by a rock.


(Above) …around the corner. Some rock art. Kind of cute – and preferable to the nearby excrement – but nevertheless a sort of grafitti that would be better taken home. Yes, only 3.5km away from one of Scotland’s major trunk roads, but it is a (notionally) wild place so let’s try and keep it that way.


(Above) Not a day for big landscape shots.  A misty view over to Loch Pattack with the Ben Alder Lodge helipad and underground helicopter hangar in the foreground.


(Above) A better-resolved shot taken on 13th September last year when I had a wander up Geal Charn. You guessed right, the whole Ben Alder Lodge project (started in 1997 with the complete demolition of the old lodge) was a no-expense-spared trophy statement by the new Swiss owner.


(Above) A ‘new-Victorian’ owner therefore not short of a turret or two.  Ruaridh Nicholl wrote an amusing piece about the place 20 years ago – as well as nearby Corrour Lodge on the other side of the Bealach Dubh. Here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2004/jun/06/ruralaffairs.comment


There’s been a bit of a legal boorach in recent years over the number of water leaks the underground rooms (including a bowling alley) have experienced since the building was completed. M’learned friends will have done very well out of that, not so the architect, engineer and chief contractor.


(Above) A mere fraction of the 26,000 acre landholding in view. All of it could have been yours for £1.6 million in the early 1990s.

Comments on this post

  • Stan Wygladala
    22nd February 2023 12:48 am

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for winter. I doubt we’ll see it this year. The jet stream is firmly fixed and is giving the US of A some extreme weather.
    And……regarding wilding….I was horrified to see on my return to the Lakes in 2000 ( just after the foot and mouth outbreak) that everywhere I went there were “ cairns” every few feet to mark the paths. There was no feeling of the wilderness I once knew. So sad!
    And….north Wales seemed to be clear of such abominations. Thank God. Off the few well beaten tracks there was a felling of wildness.
    I thought the mantra was “ leave no trace”.
    Can’t do the proper hills anymore but glad to say the Brecon Beacons remain free, mainly, from recent human intrusion.if you avoid Pen Y Fan you can walk all day with no communication except for ravens crocking for a few scraps. When I used these hills for a bit of training in the 90’s the ravens , just one pair, got to know me and waited for my lunch stop for their portions of ham and fruit cake.
    Please give me a short reply to my ramblings as I am feeling very sad and old.

    • meagaidhadmin
      22nd February 2023 8:36 am

      Hey, thanks for your comment and reflections, Stan, they’re always welcome.

      Frequentation in our hills is of course welcome, but sadly it tends to bring with it urban habits and problems. Random cairn building etc in our mountains I’d equate with graffiti spray-painted on to walls, bridges etc in towns and cities. For some reason, people seem to want to leave a mark, or ‘tag’ to use the parlance. The same relationship that dogs have with lamp posts?

  • Keith Horner
    22nd February 2023 11:07 am

    It appalls and saddens me at how inconsiderate and insensitive a small minority of people can be towards the vast majority of responsible hill-goers….!
    I’ve always been intrigued by the helicopter hanger and wondered if the helicopter actually has to fly into it? Quite Bondesque – does Schwarzenbach sit stroking a white cat as he gazes out over Loch Ericht?
    Ben Alder and Corrour both provide useful insights into how foreign incomers perceive the Highland landscape and how they feel they should respond to it in architectural terms – one a romanticised, over-exuberant Scots Baronial pile with a turret fetish (but probably containing all the latest mod-cons yet still leaking like the originals…!) the other a less than successful modernist insertion of unfortunate proportions and geometries which seems highly incongruous within its remote setting. However, architectural inadequacies aside, Nicholl rightly reaches a crucial conclusion regarding our right to roam and the freedom (and responsibility) that provides to all Scottish hill goers and we should remain grateful for and proud of that.

    • meagaidhadmin
      22nd February 2023 3:34 pm

      Amen to that, Keith.

      A very well-considered response.

      Many thanks.

      I’m pretty sure they would push/wheel the helicopter into the hangar by hand rather than attempt a gung-ho Bondesque fly-in!

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