From the Cairn Ban Archives... 

Cryogenics at Culra Bothy

Ian Collinson, 7 February 2004

The weather was too good to miss, the memsahib was off to a girlfriend’s with the nipper for a couple of days, so I took the opportunity to catch up on some of my outstanding bags.

Brother Douglas and I left work on Tuesday night, dropped the memsahib and nipper off at the airport, drove up to Dalwhinnie and cycled into Culra Bothy. Passing the Boathouse the track goes across the moor which was frozen and hard making for good progress. Freezing dew coated the outside of our rucksacks. At long last two lights appeared and the bothy was near. Unfortunately the lights moved, jumped up and ran across the path as did a dozen other deer visible only by the luminous glow from their eyes!

All of a sudden it seemed colder and later... eventually we arrived at Culra at 1am! Waking up the bothy denizens we checked out all the rooms and plumped for the room which was neat and tidy but no fire - the others were a honking mess of bothy dwellers, kit and an overpowering smell of paraffin.

Bad mistake... we froze our butts off all night.

The temperature dial inside the room pointed to zero in the morning the outside dial said minus 5. Temperature inside the paraffin room was 10 degrees and we shared this luxury with two Cumbrian lads for breakfast.


Alder looked absolutely magnificent with the red glows of sunrise on the snow faces. It was deliciously tempting but we plumped for the ridge of four to the north and duly Carn Dearg, Gael Chairn, Aonach Beag were ticked off... the steep part of the connecting ridge from Aonach Beag to Beinn Eibheinn had a large cornice hanging over the top of it with a suspicious looking crack above. Eibhein was left for another day, to be taken from Corrour.

The views to Skye, Cruachan, Cairn Gorm, Lochnagar, Lawers, Sgur na Ciche, Ladhar Bheinn, Rhum... were undeniably the best I've ever experienced!!! I even got to try out the new crampons I bought a year ago.

I've never been into Culra before - this is big country, long days... can't wait to go back!

Returning to Culra the temperature dial now pointed to an air temp of plus 10 whilst the temp inside our room was a cool 4 degrees. Clearly you were better off outside than in this pine clad cryogenics chamber.

As we packed up the bikes again the sun began to set and the dial quickly hit 6 degrees and falling, it was time to go, Ben Alder Lodge with the last of the fading light saw minus 2 degrees on the dial.Am I an Alder convert? Oh yes, but it is a long way in....

Looking forward to more adventures this weekend.