Corrour To Dalwhinnie
A Point-To-Point Adventure With Trains
This spring we joined forces with two of our favourite brands, RAB and Lowe Alpine, to set our Ambassadors & Supported Athletes a challenge. Mollie, Tristan and Iona were tasked with planning the perfect Scottish point-to-point hike, using only public transport!
A point to point hike is a real journey. Instead of taking on a hike that starts and ends in the same location, a point-to-point has a different view on every turn and a real sense of achievement when you finally reach the end point. We brought along top photoghrapher Hamish Frost & top climber Uisdean Hawthorn to record the trip. This is their tale...
It was early on a Tuesday morning when Iona, Tristan and I met at Glasgow Queen St station. We were early enough to miss the throng of commuters who would soon engulf the area and boarded an old, slow looking train destined for the Highlands. We rolled out of Glasgow with a cup of coffee and a wary eye on the weather forecast.
The starting point of our hike was Corrour station, the UK’s highest train station. Alighting from the train induced a real sense of remoteness; this station is not connected to any roads and is only accessible by rail (or a very long walk in!). For film aficionados, this is where the Highlands scene in Trainspotting was filmed!
Pushing out of the station we headed east towards Loch Ossian and our final destination of Dalwhinnie, some 65km away. Our whole route could be completed as part of a beautiful low level excursion, however, for us, the proximity to some of Scotland’s best Munro’s needed to be taken advantage of.
We first headed up Beinn Eibhinn to the north. It was a tough slog to the summit, but as we reached it we were rewarded with a snaking ridge line laid out in front of us, linking our next two Munro tops, Aonach Beag and Geal Charn. The easter bank holiday heatwave had given way to more typical Scottish conditions with a stiff breeze up top. The summer sun hadn't brightened the brown terrain or melted the last of the snow, but the grandeur and isolation made it a glorious route from summit to summit.
We had our hearts set on a high level camp and even though the wind was whipping over the summits, we managed to find a mildly sheltered spot just below Geal Charn. We pitched the tents (with difficulty in the howling wind), lit the stoves and enjoyed a spectacular sunset from our lofty position. It had been a tough first day with a fair distance covered, but the sense of accomplishment as we turned in for the night was well worth it.
Emerging from a warm sleeping bag at 5am is never a pleasant experience…however, we really wanted to get up to take photos of the sunrise from our high vantage point, so we forced ourselves out into the freezing wind. Cloud obscured the sun for the most part but we lived in hope!
As we packed up the tents the sky around us began to turn a beautiful shade of pink, the sunrise was beginning! We rushed up from our sheltered camp spot towards the top of the Munro. The wind whipped up and hit us square in the face. Gloves on, hats on, hoods up & jackets zipped up to our eyeballs. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
We weren’t making much progress battling the winds up high so we decided to descend as quickly as we could to the shelter of the valley. We set up a base, lit the stoves and enjoyed an alfresco late breakfast and coffee to help us get over the battering we had received from the wind. With the forecast bringing more wind, and rain too, we decided to forgo the giant lump of Ben Alder & Bheinn Bheoil to the south-east and continue north-east towards Loch Ericht.
The rest of our day was spent meandering through the valley, exploring the bothy, taking photographs, crossing rivers (falling in for me…) and enjoying the natural shelter the valley provided. This area is one of the most isolated of the central Highlands and it was liberating to be so far from the modern world, yet barely a day's travel from the central belt. We eventually set up camp on the shores of Loch Ericht, looking across to another Geal Charn on the far side of the water.
We had camped about 10km out from Dalwhinnie, so the next morning our sights were firmly set on a cooked breakfast at the café in town and we sped out along the final section of our hike! Walking into Dalwhinnie was both elation, relief and somber. The weather hadn't been ideal with the high winds, and we knew rain would be coming soon, but leaving this incredible place still felt sad. We had unfinished business with Ben Alder and it's surroundings, and a great excuse to return.
After demolishing three large breakfasts we headed along the road to Dalwhinnie station. While waiting for the train we had a good stretch. After three days and many miles we needed a bit of a rest! As we boarded our train out of the Highlands and back to the city, it all became a bit of a dream. Were we really just in the middle of nowhere, without a soul around, waking up on mountain tops and being battered by the wind?
Back in civilisation, we heaved our heavy packs through the busy streets, smelling like we hadn’t washed for three days but with massive smiles on our faces. Time in the great outdoors, sleeping under the stars and sharing experiences with friends is good for the soul. It had been a rewarding trip and one that opened our eyes to more ambitious point-to-point adventures in the future.
For this trip we were lucky enough to be supported by RAB & Lowe Alpine. The trip turned into a great test of the latest gear as the weather certainly put it through its paces. Here's the key items we had and what we thought of them.
RAB Kinetic Alpine Jacket | This jacket will change the way you dress for the mountains. Fully waterproof yet highly breathable. This stretchy & comfortable jacket is a radical re-approach to outdoor clothing systems, allowing you to travel in waterproofs without becoming too hot or sweaty.
Mollie's Thoughts | "Being able to wear a waterproof jacket without over-heating is a revelation. The Kinetic Alpine is ideal for 3-season use and has quickly become my go-to jacket. I look forward to keeping it with me for summer adventures."
Lowe Alpine Altus Rucksack We particularly liked the versatility of this pack with its expandable lid giving an extra five litres of space. The front panel access to the main compartment means you can quickly get to essentials while on the move and the side compression straps are ski compatible.
Tristan's Thoughts | "I loved how easy the Altus was to use - it's just so practical. Being able to get into the main compartment from the front is great, plus keeping my tent on the outside so I didn't have to empty my pack to set up camp made things super easy."
RAB Cirrus Flex Hoody The Cirrus flex was a great addition to our kit. It is a lightweight and versitile piece filled with Cirrus™ 3M synthetic insulation which is very warm while allowing freedom of movement with its stretch fleece side panels.
Iona's Thoughts | "I was so glad to have the Cirrus with me at camp - the wind was so cold! I really liked the fleece side panels and lack of bulk. The Cirrus was super cosy but slim enough to easily go around making camp and cooking."
RAB Kinetic Alpine Pants The RAB Kinetic Alpine pants are a revolutionary design. Like the jacket, they are fully waterproof, but also super breathable, stretchy and comfortable. Can be worn as over trousers or on their own for those rainy days.
Tristan's Thoughts | "Like Mollie & Iona, I was completely bowled over by the Kinetic Alpine kit. A pair of waterproof trousers that you can wear all day, next to your skin, and not get too hot or sweaty? They're a genuine game changer."
How To Plan the Perfect Point to Point Hike
01. Pick Your Team
Friends, people you get on with, people with patience. People you can have fun with is essential, and people you know can handle the rigours of a tough trip. If the weather turns, if fatigue sets in, if the whole thing gets tough, you need to know the companions you are with will focus on making the best of it.
02. Pick Your Objective
An objective that is do-able in the time frame you have. Within your capabilities but a good to challenge yourself. Have a plan B or back up plan if the weather changes, i.e we could escape to that sheltered valley. For this trip, we had several options marked on the map that might make good camp spots, and several route options if the weather was kind or not.
03. Plan Your Transport
The most important part of a point to point hike. Plan to leave a car at each end, or better yet, use public transport. Buses and trains take some researching but are a brilliant way to travel to and from the Highlands.
04. Pick Your Perfect Camp Spot
A good camp spot can make a trip! Camping at a high level like we did on day one is a brilliant experience but be warned: it is much colder than in the valleys, and if the weather changes you will feel it fast. It's a good idea to have a few spots marked on the map depending on the weather and how much progress the group makes. Better to camp sooner than push on in bad conditions.
Our point to point adventure was a brilliant way to be fully immersed in the great outdoors! Using public transport to get in and out of the highlands was a great way to turn this into a real adventure. Many thanks to Rab & Lowe Alpine for supporting this trip.
Thanks to our amazing team for making this adventure happen, and for sharing the experience with a fantastic film and images.
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