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The Nevis Range Challenge

The Nevis Range Challenge

Postby Barnety2000 » Sat Aug 06, 2011 10:11 pm

Route description: Ben Nevis by the Carn Mor Dearg Arete

Munros included on this walk: Aonach Beag (Nevis Range), Aonach Mor, Ben Nevis, Carn Mor Dearg

Date walked: 14/07/2011

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 21.3 km

Ascent: 2149m

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Having climbed Carn Mor Dearg every summer since 2004, and included the CMD arête to Ben Nevis every summer since 2008, it was time to try something new and more adventurous. I had had my eye on completing all of the Munros in the Nevis Range for some time now, but the typical fickle weather had often denied the opportunity. However a fine and settled spell of weather during my July visit presented the perfect opportunity to finally complete this walk, just two days after completing the Ring of Steall + 2 http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=13684. It is important to note that start and end points for this walk are somewhat different, so either a willing driver is required to drop off in the morning and pick up in the evening, or a long slog up Glen Nevis is required either at the beginning or end of the day. I have recommended descending back to the North Face Car Park to spend as little time on the busy “Tourist Track” as possible, however for those without their own transport, a descent back to the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre would be recommended due to closer proximity to Fort William. If the rivers are in spate, this may be the only method of descent anyway, as the Allt a’ Mhuilinn must be forded on the return to North Face Car Park.

Nevis Gorge to Sgurr a’ Bhuic (963m)
Start from the popular car park at the road end in Glen Nevis and take the rocky path through the tight confines of the Nevis Gorge, high above the Nevis River, clinging initially to the steep southern slopes of Ben Nevis and then the steep western slopes of Meall Cumhann. The open serenity of the Steall Meadows is soon reached, with the white slash of the Steall Waterfall straight ahead, issuing from the head of Coire a’ Mhail. Continue SE along the well-made path towards the Steall Waterfall, then turn abruptly to the east as the path crosses some blocks of schist and contours parallel to the adjacent Nevis River. Cross the shingle beach (no doubt flooded after heavy rainfall) then continue parallel to the river along the northern bank to pick up a path that avoids an often boggy area beneath the southern slopes of Meall Cumhann. A path does run beneath the slopes of Meall Cumhann on the opposite side of the boggy area, but to my experience this path is generally less well used, often rather boggy, and as a result harder to follow.
Continue along the path until a bridge across the Allt Coire Giubhsachan is reached. This river crashes steeply down from the head of Coire Giubhsachan, high above and out of sight, a fine hanging U-shaped valley separating Aonach Beag from the CMD arête. A fine aerial view of this secret valley and the meandering Allt Coire Giubhsachan will be gained later in the walk.
Just on the opposite side of the bridge are the Steall Ruins and it is here that the main path is left and the ascent begins. Looking to the N/NE the Allt Coire nan Laogh descends steeply from high up in Coire nan Laogh, a rugged corrie perched beneath the steep grassy southern slopes of Aonach Beag. The Allt Coire nan Laogh meets the Allt Coire Giubhsachan just upstream from the bridge, which in turn is a major tributary to the Nevis River just downstream.
Turn to the NE at the Steall Ruins and locate a small path that starts to climb the slopes to the right (east) of the Allt Coire nan Laogh and roughly parallel with the river. The small path becomes rubbly and easy to follow as height is soon gained above Glen Nevis. The Allt Coire nan Laogh, close on the left, tumbles and cascades alongside in a series of foaming waterfalls. This river represents the final chance to fill up with water for some time, the other options being during the descent of Aonach Mor or the Red Burn on the descent from Ben Nevis at the end of the walk. Therefore it is advisable to fill up with water at some point higher up before the path climbs away from the river.

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"The Allt Coire nan Laogh, close on the left, tumbles and cascades alongside in a series of foaming waterfalls"

Continue to follow the path as it climbs parallel to the river for some distance, then starts to climb high above it and becomes increasingly indistinct across the grassy western slopes of Sgurr a’ Bhuic. From this point, the best method of ascent I found was to contour round to the northern side of Sgurr a’ Bhuic’s western Top, then progressively head up onto the wide blocky crest of the ridge towards Sgurr a’ Bhuic. Continue on upward along the crest of this wide and increasingly rubbly and scree-covered quartzite ridge, presenting no problems, to the small summit of Sgurr a’ Bhuic, the southernmost peak on the N-S oriented Aonach ridge. The summit cairn abuts a steep drop to the east towards the boggy col with Sgurr Choinnich Beag.

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A sweep panorama of the Mamore Range during the ascent of Sgurr a' Bhuic

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The wide rubbly ridge to the summit of Sgurr a' Bhuic

The pointed summit of Sgurr a’ Bhuic offers an awesome view in all directions! To the east, you can gaze far down the River Nevis, as it meanders through a wide valley between the Grey Corries and the eastern Mamores, towards Rannoch Moor. The Grey Corries look magnificent sprawling away to the east, with a fine grassy asymmetrical ridge winding away across the subsidiary bump of Sgurr Choinnich Beag to the pointed summit of Sgurr Choinnich Mor. Behind, the scree covered western slopes and pointed summits of Stob Coire Easain and Stob Coire an Laoigh poke out on the twisting Grey Corrie ridge. To the south, the superb E-W oriented Mamore Range stretches out across the southern side of Glen Nevis in all its glory. On Sgurr a’ Bhuic you are already 20 metres higher than the blunt cone of Binnein Beag, with the rounded summit of Sgurr Eilde Beag contrasting starkly with the pointed summits and ridges of Binnein Mor, whilst the large water body in Coire an Lochain glints in dappled sunlight from the boggy bealach between the two summits. The An Gearanach-An Garbhanach and Devil’s Ridge-Sgurr a’ Mhaim spurs stick out from the main Mamore ridge comprising Stob Coire a’ Chairn, Am Bodach and Sgurr an Iubhair, with steep grassy northern slopes plunging abruptly into the gash created by the River Nevis. The red grassy ridges and rounded granite summit of Mullach nan Coirean complete the western end of the Mamore Ridge, much gentler in appearance. To the NW the vast grey andesite screes and crags of the southern slopes of Ben Nevis poke up above the grassy SW ridge of Aonach Beag in the foreground, with the delicate line of the CMD arête curving up to merge with a steep boulder field beneath the summit. This will be the destination later in the day.

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Sgurr Choinnich Beag, Sgurr Choinnich Mor, Stob Coire Easain and Stob Coire an Laoigh from the summit of Sgurr a' Bhuic

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A sweep panorama across the Mamore Range from Sgurr a' Bhuic

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Aonach Beag and cloud-covered Ben Nevis from Sgurr a' Bhuic

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Summit #1 - Sgurr a' Bhuic, with Binnein Beag, Binnein Mor, Sgurr Eilde Mor and Coire an Lochain behind

Looking to the north, the onward route over Stob Coire Bhealaich to Aonach Beag can be seen along an asymmetrical ridge crest. The steep grassy western slopes plunge into Coire nan Laogh, whilst a sheer rock wall abuts the ridge crest to the east, part of the Aonach Ridge with a similar precipitous east face continuing some 4km (2.5 miles) to the north, impressively holding snow in narrow gulleys and crevasses throughout much of the summer.

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Descending steeply to the col, with Stob Coire Bhealaich rising up behind

Onto Stob Coire Bhealaich (1048m) and Aonach Beag (1234m)
Descend relatively steeply northwards from Sgurr a’ Bhuic along the crest of the ridge, taking care over the often slippery scree. It is best to stay slightly on the western side of the crest to avoid a dangerous slip close to the precipitous eastern face. A faint scree path follows the crest of the ridge down to the col between Sgurr a’ Bhuic and Stob Coire Bhealaich, above Coire nan Laogh. Continue along the ridge close to the eastern face, as it starts to climb northwards towards Stob Coire Bhealaich over large boulders. Soon it is possible to pick up a small path again leading along the ridge, becoming grassy higher up. The crest of the ridgeline then turns abruptly to the west and becomes increasingly rocky with the path keeping to the steep but less precipitous grassy left (southern) slopes of the ridge as you cross the rocky Top of Stob Coire Bhealaich (1048m). By now the craggy east face of Aonach Beag comes into view, large wedges of snow nestling suspended in gulleys and crevasses. Beyond, the long ridge of Aonach Mor stretches out with numerous ridges radiating off and down the precipitous eastern face, gulleys inbetween again providing a summer refuge for the remnant and constantly receding winter snows. Aonach Beag appears the far wilder and more untameable beast from this aspect, and this notion is confirmed once the two summits are traversed. The pointed scree-covered summit of Sgurr a’ Bhuic now lies beneath, a rocky ridge progressively rising to the pointed summit then dropping precipitously down the eastern face.

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The eastern faces of Aonach Beag and Aonach Mor from Stob Coire Bhealaich

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Summit #2 - Stob Coire Bhealaich, looking down on Sgurr a' Bhuic, with Binnein Beag, Binnein Mor, Na Gruagaichean, An Gearanach, Stob Coire a' Chairn and Am Bodach in the background

Continue on the small path along the rocky ridge westwards until the ridge swings to the NW, takes in a small descent, becomes grassy and widens. Gulleys of the eastern face start to cut into the ridge, with suspended snow wedges, the remnant winter cornices, close at hand on the right (east). Descend a little, then climb up the final grassy slopes to the rounded summit of Aonach Beag. At the start of this ascent, a path swings off to the left (west) across the grassy southern slopes of Aonach Beag- ignore this and continue up on a smaller path adjacent and parallel to the precipitous eastern face.

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The final climb up the grassy slopes to Aonach Beag

The summit of Aonach Beag suddenly appears in great contrast to the grassy slopes, being covered in scattered blocks of slate wedged in smoothed and striated but firm mossy mud, almost devoid of any other vegetation. Banks of moss and grass coalesce beneath the small muddy summit plateau and along the rim of the steep eastern face. The climate up here is evidently very harsh much of the time, with the summit area snow-covered for many months of the year and frequently battered by cold and wet south-westerly winds during the few months of exposure as the winter snows recede. The muddy western and southern slopes curve away initially gently from the summit, however the summit cairn, as on Sgurr a’ Bhuic, abuts the precipitous eastern face of the Aonach ridge.

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The peculiar muddy summit of Aonach Beag

By the time I made it onto Aonach Beag the cloud had descended, scudding up the south-western slopes of the mountain on a cold and stiffening breeze, then whipping across the summit and up into the sky. The Grey Corries intermittently made cameo appearances through the cloud to the east. A solitary walker, the first I’d seen during the day since leaving the car park in Glen Nevis, made his way through the fog towards the summit cairn from the direction of Aonach Mor, waving his walking sticks in acknowledgement. He was the first of a number of walkers I would see coming from that direction, maybe having taken the gondola up the northern face of Aonach Mor and then an easy stroll across the summit to the col and up Aonach Beag. Perhaps he had been more adventurous and come up from Glen Nevis via Coire Giubhsachan, ascending the steep western spur onto Aonach Mor from the bealach with Carn Mor Dearg, my method of descent. Who knows.

Onto Aonach Mor (1221m)
Head north across the muddy summit plateau admiring the thick striated and grooved wedges of dirty-looking snow clinging to the cold and rocky eastern face of the mountain. Pick up a small rocky path descending towards the col with Aonach Mor, close to the steep eastern face. As I was descending I soon emerged beneath the cloud, with fine views west to Carn Mor Dearg and it’s impressive east ridge, my method of ascent, and east to the Grey Corries. The ridge leading down from Aonach Beag to the col with Aonach Mor is convex in nature, starting initially at a gentle gradient and becoming increasingly steep and craggy just above the grassy col. Keeping to the eroded path involves little difficulty during the summer months, but may be slightly more challenging under the snows of winter.

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Descending to the col with Aonach Mor, and the easy climb up the wide grassy ridge to the summit

The climb up onto Aonach Mor is the easiest of the day, up a gentle gradient on a peaty path along the wide grassy crest of the Aonach ridge towards the summit, during which time I went back up into the cloud. The large summit cairn on Aonach Mor sits in the middle of the relatively wide grassy ridge, in complete contrast to the previous summits, where the cairn had abutted the precipitous eastern face. The ridge as a whole also appears far tamer than much of the walk so far; with the extensive grass cover and gently climbing peaty path appearing more like a walk in a park rather than the final climb up a 4000-footer. None-the-less, this easy stint provides a welcome respite, as there is still a significant amount of climbing to do.

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Summit #4 - Aonach Mor

A cold and gusty south-westerly whipped cloud up the steep western slopes and across the summit ridge of Aonach Mor during my time on the mountain, however a short walk to the rims of the wide ridge allowed intermittent cameo glimpses into the rugged valley of the Allt Daim to the west, between Aonach Mor and the Carn Dearg Ridge, and to the east across Stob an Cul Choire to the wide open Spean Valley in the direction of Spean Bridge and Roy Bridge. Delicate snow strands clung to the upper reaches of the comparatively more open and grassy eastern face of Aonach Mor, far less rugged and craggy than Aonach Beag. The stark contrast between the craggy, rocky east face and poorly vegetated summit of Aonach Beag and the wide grassy summit ridge of Aonach Mor can only be fully appreciated during a traverse of both mountains. I continued northwards along the path past the large summit cairn for a short distance, but had no interest in seeing the intrusive and unsightly machinery associated with the ski centre sprawled over the northern face, so turned back towards the summit cairn in a brisk wind and headed for Carn Mor Dearg.

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Looking east from Aonach Mor past Stob an Cul Choire to the expanse of the Spean Valley

Descending from Aonach Mor (1221m) to the bealach with Carn Mor Dearg (830m)
Retrace your steps from the summit cairn on the path along the centre of the summit ridge, however about halfway down veer off towards the right (west) towards the western rim, taking care not to venture too close when snow covered or in poor visibility. I found a faint grassy path running roughly parallel to the western rim, which then started to descend gently along it until reaching a small cairn. This cairn marks the descent point from Aonach Mor down a steep and rough spur to the bealach with Carn Mor Dearg. The path consists of rubble and scree, annoyingly slippery underfoot as the gradient becomes very steep and almost vertical in places, with the bealach beneath you far below. Time should be taken on this part of the walk, as a slip and slide here could land you several hundred metres below. It is useful to use rocks as handholds during the near vertical sections. This is probably the most time-consuming and difficult, even slightly dangerous, section of the walk.

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The small cairn marking the point of descent down the steep spur to the bealach with Carn Mor Dearg

The granite bulk of Carn Mor Dearg now fills your view straight ahead, with the attractive east ridge curving up from the bealach to the tiny pointed summit, initially wide but becoming increasingly narrow towards the top. Lower down this steep descent, the path descends adjacent to a small spring issuing from within the bulk of Aonach Mor and it is useful to fill up with water here. There is no more water until the Red Burn during descent of Ben Nevis on the “Tourist Track”, unless you choose to drop steeply down into the head of Coire Giubhsachan from the bealach and locate the upper reaches of the Allt Coire Giubhsachan, adding unnecessary additional climbing on increasingly tiring legs.

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Descending steeply towards the bealach with Carn Mor Dearg, whilst the east ridge winds majestically up onto Carn Mor Dearg

Finally the boggy bealach beneath Carn Mor Dearg is reached, complete with lush green grass, a few small pools and a crumbling granite wall starting up the lower slopes of the east ridge. An ideal point to take a rest and gaze back up at the ridiculously steep western slopes of Aonach Mor that you have just descended. Heading to the south across the bealach, you can look down through Coire Giubhsachan, with the Allt Coire Giubhsachan meandering serenely on a gentle boggy gradient in the lower reaches. To the north, the tighter valley of the Allt Daim between the Carn Dearg ridge and Aonach Mor can be viewed, with the Allt Daim following a rocky course NNW towards the open valley of the Great Glen.

Ascending Carn Mor Dearg (1220m) by the east ridge
Having seen no-one during the descent from Aonach Mor, I continued to ascend the east ridge of Carn Mor Dearg in solitude. I have never met or seen anyone on the east ridge during my two visits, despite the fact that walking parties kept emerging on the small pointed summit above. Most must take the route up from the North Face Car Park or from the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre to the north, which is a shame because the east ridge is a fantastic route up the mountain even if it is a little harder to get to.
From the bealach the steep climbing begins immediately, initially on a small path through the lower grassy section, which soon becomes indistinct as the ridge turns to a section of large boulders and smoothed granite slabs. This lower section is steep, but the ridge is wide and the summit of Carn Mor Dearg can be seen above, with the jagged east ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach to the right (NW). The granite offers good grip, and bits and pieces of path can be found winding around the granite boulders.
During the middle section, the gradient levels off and the ridge starts to narrow, now high above Coire Giubhsachan and the meandering Allt Coire Giubhsachan to the left (SE). Bits and pieces of path lead along the narrowing crest of the ridge composed of small granite blocks and patchy grass. The summit of Carn Mor Dearg becomes ever closer as you contour along the southern rim of a remote corrie covered in granite scree derived from the imposing summit of the mountain high above. You can now gain an impressive view back to the Aonachs, the two summits traversed earlier in the day. The rubbly granite crest of the CMD arête comes into view, beyond which the mighty cliffs of Ben Nevis’ north face appear.

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Heading along the narrowing middle section of the east ridge, with Carn Mor Dearg, the CMD arete and cloud-covered Ben Nevis ahead

The increasingly narrow ridge steepens during the final section up to the summit and becomes increasingly rocky, with the appearance of moss in the upper section making some of the usually grippy granite slabs rather slippery. This is the first section of relatively easy scrambling along the granite boulders, with the small summit cairn of Carn Mor Dearg suddenly appearing at the end of the narrow steep ridge.
To my mind, the view from Carn Mor Dearg is still one of the best that I have ever experienced from a Scottish mountain. To the west, on the opposite side of Coire Leis, the vast andesite cliffs of Ben Nevis soar above the CIC Hut and the rocky course of the Allt a’ Mhuilinn, the former appearing as a small dot far below. Vast snow slopes abound in crevasses and hang suspended in remote corries, accessible only to the rock and ice climber, more comparable to the eastern face of Aonach Beag than of Aonach Mor, but at an unprecedented scale. The now clear summit of Ben Nevis swarmed with the ant-like figures of proud walkers, delighted at having successfully made the trudge up the “Tourist Path” from Achintee. I had the small summit of Carn Mor Dearg all to myself, and the thought of seeing countless walkers on the summit of Ben Nevis seemed daunting after the solitude enjoyed during the day thus far.
The spectacular CMD arête departs from Carn Mor Dearg and curves gracefully round the head of Coire Leis to connect with a steep boulder field beneath the summit of the Ben, with the Mamores forming an impressive backdrop, now somewhat more distant than from the summit of Sgurr a’ Bhuic earlier in the day. To the east the vast bulks of Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag soar up, with the twisting line of the Grey Corries appearing through the col between the two mountains, again somewhat more distant from this more western vantage point. I enjoyed the summit of Carn Mor Dearg to myself for as long as I could, until I spied two walkers heading across from Carn Dearg Meadhonach, then started my descent along the rubbly granite path adjacent to a steep drop into Coire Giubhsachan to begin the traverse of the CMD arête.

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Summit #5 - Carn Mor Dearg, sunny on the Aonachs now of course!

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Sweep panorama from Aonach Beag, across the CMD arete to the Mamores and Ben Nevis from Carn Mor Dearg

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The North Face of Ben Nevis- magnificent! Cleared nicely for my arrival on Carn Mor Dearg, but it wasn't to last.

Across the CMD arête to Ben Nevis and back down to North Face Car Park
This is the 4th consecutive year I’ve done the CMD arête, with slightly different weather conditions every year creating a new experience. A fine ridge with some sections of relatively easy but quite exposed scrambling, easily circumvented by small paths on the south-eastern side, high above the Allt Coire Giubhsachan. For me, traversing the CMD arête was the highlight of the walk.
Following the descent from Carn Mor Dearg, the ridge soon narrows to a rocky arête and the scrambling begins to keep to the crest, along a series of solid upstanding granite blocks heavily etched by crampon marks. A small path veers off on the left hand side where the scrambling begins, clinging to the steep slopes of the ridge high above the Allt Coire Giubhsachan. The path descends then rises back up to the crest of the ridge further along. However keeping to the crest gives a nice sense of exposure, also high above the rugged head of Coire Leis and with fine views across to NE Buttress of Ben Nevis. The line of the arête initially heads due south from Carn Mor Dearg then curves towards the south-west, as it rounds the rough and remote head of Coire Leis, complete with a small lochan, and probably one of the wettest places in the Highlands! As the ridge turns, keeping to the crest involves more of a walk than a scramble during a gradual descent to a low point, with crags guarding precipitous slopes into the head of Coire Leis to the right (north). From around the low point, you can look down the heart of Coire Leis, with the Allt a’ Mhuilinn winding along a rocky course towards the wide valley of the Great Glen, much like the Allt Daim on the opposite side of the Carn Dearg ridge. Another splendid example of a U-shaped valley carved by a hanging mountain glacier during the last ice age, with the dual erosive action of ice in Coire Leis and Coire Giubhsachan carving out the scythe-like CMD arête, such a pleasure for the mountain walker today. The scattered and perched large blocks of rock far from the rivers in both U-shaped valleys no doubt provide testament to erosion and transport by ice rather than water.

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Looking back to Carn Mor Dearg from the point where the CMD arete turns towards the SW

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Heading towards the low point of the CMD arete, high above the meandering Allt Coire Giubhsachan and with a magnificent view across to the Mamores

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Looking down Coire Leis and the U-shaped valley of the Allt a' Mhuilinn. The cloud was starting to close in over Ben Nevis...

Following descent to the low point of the arête (still >1000m altitude), the ridge starts to rise and a more committed, steeper section of scrambling is involved to keep to the crest, again however easily circumvented by a popular path on the left (southern) side. A more level section of ridge leads across a short narrow section ~1 metre wide, then arrives at a peculiar triangular-shaped sign marking a series of metal abseil posts that can be used as a method of descent into the head of Coire Leis, should the weather abruptly turn inhospitable on the ridge (not out of the question). The great cliffs of Ben Nevis are now close at hand, towering high above and signifying that there is still a major ascent to be made. Vast scree slopes radiate from the base of the cliffs along with a vast expanse of moss, testifying to the extremely cold and damp climate in upper Coire Leis. A small path threads through the moss beneath NE Buttress heading up towards the boulder field at the end of the arête and may represent a method of ascent up onto Ben Nevis and the CMD arête for those venturing into the upper confines of Coire Leis past the CIC Hut. By this point, the cloud had closed in and a light drizzle had commenced as the narrow arête suddenly widened into the vast slopes of the boulder field beneath Ben Nevis just beyond the abseil posts, and the red granite underfoot switched to a grey andesite.
The final section of steep climbing now begins up the boulder field, adjacent to a precipitous drop into Coire Leis on the right (NE) side. Snow often persists on the right side of the boulder field well into summer, beneath steep cliffs guarding the summit plateau of Ben Nevis- a very cold spot indeed. A faint scree path winds up through the maze of grey andesite boulders and scree, relentlessly steep on tired legs but the only way is up now. Finally the vast expanse of the Ben’s summit plateau abruptly comes into view as the gradient eases off, with the usual sight of the Trig Point, observatory ruins and sadly obtrusive volume of litter. With thick fog now shrouding the summit, and no sign of any clearance, I headed across to take a mandatory picture of the Trig Point in the fog to prove my ascent (fortunately the Trig Point on Ben Nevis is pretty conspicuous, otherwise it could have been any trig point in the fog in all fairness) and began to descend on the “Tourist Path”, now in the company of many others. An impressive volume of snow surrounded by moss was still wedged in Gardyloo Gulley, covered in rocks that walkers had seemingly hurled in celebration of their ascent.
The character of Ben Nevis seemed very different to the other 3 Munros in the Nevis Range. The Aonachs and Carn Mor Dearg felt much more remote with far less sign of anthropogenic interference (the ski centre on Aonach Mor excepted, but this isn’t seen on the walk), where only the competent and knowledgeable hillwalker ventures. In contrast, the Ben has been forced to welcome any Tom, Dick or Harry with its well-made path and numerous cairns the size of small towers, but every now and again Mother Nature bites back to let mankind know that she is in control. For that reason the Ben is still a dangerous mountain. I’m sure more tower-shaped cairns had gone up since last year, sadly further detracting from the wild feel of the highest mountain in the UK, but no doubt a “health and safety” feature due to the high volume of people tackling this path throughout the year. Let’s hope the other mountains in the area don’t suffer the same fate.
The descent off Ben Nevis via the “Tourist Track” is without a doubt the worst part of the walk as the track descends along the summit plateau then down the steep western face in a series of broad zigzags. The knees are screaming by this point at yet another descent and you can’t get down to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe quickly enough. On the descent as I emerged beneath the clouds, I was half-tempted to nip up Meall an t-Suidhe on the way back over to North Face Car Park, as I had never been up and it seemed a convenient extra Top to add. However with rain visibly setting in on hills out to the west, I decided to call it a day.
On heading down to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, you have a choice of descent depending on your preferred final destination. You can either continue on down the “Tourist Path” as it steeply zigzags down the southern then western slopes of Meall an t-Suidhe to the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre or Youth Hostel, or you can veer off to the right (north) at the loch and descend to the Allt a’ Mhuilinn and back down the path to the North Face Car Park. As I was staying in Roybridge, I chose the latter.
I continued on northward once the main “Tourist Track” veered abruptly off to the south-west to descend Meall an t-Suidhe, on a path which splits into two above Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe. Take the left option and descend to the northern outflow of Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, where the path ends. Continue N/NNE to descend the rough heathery slopes towards the Allt a’ Mhuilinn ahead of you. Bits and pieces of path can be picked up through this section, but much of the route is pathless and it is best to keep to the higher and heathery ground to avoid expanses of bog. The Allt a’ Mhuilinn must be forded next, usually possible when the river is low with the clever use of large blocks as stepping stones or by wading through in bare feet. Clamber up the bank and a short distance to the NE to locate a well-made path descending from the CIC Hut in upper Coire Leis. Follow this path north-westward to reach a stile and continue onto a well made track for a short distance. A new path has now been constructed which veers off to the right (not illustrated on the accompanying map), descending at times steeply through pine woodland of Leanachan Forest back to the North Face Car Park.
A fine walk traversing all four Munros in the Nevis Range in a single day, however during the day I noted several additional Tops that could be included to fulfil a complete round of the Nevis Range. These include:
· Carn Dearg Meadhonach (1179m) and Carn Beag Dearg (1010m) – relatively easily included by traversing the main Carn Dearg ridge north-westward from Carn Mor Dearg. However will add an extra 3km (2 miles) distance and 240m of ascent. The summit of Carn Beag Dearg is also surrounded by large loose granite blocks, which are tricky to traverse.
· Carn Dearg (1221m, Ben Nevis’ northwestern Top)- easily traversed by following the northern rim of the summit plateau. Can then either head back across the summit plateau to pick up the “Tourist Path” or descend directly down steep, scree-covered slopes to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe.
· Carn Dearg (1220m, Ben Nevis’ southwestern Top)- requiring somewhat more effort, this would involve taking the left variant of the “Tourist Track” on the descent from Ben Nevis, then veering off south-westward on the ridge between Coire Eoghainn and Five Finger Gulley. I have never done this myself so cannot add any experience as to how easy this would be, however it would theoretically add on an extra 4.2km (2.6 miles) and 250m of ascent.
· Meall an t-Suidhe (711m)- almost considered doing this. Instead of turning north, continue a little further down the “Tourist Track”, then veer off west to climb to the southern Top of Meall an t-Suidhe then continue north to the summit. This would approximately add an extra 4-5km distance and 154m of ascent. Can then descend the NE ridge and back to the Allt a’ Mhuilinn, to return to North Face Car Park.
Last edited by Barnety2000 on Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Nevis Range Challenge

Postby rocket-ron » Sun Aug 07, 2011 9:41 am

wow what a detailed report
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4 people think this report is great.
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