Ben Nevis/CMD - EPIC
by GillC » Mon May 14, 2012 4:28 pm
Route description: Ben Nevis by the Carn Mor Dearg Arete
Munros included on this walk: Ben Nevis, Carn Mor Dearg
Date walked: 12/05/2012
Time taken: 13 hours
Distance: 15.1 km
Ascent: 1585m7 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Ben Nevis has always been a bit of an ambition, obviously, but I didnt want to do the mountain track (theres a big push on to rename the 'tourist' track, to help dispel the myth that its a stroll in the park). Had read reports about the CMD route and thought, "thats for me".
Margaret and I took the route of booking with an official group/guide for this, mainly due to a) probable tricky weather conditions and b) the route over the Arete itself. Its worth doing if you're unsure, think we paid something like £30 a head.
We travelled up to FW on Friday,,couple of drinks in the Ben Nevis Bar in the afternoon. We then walked nearly 2 miles south to our hotel, a wonderful example of coach tour establishments but it was really good, smashing food, lovely clean room etc. Evening entertainment was a bit questionable, but hey,,theres only so much excitement the blue rinse brigade can handle
Anyway, I digress.....We had been eyeing the Nevis forecast for several days, been snowing at the top for at least the last 3-4 days, temp rising slightly to -3 ish with wind chill taking this to -16!!!!!!!! so we were prepared for this to be a non event as the guide company wont risk it if conditions are too bad. On Friday, the weather reports were moving in our favour and on waking up to a gorgeous blue sky over Loch Linnhe, couldnt believe our luck.
Headed off to Torlundy in a cab to the meet up at the North Face car park, planned kick-off was for 10am. Met up with the guide and other climbers, 16 in total and 2 guides so ended up in 2 groups of 8.
Due to the amount of snow, we were kitted out with crampons, ice-axe etc but it was actually very warm at sea-level so layers at this point were a bit of a gamble as you head straight up through the forest and gain height (and sweat) very quickly. For some reason, today was one of those where my body just didn't give me any boosts. Energy filled breakfast, psyched up but all I could muster was a plod... still,,,plodded on anyway.
At the top of the forest path, there is a Forestry Commission car park and a stile, (theres also a gate if youre REALLY worried about saving your legs ) At this point, we split off into our groups of 8 and the first party headed off. The views up to the Ben here were amazing, very rare that you get such a clear view of the whole route. The views North were fab too.
The route climbs up the side of Carn Beag Dearg, at 1010mtrs, you skirt past the top but an option would have been to go to the top and just follow the ridge up to CMD. Our guide however, kept below the top and carried on past the top of Carn Dearg Meadonach and joined the top of the ridge here. We started seeing patches of snow on the ground around 650mtrs but we were still in the sun and had shelter from wind in the shape of the mighty 'Ben' so no need to layer up yet. By the time we were at about 950-1000mtrs, we were on full snow. This is a real slog,,nothing too steep but its constant and as I said earlier, I was finding it hard to draw much energy - sometimes you just have one of those days, why did it have to be today?
By now, we were in full kit, waterproof/windproof etc, cloud and mist coming in over the Ben from the West, this turned to icy snow on a few occasions and we resembled Arctic explorers for a while, ice and snow sticking to everything on our right hand side, felt like gravel hitting your face. Ouch!
The views of Nevis remained pretty good,,the top had gone all modest on us and was hiding but it looked really dramatic and moody, towering over us in its big rocky glory.
We reached the summit of Carn Mor Dearg around 2:15, little over 4 hrs,,,happy enough with that. Im struggling to remember if we had a food stop before or after this point, it was around here somewhere anyway, just a short break,,only managed 1 roll and half a bar of chocolate.
CMD is 1220mtrs and Im pretty certain I'd heard the guide say we passed freezing point a little below the summit.
As we headed off, we could see our other group of 8 crossing the Arete and 1 or 2 other parties of 2 slightly ahead of them.
Before going on to the ridge, the guide moved us into position, we had been pretty spread out coming up the main drag but time to stick together now. The weather had really closed in, snow, wind, ice, low cloud. It was all moving across us pretty quickly so views came and went. Amazing place, yet when you looked North,,,there was Fort William, nestling down under blue skies,, it was a bit like looking into a crystal ball,,another time, another place.
The Arete is about 1km and the vast majority is climbing and scrambling over and round rocks. Tricky in places. The rocks were slippy but I think if we hadnt had the footprints of previous climbers to follow, it would have taken a bit longer. The wind whipped up in places and just as we got to a short but very narrow/flat section, it really started gusting, so, with the guide on the other side of the 'bridge', all that was left for us was to crouch down and sit it out. The drops off to the right and left of us were all too visible. AAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH.
Very hard to keep an eye on the time up here, something I tend to do more when we are climbing ourselves,,with a guide,,you tend to let go of these things a bit.
After the ridge, we had a minute or two to look back and take it in before tackling what was the most frustrating half hour of my life. Steep slope, normally very rocky but pretty much covered in fairly soft snow. Getting a foot hold was hard, even other peoples steps just gave way under you so it was a bit '3 steps forward, 2 back', slow progress indeed. By now, visibility was about 30 yards then people just became pale grey shapes in the distance so we tried to make sure we all kept together,,sorry to the rest of the team as my lack of energy made me the 'coos tail' so they got a few more breaks than normal but we still made pretty good time. Then, after a long 6hrs or so, we reach the top of Ben Nevis. FANTASTIC.
The cairn on which the trig point sits is about 7 or 8' high,,but the snow here was so deep, we only had to step up about a foot from the snow. (Saw a pic in a brochure the following day showing it without snow)
Our happy wee band all shared a hug, hand shakes all round, lots of snaps taken here and at the Observatory hut,,it looked like a wee ice house. How cute
We had the summit to ourselves. Couldnt believe my ambition had been achieved. It had been a hard climb, conditions deteriorating with every meter for the last 2 hrs. But, we were there, comfortable and proud as wee proud things. Our co walkers had travelled from all over the UK and here we all were, at the highest point in the UK. Felt like the top of the world to me. Margarets been up before, a couple of years ago, but we were both chuffed we had managed this by what is commonly known as "the hard way"
We spent maybe 10 mins on the top then headed off towards the descent on the Mountain track. Broad expanse of snow here, cairns make the path down easy to find. It was very slippy underfoot, mainly due to compression of the snow under the feet of countless other climbers. As we curved to the left slightly,,we met some upcoming walkers who were part of a 3Peak challenge group,,must be off their heads haha.
Very shortly,,the path,,some 10' wide, was crawling with people but we heard someone radioing that they were now stopping the 3 peak challengers going any higher due to conditions at the top. Ha! done it!
The path was pretty tricky, people sliding about, easier to walk in the looser snow on the edges but this then just broadened the compressed area.
Not much in the way of pics after this point. About 20 mins off the top, I unfortunately took a bad tumble, by the sound I heard and felt from my left ankle,,I was convinced it was broken before I came back down and hit the ground. Banged my head too but my big thick hat prevented damaging anything there that might have been at risk. (some would say, no harm there then! lol )
I must apologise to the droves of walkers at this point for the very loud shriek. Thankfully, I was able to move my foot so no breaks apparent. However when back on my pins, I realised all was not well. Won't go into the 6 hrs of hell, tears, gritting of teeth etc that followed. Our guided route was due to turn East at Half Way Lochan and head back over to Allt a Mhuilinn and back to Torlundy but Margaret and I suggested after a distance that she and I continue on down the main path to Glen Nevis, the heathery bog looked impossible in the state I was in. Our guide agreed and would meet us at the Ben Nevis pub later.
Our guide eventually raised us on the phone and walked up the path to meet us, reached us around 9ish. Head torches essential shortly after this point.
By this time folks, we had been out, climbing, scrambling, hobbling and greetin for 13hrs on only a roll and some chocolate,,getting anything else out to eat just seemed like such an ordeal,,so we munched on nuts and emptied our hydration packs (a first for me, I tend to under hydrate)
It took me 6 hrs to get down, 11:15pm when we got off the hill. God Bless my wee pal Margaret for putting up with the cursing, screams, growling etc on the way down and thanks to all the other climbers who offered help, drugs, advice etc on the way. Luckier than some,,the helicopter was out to pick up a woman with a broken leg,,around the same place I came a cropper. Hope she's ok.
Hotel were great too,,late night supper brought to our room after midnight,,sat there mashing sandwiches, cold meat, crisps and coffee down our necks,,,then a wee whisky before bed before falling into a short but coma like sleep. Foot elavated on pillows and bruises changing colour by the minute.
Excrutiating pain aside, epic day,,not to be forgotten and very probably, not to be repeated. But, we did it and wouldn't have missed it for the world.
As for the pain,,severe ligament damage, iced up and elevation for a few days will hopefully do the trick. Descending around 3500ft on that, Im such a hero!
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by monarchming » Mon May 14, 2012 5:43 pm
by GillC » Mon May 14, 2012 5:45 pm
by Jock McJock » Mon May 14, 2012 6:05 pm
by Banditman » Mon May 14, 2012 7:03 pm
I remember struggling down the bottom half of the mountain path with a sore hip and every step is a nightmare on those big stones so I've no idea how you managed it with ligament damage.... Hat's off. Hope you get to do the 5 sisters. I'm aiming for them in July. Can't wait.
by jonny616 » Mon May 14, 2012 7:09 pm
by gammy leg walker » Mon May 14, 2012 7:56 pm
by PeteR » Mon May 14, 2012 9:33 pm
I'm taking part in the Maggies Nevis Night Hike this weekend coming, so seeing the conditions you had on the summit is interesting. My fellow "walkers" aren't as mad for this hillwalking lark as me, so perhaps I won't show them your report..........but then again............
by GillC » Mon May 14, 2012 9:42 pm
Im sure you are well organised for your night hike,,dont be giving the Mountain Rescue Teams any more work eh! Show your mates the report,,,if a wimpy burd from Weegie land can go through the pain I did, and believe me,,this was roaring pain (and ive been told off by the girl i was with for playing it down in the report) then they can breeze it. (just dont fall over ) Best of luck with your walk,,enjoy the experience. GillC
by mgmt! » Mon May 14, 2012 11:12 pm
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by coreen connell » Fri Jun 15, 2012 10:00 pm
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by GillC » Sat Jun 16, 2012 9:55 pm