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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Ben Nevis mountain track

Ben Nevis mountain track


Postby MrSBaldrick » Tue Apr 15, 2008 3:44 pm

Route description: Ben Nevis by the Mountain Path

Munros included on this walk: Ben Nevis

Date walked: 15/04/2008

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We managed to get to the summit on Sunday afternoon (my birthday). It was our first 'Arctic' walk, having never really walked in snow more than a few centimetres deep! Also our first time on Ben Nevis.

We regularly tackle 10 mile or more hikes. We did Scafell on a day described as 'Weather conditions were appalling with heavy rainfall.' by the Wasdale mountain rescue, we actually kind of enjoyed the day in the rain. We have done the Yorkshire three peaks too. But this was something else, a mental challenge as opposed to physical.

After setting off from the Glen Nevis visitor centre (£2 for all day parking) , we saw on the signage that they are offering a free Nevis bag tag for walkers as a memory of the walk, so I went back to get two tags. Then a little further on, after crossing the river I remembered my stronger walking sunglasses were back in the car (I was expecting the snow to be very bright), so back I went again.

There were lots of people, who, even in our opinion looked totally unprepared for what we knew was going to be be a tough day out, and beyond anything we'd personally ever experienced. Quite a few started to turn back once they hit the snow line near Red Burn stream, which was quite tricky to get past anyway. Although we each had two hiking poles, we appreciate that crampons and poles are the proper tools for the job.

As we reached the clouds and it started snowing and the path became very quiet, we were taking the proper path with all the switch backs, which I had programmed into my eTrex H GPS. It was later obvious that everyone else who was going up, took the direct route normally used for descent because the deep snow made it usable for ascent.

We sat on a spare jacket in the snow at about 900m to grab a quick bit of food and whilst moving my rucksack around, my OS map in it's case slid back down the mountain. I was sure we wouldn't find it again, so was resigned to calling it a failure. We headed back down the path and saw the map pouch had flown in the air and landed end on in the snow 70m below where I lost it. Although I had the GPS I still wanted the map as backup to continue the route to the top.

Heading back up the tourist path often in knee deep snow, the visibility really worsened to maybe 30 metres. There were no rocks poking up and no horizon, just white everywhere. A really odd feeling. The GPS said we were right over the track with a good signal lock, but looking away down the slope and seeing nothing yet knowing you were so far up was very disconcerting. Although I would defend GPS as great technology, I started second guessing it this time.

Then we got a spot of luck at the final switchback, the cloud cleared and we saw Fort William for the first time in more that an hour. And also saw other walkers taking the direct route to the top (actually a group of scottish lads one in a tee shirt, but all with proper gear too!)

Anyway we followed the footprints and the GPS and got to the summit after another 30 minutes or so. A few groups of ice climbers were sat around the refuge, and as some left, others arrived over the north face! What a mad hobby they have!

[Photos removed]

The snow really started to come down, and visibility was bad (in our very limited experience anyway). We stuck around for about 15 minutes, and as the last two climbers left the refuge heading down we followed them , it was getting late (about 4.30pm I think) Being left there without anyone around wasn't something we wanted to experience.

[Photos removed]

We would probably feel different if we had ever been to the Ben Nevis summit in clear weather, or ever walked in snow before, or been this high up on a mountain before. We've since seen pictures of the Trig Point and Refuge in the summer! We had no idea the snow was that deep and the structures were that tall!

We followed the switch backs all the way down too, to make it easier for my fiance as she's always happier walking uphill. The way down was even more eventful. I slipped and snapped a hiking pole in protruding rocks, dropped my camcorder in the snow (could have easily landed on rock but didn't). And the other half now has a trapped nerve in her arm and has been told to rest it for two weeks, the pain didn't kick in until the day after the walk.

[Photos removed]

That's our story.
MrSBaldrick
 
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Re: Ben Nevis mountain track

Postby Paul Webster » Sat Apr 19, 2008 9:55 am

Great photos and report - thanks - I enjoyed it. It's an ice-axe that you really should have in your hands - to enable you to brake on the snow if you slip and start to slide; without it it is very dangerous to cross snow slopes.
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Re: Ben Nevis mountain track

Postby bio-man » Sat Apr 26, 2008 9:44 pm

A "great" story but a very fortunate one it seems...losing the map then secondguessing GPS and continuing!! I'm sorry but not having walked in snow before then tackling the Ben when it's knee deep and in poor visibility and without ice axe and the skill to use it, is unprepared and reckless and maybe they should have turned back at the snowline as well. Ben Nevis isn't just Britains biggest and most dangerous mountain for nothing!! I think the writer and his fiancee were very fortunate indeed and should take note of Stickman's original post.
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Re: Ben Nevis mountain track

Postby bio-man » Sat Apr 26, 2008 11:27 pm

Further to last, the following webpage should be compulsory reading for anyone attempting the Ben!!

http://www.visit-fortwilliam.co.uk/ben_ ... safety.htm
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Re: Ben Nevis mountain track

Postby Paul Webster » Sun Apr 27, 2008 10:37 am

The Ben Nevis route description already has a link to the official MCofS and Nevis Partnership safety leaflet - for completeness it's here
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Re: Ben Nevis mountain track

Postby MrSBaldrick » Sun Apr 27, 2008 12:19 pm

I hope that I made clear is wasn't any easy day, and that we found it a challenge in certain respects. A couple of points however

On the morning the staff in the visitors centre suggested crampons, but said we would be fine with poles.
As I explained, I went back for the map, or I wouldn't have gone any further up.
We were very cautious as snow walking was new for us.
Once we reached the end of the switchbacks, we came across many groups of walkers and climbers very casually heading up and down the shortcut on the slopes.
The ice climbers had their axes on their backs and had taken off their crampons!
I'm very experienced with GPS (geocaching involves finding very small hidden items in remote locations), and the eTrex H maintains a 2m accurate compared to the lock in the worst of conditions so It's a really useful tool. It even works indoors. I used this very accurate preprogrammed track: http://www.haroldstreet.org.uk/route-pr ... ?route=157

Most importantly we were quite prepared to turn back at the top of the switchbacks, summit bagging has never been our thing, but we continued on and gave ourselves a time limit to reach the summit or turn back.

I agree it's probably a very poor walk compared to the CMD arete walk when the weathers good, but we enjoyed the day immensely.
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Re: Ben Nevis mountain track

Postby canisp » Sun Apr 27, 2008 2:50 pm

Glad you enjoyed your day out, and thanks for the photo’s.
I thought the Stob Ban photo was the best, at least i think its Stob Ban ?, also like the summit shot.

MrSBaldrick wrote:On the morning the staff in the visitors centre suggested crampons, but said we would be fine with poles.

Not criticising, just commenting.

I think the advice you got from visitor centre staff, was bad advice, and potentially dangerous. Walking poles have their uses, but they are no substitute for, and cannot be used instead of crampons and/or ice axe.

I agree it's probably a very poor walk compared to the CMD arete walk when the weathers good, but we enjoyed the day immensely.

You enjoyed the day and thats what counts.
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Re: Ben Nevis mountain track

Postby bio-man » Mon Apr 28, 2008 9:56 pm

While not diminishing your efforts , they are commendable and your photos are excellent too, I'm only trying that The Ben is not the mountain for your first snow walk. An Artic walk, as you put it, which suggests a winter mountaineering outing requiring all the equipment that that entails, including the knowledge to use them. While not doubting anyones skills, least the authors, on GPS and navigation, The Ben commands the utmost respect and to treat with anything less, is asking for trouble. I just hope the author reflects on this when he is tempted to go further his second snow walk.
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