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Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back


Postby dogplodder » Fri Jul 22, 2016 6:41 pm

Route description: Ben Nevis by the Carn Mor Dearg Arete

Munros included on this walk: Carn Mor Dearg

Date walked: 19/07/2016

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On 24th July 2014 Moira and I climbed the Aonachs on a glorious hot day with great views of Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg. We decided then we must go back and climb Carn Mor Dearg as soon as a good day presented itself. We've often considered it since then but because of the risk of cloud obscuring the views of the North Face we never got round to it - until almost exactly two years later, Tuesday of this week, the very warm day before the thunder storms were due.

Carn Mor Dearg from Aonach Mor
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We started walking from the North Face car park at 9.20 and followed the WH route through the woods, passing two benches, one of which would figure for Moira later in the day. We met a local lady on a walk up to the CIC hut who recommended going that way, but we said we'd stick to the less steep WH route. We spoke about the sad loss of the young couple who camped beside the CIC hut in February and she told us two people had fallen to their death from the CMD arete last year, on a fine day much like this one. That thought lingered in my mind when I saw so many heading for the arete, some who told me it was their first ever hill. What is it that makes people with no hill experience think doing Ben Nevis by the CMD arete is a good idea for their very first hill? One girl from the Czech Republic had the right idea - she was carrying a helmet - but others looked like they were out for a walk in the park.

Track by the Allt a' Mhuillin and views of Ben Nevis ahead
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The track ends at the edge of the woods and we crossed a stile to join a well made path following the north side of the Allt a' Mhuillin.

Moira taken from stile - at this point all was well
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We continued on the path watching for the left fork that would start us on the long ascent of Carn Mor Dearg.

Lone tree
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We had been warned the path to the left would be wet lower down and that's exactly how we found it - relentlessly wet and for quite a distance. It had been a while since we left home so we sat on a large stone near the start of the soggy path for a bite to eat. I was feeling the heat so unzipped the bottom half of my trousers, which felt much better. Moira decided to keep hers on and I wonder if that was a factor in how she felt as we got stuck into the climb. Going was slow because of the plentiful patches of mud and squelchiness and it was also by now very warm. This was after all meant to be the hottest day of the year.

The night before I'd watched a programme about heat exhaustion that can lead to heat stroke which is potentially serious; so while I was waiting for Moira to catch up I stuck my hands in the running water of a conveniently placed burn as this was one of the tips given for avoiding heat exhaustion. I then got chatting to a guy from Slovakia who confirmed the value of cold water therapy - not only for regulating body temperature but also for healing broken bones! I'd not heard that before. When Moira caught up she said she was feeling a bit light-headed so I suggested she stick her hands in the burn as per instructions from TV programme. I asked if she thought we should turn back but she said she'd rather go on, but it would be at a slow pace.

During one of our stops we met Lynsey and her labrador on their way down the hill and we chatted for a while. I asked about her dog (as you do if you're an owner of one time Munro-bagging labradors!) and discovered that her dog, Rabbie, is one of only five dogs to have compleated (more may have done but only five are officially registered as climbing all the Munros) and they did it over a two year period, finishing in 2014 when he was nine. I was duly impressed with the focus and determination it would have taken to have climbed 282 Munros in two years and asked how Rabbie had coped with the Cuillin ridge. Lynsey said he'd worn boots for the Cuillin ridge and since he'd done all the other hills under his own steam she had decided not to winch him up the In Pin just to winch him down again - he stood on the nearby summit and watched her climbing it instead.

Lynsey and Rabbie
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Lynsey didn't say what had motivated her into doing this - too modest I think - but she mentioned we could find her blog under Lynsey and Rabbie. So after I got home I checked it out and discovered Lynsey had taken on the challenge to raise funds for "Help for Heroes" after her husband was seriously injured during active service in Afghanistan. His back was broken and through visiting him in the hospital where service personnel are treated she became aware of the plight of many seriously injured servicemen and women and wanted to do something to help. Previously she and Rabbie had only climbed two Munros so she set herself quite a task to do them all in two years, the last one being on Christmas Day 2014. It was a huge privilege to meet these two heroes - human and canine - who had turned something terrible into something positive for others.

Views of Caol, Corpach and Lochs Linnhe and Eil opening up behind
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Shortly after that photo was taken Moira was still finding it hard-going, so we sat on a rock for her to have a rest and decide what to do. It was now 1.15 - almost four hours since we had left the car and we still had almost half the distance to cover. At this rate we wouldn't reach the summit until 5.00 and then there was the descent and we didn't know exactly when the predicted thunder would arrive. One option was to keep going very slowly with frequent stops, one was for both of us to turn back and one was for me to go on while Moira returned slowly after having a good long rest. After sitting for a few minutes and having something to eat she didn't feel so bad but she didn't think she could face any more climbing so we agreed I would crack on and she would stay at the rock for a while and then meander slowly back to the car.

Moody north face
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We both had a mobile signal so I said I'd text her when I reached the top. When I left her at 1.30 she said "Do it for both of us" and I do appreciate her encouraging me to go on as I wouldn't have left her if she'd not been happy about it. I kept going at a brisk pace, looking back every so often to see her still sitting on her rock. The path crossed a burn where some guys were refilling their water bottles and then it disappeared into a bouldery section. Once through the boulders I looked for the continuation of the path but couldn't see it (on the return I found it but on the way up just didn't want to waste time) so picked a line that seemed right for traversing the south slope of Carn Beag Dearg. After about ten minutes I noticed a couple walking parallel to me but lower down the slope so guessed they might be on the path. Rather than lose height I'd have to reclimb I stayed on course until after about another ten minutes I saw them turn up towards the level I was on. I then picked up the path again. On the return I found the part I'd missed was the best made part of the whole path so it was a bit annoying to have been walking off piste at that point!

Halfway Lochan now visible
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The path zig zagged up through the red sandstone rocks to reach a cairn and then another cairn at the top of Carn Dearg Meadhonach where I stood and chatted to another guy from overseas. I met so many overseas visitors on this walk!

Red sandstone that gives Carn Mor Dearg its name
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Loch Eil from Carn Dearg Meadhonach
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The going from Carn Dearg Meadhonach to the Carn Mor Dearg summit is stony but once on the final ascent there is a faint path through the boulders.

Summit ridge of CMD
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CMD summit and arete
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There were so many people on this hill I was surprised to have the summit to myself. I got to the top at 3.00 and texted Moira. She replied to say she'd stayed at the rock for an hour and was now on her way down towards the main path. I texted Pete and my family - all in different places - swimming in a river near Keswick, boating on Loch Lomond, visiting a fruit farm near Edinburgh, painting a play house in Dunfermline and painting a fence in Inverness - all on this fine hot day!

I was the only one up a mountain. The views were awesome - from hills of Glenfinnan to Loch Lochy to Creag Meagaidh to the Aonachs to the Grey Corries to the Mamores to Glencoe and further south to the hills round Bridge of Orchy to Loch Tay! The camera couldn't do it justice but I did my best to capture a sense of it - not that I wanted to increase Moira's disappointment not getting to the top but I knew she'd want to see what it was like!

CMD summit cairn
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Glen Nevis and Mamores
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CMD arete
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Ben Nevis
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View west again
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Rocky descent
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Not far down from the summit I met a group on their way up. Again they were from overseas and the guy asked if there was water at the top of Ben Nevis. I'm not sure if he meant a stream of water or a shop! I said no, they wouldn't find any water until quite far down the other side and asked if they'd run out. He said they had so I advised them to turn back once they'd reached the top of Carn Mor Dearg as it wasn't wise to continue over the arete and up the steep climb to the top of Ben Nevis without water on such a hot day. He then said they had a little left and would continue.

If I'd had spare water I'd have given them some but I only had my platypus which I knew I needed. They looked more like a bunch of tourists than hill walkers and It worried me to see them going on knowing they were almost out of liquids... but there wasn't anything else I could do to stop them. In contrast to Moira who didn't want to make herself a potential liability by going on they were determined to keep going, whatever the risk. No wonder the rescue teams get fed up. Moira said later she watched the rescue helicopter buzzing around the Halfway Lochan and when I was almost back at the car park I met the team heading up the track in their land rover.

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Loch Linnhe, Halfway Lochan and Loch Eil
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Storm clouds gathering?
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I texted Moira again to say I was stopping near our lunch rock for something to eat. She replied to say she was sitting on one of the benches overlooking Fort William and would do likewise.

Bell heather and looking towards the Great Glen
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Ben Nevis now completely clear of the earlier cloud
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I was back at the car by 6.30, the only downside being it was too warm for Moira to sit in the car and it was difficult for her to get comfortable sitting outside - but apart from that and the disappointment of not reaching the summit she was absolutely fine. We don't know how the inexperienced folk got on going over the arete or if the ones without water got dehydrated..... and we hope they were all okay.

But here's to the heroes of the day - Lynsey and Rabbie for their tremendous achievement in doing what they did for Help for Heroes and Moira for having the sense to stop when she was struggling in the heat. There are times knowing when to turn back, and doing it, deserves as much applause as going on!
Last edited by dogplodder on Fri Jul 22, 2016 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby dogplodder » Fri Jul 22, 2016 6:44 pm

Lynsey and Rabbie (not my photo)
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View back to CMD from Allt a' Mhuillin track (Moira's photo)
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby dogplodder » Fri Jul 22, 2016 9:49 pm

The views were so good - can't resist adding these stitched ones!

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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby mrssanta » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:18 pm

fantastic! I love the first Lone Tree picture. And I hope Moira has recovered.
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby Petr Dakota » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:28 pm

For me You both are heroes !!! :clap: :clap: :clap:
Great report and really beautiful pics :thumbup: :clap:
...and Ben Nevis...the mountain means respect always
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby KatTai » Sat Jul 23, 2016 6:26 pm

What a great report! :clap:
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby Sgurr » Sat Jul 23, 2016 6:38 pm

Some lovely pics, what superb weather....to look at. Phew. Followed you to the summit at 3 and was worried you were then going on to climb the Ben (from the title). Glad you turned round and made it down. I don't know why people long for hot days. I can't take much hotter than 16 C when I'm walking, and husband almost melts with sweat. He now carried a flask of dioralyte and I carry water on a hot day. Went up there (second time) for a friend's compleation, and we were wondering if anything could now stop him...possibly a golf ball from the nearby course. When he woke up he was crippled with a sore hip, and said "If all you guys hadn't come, I'd just go home"...(this was after we had come for his compleation the previous weekend and discovered it had rained too hard for him to do the penultimate hill). He set off, and the pain eventually wore off after some ibuprofen. At lunch, on top, we asked him "What next?" Thinking it would be straight down again "Oh, I rather fancy an amble over the arrete." :shock: :shock: :shock: Didn't get back until late. He just emailed to say that he has had a successful hip replacement 11 years after the compleation.
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby prog99 » Sat Jul 23, 2016 8:59 pm

The cic hut approach is much steeper but probable guaranteed solitude.been that way once.
You can get water near the summit but on a need to know basis. It's to the south, small path in places. I'd use a filter though.
Cmd is not red sandstone btw.
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby dogplodder » Sat Jul 23, 2016 9:12 pm

prog99 wrote:The cic hut approach is much steeper but probable guaranteed solitude.been that way once.
You can get water near the summit but on a need to know basis. It's to the south, small path in places. I'd use a filter though.
Cmd is not red sandstone btw.


I stand corrected on both counts! 8)

Is it red granite?
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby The Rodmiester » Sun Jul 24, 2016 2:42 pm

Excellent stuff dogplodder, aye some people eh! And well done you and Moira :clap: :clap: Sounds like not a day to proceed to even greater heights under those conditions and with no hope of water. I must now checkout Lyndsay and Rabbies blog.
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Sun Jul 24, 2016 7:52 pm

Great report - and stunning pics. It's always hard to turn back but wise sometimes its wise, sympathies to Moira ... but there's always another day :wink:

You meet some interesting people on your journeys and Lyndsey seems exceptional, not to mention Rabbie and his walking boots! :D :D
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jul 25, 2016 4:53 pm

mrssanta wrote:fantastic! I love the first Lone Tree picture. And I hope Moira has recovered.


She was fully recovered by the time we stopped for a cold drink and chocolate tray bake in Spean Bridge - thanks to the healing properties of sugar! :lol:
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jul 25, 2016 7:54 pm

Petr Dakota wrote:...and Ben Nevis...the mountain means respect always


It's not called "the venomous mountain" for nothing! :o
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby dogplodder » Tue Jul 26, 2016 10:37 am

KatTai wrote:What a great report! :clap:


Thanks KT. :D
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Re: Heroes for heroes and knowing when to turn back

Postby dogplodder » Wed Jul 27, 2016 1:40 pm

Sgurr wrote:Some lovely pics, what superb weather....to look at. Phew. Followed you to the summit at 3 and was worried you were then going on to climb the Ben (from the title). Glad you turned round and made it down.


Eh, no, the arete was never the intention. Wouldn't have minded the arete but just didn't fancy milling around with the crowds at the top of the Ben! :wink:
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