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Ledge Route - the finest walkers route up Ben Nevis

Ledge Route - the finest walkers route up Ben Nevis


Postby Ranger » Sun Sep 17, 2017 11:20 pm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Nevis

Date walked: 01/09/2017

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 15 km

Ascent: 1360m

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As with most of my recent walks, a job in the highlands presented the opportunity for an early start and a jaunt in the mountains. Ledge Route on Ben Nevis had always appealed to me. As a non-rock climber, the idea of a intricate scrambling route taming the great north face of The Ben, without any gravity defying difficulty, was a tantalising prospect.

After a long morning's drive from Deeside, during which summit mists seemed stubborn to clear the hills around Speyside and Laggan, I set off from the 'North Face' Forestry Commission car park at 0945. Once the signposted track emerged from the trees into the sunshine, I was granted the first view of the Ben’s famous north face. I had work to do later in the day, so my determined pace left little time for grazing on the blaeberries beside the well-maintained path.

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Ben Nevis comes into view for the first time
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The view opens up towards Fort William
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The CIC Hut dwarfed by Carn Mor Dearg

By 11am I was leaving the main track, just before reaching the CIC Hut, hopping across the burn towards the
massive Carn Dearg buttress. Ledge Route begins by entering the gully on the left side of this rock wall, and a path could be traced winding up through the scree towards that target. I'd later read that scrambling up the easy-angled slabs further right would have been a more enjoyable starting route. Oh well, next time. As I entered No.5 gully it soon narrowed to barely 15 feet wide, leaving me musing on the possibility of rock falls. Without a climbing helmet I hurried along, looking at the loose rock at my feet with the knowledge of where it had come from.

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The route enters No. 5 gully on the left of the picture
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In the narrow confines of the gully, the split that blocks progress in the background

Continuing up through the gully, I become disorientated for a while, searching for the ramp I knew climbed out of the ravine up the rock face to the right. The only candidate involved crossing a slimey, slabby section of rock, that appeared implausible for this straightforward scrambling route. I continued up the gully a short way to where it split, offering no obvious way forward. I backtracked to explore the ramp I'd only just dismissed, encouraged by traces of a path. The slab section proved disconcertingly wet - a nightmare after a hard frost - warranting secure holds that were not plentiful, but any worries were short-lived and progress eased after that. This would turn out to be the crux of the route, with all further sections of hand-to-rock being more out of choice than necessity.

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Emerging onto the grassy section prior to commencing the main ridge
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Looking up the ridge from besides the boulder that marks the beginning
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Looking over to Carn Dearg ridge - a few grades beyond me right now!

The wide grassy ledge was followed round before an obvious gully, cutting back upwards towards the plateau, was climbed with little need for handwork. Emerging onto a wider grassy area, a path ascended rightwards to reach a boulder perched on the edge of a drop , which the guidebooks identify as marking the start of the ridge section.

From here the scrambling was a delight. There was always the reassurance of easy ground on the right, but why avoid all the fun? The crest narrowed at times, with exposure on the left occasionally intruding on fragile head for heights, but even the arête section – which appears spectacular in the photos - was over all too soon. With the sun shining, all that was missing were other climbers to add some scale to my photos.

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The narrow bit along the top of the sheer wall, viewed from the easier side
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Looking down a narrower section, the wall bit on the right
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Looking back down the narrower bit, the sheer wall part is clear, the starting boulder on the far right

The ridge eventually broadened and the gradient eased, with the final section onto the summit plateau in sight, as the crest sharpened to end on a rocky nose. I took this on directly, which brought a couple of steeper moves before the top of Ledge Route was reached - washing down the ascent with some adrenalin! The climb had been very satisfying and spectacular, if less hair-raising than I had expected. Well within the abilities of most walkers with a reasonable head for heights.

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Looking up the final section. Broader then narrows, with the steep nose at the end
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Looking back down the ridge from near the top
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Looking to the summit of Ben Nevis

I pushed onwards around the rim of the north face, crossing the bouldery plateau to join the processions of holiday-makers ascending the tourist path into the mists. I shared the summit with perhaps 200 people, eating lunches and taking photographs.

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The summit looking driech
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A bit of a view to be savoured

Time did not allow a continuation along the Carn Mor Dearg arête, so at the abseil posts I dropped down an unpleasant, steep gravelly path to the floor of Coire Leis. The ankle-threatening loose terrain was a chore, but once back on the main path, my purposeful pace took me from the CIC hut to the car park in a little over an hour.

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The line that Ledge Route follows

A climbing ambition of many years had been achieved in just under 5 hours, and I drove off up the Great Glen to complete my day's work in high spirits. :D


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Last edited by Ranger on Wed Sep 20, 2017 1:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ledge Route - the finest walker's route up Ben Nevis

Postby Coop » Mon Sep 18, 2017 10:31 am

On the list either next year or whenever

To go up The Ben other than the tourist route!

Great report and one I'll hopefully look back on
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Re: Ledge Route - the finest walker's route up Ben Nevis

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Sep 18, 2017 5:21 pm

Excellent read, with some first-rate scrambling pics :clap: :clap: :clap: . I especially like the ones that include the Douglas Boulder and Tower Ridge - which I have yet to do.
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Re: Ledge Route - the finest walker's route up Ben Nevis

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Mon Sep 18, 2017 6:12 pm

That looks an amazing route up the Ben, great report as well
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johnkaysleftleg
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Re: Ledge Route - the finest walker's route up Ben Nevis

Postby onsen » Tue Sep 19, 2017 5:56 am

Good looking scramble...right up my alley. Great pics.
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Re: Ledge Route - the finest walker's route up Ben Nevis

Postby LeithySuburbs » Tue Sep 19, 2017 6:12 pm

Looks good, although interesting use of the apostrophe in the title...
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Re: Ledge Route - the finest walker's route up Ben Nevis

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:42 pm

What an excellent adventure to include in your working day :) . Loved your report and photos.,We went Ledge Route in July and will definitely be repeating it, a great scramble, although we cheated by taking the easier start :lol: .
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Re: Ledge Route - the finest walker's route up Ben Nevis

Postby Ranger » Thu Sep 21, 2017 11:18 pm

Cairngorm creeper wrote:What an excellent adventure to include in your working day :) . Loved your report and photos.,We went Ledge Route in July and will definitely be repeating it, a great scramble, although we cheated by taking the easier start :lol: .

I saw your report on your ascent - fantastic! Photos are so much better when there's someone actually in them to add some scale and exposure to it.

The day I did it there were a couple of guys at the top of Carn Dearg who had taken the bypass route - i wasnt aware it existed. The weather had been pretty dry prior to my ascent and the tricky slab was still quite wet, so it can't be dry often. A couple of degrees of frost is all it would take for it to be a real obstacle.
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Re: Ledge Route - the finest walkers route up Ben Nevis

Postby spiderwebb » Fri Sep 22, 2017 9:16 pm

Very enjoyable read, excellent photos, which will be duly noted and bookmarked for when I get a good forecast :D
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Re: Ledge Route - the finest walkers route up Ben Nevis

Postby Graeme D » Fri Sep 22, 2017 11:05 pm

Very nice. Very nice indeed! :clap:
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Re: Ledge Route - the finest walkers route up Ben Nevis

Postby malky_c » Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:53 pm

Nice photos - combined with the arête, it is probably my favourite way up the Ben. Never bothered with that harder start though, I've always contoured my way round to the bottom of the buttress and skipped it out.
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