Ledge Route - the finest walkers route up Ben Nevis
by 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: 1360m7 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by Coop » Mon Sep 18, 2017 10:31 am
To go up The Ben other than the tourist route!
Great report and one I'll hopefully look back on
by Alteknacker » Mon Sep 18, 2017 5:21 pm
by johnkaysleftleg » Mon Sep 18, 2017 6:12 pm
by onsen » Tue Sep 19, 2017 5:56 am
- Mountain Walker
- Posts: 115
- Joined: Oct 10, 2012
- Location: The Great Southern Land, Australia
by LeithySuburbs » Tue Sep 19, 2017 6:12 pm
by Cairngorm creeper » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:42 pm
by 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 .
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.
by spiderwebb » Fri Sep 22, 2017 9:16 pm
by Graeme D » Fri Sep 22, 2017 11:05 pm
by malky_c » Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:53 pm