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Tete a tete with CMD arete!

Tete a tete with CMD arete!


Postby BlackPanther » Thu Jul 26, 2018 9:00 pm

Route description: Ben Nevis by the Carn Mor Dearg Arete

Munros included on this walk: Ben Nevis, Carn Mor Dearg

Date walked: 05/07/2018

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 19 km

Ascent: 1550m

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It was a route I had been dreaming about. Something extraordinary: rocky, tough, lots of ascent, but entertaining at the same time. I bet many of us, when we look at the familiar shape of Ben Nevis, think of the Venomous Mountain as a kind of mysterious identity. It's a giant being with many faces: for tourists, for scramblers, for rock climbers. Like a great playground, anyone will find something to do here :D
My first memories from Ben Nevis are very pleasant. On a nice, sunny April day in 2010, we walked up and down the tourist route. There was still some snow and we had to use crampons on the way down (well, didn't have to, but it made the descent much quicker). We had views as well, which on Ben Nevis is rare. It was Kevin's 4th visit to the mountain and the first time he saw anything more than thick cloud!
On that day we didn't continue to Carn Mor Dearg, simply because I didn't feel experienced enough to tackle the arete with snow still on it. Generally, I didn't want to go anywhere near CMD in winter conditions - I'll leave that to mountaineering maniacs :D
I don't know why it took us so long to eventually climb this route. Maybe because we were waiting for a good day weather-wise. I wanted views, I wanted dry conditions, I wanted sunshine, but not a scorchio. Such days in Scotland are few and far between, but one has finally arrived and we were ready for the big adventure :D
Our route follows the WH "recipe", nothing unusual here:

Track_NEVIS ARETE 05-07-18.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


As WH route description says, this is a route for experienced, fit mountain walkers who do not mind easy scrambling. I wondered how my body would cope with exposure on the arete itself. It turned out, I had no problem whatsoever and didn't even notice the drops on both sides!
Parking in North Face car park, we were not alone. Many cars, many people, even some tents pitched here and there. We met another couple from Inverness, who said they read my reports on WH and find them very helpful. It's always nice to be complimented :oops: On a serious note, I'm very happy that my posted stories benefit other WH users and that I can pass on some of my enthusiasm and the love for Scottish hills, even if sometimes I'm lost for words :lol:
The initial stage of the long push up CMD goes through lovely, green woodland:
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Ben Nevis comes into sight!
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Fort William from the viewpoint on the North Face Trail:
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With our memories of the previous scorching day still fresh in our heads, we took extra water with us, I think each one was carrying 2.5l. Opposite to Glen Etive Munros, the CMD arete route offers no water-refilling spots anywhere, it's a dry, stony world, where you can only count on yourself and what's in your rucksack. On the other hand, drinking too much water means a necessary toilet visit... On any other hill, a suffering walker will find a quiet spot somewhere for this purpose, but on Ben Nevis, when it's such a nice day and people are cuing up the mountain, releasing extra water (especially when you're a lady) might prove a problem :lol: :lol:
So far, we felt fine. The morning was cool and the cloud still lingered but we were hoping for clear sky by the time we climbed higher...
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Incidentally, we walked a few hundred meters too far on the path towards the CIC hut, missing the start of the turn for Carn Mor Dearg, but I admit it was my fault, I was so fascinated by the North Face of Nevis, still covered partially by mist, that I completely forgot about navigation!
The inner sanctum:
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Having noticed our detour, we decided there was no point returning to the start of the other path, and we just cut across the heathery moorland to meet the path higher up. I bet it looked a bit funny, two idiots clambering up the overgrown slopes when there is an obvious path nearby :lol:
We picked the path very quickly and continued up. It was now a matter of following the well worn and in places eroded route for the remaining 700m of ascent to the lower top of Carn Mor Dearg. As we climbed, the clag started to lift and soon Ben Nevis began to reveal its scariest face to us :shock:
Come thy who dare!
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The North Face emerging from the cloud had me hypnotized for a while. I did enjoy the previous trip to Nevis via the "chickens route", but this was something else!
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Behind us, views west to Fort William and Loch Eil:
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Higher up, the path enters the kingdom of rock. I was fascinated by how different the two mountains were - Carn Mor Dearg, the Red Peak, surely named after the rock it's made of!
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Ben Nevis, on the other hand, is so black and scary :shock: The clag was gone now and Kevin couldn't resist taking a pano:
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Fort William - zoomed:
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The other walkers accompanying us decided to skip the intermediate top (Carn Dearg Meadhonach), but we thought, if we were already here, we'd pop up this one (with little extra ascent involved, it's a superb viewpoint).
Just below Carn Dearg Meadhonach:
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Panther on the lower top:
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Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg from Carn Dearg Meadhonach - panoramic version:
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The North Face zoomed:
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The traverse to Carn Mor Dearg didn't take long and soon we were resting on the summit of our first (and only as Nevis would be a repeat) new Munro today. No. 237 for me, 81 for wee Lucy. I wonder if she was the first lamb on the CMD arete? :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Of course, views from CMD are so spectacular that there is no point trying to describe them, you just have to go there and see for yourselves! :lol: All right, I'll share a few snaps with you :D
The Aonachs:
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Ring of Steel:
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Back to Carn Dearg Meadhonach:
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Ben Nevis, the North Face:
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But of course, your attention will be drawn to the next stage of the route awaiting you, which is the famous CMD Arete. I had been secretly afraid of it, but now, sitting on the summit and looking at it from below, I felt no fear. It looked interesting rather than scary!
Kevin spotted a large group of walkers crossing the arete, we laughed that it was like watching a procession on the ridge :lol:
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The other groups seemed to be enjoying their time so we decided we would, too!
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The initial descent from Carn Mor Dearg is on an eroded path so care should be taken here. Not that I was in "care taking" mood, quite the opposite, I was beginning to show the initial symptoms of mountain madness!
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As you walk the arete, the angle at which you see Ben Nevis changes and it turns from a wide, long face to a more pointy shape:
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There was a bypass path but we never even entertained taking it, it looked more airy than the traverse on the ridge! The first section (before the minor top, where the ridge turns right) has a few larger boulders to clamber over, but nothing that could scare the naughty cat. It's nowhere near as bad as some might imagine:
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"Processions" have reached the second stage of the arete by now:
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Shall I scramble over this boulder?...
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I don't know where time went, what was happening around me, I was in my own little rocky-scrambly world, I had so much fun it's hard even to describe.
Posing with bouldery boulders :D
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We reached the minor top and looked at the second part of the ridge, it looked even better!
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By now, the light was changing and the sun was shining on the North Face, giving Kevin a great opportunity to photograph The Ben's best side in good light:
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Coire Leis and the summit:
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On this section, there are bypasses as well but we mostly stayed on the ridge, taking advantage of all the little pockets of scrambling:
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View back to Carn Mor Dearg and the upper section of the arete:
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Searching for extra water:
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Rock climbers on the North Face:
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Behind us, another "procession" of hillwalkers hungry for easy scrambling descending from CMD:
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The arete continues...
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Eventually, after much enjoyed fun and games, we reached the flatter section at the top of Coire Leis:
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In front of us, the bulky shape of Ben Nevis was calling us to complete the traverse:
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The Mamores to the left (south). Nice to think when looking at them "wow, I climbed them all!"
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Not much water in Steel Falls:
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Looking back to the arete and CMD - panorama:
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The final 200m of climbing over grey boulders and occasional scree was uneventful (if tiring) and soon we emerged on the summit plateau. It was of course full of people who have come up the Mountain Trail. We felt, in a strange way, that we were now in the "better half" of the hillwalking society, having done The Ben from the more difficult side :lol:
Lucy's 82nd Munro!
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Kevin on Ben Nevis:
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Snow bunting watching us:
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The famous cliffs - panoramas:
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Gazing in the distance... How many chances of cloud-free summit does one have on the highest British mountain? 1 in 10?
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More cliffs:
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We sat down for a few minutes to have something to eat, but frankly, the crowds of people really put us off. We are used to enjoying silence and solitude on obscure Grahams and remote Munros, and the market atmosphere of the summit didn't really suit us. So we traversed to the southern side to photograph the Mamores.
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The ruins of the observatory, explored by most of Nevis conquerors (but not us):
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Last remnants of snow:
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The descent down the tourist trail had only one highlight, we crossed an old patch of snow:
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At least views were great on the descent route, Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil, the peaks of Ardgour, all basking in sunshine:
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We were walking fast, overtaking most of the traffic...
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...but at some point I slipped, lost my balance and fell, hitting my knee painfully on a rock. Thankfully, nothing was broken, I only acquired a very big, blue bruise, which looked 10 times worse than it felt! Additionally, I cut my little pinkie on something sharp and we had to stop, so Kevin could dig up the first aid kit and put a plaster on my bleeding finger. So I should say, blood was spilled when walking the arete. The funny thing is, I got battered on the easiest part of the route :lol: :lol: :lol: Isn't that always the case?
Down the yellow-brick-road:
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Showing my battle injury :lol: :lol:
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It was a relief to leave the long cue of people behind and turn to the path leading towards Lochan Meall an t'Suidhe...
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...and eventually descend the only pathless section of this walk back to the Allt a'Mhuillin...
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...which was crossed without any casulaties!
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Back on the North Face path, we waved good bye to the mighty Ben Nevis and the sneaky Carn Mor Dearg, thanking them for a fantastic day, one of those that will stay in our memory forever.
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An extraordinary day on one of the best routes in Scotland. Having climbed over 500 peaks, having walked countless mountain ridges, some easy, some not so much, I must say this is a s good as it gets!

We too a day off after walking the arete and went shopping for new hillwalking boots for Panther :D but on Saturday we returned to the hills, this time to visit the infamous bogs. TR in progress.
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BlackPanther
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Re: Tete a tete with CMD arete!

Postby Sunset tripper » Fri Jul 27, 2018 9:16 pm

Great report BP. I was up the ben recently and the snow buntings were everywhere. I have seen them there before but never in such abundance. That's a brilliant photo you got of one. :D
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Re: Tete a tete with CMD arete!

Postby Mal Grey » Sat Jul 28, 2018 11:14 am

YEah, its pretty good, isn't it.

Even though it starts with what has become known amongst my mates as "that bl :shock: :shock: dy 3000 foot grassy slope".

The views of the Ben are outstanding!
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Re: Tete a tete with CMD arete!

Postby gld73 » Sat Jul 28, 2018 4:54 pm

Great report, and the photos give me a better idea of what I'll face when I finally get round to doing this route! I just hope I get as good weather :D
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Re: Tete a tete with CMD arete!

Postby Chris Mac » Sat Jul 28, 2018 10:54 pm

Superb, really enjoyed that, some amazing photos and what a day you got for it! :clap:
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Re: Tete a tete with CMD arete!

Postby BlackPanther » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:48 pm

Thanks, everyone :D It was an extraordinary day, one of my best on Scottish hills, and I couldn't wait to share it! Spent hours sifting through photos (we took over 300) just to choose the most interesting ones...

The big haul up CMD might look off-putting, but it's on a proper path all the way (well, unless you miss the turn and end up hopping over heather like we did). I'd say, the worst part was the moment we arrived on the summit of Nevis, just to find it so crowded and noisy :shock: Well, i guess that's the price it pays for being the highest mountain in the country.

There's one more story I can't wait to write up and that is Sgurr na Ciche traverse, but I'm keeping my chronology so other, maybe less inspiring routes will come first.
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Re: Tete a tete with CMD arete!

Postby Sack the Juggler » Wed Aug 08, 2018 1:31 pm

BlackPanther wrote:The big haul up CMD might look off-putting, but it's on a proper path all the way (well, unless you miss the turn and end up hopping over heather like we did).
A wonderful write up and I'm sure this climb is still better than the alternative of ponying it up the pony track, however can you give me an estimate of how long that drag took from the car park to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg? and how long the whole trip took in total? So I can work out how sore my knees are going to get on this trip :D
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Re: Tete a tete with CMD arete!

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:39 pm

Sack the Juggler wrote:A wonderful write up and I'm sure this climb is still better than the alternative of ponying it up the pony track, however can you give me an estimate of how long that drag took from the car park to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg? and how long the whole trip took in total? So I can work out how sore my knees are going to get on this trip :D


The whole trip took 9 hours, including breaks. WH description gives 10--11, we were faster but it all depends on so many factors. Best to do the arete in good weather, with views full on!
We left the car park at 9 am, and arrived on the summit of CMD at 12 pm so roughly 3 hours, including 2 hours on the steep section. The arete took another 2.5 hours (arrived on Nevis summit at 2:30pm). We took ample stops for photos and hydration :D
I also have dodgy knees so I usually try not to push it beyond my own limits. I think a very fit, fast person can do this round in 8 hours or even less.
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Re: Tete a tete with CMD arete!

Postby Sack the Juggler » Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:30 pm

BlackPanther wrote:
Sack the Juggler wrote:A wonderful write up and I'm sure this climb is still better than the alternative of ponying it up the pony track, however can you give me an estimate of how long that drag took from the car park to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg? and how long the whole trip took in total? So I can work out how sore my knees are going to get on this trip :D


The whole trip took 9 hours, including breaks. WH description gives 10--11, we were faster but it all depends on so many factors. Best to do the arete in good weather, with views full on!
We left the car park at 9 am, and arrived on the summit of CMD at 12 pm so roughly 3 hours, including 2 hours on the steep section. The arete took another 2.5 hours (arrived on Nevis summit at 2:30pm). We took ample stops for photos and hydration :D
I also have dodgy knees so I usually try not to push it beyond my own limits. I think a very fit, fast person can do this round in 8 hours or even less.
Cheers BP, I was dreading that drag up the hill, but three hours is ok. Hoping for good weather and lots of photo opportunities, like you, but to be honest just being up there will be fantastic whatever the weather.

Actually, I'll try to take photos int he same place so we can compare the weather, as knowing my track record it will be raining! :D
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Re: Tete a tete with CMD arete!

Postby Blokewithastroke » Sat Aug 25, 2018 11:15 am

What an achievement on climbing Ben Nevis the especially difficult way, i.e. climbing Carn Mor Dearg before circulating the arete up to Coire Leis! You and Kevin deserve a clap! :clap: Spare a thought for us who can only attempt the "Chickens' route", by the way. It has to be worth some congratulations to make it up there with a 'gammy' arm!


The Inner Sanctum was a magnificent photograph; well worth displaying!
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