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Day One in Glen Nevis. Big Ben finally defeated......
by HighlandTrekker » Sat May 14, 2011 12:11 pm
Route description: Ben Nevis by the Carn Mor Dearg Arete
Munros included on this walk: Ben Nevis, Carn Mor Dearg
Date walked: 02/05/2011
Time taken: 10 hours
Distance: 19 km
Ascent: 1600m2 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).
Our story with the Ben started back in 2007. It was only our second trip to Scotland (before we moved here) and the wife and I were very inexperienced at this hill walking lark.... Wearing only 2 season boots, with no ice axe, crampons or any real knowledge of tackling a monster of this magnitude we set out on a glorious early summers day thinking that it surely can't be that hard. (Yes unfortunately I was one of those short sighted fools that so annoy me now)
Not long after the Lochan we had reached the snow line. We had never really walked in snow at this altitude before and it was like walking on ice, but being the stubborn (some might say foolish) bugger that I am I decided that we should carry on. With no knowledge of the Ben or where the path went we pushed on. At approximately 800m we saw the rescue helicopter picking someone up from Coire na h-Urchaire. This should ring alarm bells for anyone inexperienced as we were but no, like idiots we carried on. At somewhere around 1000m we found ourselves on a very steep, very exposed, very slippy side of the hill. The wind had picked up. I felt like we were not far from the summit. We stopped for a breather, looking back down the side of the hill. A spiralling wind picking up snow directly hits us. I slip. Then suddenly the snow pack we are on slides about a metre.... We are SO out of our depth.. The wife starts to cry. If this snow pack goes we wouldn't make it.... We decide to head back down but the way we came up looked so steep and neither of us were comfortable with descending on such steep ground. So I tried taking us south, not knowing that we were heading straight for Five Finger Gully....... Fortunately this way was even worse so we didn't quite make it to the gully but instead we slowly retraced our steps and eventually made our way back down.... Very harsh lesson learnt. And to this day it is still the only time I've turned back before reaching the summit.......
Fast forward 4 years and here we find ourselves still waiting for our dinner. It eventually turns up, which by the way was very nice, just a shame about the 1 1/2 hour wait..... The talk turned to which way we should approach the summit. As the forecast was so good I wanted to go via Carn Mor Dearg and hit the Ben via the arete. The wife was not so sure. She had read reports on this website, amongst others saying how 'exposed the arete was' and how you 'needed a head for heights'. She's not great with exposed ridges.....Eventually I convinced her that it would be a lot quieter this way and if at anytime she was uncomfortable we would head back.
And so it was at 5am on Monday morning we started our steady walk up the mountain track. We left the campsite and headed right, down to the hostel where there is a bridge that crosses the River Nevis. We made it to the Lochan in 70 minutes. There was hardly any wind and the day was really starting to warm up. We followed the path round to the CIC Hut. The whole time the wife was trying to convince herself that there was nothing to worry about and that the arete was going to be fine.... One thing I had noticed whilst heading up to the hut was that the wind had picked up considerably. This was also something that was not missed by the wife.
Before reaching the hut we were taken back by the magnificence of the North Face of the Ben. To the seasoned visitor to the Alps it may seem quite insignificant, but to me it was a thing of real beauty. The sheer drops, the ruggedness of the rock. The refusal of the last remnants of snow to thaw out and disperse. It teases you in to thinking you could climb it... You want to climb it..But for now that dream will have to wait. I'm nowhere near experienced enough for that and I am on another agenda today.......
On reaching the hut we met 2 guys who had camped up there the night before and were hoping to climb up the north face. They didn't appear to be overly confident on the route they were going to choose and as they had not left a route card with anyone we decided to keep an eye on them and told them we would meet them at the top. After saying our goodbyes I looked up the southern slopes of Carn Mor Dearg and tried picking out a way up. We crossed the burn just behind the hut. As there had been no rain for over a week everywhere was really dry, so I decided to walk up one of the dried out burns. The whole way up was really hard going, very steep with lots of loose rock underfoot. We eventually reached the summit of CMD around 11am. That was 6 hours after we started. Not sure where all the time had gone as I didn't think we were going that slow. At the summit there were great views over to the Ring of Steal and back towards Fort William and Corpach. Anyway after an early lunch break we decided to tackle the arête......
By this time we were both a little anxious as the wind had picked up and was gusting around 30-40mph. The problem was when the wind did stop blowing it would be completely still. Constant wind I can do, no wind I can do, but when it goes from nothing to 40mph and back to nothing in a split second, its a real pain in the arse. After a while the wife said "Are we on it yet?" A quick look at the map later, "Yeah, this is it"
"Oh" came the reply, "I thought it was supposed to be really exposed?" And after reading some of the reports about this legendary arête, I too was feeling a little disappointed.. We kept going thinking that it might get a little scarier further along........ It didn't.
We noticed a path off the ridge which I imagine would be useful if the weather turned really bad. But we didn't need to take it. There was one small part where I did feel a little exposed, but in some places I was even going the harder way just to make it a little more exhilarating. We reached the end of the ridge feeling a little deflated but still really enjoying the day. It was also a big step for the wife as she was really scared before hand and she flew over the arête as if it wasn't there.... Don't get me wrong, if it was raining up there and the rock was slippy underfoot it would be hellish, but on a fine dry day like we had, even with the gusts of wind, it was nowhere near as bad as I thought...
The path from the end of the arête up to the summit was just loose rock and very hard going. I decided to just scramble up some of the bigger rocks & boulders as it was a lot less work. We eventually made it to the summit around 1pm. Considering how good the weather had been I was quite suprised at how quiet it was up there. There were about 20 or so people knocking about, as always, dressed in varying degrees of sensibleness. There were the odd walker, like myself with rucsack, walking boots, map etc...... and then there were the rest.... One woman was wearing what can only be described as casual summer wear, converse trainers, a handbag and some kind of ill fitting trousers. One young lad ran passed us without a shirt on and just trainers and jogging bottoms. There was a very loud American wearing a kilt and waving some kind of banner. And then there was the guy wearing a suit and carrying a camera...... By this time it was actually really cold and as we sat in a quiet place out of the wind glorifying in the fact that we had reached the summit in a much more satisfying way, our peace was ruined by a loud German family who thought they would come and join us. And I don't mean sit near us, but so close that the father was actually leaning against me.... Talk about personal space.............!!!!
We decided to move.... Before leaving we decided to look down the North Face and see if we could see the 2 guys from earlier, as last time we looked out for them they appeared to be stuck on a snow patch. But as we walked over to the edge there they were walking over to the trig point...
After taking in some more views as there still weren't many clouds around, and taking the last few photos we headed down the mountain track and back to the campsite, feeling somewhat pleased with myself that Big Ben hadn't defeated me this time and although the annoyance of some of the people at the summit **** me off a little it couldn't take the shine off what was to be the first of 3 perfect walking days in the Glen Nevis area
by HighlandSC » Sat May 14, 2011 1:10 pm
A fine report- the pics of the north face and arete are great! Glad to see, after your scary first attempt, that you came back and nailed it by a much better route.
by skuk007 » Sun May 15, 2011 7:04 pm
Shame about the ridge not living up to your expectations but I suppose it's just how you are with exposure that counts. I remember doing Sharp Edge in the Lakes and couldn't believe it was over so quickly. You'll just have to go back and do it again in winter.
by SouthernUplandKing » Sun May 15, 2011 7:51 pm
- Munro compleatist
- Posts: 580
- Joined: Mar 1, 2011
- Location: Broadford Skye
by houdi » Sun May 15, 2011 8:26 pm
by maryhillmoose » Mon May 16, 2011 11:35 am
by malky_c » Mon May 16, 2011 2:24 pm
I'm impressed with your 5th photo - Tower Ridge end on - makes it look pretty ferocious!
by LeithySuburbs » Mon May 16, 2011 7:49 pm
by HighlandTrekker » Tue May 17, 2011 8:34 pm
skuk007 wrote: You'll just have to go back and do it again in winter.
Haha I don't think I'm ready for that quite yet....
by HighlandTrekker » Tue May 17, 2011 8:37 pm
houdi wrote:If you were disappointed with the CMD it would be interesting to know what you thought of Devil's Ridge on the Ring of Steall?
I've got a walk report planned for that. Hopefully get it on in the next few days. Let's just say I think I know why they named it Devils Ridge
by HighlandTrekker » Tue May 17, 2011 8:41 pm
malky_c wrote:Looks like a great day . If you were disappointed with the arete at all, I recommend Ledge Route up the NE face - it isn't a great deal more difficult, but it it a lot more intricate and exposed, and gives some really impressive views.
Ooh I may look into that. Does it require ropes...???
by HighlandTrekker » Tue May 17, 2011 8:58 pm
LeithySuburbs wrote:Some great pics and report even if the ridge was up to expectations . I'd recommend the route I took recently if you want to get the pulse up - http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=11722
Wow, just checked out that report of yours and it's got my feet twitching... Though there can't be too many breeze-less days on Skye.. Luckily I only live a couple of hours away so I'll keep an eye on the weather and get myself prepared...
by Scotjamie » Tue May 17, 2011 9:40 pm
Beats the heck out of my 3 wee photies of Nevis and CMD in total glaur when we did it ....though I enjoyed your WR so much I might post anyway. I agree its not as intimidating as some reports, so experienced walkers should not be put off such a great way up the Ben. I thought the Devil's Ridge was ok too (even though I am a real mountain coward) so will look forward to your WR on that as it sounds interesting.
by Del246 » Fri May 20, 2011 8:38 pm
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