It'll be arete in the end...

Route: Ben Nevis by the Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête

Munros: Ben Nevis, Càrn Mòr Dearg

Date walked: 02/06/2012

Time taken: 10.5 hours

Distance: 19km

Ascent: 1558m

I am down to the last 6 weeks of my personal target to complete the Top 10, and only 3 of those 6 weeks are free weekends. This was one of them.

Checking the MWIS on Friday, the forecast for Saturday had 70% chance of cloud free summits and a cloud base of 1200m. Figuring this would be negligible; this could be the ideal opportunity to chalk off Carn Mor Dearg. Leaving only Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine.

A phone call on Friday night and the plans were arranged: leave Rosyth at 6am.
Bag and lunch made up on Friday night it was off early to bed – 10pm, on a Friday? That’s rock n’ roll kids! :D – and The alarm went off at 5am. On a weekend? We all must have that special something that’s quite difficult to explain and for others to understand. :crazy:

A quick top-up of the petrol, picked up Rosythally at 6am and we were off. The drive towards Fort William had the cloud covered skies that were forecast but as we hit Glencoe the west side of the country was bathed in sunshine and soon we were in that sunshine – the cloud was fully broken here and the West was looking great. The north was showing the occasional cloud in an otherwise clear blue sky. We were in the visitor car park for 0830. Booted up we were on our way by 0840.

Walking the Mountain Track this was new territory until we hit the intersection of the path from the Youth Hostel – nearly 3 years ago since the only time we’d been here previously. A lot of it seemed unfamiliar. We hit the split in the path at roughly 10:10 and turned left, leaving the droves of people continuing up the mountain track. The split path is of nowhere near in the same condition as the track – but then there’s nothing wrong with that. There seemed to be quite a bit of descent, whilst also ascending at the same time(?) – bit of a strange one but onwards we went. The North Face of The Ben beginning to show itself. The steep ascent of CMD looming in front.

Crossing the river in front of the CIC hut we started our ascent of CMD – time was now 11:40. Our line of ascent had us heading between a couple of rocky outcrops – to which we aimed to have lunch. The initial ascent was quite steep and at times had us using our hands as well. Thankfully the ground was not too wet, a couple of minor weeps running down the mountain side – but we stopped just beyond the outcrops and sat for lunch. Whilst sat there we could really appreciate how steep the ground was that we had come up, and the climb that lay ahead.



The climb from here was relentless and steep. Constantly using my hands, this was quite a scramble. During this I was unable to truly appreciate the grandeur of The Bens North Face. Rosythally was quite far in front at this stage and filled me with hope of the end of the ascent when he called back saying that Aonach Mor was visible. And sure enough, as the climb levelled out before dropping off, Aonach Mor and Beag were clearly visible, and quite intimidating from here, as were the Grey Corries beyond even as far as the Cairngorms.


The last steep section to the Carn Mor Dearg summit was quite an effort on my behalf but 5 hours after starting off we had hit out first target for the day.

It looked a bit busy on The Ben

A quick lie down at the summit

and another re-fuel I was psyched to now tackle the arête!

This was to pose a couple of new challenges for me: what I would define as a proper scramble, and exposure.

Progressing tentatively, but, with purpose we made good coverage and politely waited to allow those coming towards us to pass, and carefully bypassing those that allowed us to progress in front of them. The adrenaline was fully pumping – heart was racing. My body was screaming at me. I eventually reverted this back to my body screaming for fuel! Fluids were running low, I had just over a litre left. A couple of miniscule swigs as we made our way along the arête, trying to ration it out.
At one of the impromptu stops I caught a glimpse of how far we had come, and what I had – in my mind, almost effortlessly – breezed over. Effortlessly on the mind – as I said, everything I was feeling was my body screaming for fuel.


I wasn’t too sure as to how long it took us to tackle the arête, but we rested at the base of the final ascent of The Ben.

Although I needed food, my sandwiches by this point tasted rank! Only managing half of one piece. It’ll have to be macaroon and jelly beans then… :) another couple of restricted swigs from my water bottle and we started the ascent of The Ben. We could make out a feint track up the imposing face of loose rock and boulders, but, rightly or wrongly we made a straight attack up the hill side. Clambering over rocks. Being careful of foot and hand placement as the rocks beneath us slipped and tilted. A quick check of the GPS suggested we had 1000ft of ascent left. Surely it can’t be that bad? It’s bound to pass quickly? By this stage we had been caught up by a 3-some of young women, the one nearest seemed hesitant in going past even though the offer was there. In what seemed like no time at all, but was probably in reality 20-30 mins Rosythally shouted that he could see the summit! That was all the motivation I needed. My pace quickened as I scrambled up, knowing there was snow at the summit, as I came over that last crest and seen the summit and trig

I stated I was going nowhere it until I cooled off: removing my rucksack, throwing it into the snow with myself behind it. Bliss!

A quick white-wash from Rosythally, and another soaking of my buff in the snow we made our way over the soft snow to the cairn and trig, kindly requesting that from one gentleman with his son if he would mind taking our picture.

From this we then made our way to one of the observatory’s walls and sat. More fuel, and some more water. A quick phone call to the Mrs, to which she seemed somewhat apprehensive – thinking something was wrong, to say that we had reached the top.

In total around 7-1/2 hours to get here. We enjoyed the views, to me these were new views – my only other time being up here I was hampered by injury and only moved as necessary. Although the cloud was lowering, and as such darkening the sky, the views were still clear. Truly, and obviously, the best view point of the country.
With the views taken in and watching some climbers ascend one of the gullies on TNF we headed off on our way.

A quick moment of enjoyment came in sliding down one of the snow covered sections immediately off the summit. The descent this time was less difficult. The lack of injury accounted for that. But having nothing really to focus on this time I fully realised the extent of the descent – many parts of which I couldn’t remember from the previous trip. We reached the Red Burn an hour after starting our descent, and I was amazed at the droves of people heading in the upward direction. It was now 6 o’clock. Yes they were half way there, but the temperature would start dropping soon, and it would be getting darker. Not something that I would fancy doing. The split in the track came clearly into view, and soon we past it and re-joined where we had left it all those hours (7) ago…

We continued on with our descent aiming to be back at the car for 7pm… It was a welcome relief to cross the intersection of the path from the Youth Hostel once again. Still, there were people – in their numbers of tens, hundreds – walking past us in the upwards direction… Definitely not for me. The continuation of the Track back to the car park from here seemed somewhat longer than what it did on the ascent. And then one of the stiles was upon us – I knew we were close. Then the second stile, in line with the Nevis Bunkhouse – I could smell the retreat of the car park and the Chic (my car! :lol: )
My pace quickened once again, along the track parallel to the river, over the suspension bridge and back to the car – 19:10. Not bad for the 7pm target. Not bad for a 10.5 hour day on the hills (all in, perhaps just over an hour in rest stops). This had certainly been the most gruelling day I’ve ever experienced, but what an experience it was. I can safely (hopefully??? :shock: ) say that, Ben, I shall not be on you again… :lol:

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User avatar
Location: Rosyth
Occupation: Mechanical Designer
Activity: Mountaineer
Mountain: Carn aMhaim
Gear: my Buff's
Camera: Pana. TZ-18

Munros: 46
Grahams: 1
Donalds: 2
Sub 2000: 2

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Trips: 5
Distance: 41.5 km
Ascent: 2218m
Munros: 7


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Trips: 6
Munros: 10
Sub2000s: 2


Trips: 4
Munros: 3
Grahams: 1
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Joined: Apr 08, 2010
Last visited: Jun 18, 2021
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