A Christmas Ben Nevis

Munros: Ben Nevis, Càrn Dearg (Corrour), Càrn Mòr Dearg

Date walked: 25/12/2018

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 19km

0 summit arete.JPG
Carn Mor Dearg arete, leading to the summit of Ben Nevis, Xmas Day 2018.

Last year, I took myself up to Ben Nevis on New Year's Day (2018), and this year I opted for Christmas Day itself for my annual pilgrimage to Britain's highest mountain. My favoured route once again was via the Carn Mor Dearg arete, and descending by the main path. It makes for a longer, tougher day than the standard out-and-back (which itself at this time of year is far from tame), but now on my third such completion I find myself addicted to this spectacular 'backdoor' approach to the Ben.

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The 350 mile journey up this year is worthy of mention in itself, and this I did in two stages. On the 23rd December I drove up from Lancashire under clear calm skies and, whilst enjoying the vista of the stars in the wide open spaces of Scotland, noted that the temperature dropped as low as -6C. This did make me contemplate what I might experience on Ben Nevis, but as it turned out the day of the walk was considerably 'warmer' than this. After sleeping in the car at the viewpoint above Loch Tulla on the A82 (a more snug experience than you might think, I have this method of accommodation down to a fine art), I drove the rest of the way on Xmas Eve, and on approaching Fort William in the late afternoon sun was treated to mesmerizing cloud banks along Loch Lihnne.

1 journey.JPG
Viewpoint above Achallader on the A82.

2 Fort William.JPG
Approach to Fort William along Loch Linnhe.

The car park I used in Glen Nevis was a little further from the mountain than last year's Achintree House, and added about 3 miles onto the whole walk, albeit mostly flat road miles. On winter expeditions, you know time is of the essence, but I always seem to get started later than planned after parping around with gear. It was 7:30am on Christmas morn, by the time I got going. This has consequences for the later part of the walk - namely nightfall - but I like to think I am intelligent enough to plan in 'safe' miles for near the end! It has always seemed to work out so far. In a statement of confidence (or complacency), I didn't even have a head torch, having lost it on the very last day of my Wainwrights completion 2016 (I believe I left it in a Keswick restaurant and never got it back), and I feel I haven't done enough hardcore walking since to justify buying a new one.

account to be continued..

3 gloom.JPG
Day breaks on the pass at Lochanmeal below Ben Nevis.

4 in view.JPG
Rounding the pass, the Carn Mor range comes into view - my route ahead.

5 brook.JPG
Crossing the 'allt a mhuilinn' was not so easy.

6 cloud ascent.JPG
Climbing onto Carn Dearg,

7 sunrise.JPG
The sun rises on the shoulder of Ben Nevis.

8 cloudscape.JPG
Above the clouds on Carn Mor Dearg.

9 arete.JPG
Onto the arete, less snow than last year but still an arresting sight and a rugged crossing.

10 valley.JPG
View down the valley from half way along the arete.

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Carn Mor Dearg arete.

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Very pleased to see the summit come into view.

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Time was running short and was getting tired, but did I look worried?

16 summit.JPG
For the first time all day I encountered others, so happily I could get my photo.

17 shelter.JPG
I crawled in for a chilly Xmas celebration with several others, one of whom passed whiskey around.

17b shelter 2018.jpg
Much more snow last year, as demonstrated by this pic of the shelter.

18 orange.JPG
A ceremony I set myself was to 'tap and unwrap' and eat some on the summit.

19 unwrap.JPG
Accomplished (did not leave my gloves off for very long let me tell you).

20 whiteout.JPG
In the white haze of the summit, I set off following the others down.

21 stagview.JPG
Lurking out there in the mist on the descent, it was...

22 stag.JPG
... a stag. A memorable encounter.

23 nightfall.JPG
Night falls, but I not before I made it down at least to the Loch.

24 dark selfie.JPG
A selfie: headband is detectable on close inspection.

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The English Alpinist

Activity: Stravaiging
Mountain: Ben Nevis
Place: Lancaster
Gear: DMM cirque mountain axe
Ideal day out: An epic ridge-walk such as CMD Arete, or a horsehoe such as Helvellyn.
Ambition: To summit Mont Blanc solo

Wainwrights: 214
Hewitts: 104

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Trips: 1
Distance: 19 km
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Trips: 33
Distance: 1336.64 km
Ascent: 86703m
Hewitts: 63
Wainwrights 134


Trips: 13
Distance: 274.6 km
Ascent: 17762m
Hewitts: 43
Wainwrights 84

Joined: Oct 27, 2015
Last visited: Jun 14, 2021
Total posts: 147 | Search posts