Scrapbook ~ Wildlife walks throughout the year
Saturday 30th April 2011
Ben Nevis via the
Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête route.
11.5 miles (19 km), 4,409 ft (1,343 m)
and some well-timed days off, dished up the perfect opportunity for me to take
on the highest mountain in the British Isles -
So I shot up to Scotland on the
overnight on the way with friends Simon & Jetta in the Borders.
The Border country looked beautiful in the
sun. Just the sound of sheep, birds and Radio 3 playing to the chickens!
After taking in the peace
and quiet of their out-of-the-way homestead and about 20,000 calories of tucker,
I motored on for Tarbert in Argyll and Bute for a rendezvous with my climbing
buddy for the weekend, Terry.
I really didn't want us to take the Mountain (tourist) Route up the well-worn
pony track up the south side of the mountain, instead I had planned for us to do the far more arduous and
much more spectacular
Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête route (CMD), which takes in
a second Munro (Càrn
Mòr Dearg - 1,220 m) on the way. This route allows you to see the awesome north
face of Ben Nevis which is unseen from the more popular route up the mountain. The face is a massive 2300 ft, black cliff, scarred with deep,
gullies filled with ice, which are very popular with ice climbers from around
From the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre we followed the mountain route up around
Meall an t-Suidhe to the tarn called Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, From there we set
off on a side route and followed cairns around to the north side of 'The Ben'.
The gales that had been forecast had reared up by now and we thought that maybe
the arête may be too dangerous for us to cross. We decided just to go and look
at the north face and the formidable slope up to Càrn
Mòr Dearg that is reputed to be the longest and steepest hill climb in the
British Isles. After finding ourselves almost alone in a magnificent natural
amphitheatre of mind-boggling dimensions, we just couldn't force ourselves back
to the crowded, boring tourist path. So we forged on and decided to ignore the
The day started off well, and we started off well before dawn. We had 100 miles
to drive before we even started the climb.
We still had time to stop and take in the sunrise though.
Nothing much to see on the way!
The visitor centre at Glen Nevis, with Meall an t-Suidhe behind.
Ok, let's go - get 'em up, move 'em out!
A Cuckoo was calling as we climbed the first stage.
The path goes up to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe (the lake) where the mountain path
meets the track that takes you to the north face.
It looks so still and calm in this picture, but the wind was really getting up.
Heading down the valley ostensibly to get a better view.
The North Face of Ben Nevis. Wow!
The CIC emergency shelter - nestled
between the two Munros.
Opposite the north face is
Càrn Mòr Dearg which is a murderous, vertiginous scramble up a
boulder-covered incline that goes on forever.
We climbed from the bottom left up to the point between the two peaks. It hurt
Up we go. Here Terry is trying to make up his mind whether he's terrified or
I take drastic measures and slap Terry about to keep him from freezing with
No, not really!
It's steep - it's very high, and the
looming north face just highlights the feeling of vertigo.
Near the top and the gradient becomes
shallower. We can stand upright at last!
That was one hell of a long scramble and we're right to feel pleased with
... but it wasn't as steep and toe-curling as this ascent we
spotted on the north face!
Now all we have to do is walk and scramble along this fantastic arête all the
way to the peak (top right).
Is that a magnificent sight, or what? And what weather! It couldn't have been
better. Even the wind had died down.
The views from the arête are just
breath-taking (if you're lucky enough to get the views at all).
Looking back at the arête we've just
traversed. Now we have a final, muscle-tearing scramble over shattered rocks to
The top! Mission accomplished. Well done Terry.
The highest man in the land! For a few
Ok Terry - this way for home. Mind the
Down the mountain route for a speedy
descent for fish & chips!
Coming down this way gave us some great
views too. This is Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe which we passed on the way up.
Plenty of Ravens about all day.
Finally, 11.5 hours later we get back to
the visitor centre. An average of 1 mph, on a very un-average day.
A day neither of us will ever forget.
Many, many thanks to
Simon, Jetta and Terry for their kindness and hospitality,
and for making this micro-expedition completely successful.
Take the time to read
countryside code for yourself and please stick to it at all times.