Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Carn Mor Dearg & Ben Nevis

I had been watching the weather forecast all week in hope of getting a blue sky day to do my traverse of the classic winter route - The Carn Mor Dearg Arête - Colloquially just known as the CMD Arête. With the small band of high pressure forecasted to move away on Thursday instead of the previously forecasted Friday I made a snap decision to get on the bus on Tuesday night up to Fort William.

On arriving at my accommodation, the Calluna bunkhouse ran by Alan Kimber of West Coast Mountain Guides I was informed that the weather the last few days had been beautiful so off to a good start.

Got myself up at seven, got sorted out and headed off on the bus to the Nevis Range Resort on Aonach Mor, and took the Gondola part way up the hill. My reason for going up Aonach Mor first was I was planning on dropping down to the Allt Daim and scoping out the East Ridge of Carn Mor Dearg, another classic winter route.

The day had initially been nice but at some point during my breakfast the sky had clouded over quite a lot. Not happy.

I arrived at the Gondola top station on Aonach Mor to a biting northly wind and miserable gray overcast.

I then cut across to the Meall Breac view point, and Carn Mor Dearg came into better view. Unfortunately the west slopes of Meall Breac were corniced which made the descent into the Allt Daim tricky.

Better view of the East Ridge - those spiney towers.

Looking back to Meall Breac and there were others mucking about at some of the larger corniced areas practising abseiling.

Having looked at the East ridge first hand, and being on my own without a partner, rope or a helmet I decided against it as the northerlywinds would be cutting across the ridge sideways. I opted for the North East ridge as a more sensible approach for today.

Coming up north takes you across a couple of smaller summits on the way so you go up and down a couple of times. Just coming to the summit of Carn Dearg Meadhonach.

The final summit slope to Carn Mor Dearg looms up ahead.

Having made it to the final summit the winds had picked up a little more so I sat and eat lunch with my back to the wind. Looking ahead at the Arête I considered turning back because I was angry at having missed the good weather. I had also managed to finish all my water for the day and did not have a snow to melt some snow. I decided to head down to the start and take a look from there.

Almost as if someone could read my mind, or had answered some unasked prayer the exact moment I moved off the Carn Mor Dearg summit the sky opened into a brilliant blue and the winds died completely away.

The sunshine came out strong and lit the Arête up ahead. Of course I had to continue on now.

A couple of pictures along the Arête itself. There was not much time to stop and take pictures as there was barely enough space to stand with sheer drops off both sides.

The spectacular north face of Ben Nevis in truly Alpine conditions.

Made it to the other end of the Arête in on piece. Looking back at Carn Mor Dearg and Aonach Mor

Just have to reach the summit now.

I met a couple of guys from down south, who kindly shared a little of their water with me as the traverse with no water in baking sunshine had left my mouth and throat like sandpaper.

Back towards the Arête.

The summit is up that way.

Taking my time up the steep slopes.

Nearly at the summit.

At the summit, enjoying the warm sunshine on top of the old observatory. Officially the highest standing person in the UK.

The Ben Nevis plateau is pretty vast. Carn Dearg in the background.

Coire Na Ciste and Carn Dearg.

A small snow bunting on the observatory. The highest standing bird in the UK.

My small alpine weather window is starting to close up. Clouds coming in now.

The vast plateau.

Pretty quiet for a day on the top of Ben Nevis.

Coming back down the clouds and can see the Mamores looming ahead.

Some of the avalanche debris in the Red Burn from last week, by all accounts quite possibly the biggest avalanche Scotland has has on record. Luckily this one happened at night time and there was no one arround.

Descent by the "pony track" down into Glen Nevis, and a couple of miles walk back to Fort William, for a quick shower and back on the bus to Glasgow. A great day out midweek.