Ben Nevis and Carm Mor Dearg arete from Aonach Mor

Ben Nevis and CMD arete

Hillwalking route up Ben Nevis via the Carn Mor Dearg arete

Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis are linked via the narrow and curved Carn Mor Dearg arete. This magnificent route not only gives a awesome view of Ben Nevis's North Face but also makes for a fine introduction to rock-scrambling in Scotland.

Route outline

  Map base ©OpenStreetMap
Munros Ben Nevis
Carn Mor Dearg
Ascent 1520m (4980ft)
Distance 16km (10m)
Time 6:30hr
Start/finish North Face car-park
Grid Ref : NN145764
easy hard
easy hard
easy hard
ok fab

A horseshoe route starting from the Ben Nevis North Face car-park, this is probably the finest way for hillwalkers to experience Ben Nevis. Much quieter than the Mountain Track, a faint path leads up to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg, giving a superb vantage point to view Ben Nevis's North Face. Beyond this, the narrow and famed Carn Mor Dearg arete leads around and up to the summit of Ben Nevis.

Route detail

Getting there »
  • From Fort William, the A82 travels northwards. Around 1 mile on this, a sign points to Torlundy.
  • Follow this narrow road past an industrial estate to a hump-back bridge with traffic lights.
  • Over the brige, turn immediately right and drive along a rough track (beware the pot-holes) to the North Face car-park.

Carn Mor Dearg »
  • From the car-park follow the signs for Ben Nevis.
  • Initially you'll be on a forestry track, then this will be left for a well maintained path through forests. The forests occasionally clear giving fine views, where benches have been installed.
  • You'll get to the edge of the forestry and to another higher car-park (for Mountain Rescue and other authorised users). Over a stile, a well constructed path follows the Allt a'Mhuilinn.
  • After around just under 1km on this path, a small cairn marks the departure point to aim for Carn Mor Dearg. This begins with slog uphill on marshy ground following a faint trod. Ground underfoot improves as height is gained and the trod becomes a slightly more obvious path.
  • The path keeps to the west of the crest of Carn Beag Dearg (you'll need to detour if you want to reach this minor summit) and loose red granite screes are met as Carn Dearg Meadhonach is approached.
  • Beyond Carn Dearg Meadhonach, stick to the wide crest of the ridge and the route to Carn Mor Dearg is obvious, though narrows near the summit and some rocky-blocks need negotiated. A small cairn sits on this excellent vantage point from where Ben Nevis which looks massive.

Ben Nevis »
  • Leaving Carn Mor Dearg's cairn behind, aim southwards on rocky ground following the narrow crest. A path meanders a route, sometimes keeping to the west side of the crest to avoid any difficulties. As ground levels out, the route continues to stick to the crest, occasionally keeping to the east side to avoid exposure.
  • The lowest point on the ridge is reached and the route ahead looks a bit tougher as the red granite of Carn Mor Dearg is left. Uphill, the rock-scrambling is pretty easy keeping to the crest, but if windy, there are opt-out options on the south-east of the crest.
  • The ground begins to level and become easier. A large cairn is reached - this is where the top of the 'abseil posts' used to mark a route into Coire Leis. Ahead lies 1,000ft of ascent up bouldery ground to reach the summit of Ben Nevis .

Return to North Face car-park »
  • The next part of the route follows the Mountain Track and after the quiet route on Carn Mor Dearg, the likely crowds and bussle will come as a shock !
  • In mist, careful compass work is needed to avoid Gardyloo Gully - from the summit trig point walk on a bearing of for 231o for 150m, then aim 282o.
  • Follow the Mountain Track to the junction in the track above Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, the 'Halfway Lochan', then follow the northern-aiming spur. This comes to an abrupt end at the northern end of Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe .
  • Follow the burn coming out of Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe northwards downhill. The ground is fairly wet, though faint traces of paths and ATV tracks can be picked up.
  • The River Nevis will be met again by the higher car-park . If not in spate, it should be easily crossed, but if in spate, you can walk a bit downstream to meet up with a bridge, crossing which will take you back onto the path you started on.

Route profile »

Maps and GPX downloads »

Weather forecasts & webcams »

Guided hillwalking events in this area »

Route photos

On the path above the Allt a'MhuilinnOn the path above the Allt a'Mhuilinn
Carn Mor Dearg Mheadhonach on the way to Carn Mor DeargCarn Mor Dearg Mheadhonach on the way to Carn Mor Dearg
Heading up Carn Mor Dearg, with the North Face of Ben Nevis behindHeading up Carn Mor Dearg, with the North Face of Ben Nevis behind
On the CMD arete in winterOn the CMD arete in winter
Looking up the CMD arete to Ben Nevis summitLooking up the CMD arete to Ben Nevis summit
Descending the Mountain Track on Ben NevisDescending the Mountain Track on Ben Nevis

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