Lochaber 4000s

Ben Nevis and the Lochaber 4000s, 6-7 July 2019

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. Two days of guided hiking and scrambling up Ben Nevis, the CMD arete and the Lochaber 4000s John Hepburn was leading.

Ben Nevis and the Lochaber 4000s

Day 1 - Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg

Meeting point for our first day was the North Face car park, where Kathy, Laura, Alan and James were keen to get going, maybe something to do with the midge! We were aiming for Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg and agreed to discuss the days plan on the move as the first part was on steep but easy tracks. Climbing the Allt a'Mhuilinn we talked through the plan for the first part of the day. Every now and again there are clearings in the forestry and the views up the loch are spectacular. We arrived at the deer fence at the end of the forestry, from where the path levels slightly, this section of path has had a lot of work done to it over the past few years and it now makes for a superb walk up to the CIC hut. Unfortunately we were only on it for a few hundred meters before branching off for the first major climb of the day, a muddy rough track up the broad slopes of Carn Mor Dearg. The group soon settled into a steady pace, Laura was happy to lead the way as we climbed steadily up.

The weather was looking fine, a bit of a breeze and the tops looked like they were going to clear of their early morning cloud. The views of the North Face of Ben Nevis comes into full view as the path climbs. At one point a dog came bounding downhill past us, and about twenty minutes later it's frustrated owners! Higher up the path becomes a bit loose until you pop up on the ridge at the second top, Carn Dearg Meadhonach. As we stood catching our breath, the clag engulfed us and visibility was down to 40m, where did that come from?!! We now only had a short climb to the main summit which we made short work of.

Lunch on the summit and a chance to discuss the next part of the day, the CMD arete and Ben Nevis. Kathy, Laura, Alan and James had all done some scrambling and were happy to try and stick to the crest, there is always the option of using a path just below the main ridge if we wanted to avoid any sections. The rock was dry and the clag had cleared, to give perfect conditions, and our group made the most of it. We enjoyed some superb scrambling, and all agreed it wasn't as exposed or difficult as they had expected. Reaching the large cairn at the col we stopped for a snack and soaked up the views.

The route up onto the Ben is a mix of bolder field and scree path, but it's pretty short and before long we were joining the crouds on the summit. Descending the first half of the path was a bit of a shock to the system, a constant throng going in both directions. It was a relieve to reach the path junction and take the fork to head for our start point. A quiet spot on the way for the last of the sandwiches, and a nimble bit of bolder hopping to get back over the Allt a Mhuilinn and we were down.

Day 2 - Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag

Our second day start was at the Nevis Range centre, Kathy wasn't with us today, so myself James, Alan and Laura were joined by the fresh legged Steven. We decided to take the Red mountain bike downhill trail, a good trail to walk up, it traverses below the view point of Meall Beag and pops out on the main track just west of the top gondola station. The gondola doesn't start uplift till 10am, so we shouldn't meet any mountain bikers.

We carried on up the west ridge on grassy slopes, the weather was good and we were looking forward to more great views from the plateau.

The group were still fresh even after yesterdays big day, and we made light work of the short hop from the last of the ski development to Aonach Mor summit, the views across to Carn Mor Dearg and the Arete to the west, the Mamores to the south and the Grey Corries to the east were spectacular and would get even better as we carried on over to Aonach Beag. The mountain provides a diversity of habitats including montane cliffs, semi-permanent snow bed, montane moss heath, upland heath and upland grassland, supporting a diverse flora and fauna, so there was lots to look out for as we walked onwards. We were now descending over grassy terrain to where the ridge narrows before the final loose but straight forward climb to Aonach Beag summit. We joined a couple of other walkers, and a dog, which wasn't lost! A good photo opportunity and a spot of lunch before retracing our route back over Aonach Mor.

Down the now grassy ski slopes to reach the top gondola station, where we enjoyed some refreshments in the sun on the outside terrace before descending the last section in style on the gondola. Well done team, a successful two days.

More photos by John Hepburn are here on Flickr.

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