Lochaber 4000s

Ben Nevis and the Lochaber 4000ers, 10-11 August 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, Carn Mor Dearg, AonachBeag and Aonach Mor - the Lochaber 4000s Christine Menhennet and Kevin Woods were leading, here's Christine's tale of the Saturday.

Ben Nevis and the Lochaber 4000ers

There is the MET Office, BBC Weather, MWUK, Mountain Forecast and good old MWIS..... and then there is a change of plan, change of weather and a bit of a swizz!

All the weather forecasting sources were predicting high winds and heavy rain for Saturday - our first day in the Lochaber 4000's, which was planned to be Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete. After careful consideration, Kevin Woods (the other guide for the day), and I decided that it would be prudent to swap the days around - doing the technically tougher route of CMD arete on the Sunday and The Aonachs on the Saturday. That way we'd also maximise the chance of great views across to Ben Nevis' majestic north face.

Well - the best laid plans of mice and mountaineers! Our merry band gathered in the Aonach Mor car park (not quite a sea level start), mentally and physically prepared for a wet battering. We exited the car park via an 'all access' track. Mountain bike tracks and the ski tows dominate the lower slopes of this mountain and Kevin and I did our best to select a prettier route through the forestry. Eventually we had to merge with a stoney, bermed and bumped track which we all agreed was best left to mountain bikers! Conditions were a little jungloid - cloudy, warm and damp and so we took a brief break at the gondola top station to cool down and grab some fluids. Once clear of the ski tows we tracked across a boulder field carpeted with an intricate mix blueberry, crowberry and cowberry; at this point the clouds were lifting with us, parting to reveal dramatic views over Fort William and down Loch Eil - not a breath of wind!

The cloud drama continued and having gained the ridge above the ski tows, we were afforded glimpsed views down into the corries of the eastern crags and across to the mighty buttresses of Ben Nevis. We made brisk progress across to the summit of Aonach Mor (1221m); this was, I think, the 6th Munro for the youngest member of our group, 14 year old Alex, on holiday from England with his Dad and knocking off several Munros with seemingly effortless athleticism! Another member of the group, bumped into a former SFMG participant she had walked with and we had a social media message from yet another former SFMG participant wishing us all well! Scholar was marvelling at the beauty of our land, Julia did her summit cairn pose thing, encouraging Alex to adopt his own pose for the future and, munching on his lunch snacks, Dave from Derby was thinking that this group walking thing was maybe not so bad after all! A descent to the col and a short, stoney steep reascent to Aonach Beag, ironically higher than Aonach Mor at 1234m. Here we finished our lunch snacks; still no wind and no rain, just more towering cloud drama with cloud framed views over Glen Nevis to the Mamores and across to the back of the CMD Arete - an opportunity to assure people that the exposure is not as bad as it might look! I had planned a treat of dried Mango - out of its foil bag it looked more like unappetising, salted, dried fish but everyone seemed to enjoy it!

We enjoyed a leisurely stroll back to the first summit the way we had come and then took a slightly different, north westerly line off the hill to avoid a bouldery descent - a route which seemed to work well. You really should never look a gift horse in the mouth and gondola descent trips are free to walkers, so after a short break on reaching the top station, we took advantage and enjoyed a smooth ride back to the car park - still dry and unbuffeted by any wind.

The next day is another story!

(Photos by David Ward and Julia Gow.)

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