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Report on Ben Nevis
8 August 2009   (5135 views)

This weekend's camping Craggy's were :- Irene, Gail, Paula, Gillian, Lydia, Dorothy, Maureen, Phil, Michael and Mark.


When Phil and I arrived at the campsite all the others were already there and sitting in the sun. We quickly pitched our tent and were soon enjoying the sun too. Some of the others nipped down to Morrisons for some provisions while the rest of us got tore into the sangria. After a few drinks we all decided just to get something to eat from the snack van. We had a wee wander round the campsite to see what it was like, it was huge and was really busy. It was a reasonably early night for everyone as we wanted to be fresh in the morning. Despite the campsite being so busy, it was quite quiet with no rowdy parties.

We woke up nice and early and were disappointed to see it was raining, only drizzly but we couldn?t see the tops of the hills due to low clouds. We were all suited and booted and on our way by 8.45, must be a record for us. We walked along to the youth hostel then crossed the road to the start of the walk. Right from the start it is an uphill slog. The track is made up of different sized stones, they are quite sore on the feet. It was very busy with people trudging their way up the tourist path. It was also very warm so we stripped down to short sleeves and some even had shorts on. It was still drizzly but we were too warm to put on the waterproofs.

When we came to the Lochan, Lydia, Gail and Paula continued up the tourist path to the summit while the rest of us turned along the path leading to the CMD. We continued along this path and it was obvious the weather wasn?t going to get any better. The rain got heavier and clouds got lower, time to put waterproofs on. This was an easy path and soon we reached the CIC hut, we took shelter outside and had some lunch. I took a bearing here and it read 80 degrees east, I double checked with Mark and Michael to make sure we got it right. After agreeing it was the right way we set off in the WRONG direction. We were clambering up Coire Leis when we realised this and turned back, retraced our steps for a bit and then headed off again in the wrong direction again. After checking again we decided to go all the way back to the hut and then make sure we took the right path up to the ridge.

On the way back we were walking sideways across the hill and it was sore on the feet as it was very bouldery and mist was getting lower. Suddenly the boulder Phil was standing on moved and he tumbled heavily cutting his knee and elbow. I took one look at his face and asked if he wanted to go back. I was actually quite pleased when he said yes. We left the others scattered over the hillside, scrambling their way up to the ridge. We made our way back to the hut and had another break before retracing our steps back to the tourist track. As we looked back the mist was getting lower and we couldn?t even see the hut. When we reached the main path it was mobbed, literally hundreds of people, now going in both directions. Philip was slow going down as his knee was really hurting and each step just made it worse.

We eventually got down about five and headed straight to the pub and had an Irish coffee before joining Gail, Lydia and Paula back at the campsite. After a lovely shower we were able to sit outside as the sun was shining now and it was very warm but the clouds were still very low and the hills were still shrouded in mist. At 6.15 we had a call from Irene to say they were at the summit now but wouldn?t be back in time for dinner. We made our way to the restaurant and as we were really starving we were thoroughly enjoying our meal when I felt really ill. I tried to make my way to the toilet but my legs just buckled, Lydia tried her best to keep me up but down I went. The restaurant manager helped Lydia to look after me until the ambulance and paramedics came. The paramedics were really nice and after a thorough check they allowed me to join the others again. Irene and Mark had arrived by this time and were having a bite to eat. Michael, Maureen and Gillian were still making their way down so Phil and Lydia set off to meet them as Lydia was getting worried. Paula and I made our way back to the campsite. It wasn?t long till the others all came back. They were all very tired and although some had a wee blether, it was another early night.

We woke up next morning to another lovely sunny day and had our bacon, eggs, omelettes and sausage cooked by Phil and Michael. Steve and Elaina joined us as they were camping there too and were hoping to head over to Fersit.
All too soon it was time to back up all the gear and head back down the road again.


At Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe (the halfway lochain) our party divided with Gail, Paula and Lydia continuing up the tourist route. The rest of us headed north along the path circumnavigates the Ben until we reached the Mountain Rescue Hut (NN167722). Now this is where we first went wrong by following the obvious path towards Coire Leis. Eventually it dawned on us we were going the wrong way so it was about turn and head back towards the hut. We traversed along the hillside on the north east side of the burn until we were level with the hut. This is where Dorothy and Phil decided to leave us and head back to the campsite after Phil has a couple of tumbles.

Mark, Michael, Gillian, Maureen and myself scrambled up the grassy hillside in the rain for approx an hour until reaching Carn Dearg Meadhonach. At the summit cairn the rain was heavy and we met up with some jovial guys from Greenock. Visibility was very poor now but we headed south to Carn Mor Dearg with ease.

Carn Mor Dearg was rather busy and from the summit we headed to mistake number 2. A guy pointed to the direction of the CMD arete and off we went like sheep!! Some young lads, then the Greenock guys then us!! Yes we were on an arete but not the CMD one. We were heading to east to Aonach Mor instead of south to the Ben. The weather was challenging with rain, wind and poor visibility and we were all beginning to get tired by this time. So back we went to the CMD summit with others follow us this time.

On the CMD arete we decided to use the bypass path where we would be sheltered from the wind and it was felt safer. The path was difficult in places but at least by now the cloud base had lifted and we began to get some views. The arete felt never ending, much longer than any of us expected. Eventually the arete was over and was quite exhillerating. The last haul up to the Ben was the most soul destroying part of the day as it was scrambling up a boulder field. By this time I felt like greetin' but Gillian kept our spirits up.

6pm and eventually we reached the Ben Nevis summit!! It was cold, damp and nothing to see as we were in the clouds again. We didn't hang about for long and quickly made our way to the tourist path to start our decent. We passed droves of folk still heading uphill at that time of night. So it was now a quick decent down the zig zags with the iPod on...its amazing how quickly music can make me walk or maybe it takes my mind off the agony!!

Mark and I got down to the pub at 9pm....12 hours later!! Gillian couldn't face food and headed back to the tent while Michael and Maureen arrived an hour behind us.

It was a welcome sight seeing Steve and Elaina waiting for us and the rest of the group were in the restaurant with the paramedics.....but that's another story!!

Would I do the CMD arete again? Initially I said no way but as the memory fades I have already told Mark I would be up for it again.

Dorothy McGhee and Irene Cahill

Glen Nevis Campsite
Bridge at start of walk
new path
looking down at campsite
a bevvy of beauties
Tourist path
having a rest
Ben Nevis in mist
CIC hut
a moody looking ben
a never ending slog
CMD arete
Ben Nevis Summit
looking down from the arete
CMD arete

Photos: Irene Cahill, Dorothy McGhee and Maureen Powell

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Mountaineering Council of Scotland
Scottish Youth Hostels Association

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