Author Topic: TR - Ben Nevis  (Read 2977 times)

richardh1905

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TR - Ben Nevis
« on: 12:24:27, 20/08/18 »

Rightly or wrongly, Ben Nevis looms large in the thoughts of many who aspire to climb Scotland’s mountains. I thought that I was immune from such thoughts, but when my son said that he wanted to climb “The Ben”, I couldn’t resist.



 
So down to the planning; any trip ‘Sooth’ from Orkney is a logistical exercise, and we selected a few days in Mid July when my wife had some time off work. As a bonus, my daughter was going to come up from Edinburgh; she has Ben Nevis fever too.

After the usual early start to catch the ferry, we drove down to Fort William, arriving just in time to pick my daughter up from the bus station. We camped at the Glen Nevis site, in our Coleman Mosedale 5 man tent, the “Mosedale Whale”, as I have started calling it.


Our tent with Sgurr a Mhaim and Stob Ban in the background; Ben Nevis lost in the clouds to the left.

Sunday 15th July 2018
 
Unfortunately the weather let us down, rain forecast for all day, and the clouds down. No point in having a miserable time, so we drove east to the Cairngorms in an attempt to dodge the rain; it is often drier there. We were only partially successful, and it rained for the last two miles of the walk up Glen Feshie to Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy. A lot of driving for just a few hours walk, but better than mooching around fingering Gore Tex in a wet Fort William!
 
Sadly my daughter had to return to Edinburgh that evening, so she missed her chance at The Ben this time around.
 
Monday 16th July
 
Better forecast today, and the clouds were somewhat higher, clearing the tops of the nearby Mamores - Stob Ban and Sgurr a Mhaim. Hills for another day, perhaps.
 
We got away at around 10:30. We took the short cut up to the Pony Track, which starts opposite the Youth Hostel, as the campsite is just down the road. After crossing the valley floor passing lots of bog myrtle and alder, we started to climb. What a brutal start - a steep stone staircase zig zagging up the hillside, and I was glad to get to the junction with the Pony Path, where the gradient eased somewhat.


A brutal start

This part of the path is pleasant, traversing across a steep wooded hillside as it climbs, with fine views back down into the glen. Lots of other walkers on the way up, as was to be expected, and we soon met the occasional group coming down; they must have had an early start.


Lower Glen Nevis and the campsite

The well constructed path curled around the side of the hill as we climbed the slopes above the Red Burn; steeper now, and we left the trees behind.


The procession up the staircase above the Red Burn

We avoided the eroded shortcut that follows the course of the Red Burn; the main path leveled off somewhat as it passed above Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe; a welcome respite. After filling our water bottles from a small stream, we started to climb again, gently at first to the crossing of the Red Burn, then more steeply, as we started climbing the Zig Zags.


The Red Burn


Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe; Loch Linnhe in the distance

On and on we went, the path getting rougher and the vegetation changing from grass to specialized plants adapted to live in scree, and then nothing much at all. The monotony of the climb was relieved by the fine views unfolding to the south and west, particularly of the Mamores and down Loch Linnhe. But we entered the cloud at around 1000m, and it was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other.


Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean (Western Mamores) from beside Five Finger Gully

Eventually the angle of the slope eased, and shortly afterwards, the zig zags ended and the path struck off in a more direct line up the lessening slopes onto the summit plateau. I took careful note of the line of well built cairns stretching across the plateau, and a stone shelter circle at a path junction. Following the cairns, we came across a patch of old snow in a shallow depression, much to the delight of our springer spaniel, Tess, who loves to dig.


Snow dog

Up a steeper loose section; then the gradient eased, and shortly afterwards we came across a steep gully falling away to our left. This was Tower Gully, shortly followed by Gardyhoo Gully, a trap for the unwary in bad conditions if it is corniced, as the path turns sharply to the left (north) immediately afterwards.

   
Tower Gully                                                          One of the well built cairns on the plateau

Suddenly the ruined observatory buildings came into view - we were at the summit! Unfortunately so were several dozen other people, so many that there was a queue to get up onto the plinth upon which the trig point is mounted (we didn’t bother).


The despoiled summit

The mist was swirling around us, so no chance of a view, and it felt quite cold once we stopped, so on with an extra layer before we sat down for lunch amongst some rocks a short distance from the summit. At one stage a ragged cheer broke out from the crowd as the sun threatened to break through the mist, but it was not to be, so we packed up and headed on down.
 
Tess had been quite a help on the way up; she’s a strong puller, but what a menace she is when descending; jerking and pulling as I struggled to keep my balance. Very hard on the knees.
 
We had an uneventful if long descent; quite a few people still on their way up. The zig zags weren’t too bad, and we dropped out of the mist so could admire the view, but the lower section was a chore, like a giant stone staircase, me fighting both gravity and the pull of the dog!


Emerging from the clouds

Eventually we reached the top of the short cut down to the Youth Hostel, but we ignored this, as I had my sights set on a pint in the Ben Nevis Inn. Thankfully the gradient lessened, and I enjoyed the last mile.
 
Enjoyed a few pints of excellent ‘West Highland Way’ ale and a meal on the terrace of the pub (dogs not welcome inside) - we had earned it!
 
I’m still not sure what to make of the whole experience, it was certainly unlike any other mountain that I have climbed. The summit is despoiled, both by the various structures and by the sheer number of people there, and the path is like a busy giant staircase, but there’s a lot of camaraderie on the climb, and at times a cosmopolitan feel. Perhaps Ben Nevis is a mountain that has to be ‘got out of the way’ before one can go on to enjoy better things. Maybe I’m being unfair, a return trip in winter conditions or by a more roundabout route would offer a different experience, say up the valley north of Steall at the head of the Glen Nevis gorge, then onto Carn Mor Dearg and along the arete to Ben Nevis. But I’ll not be joining the hordes on the tourist path again.
 
Tuesday 17th July
 
Awoke the next day feeling very stiff, so all we could manage was a short hobble up through Glen Nevis gorge to Steall falls; both quite spectacular.

   
The Nevis Gorge and Steall Falls
« Last Edit: 19:36:53, 20/08/18 by richardh1905 »

vizzavona

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Re: Ben Nevis
« Reply #1 on: 13:07:43, 20/08/18 »
Hello,
Some nice images and description of that side of the Ben.  Never made an ascent from that side although a couple of times have been from the Hostel and by the half way Lochan (shown in one of your images) to reach the North side of the the Ben.
Your are right, when you go again, the opportunities for routes to the top are numerous and the feeling in there is Alpine even when the snows have melted away. However what ever way you climb there are usually a fair crowd of folks on the summit area. I guess that everyone has a great day out whatever the way chosen....and it is possible to nip back down to the the low point between The Ben and CMD and drop down into Coire Leis.

vghikers

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #2 on: 17:18:50, 20/08/18 »
Those pics bring back some memories, though not particularly good ones - the descent down the tourist path is not an experience to savour but at least we ascended via the excellent Carn Mor Dearg route. Pity about the clag at the summit, or maybe not considering the gathered hordes - it adds to the gloomy atmosphere. 10:30 is a late start for the Ben, better 06:30!.
I'm not surprised you felt sore and stiff the next day, it's that awful long descent on the stone highway that does it I think. It's a question which is more wearing, the path or the endless streams of people in both directions.

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #3 on: 17:53:09, 20/08/18 »

Thanks for the replies.


Perhaps I have painted too gloomy a picture; I did get something from the walk, and am delighted that my 11 year old son made it to the top, as was he. He's quite enthusiastic about climbing more mountains, something that I shall most definitely encourage, and has since been up Ben Hope - a much better mountain experience as far as I am concerned.

Mel

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #4 on: 18:29:22, 20/08/18 »
Great writeup and those pics really give a sense of the scale (and long slog) up the mountain  O0


Brings back some fond memories for me .... of the Glen Nevis campsite.... starting up that god-awful steep path from the Youth Hostel then changing my mind mere metres from the bridge  ;D   Had I known there was Bog Myrtle up there I'd have carried on and rolled in it to stop the midges feasting on me  :-[


I did enjoy watching the white headtorch dots zigging and zagging down that path on a wet, windy and rainy night though from the coziness of my hired for the week static caravan!


Steall Gorge had a landslip the week after I'd walked up it  :-\   Luckily nobody was injured.


I never did make it up The Ben due to the bloody awful weather (rain, rain, low cloud, fog and more rain).  The waterfalls coming off the mountains though were fan-bluddi-tastic  :)



No expense spared in pursuit of a bargain ;)
https://snailspacewalks.blogspot.co.uk/

Ridge

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #5 on: 18:51:38, 20/08/18 »
Great TR and lovely pics.
I guess, like Snowdon and Scafell Pike, it suffers from being famous.
Over hill, over dale. Thorough brush, thorough brier....
I do wander every where

beefy

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #6 on: 21:02:53, 20/08/18 »
Great pics richard O0
Brings back happy memories  8)
DRIP COFFINS  :D

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #7 on: 21:41:06, 20/08/18 »
Great writeup and those pics really give a sense of the scale (and long slog) up the mountain  O0 




Thanks for the feedback, Mel, Ridge, Beefy.


The sheer scale of the mountain is something that I didn't mention in the report; glad that the photos give some impression of it. Glen Nevis looked tiny far below us from the zig zags. Pity that we didn't get a view of the immense north face, though.

April

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #8 on: 21:44:56, 20/08/18 »
Yes, smashing report and pics  O0

When we went up there (was it last year? might be the year before that!) I felt the same way about the experience as you did Richard. It was a surreal day, it felt like being on an escalator in a city centre but on a mountain side at the same time.
"Who would've thought...... you are light and darkness coming through" words by Tim Armstrong

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #9 on: 08:27:13, 21/08/18 »
Yes, smashing report and pics  O0

When we went up there (was it last year? might be the year before that!) I felt the same way about the experience as you did Richard. It was a surreal day, it felt like being on an escalator in a city centre but on a mountain side at the same time.




Thanks April; being the highest and therefore the most popular mountain is a curse in a way. The Highlands have so much more to offer.


Did you post a Trip Report, by the way?

sunnydale

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #10 on: 09:39:18, 21/08/18 »
I enjoyed your report & photos Richard :)   Sorry to hear it wasn't the most thrilling experience for you though!
With my back/knee problems, I think I would really struggle, especially with the descent.  I've always wanted to 'do' the Ben but it may just be a bit too much for me, unfortunately.


T. :)
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richardh1905

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #11 on: 11:22:49, 21/08/18 »
I enjoyed your report & photos Richard :) 




Thanks Sunnydale; sorry to hear about your knee and back troubles; must be really frustrating.


I still enjoyed the experience, despite the despoliation, crowds and the mist - there's no escaping the fact that Ben Nevis is a mountain on a massive scale. In some respects, I'm glad that I have 'got it out of the way' though.
« Last Edit: 11:29:40, 21/08/18 by richardh1905 »

April

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #12 on: 19:41:11, 21/08/18 »
"Who would've thought...... you are light and darkness coming through" words by Tim Armstrong

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #13 on: 08:27:52, 23/08/18 »
I did, a short one!

http://www.walkingforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=34310.0



Thanks; some good photos there, especially of the North Face that I could not see! (I did spot the climbers on your photo - what a route)


Your photo of the summit snowfields with the cornice along the top of Gardyhoo Gully really emphasises how dangerous Ben Nevis can be in a whiteout.

Petrolhead

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Re: TR - Ben Nevis
« Reply #14 on: 15:16:49, 23/08/18 »
An excellent write up Richard thank you. And great photos too. I particularly liked the one of Lochan Meall.