IntroductionThis is a trip report in which I took the ridge of Carn Mòr Dearg (CMD) to approach Ben Nevis and came down with the tourist route. I will also mention how to take public transport (train/flight) to Fort William from London so that a weekend/long weekend climb to Ben Nevis is possible. The photos taken in early May with still full of snow are stunning (2009 appeared to have very cold winter), rain, storm, fog, hailstone and sunshine all in one day.
Timetable / Trip Summary2ND MAY
12:00 flight left from London
13:00 fiight arrived at Glasgow
visit around glasgow
18:00 train left Glasgow
22:00 train arrived at Fort William
22:45 taxi arrived at Glen Nevis Youth Hostel
08:15 left youth hostel to hike up tourist route
09:30 600m level; left tourist route
11:30 on CMD Ridge
13:00 lunch on CMD ridge
15:00-16:00 Ben Nevis
walked down tourist route
18:30 back to Youth Hostel
08:00 visit around Fort william, including Ben Nevis Distillery
17:30 Train left Fort William
22:00 Train arrived at Glasgow
23:45 Train left Glasgow
06:30 Train arrived at London
09:00 back to office
Transport ArrangementIn this trip report, I mainly mention how to get to Ben Nevis from London. Referring to my timetable above and route description below, you can see I made a 3.5 days trip because I had 3-day holidays and the flight+train option is cheaper. I can also visit Glasgow on the first day. However, for the most efficient weekend arrangement, you can make a trip as per the following suggestion:
FRI 22:00 train departs from London Euston
Caledonian Sleeper Direct Train
SAT 09:45 train arrives at Fort William
Walk to Ben Nevis
Saturday night staying in Fort William
Sunday visiting Fort William OR climbing other peaks
SUN 19:00 Train departs Fort William
Caledonian Sleeper Direct Train
MON 06:30 Train arrives at London Euston
Day 1 - TravellingSaturday 2.5.2009
Since it was impossible to get an advance cheap train ticket (£32) for that particular Friday night direct train from London to Fort William, I booked a British Airways ticket, departing London Heathrow at 12noon and arriving at Glasgow at 1pm. My friend Vincent and I then visited around Glasgow and went to Mackintosh house. We met up another friend Haru at 6pm. Then 3 of us boarded the train for Fort William.
We arrived at Fort William just after 10pm. The weather was quite bad with heavy rain. We called a taxi to get to the Youth Hostel at Glen Nevis but the taxi came 0.5 hr later. It made our time quite tight because we were hurrying to check in to the hostel before 11pm. Nevertheless, eventually we got there on time.
Glen Nevis Youth Hostel (part of IYHF) is a good base for climbing Ben Nevis. It is exactly at the beginning of the tourist route to the summit. You will certainly meet a lot of fellow hikers there.
Day 2 - The Big HikeSunday 3.5.2009
We got up at 07:00. Enjoy the hostel's breakfast at 07:30. Then we set off for the big hike at 08:15.
Though weather was not great, it was good not raining. We left the hostel, took a team photo (3 of us; in case anything would happen) and then walked across the river to the beginning of the tourist route (just 30m AMSL). Maybe since one of my mates have not done long hike for years, he was quite slow. Therefore, we have plenty of rest time, which is a good thing, making the hike quite comfortable other than a rush.(He is fitter now after a couple of hikes and gym sessions)
At around 09:30, we arrived at 600m AMSL, where the route branches out to the bottom of the CMD ridge from the infamous tourist route. At this junction, a high level lake Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe is on your left hand side, offering amazing scenery with the dramatic weather.
After a short rest, we walked down this branching out route, due North, around the foot of Carn Dearg Mountain, to the long CMD valley (where the river Allt a'Mhuilinn begins).
We cut across the river, where we also filled up our bottles, way far before the rescue hut. At 10:30 we ascended straight up the steep west face of CMD ridge. The further we ascended, the more snow on the rock/grass we encountered. It was quite a steep climb. Although we all wore proper boots, we did not bring crampons. However, it just turned out it is a bit slippery. Taking extra care, there was no problem to negotiate the entire route.
What a pity, just 5 mins before we arrived at the ridge top, Vincent decided he had to turn back because he did not notice he needed to work on the next day and had to catch the 5pm train to hurry back to London. Then I asked Haru to go with him as well (because it is safer for them to go together and both of them felt it be a too long and not very safe route to Ben Nevis). Meanwhile, I insisted I would walk along the CMD ridge to the summit by myself, although as a usual advice they strongly recommended me not to do so for safety reason. Anyway, I felt pity because I could not take them to the summit.
Now I was ascending along the ridge by myself. Actually, at the moment my friends turned back down, we did not reach the ridge yet and no one knew how near the ridge top was because it was so foggy with very low visibility. After all, I walked for 5 more mins and suddenly find that I was exactly on the first summit Carn Dearg Meadhonach (1179m AMSL) at 11:15. Meanwhile, I still regret that I failed to take my friends to the ridge top.
Wind was so strong (particularly on the ridge, you know) and it was freezing up there. Apart from the little stone shelter, everything else was just fog and white snow. However, after a short rest and I still managed to have a number one, I shot off southward along the ridge. Although There was full of deep snow and no way to find any trace of route, I just kept on the ridge and looked at my compass to make sure I was on the right course. Soon after that, I reached another summit point Carn Mór Dearg (1220m AMSL) at 12:30. Here I could see the ridge from a distance for the first time, as some fog/cloud cleared up and sun shined. The ridge branches off to the east side of the summit was also visible. Meanwhile, I was able to take some dramatic photos of the white-snowy but rocky CMD ridge approach to Ben Nevis. The whole CMD Valley and as far as Fort William were also under my view, although I could never clearly see the north face of Ben Nevis. Hailstone fell at one point and sun shined in another minute. I took a rest and had a lunch.
At 1pm, I saw a team of 3 people (they told me they were colleagues in BBC) walking along the ridge with a hired guide. I took the chance to walk with them as it is always safer to walk with people in snowy situation. In this way, we carefully, but easily finished the most exposed part of the CMD ridge (SE and S sessions of the ridge; around 1058m AMSL).
At 14:00, we had another short rest coz my fellow BBC mates ate lunch. Then we ascended along the final session to the summit, full of snow, but very decent and gently steady slope to ascend.
Just before 15:00, we arrived at the summit Ben Nevis(1343m AMSL).
Weather was still bad at this level. One could not have a visibility above 20m. What we could see is the mountain shelter and the trig point with a 0.8m high platform (I see from other's foto this platform was at least 2.5m high, now all covered in snow). During the 3+hr I was walking along the CMD ridge, I met only 6 hikers, including the BBC team. However, once we arrived at Ben Nevis, it was like a party up there, despite the cold weather and deep snow. At a moment, there were 30-40 people!! Some of them are in very big groups, people in all shapes, some with even flip-flops and with their dogs, chit-chating around the trig point. I assume most, if not all, of them climbed up slowly from the very safe tourist route. On one hand, it looks funny to find this scene on a proper mountain top. On the other hand, I think it is good that the highest summit in the UK is accessible by most people, not only professional or enthusiastic hikers. Or people became more keen on mountain sports after conquering Ben Nevis, who knows?
After taking some photos to prove that I was there (with big crowds at the background, certainly), I texted my 2 friends, who were at the bottom of the mountain, to aplogised my failure to bring them up to the top and tell them that I am already at the summit. At 3:15pm I began to walk down along the tourist route. Then soon something surprising happened!
I came to a point where the quick descend of tourist route began. Suddenly, someone shouted my name "Edward!". I found that it was Haru!! He was walking up slowly, very tired. Then he told me the story that, after he took Vincent to the 600m level, where it was safe enough for Vincent (who was apparently very exhausted) to stroll down back to Glen Nevis by himself, he walked up the tourist route by himself. I told him again I was very ashamed I did not take them to the top, but very glad that he eventually made it up there by himself. He was so tired that he borrowed my hiking stick, which he was keen on not using before. Then we walked back up to the summit together for 10/15mins. At 3:30pm, we are on Ben Nevis (again). So Haru has done 2000m hieght gain on that day! We took loads of fotos. I told Haru about the custom of eating mountain chocolate at the summit. Instead, he told me his custom of drinking a whisky. So he took out his bottle and we shared a whiskey on the freezing top.
At 4pm, we strolled down. The beginning of the tourist route was quite slippery, partly because it was a very frequent route that the snow was pressed and became ice. Some people even put on crampons. However, you do not need them. All you need to do is to walk off route a bit and step on the fresh snow.
At 6:30pm. We arrived at the door of youth hostel in Glen Nevis. Finishing a 10hr walk, we had a shower and walked to Fort William (1hr walk) for a big dinner. Most places don't serve dinner after 9pm, but we found one good place did. We took a taxi back to hostel and finished off the day.
Day 3 - Fort William RetreatMonday 4.5.2009
We got up and ate breakfast. After that, we still found that it was rainly, worse than the day before. Therefore, Haru and I were not very keen to get ourselves thoroughly soaked. We decided NOT to go into the mountain. We walk out to Fort William, visiting Ben Nevis Distillery. bought a couple of whiskies.
Still rainy, we had a lunch in Fort William. Hanging around, we boarded 5:30pm train for Glasgow. Before we left, we could still not see the top of Ben Nevis at all from Fort William. My conclusion is that, Ben Nevis, like most of UK summits can't be seen when looking from the bottom and the bottom can't be seen once you are on the top.
We arrived at Glasgow at 10pm. Then we had a late dinner in Bella Italia, being the only customers in the restaurant at the last hour. Finally we boarded our prebooked Caledonian train at 11:45pm (£32 p/p, reclined seat) for London
Day 4 - Back to OfficeTuesday 5.5.2009
We arrived at London 6:37am. I still managed to go home to have a shower and a further short nap before going to work at 9am. Certainly, it was a very tiring day of work. But it's worth it coz we just finished climbing the UK highest summit and saved time by taking overnight train.