Ben Nevis via Ledge Route and CMD Arête

24 July 2011

17 km/1715 m/09:00 hrs

Most of July had been quite bad weather-wise, and the only time I had been out walking was a weekend mid-month when I went to Kinlochewe to meet some (non-hillwalking) friends from Germany. Heavy rain and flooding put me off any pathless walking, so all I did was the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail, because that is the only walk I know in that area that follows an engineered path and is therefore not boggy!

But towards the end of the month the weather suddenly improved, an area of high pressure had settled over Scotland and a mini-heatwave had arrived. On my first day off, I packed my rucksack and camping gear and drove down to Fort William. I wanted to take advantage of the fantastic weather to do some scrambling routes, one of them being the Ledge Route that I had done the first time in 2007 and that I’d been wanting to do again ever since.

When I arrived at the North Face Car Park in Torlundy at 10:30, it was already full and I could just squeeze my car in a small space beside some trees.

The Allt a’ Mhuilinn track is well signposted and leads up through the forest, and when the path emerges from the trees, Fort William, Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil become visible.

On the Allt a’ Mhuilinn path.

Carn Dearg Buttress, Castle Ridge on the right.

When I got to the CIC hut, I turned right and climbed up the rock slabs beside the hut’s water supply pipe.

Coire na Ciste.

There is a well-trodden path on the right hand side of the stream, as this is one of the descent routes for climbers who go up the various routes on the North Face.

A group of walkers on the Ledge Route.

The path peters out between some large boulders on the approach to Lochan Coire na Ciste.

I made the short detour to the lochan, but it seemed a bit dried out and somewhat smaller than I remembered it.

Comb Buttress.

From the lochan, I walked across the steep slope to the grassy platform on top of Moonlight Gully Buttress.

The start of the Ledge Route (top right).

A narrow path leads around No. Five Gully (the route can also be started from the bottom of this gully) and across the stream.

The path crossing the stream.

In the meantime, two other walkers had arrived on Moonlight Gully Buttress and were taking a break.

I sat down beside the large boulder at the start of the Ledge Route, and had a lunch break as well.


From here, the views in all directions were impressive – Tower Ridge to the South:

Coire Leis with Carn Mòr Dearg on the left.

The Allt a’ Mhuilinn and Torlundy.

At this point, the scrambling starts with some large blocks to negotiate at first.

Looking down to the start of the ridge.

Castle Ridge.

Shortly after the start of the ridge, the route goes along the top of a “wall” (centre of picture) and seemingly comes to a dead-end. Although it is possible to jump off the end (easy for people with longer legs than me!), I decided to walk a couple of metres back along the wall and descend easily to the N side.

Carn Dearg Meadhonach and Carn Mòr Dearg on the other side of Coire Leis.

Higher up, the ridge becomes wider, but the scrambling is still very pleasant.

When I approached the end of the ridge, a helicopter arrived, landed on the summit of Ben Nevis and left a short while later.

From the summit of Carn Dearg, I walked along the edge of the cliffs towards the summit of Ben Nevis.

Looking back to the upper part of the Ledge Route.

View to Loch Leven, with the helicopter leaving.

Approaching the summit.

View back along the plateau to Carn Dearg.

My ascent route seen from the summit plateau.

The summit area was busy as usual (not surprising on a perfect day like this), so I didn’t hang around but made my way across the plateau towards the descent to the CMD Arête.

The Ring of Steall.

Steall Meadows and An Steall, zoomed.

The Mamores.

The start of the Arête.

Coire Leis.

The middle part of the Arête.

Looking back to the start.

Near the summit of Carn Mòr Dearg.

From the summit of CMD, I walked towards Carn Dearg Meadhonach for a few hundred metres.

Looking back to the summit of CMD.

When the terrain changed from stony to grassy, I dropped down to the left of the ridge to locate the path that leads down to the Allt a’ Mhuillin track at an easy angle.

Looking across Loch Linnhe and Fort William, Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe on the left.

When I arrived at the path down in the glen, I sat down to eat the last of my sandwiches, but immediately got attacked by midges (I had thought I would be safe because there was a light breeze). So it was a quick walk back to the car park instead.

Last look at The Ben…

I arrived at the Glen Nevis Campsite a few minutes before 21:00, thankfully the shop was still open because I was desperate for some cold drinks. I checked in, pitched my tent, had something to eat and went to bed straight away.

It had been a great day with warm, sunny weather and fantastic views. In my opinion this circuit is the best way (for non-rock climbers) to climb Ben Nevis. Both routes are easy scrambles (Grade 1), the route finding is straightforward and they should be well within the abilities of any hillwalker with a head for heights, who doesn’t have a problem with a level of exposure. However, so far I have only tried the approach that I described above, the start from the bottom of No. Five Gully is supposed to be slightly more difficult.

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10 thoughts on “Ben Nevis via Ledge Route and CMD Arête

  1. Thanks for that.Brought back memories of an ascent in the late 80`s but not with the stunning weather that accompanied your ascent.!
    It`s been a rotten summer so far.So bad in fact that I`m already looking forward to winter 🙂

    • Hi Alex,

      Many thanks for your comment! You are right about this “summer”, the only spells of several good days in a row were the last week in April and the last one in July…

      Had a quick look at your blog, I will read it all when I get the time as you have some interesting trip reports about the hills “down South” which I haven’t even started yet – too far away for day trips. But next year I am planning to explore these areas 🙂

  2. Thanks for this nice Tour-Report. I was saying some days ago, that I don’t walk on to Ben Nevis…….. but the Ledge Route and Carn Mor Dearg Arete is something, I’ve to think about.

    • Oh, if you didn’t go up Ben Nevis, you would really miss out!

      Although I said that this circuit is the best way to do Ben Nevis (for non-climbers), I must admit that on one occasion I even enjoyed the tourist route very much – it was a perfect day in November, with wall-to-wall sunshine and a fresh cover of snow… 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing! I hope to go there on June 30, 2014, on my birthday. 🙂 I just love your pictures and I’m truly glad you had such nice weather!
    I’m taking on the WHW in 2015, and thanks to you I’ll probably do your ascent route.
    Take care and Merry Christmas!

    • Many thanks, that’s great to hear!

      Wishing you good luck with your plans, and that the weather will be at least as good as it was when I did the route 🙂

      Merry Christmas to you too!

  4. Hi, I like you inspirational pictures very much, thanks! Reminds me of our Highland visit last year, Achnasheen, Skye, Ben Nevis … great!

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