Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Nevis Range, May 2010
We arrived in Glen Nevis in the dark, and parked in the lay by opposite the Youth Hostel. A long parade of night walkers were processing along the path up the lower flank of Ben Nevis, and we could see their headlamps bobbing in a line across the hillside. We found a spot beside the Water of Nevis, made camp and a fire there.
After a bit of faffing around in the morning we left the car at the end of the road in Glen Nevis, and set off up the path in to the steep sided gorge leading in to the upper glen. Over the course of this gorge the River Nevis loses significant height and the tumbling water roars around its walls.
A wire bridge crosses the water to a climbing hut managed by Lochaber Mountaineering Club.
We followed the glen between the rough flanks of the Grey Corries and Mamores ridge lines.
Never far from the meanders of first the Water of Nevis and then Abhainn Rath (which I think means River of the Fort, or some such thing) we walked through bog and heather, collecting as much bog wood as we could along way, until we met Alt na Lairige flowing in from the north. Turning North we headed in the direction of the Lairig Leacach bothy.
The bothy was empty when we arrived and we made ourselves at home. We had collected a fair amount of bog wood and this soon began a good blaze in the blackened iron stove.
After not too long another pair of backpackers arrived to share the bothy space. It is a small bothy, but would comfortably accommodate a good number of people in a squeeze. We fed the fire until the supply of bog wood ran out and then went to sleep, with alarms set for an early start in the morning.
Danny and I awoke before the other bothy dwellers. In order not to cause disturbance we packed up and left to cook breakfast some way along the climb up the burn toward the our first summit, Stob Ban (White Peak).
The Grey Corries ridge is so called for its quartzite slabs and screes of many shades of grey, and today these grey tones continued across the sky.
Stob Choire Claurigh has a breathtaking summit at 1177m, and from here we could see the frozen white dome of the Cairngorms in the distance to the east.
The whole of the Grey Corries ridge was below the cloud and we could see the way stretched out ahead. As we proceeded along the ridge the clouds moved around the highest peaks further to the west, the Aonachs, Cairn Mo Dearg and Ben Nevis, occasionally separating to reveal even these summits.
The main body of the Grey Corries ridge after Stob Choire Claurigh reaches a number of summits as it heads west.
Stob a Choire Leith, Stob Coire Cath na Sine, Caisteil, Stob Coire an Laiogh, Sgurr Choinnich Mor and Sgurr Choinnich Beag were crossed before we made a high camp for the night on the coll between Sgurr Choinnich Beag and Stob Coire Bhealaich.
It was an airy campsite and when the clouds parted the views were magnificent. The icy pyramid of Binnein Mor just across the glen and the notched ridge of Aonach Eagach in the distance made particularly striking sights.
The next day began with a steep scramble up the east face of Stob Choire Bhealaich, a rocky offshoot from the ridge of Aonach Beag and Aonach Mor.
After hand railing the impressive cliffs of An Aghaidh Garbh, we soon began to climb the snowy slope of Aonach Beag. The Gaelic name of this mountain translates to 'Small Ridge', although it is in fact the higher of the two side-by-side peaks. Aonach Mor (guess what that what means) is in fact the lower of the two mountains by a clear 13 meters (according to the OS). I suspect this proves the point I've read made elsewhere that mountains were 'named from below', as the impression of Aonach Mor is far mightier fro ma distance due to the whale back ridge that carves the horizon from so many directions.
From Aonach Beag we carried on over to the summit of Aonach Mor.
After retracing our steps to the col between the two summits we made our way down steep scraggy slopes on the east of the ridge. My nay saying of Danny's route finding down the crags was completely unfounded and we were soon sat huddled behind a rock, at the base of the east ridge of Can Mor Dearg for a brew before starting the next ascent.
The sharp eastern ridge of Carn Mor Dearg was an exposed and airy scramble.
From the pointed summit of Cairn Mor Dearg the Northern cliffs of Ben Nevis look staggering. From this direction the mountain looks like it deserves the awesome reputation it has gained as simply for being the highest of the Scottish peaks. Other mountains are rockier and more complex overall, and from the Glen Nevis side Ben Nevis does little to compete with the likes of An Teallach and Liathach, or the Cuillin of Skye (appearing as just a lump of a hill, with no interesting features). But approached via the Arete that joins the pointy summit of Carn Mor Dearg to the upper eastern slopes of 'The Ben', Ben Nevis is a fantastic experience. I would encourage anybody of able body to approach from this direction, which can still be achieved from a starting point in Glen Nevis.
After an easy scramble along the Arete we climbed boulder strewn eastern slopes to the summit of Ben Nevis.
This mountain spends most of its days and nights with its head in the clouds. But we were lucky, and occasionally these parted to reveal the highland skyline.
After walking down the 'Tourist Route', and drinking our fill at the Nevis Inn, we made our way to the head of Glen Nevis.
I can't remember much more about that night...
...But i'm pretty sure a good time was had by all!