We’d been hoping to do this route for about a year, we’d even put aside a birthday weekend and recruited friends to join us about a month ago but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that the weather and free-time aligned.
Amazingly our friends were also free, so we met at the North Face car park just before 8am, after a horrible-o’clock alarm and a very misty drive. We set off through the cloudy woodland at around 8.15am and were soon rewarded by emerging above the clouds and the view the cloud inversion through the trees.
We headed up the glen to the CIC hut on the excellent path, with the north face of Ben Nevis shrouded in cloud above us. We had a rest and a sandwich before attacking the steep scree and grass that takes you towards the foot of the Carn Dearg Buttress, into the mouth of Number Five gully and the start of Ledge Route. We began this 450m Grade 1/2 scramble by climbing up what seemed to be a very rocky stream before turning off right up an extremely wet and slippery slab. This required a lot of care, was rather scary and made me a little apprehensive of what was to come if this was just the start!
However, this was definitely the hardest part and the rest of the route was wonderful! The four of us moved in and out of the mist, briefly getting glimpses of the towering cliffs around us. It was fabulously atmospheric and we stopped often to absorb our brilliant position on the crest.
The scramble was over all too soon and we emerged at the top near Carn Dearg, so had a fairly long walk over the rocks through the cloud before we came upon the crowds coming up the Tourist Track.
Sadly there were no summit views so we didn’t linger long, but continued on to begin descending the boulder field leading to the ridge connecting to Carn Mor Dearg. Moving down over the boulders wasn’t easy but the clouds began to break and we could suddenly the extent of the surrounding mountains.
The ridge walk is really long and very enjoyable. The rocks and the steepness of the drops down into the coire to our left required a lot of concentration; fortunately we have recently discovered that Tesco’s Finest Triple chocolate cookies make great and uplifting hill snacks, which helped to combat the tiredness!
By the time we were making the ascent up to Carn Mor Dearg, the clouds were gone and we could fully appreciate the entire route we had taken earlier in the day and Chris was able to point out all the other exciting lines that we have to go back and do another day!
We almost thought we’d managed a whole day out in Scotland without any bog, but we found plenty before we joined the path at the bottom of the valley again and I ended up with a very wet bottom!
This is a fabulous day out and was well worth the wait! Looking forward to more ridge walks and scrambling again soon now. Thanks Kirstie and Sam for joining us and to Chris for route-finding in the mist!
Time: 10 hours
Distance: something like 20-ish km or 12.5-ish miles