Ben Nevis CMD arete: tips for novices

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 Uncle Salty 30 Apr 2021

Hi all

Done a few big hills in the past but looking to climb The Ben after a long hiatus before I get too old as I’ve turned 50 this year. My fitness is not bad through cycling so I think I can cope with the physical aspect albeit at a steady pace. Would have done this sooner but life got in the way etc. I would only contemplate doing this when a nice big area of high pressure is sitting over Western Scotland, so weather won’t be a concern.

Thing is, I’m not a massive fan of precipitous heights though I’m also aware the CMD isn’t as knife edged as Crib Goch for example. I’ve thought about starting from the NF car park at Torlundy, walking up to the CIC hut then following the NF path around the Castle to join up with the Pony/Tourist Track at the halfway Lochan & up to the summit from there but tbh the main draw of the arete for me is the views of the Ben from up there. The views are great from the bottom of the cliffs at CIC but even better from the ridge I think?

So, I’ve been studying YouTube etc and it seems there is a bypass path off the CMD ridge line if I don’t fancy the top of it?

Just wondered how constant this path is & whether anyone else with similar trepidation regarding cliff edges has done it?

In reply to Uncle Salty:

I did this a while ago, about this time of year. We took the route from NF carpark. The ridge, as you've mentioned, is not super thin; you're not tight rope walking along a knife edge. The bit I'd be concerned about is when you leave the ridge. You're on a snowfield. When we did it, the snow was kinda slushy and granular. We had axes and could kick steps easily, but a slip would have been exciting. We made sure that we kept a decent distance from the north face edge, as we went up the snow. No doubt someone will come along and say we strayed off route, and there is a good path, but that was my experience of the route.

 daWalt 30 Apr 2021
In reply to Uncle Salty:

the majority of the CMD is essentially a narrow path between and across the rocks; unless you deliberately scramble over bits you really don't need to scramble over. so it doesn't have a by-pass as such. if you stick to the easiest line you only occasionally "need" to put your hands on the rock, [everyone's needs are different ].

it's obviously a bit difficult to gauge someone else's disposition, but if you mean "not a massive fan" how I interoperate it - you should be fine. the exposure isn't that bad, it's as good a ridge as any to give it a go.

personally, I'd be tempted to do your route the other way round and go clockwise, break off from the path early and ascend Carn Beag Dearg. this is the more common choice, however if you go anticlockwise you can enjoy the view from Carn Mor Dearg knowing all the difficulties are over.

good luck with the weather

 peppermill 30 Apr 2021
In reply to Uncle Salty:

CMD is one of my favourite walks, and in my opinion the best way up Ben Nevis without going directly up the north face. Compare it to the tedious trudge up the main path and it feels like a completely different mountain.

Some bits are exposed but you can avoid these easily enough, and again in my opinion it's pushing it a bit to call it a scramble.

It is however, a suprisingly long day with a seemingly never ending slog of an uphill to get to the main ridge. I've seen people turn back at the start of the rocky section due to poor fitness and just being knackered. 

As long as you have a decent fitness level you'll be fine, just hope for a clear day and it will be awesome!

 DizzyVizion 30 Apr 2021
In reply to Uncle Salty:

It's a great day out. Just go for it - the dangers are minimal. Just one small unavoidable section about 3/4 of the way along which isn't really anything to worry about Tbh. You're lucky if it's 4 metres in length at its worst point. 


In reply to Uncle Salty:

Absolute best way to do it is to book into the CIC hut once it reopens.  Day one, up to the CIC hut, day two up CMD and back down the tourist path to the CIC (descending CMD is a bit awkward and not to me very enjoyable), day three back down to civilisation.  One of the few almost "Alpine hillwalking" experiences to be had in the UK.

Post edited at 10:42
 DaveHK 30 Apr 2021
In reply to Uncle Salty:

The ridge is not as exposed as some others and the rock is generally pretty grippy. The bypass path might still involve a bit of hands on scrambling but it is much less exposed than the crest. The bypass is pretty obvious and generally lies about 10m below the crest on the south east / east side of the ridge.

 peppermill 30 Apr 2021
In reply to Neil Williams:

I like the sounds of that!

In reply to the OP again, an absolutely cracking couple of days in the area is to do the Ring of Steall (very straightforward just another long day), camp or stay somewhere and then CMD the next or whichever way round you prefer. 

In reply to Uncle Salty:

Are you the same person who was asking about snowdon for their blog, under a different screen name? 

 Uncle Salty 30 Apr 2021

Hi again all, thank you for the replies

All sounds pretty positive to me so I think I’ll be going for it, whilst stacking the chips in my favour as much as possible. As said, not climbed any serious hills for a while but I’m fairly fit, even so, I realise I need to kick on & up the ante now if I’m serious about doing this and get up a few local hills numerous times to build up hill fitness between now and July/Aug/Sept (I can’t be doing with any of that snowy nonsense so will be picking the best times to hopefully avoid it) then it’s just a case of waiting for settled Western Scotland (lol).

To clarify, yes if doing the CMD I would initially be going up the apparently boggy path to the ridge at Carn Beag Dearg & not climbing up the incredibly steep slope straight up from the CIC hut. CIC was only mentioned if I was walking up to it, then from there taking the North Face path around to meet the tourist route at the halfway lochan if I bottled doing the arete

 BuzyG 30 Apr 2021
In reply to Uncle Salty:

Go for it. Like you the Ben was right up there on my bucket list from the day I first set eyes on it, cycling home from John O groats in 1980.  It was another 36 years before I was able to returned aged 54.  You should be fine with the routes up from North Face car park.  It's a long old day for the less young to return to the mountains on.  But it's is so worth the effort.

There is a Trip report on my day from 2016 here, for any one interested.  Including the route I took up on to the Arete.

 Uncle Salty 30 Apr 2021
In reply to BuzyG:

That’s a minor epic trip report, fair play to you going up solo in poor weather & that looks a seriously steep climb up onto the arete from there, more so in your mid-fifties!

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