Fort William 2018

A longer trip with some bigger hikes.

7 days ― March 2018

Part 1: Ledge route and CMD Arete

Back to Scotland for our Second trip of 2018. We’d decided on a longer stay to allow more days out - though in retrospect probably shouldn’t have chosen two very long days to start the trip.

Day 1 - Ledge route, returning via CMD Arete #

Of the various climbs up Ben Nevis, the Ledge route seemed to be good and varied, and not too too technical. For good measure, we’d return via the CMD Arete.

looking down a snowy hill with low grey clouds. Ed is off to one side walking up towards the camera.
Photo by Chris Natt.
Some large rocky hills near Ben Nevis. They’re covered in snow and ice, and you can just make out small coloured figures dotted around them - people climbing the ice.
The you see the climbers?

As you near Ben Nevis, the sheer scale scale of it starts to hit.

Chris before base of Ben Nevis. He’s got a climbing rope on and axe on the back of his bag, and he’s using a walking pole to point up at the summit.
The Improbable Pedestal at the start of the ledge route. A tall, top-heavy rock stood apart from the mountainside.
The Improbable Pedestal
A group of climbers on hands and feet climbing the ledge route.

It’s hard to capture the scale of a mountain and the precariousness of a ridge in a photo. Suffice to say it’s steep, and you try not to look down too much.

Ed climbing up the side of the Ledge route in very white conditions
Photo by Chris Natt.

At the summit, we could breath easily - though the visibility got much worse. We lost sight of the other climbers who were on our route, thus we were alone for the remainder of the day. Now we can say we’ve climbed Ben Nevis.

The emergency hut at the top of Ben Nevis. It’s covered in lots of snow, so only a patch of the top of the doorway is visible. There’s low visibility so it looks somewhat ghostly.

We’d read enough horror stories about getting lost on the summit to know you need to take good bearings or risk walking off the edge. From the trig point near the hut we set off with 5m visibility towards where we hoped the CMD would be.

Chris at the start of the CMD Arete, going down. It’s very snowy with low visibility. The ridge is only just visible.
Chris on the CMD Arete. It’s a near whiteout so you can only just see the rock-face in the middle.
A wide shot at dusk looking up a snowy hill. A figure (Ed) in the distance can be seen waving an ice axe.
Photo by Chris Natt.

Part 2: Ring of Steall

Day 2 #

Buoyed by our ascent of Ben Nevis, we decided on an even longer route for the next day - the Ring of Steall in the Mamores. We set off early, but in retrospect should have set off far earlier.

The initiall ascent was damp and never ending. Always forward, always up. No one in sight. Did we really want to do this?

Ed climbing a snowy and grassy mountainside. In the far distance the brown base of the valley can be seen with a river running through the middle.
Photo by Chris Natt.
Ed ascending towards the camera. There’s several large boulders partially covered in snow to the right.
Photo by Chris Natt.
Chris walking ahead up a snowy mountain - there’s low visibility and a few flakes of snow in the air.

As we cleared the bulk of the initial ascent, a new, hidden world was revealed to us. Still and calm and very white. We could see across the valley to our return path - so very far away.

A low contrast view of several snowy ridges.
A snowy ridge recedes in to the distance. There’s very little visibility so it’s hard to see where the sky and ground connect.
A portrait photo of Chris and Ed on top of a snowy mountain, with several other snowy summits visible behind.
Chris walking ahead of camera, with several snowy mountains ahead of him.
Ed far in the distance facing the camera. He’s waving his axe over his head at the camera.
Photo by Chris Natt.

After our first summit we crossed the Devil’s ridge - a long corniced bulk of snow. Time was pressing, and we were still only 1/3 around the route.

Chris walking along the Devil’s ridge towards the camera. He’s on one side of a sharp snowy ridge.

After doing 2/3 of the route, we were short on time and the going got much icier. A steep and tricky descent of Am Bodach tired us out, and we decided to bail off of the route and in to the bowl for an easier return.

Chris descending in to the bowl of the Ring of Steall. It’s later in the day and the sun is low in the sky. The bowl is already in shadow. There’s a small windy stream at the base of the bowl.
A panorama taken from the bowl of the Ring of Steall at dusk. The sky is still bright with dramatic clouds, but the mountains and ground around are getting dark.

In the end, the bowl return was likely slower than our original plan. It wasn’t technically hard, but went on forever. We quickly lost the light and settled in for a long walk back to the car.

Chris a way ahead descending a snowy mountain after dusk.
Chris crossing a rope bridge over a river, coming towards the camera. It’s pitch black, and he’s got a headtorch to lead the way.

Part 3: Aonach Mòr

Day 3 - Rest day #

A pleasant walk around the Glenfinnan viaduct and postal museum.

The Glenfinnan viaduct seen from the side.

Day 4 - Aonach Mòr #

After a rest day we both found ourselves still straigned from our first two days’ adventures. For an easy final day I took the lift up to Aonach Mòr and had a wander over to Aonach Beag

A small wooden shelter on a snowy mountainside with deep blue sky.
Three sets of footprints rise out from the snow. They’re compressed bits of snow, and the surrounding snow has eroded away.
Footprints in the snow.
Two climbing bags lean against each other - deserted on a snowy plateau.
A snowy cornice seen from the side.
A lone cross country skier on an otherwise flat and snowy plateau.
Looking towards the Ben Nevis. In the foreground, the CMD arete can be seen snaking down and across the frame.
Ben Nevis and the CMD arete.

The CMD arete looking very different in sunlight than just two days before.

A high zoom photo looking towards a section of the CMD arete on a sunny day. Tiny figures can be seen descending it.
Looking far south over the horizon from Aonach Mòr. There’s a low cloud inversion, so just the tops of various mountains can be seen.
A panorama taken from Aonach Mòr looking towards Ben Nevis. The sky is sunny and deep blue, and there’s a cloud inversion, so the ground isn’t visible.

Day 5 - Dalmore #

Looking side on to a small boat on stilts out of water.
Looking across a wide lake on a grey day. In the distance is a small industrial boat. The water has regular horizontal dark bands - like a barcode - caused by ripples from a passing boat.