During my recent highland hillwalking holiday the weather forecast was looking good so I decided to go for my 3rd ascent of Ben Nevis. The "tourist " route that most people go for is a long trudge up a well worn path which is always very popular in the summer months. For those who want to see parts of the mountain away from the numbers there is a better way.
Start from the car park at Torlundy, a couple of miles north of Fort William. I arrived just as darkness disappeared, ready for an early start. There had been an overnight frost and it was pretty baltic but cold, clear nights usually herald great days.
I soon began to warm up as I followed a well constructed path through the woods. The north face of Ben Nevis is it's most impressive feature and I soon got my first views as the path left the woods and ascended beside the Allt a Mhuilin,the river that flows beside Nevis' north face.
An added bonus of doing the Ben this way is that you first have to climb it's neighbour, Carn Mor Dearg. At 1220 metres this is the 9th highest hill in Scotland (and the UK) although it is somewhat overshadowed by it's massive companion. It is a superb viewpoint and in the calm, clear conditions I enjoyed it gives magnificent views of Nevis' cliffs. The next part of the day is where things get exciting - the Carn Mor Dearg arete, an exposed ridge which involves some pleasant scrambling.
You are soon across and after a scramble up a steep boulder field you come upon the most surreal part of the day. Up until this point I had seen three people all day but I suddenly found myself among scores of people on the summit plateau.
After having my lunch, drinking in the sensational views from the 1344 metres highest point in the country and queuing to get my photo taken on the summit cairn it was becoming a bit chilly and time to descend. This involves heading down the tourist path for an hour or so, passing the hundreds of people dragging themselves to the summit.
The UK'S highest point attracts many people unaccustomed to hillwalking. Some of the outfits I saw made me wince. On an unusually dry, calm and clear day this wasn't a big problem. The next day I was climbing two neighbouring hills, it was snowing down to 750 metres and blowing a gale. My Rohan gear kept me warm and dry. I was grateful that I wasn't wearing some of the outfits that I had seen the previous day.
I was soon able to get away from the crowds and cut across the glen to rejoin my ascent route and follow it back to the days start.
A brilliant day.
Layering is of course the key to success. My top half was merino union baselayer, Phase top, Micrgrid zip and Mistral jacket. My bottom half were Fjell trousers - my new favourite Rohan trousers! I had Ecco boots with Ascent socks and a Tilley hat. I also had microrib gloves, merino union hat and necktube which were on and off all day ( as was the Micrgrid zip) as I got hot or cold.
In my rucksack ( thankfully unneeded) was an Icepack jacket and my wet weather gear - Elite jacket and trousers and waterproof gloves.
(I was also wearing core silver boxers!)
Ian Shop Manager
Rohan St Andrews