We use cookies to track usage and preferences. See Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
   You are currently viewing the United Kingdom version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Digital Subscriptions >  Latest Articles > An introduction to Winter maountaineering - Ben Nevis

An introduction to Winter maountaineering - Ben Nevis
Trek & Mountain Magazine

An introduction to Winter maountaineering - Ben Nevis

Posted 20 May 2015   |   932 views   |   Leisure Interest   |   Comments (0) British Mountain Guide James Thacker describes some of the routes, ridges and faces of Ben Nevis that aspiring winter climbers could find themselves on in their early forays on the mountain...

Ben Nevis needs little in the way of introduction, being the highest mountain in the UK at 1344m above sea level. The winter climbing jewel in Scotland’s crown is an obvious target for winter warriors from around the world; with some of the highest cliffs in the UK and deep corries rising directly out of the sea, Ben Nevis suffers from savage weather producing some of the best ice anywhere. The complex nature of our biggest mountain means that there are always new and interesting routes to be discovered, many of which are hidden gems. With a ‘mini alpine’ scale, the mountain has a hefty history to match, having been the scene of ground-breaking routes for well over 100 years.

The unique ‘snow ice’ – or nev? – found on ‘The Ben’ is created when the moisture from the sea plates itself onto the mountain, making it rightly famous for not only ‘thin face’ climbing at the higher grades, but many classic routes which can be heavily plastered in the white stuff in good conditions.

The sheer scale of the mountain defines many people’s early visits to Ben Nevis – it simply feels bigger and better than anywhere you may have been before. What follows here is an attempt to describe some of the different areas and routes for those early visits to the mountain.
In good visibility the Carn Mor Dearg Arete (CMD to many) simply gives a superb view of the action. Here, late on in the season with plenty of daylight, the classic traverse (grade I) to the summit of Ben Nevis can be enjoyed with ample opportunity to see folk shivering in the shade of the North Face. Conditions vary considerably, but a good, consolidated snow cover is best for making rapid progress – rather than an early season dusting of fresh powder.

Most parties start from the North Face carpark, making an ascent over Carn Dearg Meadhonach and Carn Mor Dearg and onto Ben Nevis. Another hidden gem of the area is the East Spur of Carn Dearg Meadhonach which gives a wild and isolated ascent of grade I/II. This does have the advantage of being accessible from the Nevis Range gondola, giving a slightly different start to the lengthy traverse. But be warned it is long to carry onto the summit of Ben Nevis itself and will require favourable conditions. For the lucky it does give one of the finest big days out in Lochaber. Also worth noting is the nature of the final climb to the summit of Ben Nevis. This slope can be icy, and careful cramponing will pay signi cant dividends here as you are all too close to the sickening drop of the Little Brenva Face.
Like many climbers, my first visits to Ben Nevis were to climb the famous Great Ridges of North East Buttress, Observatory Buttress, Tower Ridge and Castle Ridge. Every one of the Great Ridges have different attributes, but all share the common theme of being long and commiting routes, their grades only telling part of the story.

My first foray onto this historic terrain was an attempt (you guessed it... it didn’t go well) on Tower Ridge.

Starting early from the outskirts of Fort William, we made good progress towards the Douglas Boulder – apart from getting lost in the golf course, now thankfully avoided by the North Face carpark. Pleased with our efforts to be ahead of the crowds we climbed quickly upwards, only to find a tricky ice pitch. Eventually we negotiated the impasse only to find ourselves at the back of a massive queue. Route finding is an essential skill on such a big mountain and we were forced to descend having been taught our first lessons – check the route descriptions and start even earlier! We had been overtaken by lots of parties while taking our slightly more direct line.

A couple of years later on a quiet day I climbed Tower Ridge for the first time with James Edwards in good conditions. The 600m ridge took a fraction of the time but the bottlenecks and multiple tricky sections were all too evident. All the big ridges remain a significant mountaineering challenge and still see their fair share of benightments, not to mention rescues by Lochaber MRT. Before attempting these mammoth lines it’s essential to have mastered a range of rope techniques.

Read the full article in the FREE sample issue of Trek & Mountain only at pocketmags here: http://bit.ly/1e9eTeO

For more great articles like this get the February 2014 issue of Trek & Mountain Magazine below or subscribe and save.

Single Issue - Jan-Feb 18 Replica Edition included
Or 399 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only £ 2.92 per issue
Or 3499 points
Monthly Digital Subscription
Only £ 2.99 per issue
Or 299 points

View Issues

About Trek & Mountain Magazine

Trek & Mountain is aimed at trekkers and mountaineers of all levels, and features the world’s most spectacular mountain regions in every issue. Our experts give you vital information on which routes to choose, what equipment to buy and what techniques and knowledge you need to safely achieve your objectives. Whatever you dream, our aim is to help you ‘reach your peak’.

More great content like this...

For more great articles like this subscribe to Trek & Mountain Magazine today.

Most read articles this month

Failsafe  fingering

Failsafe fingering

In answer to a reader’s question, Graham Fitch addresses the complex subject of how to find fingering that works for you More...
Christmas Gifts for Her

Christmas Gifts for Her

Stuck for gift ideas for the lovely lady in your life? The Pocketmags team have pooled all their best ideas for gifts for her this Christmas. Get ready to earn some serious brownie points! More...
Christmas Gifts for Him

Christmas Gifts for Him

Why are men so hard to buy for?! If you're looking for gift ideas for the deserving gent in your life, look no further; the Pocketmags team have found some amazing gifts for him this Christmas. Boring socks begone! More...
Lift your  chances

Lift your chances

Be ready for your sixty-second chance to shine with Adrian Magson’s pitch correction More...


Nashville songwriter Mark Cawley shares some tactics for reviving those elusive creative juices when you’ve lost the flow More...
Baking Heaven's Banoffee Loaf

Baking Heaven's Banoffee Loaf

Brought to you by Baking Heaven, this Banoffee Loaf is just the sweet treat you're looking for. It's sure-fire family hit, here’s how to make the most of this delicious Banoffee Loaf... More...
3 Free Reads for the New Year

3 Free Reads for the New Year

Spend all your money in December? Us too. We’ve pulled together our 3 favourite free reads available for you on Pocketmags. Everyone loves a free read! More...
Great British Food's Pomegranate & Chocolate Cake

Great British Food's Pomegranate & Chocolate Cake

If you visit Morocco in autumn you will notice fresh pomegranates wherever you go. The beautiful seeds are eaten after a meal, squeezed for a refreshing drink, or scattered, jewel like, over sweet and savoury dishes. This fantastic cake uses tangy pomegranate molasses in the base and the vibrant ruby red seeds are scattered over the top to add a pop of colour and refreshing bite. More...
Did your ancestor leave a will?

Did your ancestor leave a will?

For non-family historians, the appeal of a long-lost relative’s will is that they might find themselves a beneficiary. But for us, wills can provide an invaluable collection of names, relationships and clues to family members from times gone by. June Terrington examines this rich collection of records More...
Glasgow Museums’ collection  of Anchor Line posters

Glasgow Museums’ collection of Anchor Line posters

Emily Malcolm, Curator of Transport & Technology, explores a colourful collection of historic travel posters, which convey the excitement of world travel in years gone by More...
Vouchers Gift Cards A magazine subscription is the perfect gift but you'll need something to show on the big day. View All
Ways to Pay Pocketmags Payment Types
At Pocketmags you get Secure Billing Great Offers HTML Reader Gifting options Loyalty Points