Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete Scramble
Route Summary: One of the UK’s classic mountain walks.
One of the UK’s classic mountain walks.
|19.43 km||1552 m||Allow 8 hours or more|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Start and Finish: North Face Car Park near Torlundy
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Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete Scramble Route Map and GPX DownloadDownload file for GPS
Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete Scramble Details
The CMD Arete is the classic hill walker’s ascent of Ben Nevis that should be on every mountain walker’s tick list along side Crib Goch, The Snowdon Horseshoe and Striding Edge up Helvellyn. It never gets harder than a Grade 1 scramble, with enough exposure to add excitement. The setting is also second to none, high above Coire Leis with the North Face of Ben Nevis absolutely dominating the view. The scale is simply so much larger than some of the other classic UK Scrambles, something quite fitting considering that you’re climbing the UK’s tallest mountain.
Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete Route Description
The CMD Arete can be started either from Glen Nevis – easier logistically as it’s easier to get to – or from the North Face Car Park near Torlundy just outside Fort William. We’ve gone for the North Face route – but the alternative start via the Mountain Track from Glen Nevis can be found here.
1 The route starts off on the North Face Trail, a way-marked footpath that takes you from the North Face Car Park to the open hillside at NN147 751. It’s a good track for this initial 1.6km section, and ends at a gate that marks the start of the wilder section of path.
2 The track is still excellent by Highland standards, as anyone who’s walked one of the less popular Munros would agree. You’ll only be on this path into Coire Leis for a few 100m before a boggier and fainter path brings you into the territory more usual of the Munro bagger. This section up towards Carn Beag Dearg is a steep slog. You’ll need to be hill fit, or you’ll be stopping with calf burn every 5 minutes. While you head towards Carn Beag Dearg, the path eventually veers right in order to hit the ridge further south and nearer the summit of Carn Dearg Meadhonach.
3 The first summit of the day is Carn Dearg Meadhonach and at 1152 metres high is still a Munro Top, you’ll be lucky enough to bag two Munros on this epic route today. It’s not far now and a final pull brings you up to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg, Scotland’s 9th highest Munro.
4 From Carn Mor Dearg, the CMD Arête curves elegantly across the headwall of Coire Leis, the perfect approach to the summit of Ben Nevis. It’s a majestic setting, with views across to the North Face on one side and the Aonachs to the other. That’s not to mention the scrambling along the CMD’s airy crest. As far as how difficult the CMD Arête is, it’s not for beginners. However, if you’ve cut your teeth on the usual scrambles on the Edges of the Lake District (Sharp, Swirrall and Striding Edges for those who need to know) or the Classic Snowdonia scrambles over Crib Goch, Tryfan and Bristly Ridge – then the CMD shouldn’t pose a problem. We found it to be less exposed than Crib Goch (by far) and less technical and sustained than the North Ridge of Tryfan – making it an absolutely perfect ridge traverse in our opinion!
5 You’ll find no navigational problems as you cross the CMD Arete – just keep to the crest. You will soon arrive at a bealach with an abseil point (you don’t need to abseil!) The CMD Arete continues for part of the ascent up Ben Nevis for a final section of scrambling, with some exposed sections. Beyond this, the route deteriorates into a free for all over boulders and a path through the scree, much less fun and certainly not as elegant as the perfection that preceded it.
6 The Summit of Ben Nevis is eventually reached, and despite being secondary to the CMD Arete on this route, is still worthy of celebration as the highest point in the country. Views stretch out in all directions, slightly curtailed by the summit plateau. At 1345 Metres high, you’re over 100m higher than the next highest mountain and that difference is quite obvious as you look down on the surrounding Munros. The Aonachs to the east with the distinctive Grey Corries beyond and the Mamores across Glen Nevis which house another of Scotland’s classic scrambles – The Ring of Steall.
7 Care is needed to find your way down the Mountain Track, with the first section difficult to find in mist.
According to Walk up Ben Nevis – in order to navigate off the summit in mist you’ll need to :
Take a GRID bearing of 231° and follow it for 150m
Take a GRID bearing of 282° and follow it – you should meet the track (if not be on it already)
NOTE – this is for information only and you should not rely on this information. If you have the required skill, you should be able to take these bearings yourself by using the map once you’re on the summit but it’s handy to note them down as well. The rear of the Harvey BMC mountain map has details on this and some compass skill reminders.
Once on the Mountain Track, continue on it until you reach Lochan Meall an t-Suide.
8 From Lochan Meall an t-Suide continue initially north, as opposed to following the Mountain Track to Fort William (though that’s an option if you suspect the Allt a’ Mhuilinn is in spate). You can choose to stay on the path and walk via Coire Leis and the CMC hut back to the start. Or, for the more adventurous you can hurl yourself directly down the hillside to cross the Allt a’ Mhuilinn at the point of choosing. Seasoned Munro baggers will probably go for this one, as a river crossing and a few bogs of some description is practically mandatory on any bagging excursion.
9 Safely on the Coire Leis path again – you can follow this easily enough to return to the start of the walk satisfied that you’ve just completed one of the very best mountain walks in the UK.