Gaelic obscure, 'ugly mountain', 'Venemous Mountain' or Neamb Bhathais = 'cloud capped mountain'. The latter seems most likely!
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK and at over 4400 ft it is no surprise to find that Ben Nevis can be a very busy place.
Most walkers will use the heavily engineered " tourist route " which labours up the badly eroded western slopes for four miles to the summit. This route requires little description as the path which commences at the youth hostel is obvious all the way to the top. It goes without saying that the engineered path becomes a very poor guide when covered in 12 inches of snow in which case the walker must be competent in navigation techniques in poor visibility.
For the serious walker I'll describe a more demanding route which is not only more strenuous but much more spectacular.
In winter conditions, unless you are an experienced winter climber with
winter equipment, you should not attempt this route as escape is very difficult.
Even in summer, if visibility is bad on the summit it is easy to get into trouble as the path, once lost, is not easily found.
Cross the bridge opposite the youth hostel then follow the path past the information
boards and in a few minutes join the engineered pathway which climbs the hillside to join
a higher path coming from Achintee.
Turn right on this path to climb steeply for about 1.5 miles to a height of about 2000 ft ( NN 147724) where the main path turns sharply to the right and a lochan can be seen on the left.
Turn left here onto an ill-defined path, very wet for a few hundred yards, which contours north then north east around the north shoulder of Carn Dearg before descending south east to the burn (Allt A Mhuilinn) in Corrie Leis.
Cross the burn just below the waterfall at NN164727 then test you're knees in a steep climb of about 1700 ft in just over half a mile to achieve the Carn Dearg Meachonach ridge at about NN 173729.
The Carn Dearg Meachonach top (3845 ft) to the south-east is your next goal en route to Carn Mor Dearg, the main summit on the ridge and a a Munro at just under 4000 ft. (distance walked=five miles).
Below you in Corrie Leis you can see the mountain rescue hut with its little wind-power turbine system - the rescue hut itself giving a clue as to the possible conditions here in winter.
Whilst you get your breath back you can admire the magnificent views of the gully's and
buttresses of the north-east facing cliffs of Ben Nevis.
You also get a bird's-eye view of the CMD ridge, not quite a razor edge but sufficiently so to allow you the luxury of a little vertigo.
Head south from Carn Mor Dearg to begin the walk along the CMD ridge. The descent to the ridge requires a little care but once on the ridge a faint track on the left allows you to bypass the more difficult or exposed stretches. At the lowest point in the ridge just before the climb up the south shoulder of Ben Nevis, a noticeboard indicates the presence of belay posts at 60 ft intervals which provide an escape route for a roping down in severe or icy conditions.
The Old Observatory and a memorial can now be visited at the summit, the highest point in the UK.
From the summit head south-west for about 60 yards then west on the " tourist path '' formed of rubble and marked by large stones.
In poor visibility this path may be hard to find and good navigation skills are essential. The summit is surrounded by steep cliffs and gullys which should be avoided at all costs.
In misty conditions and with snow covering the path, very careful navigation can be required to steer a course between Gardyloo Gully and Five Finger Gully. Follow a bearing of 231 degrees for 150 metres, and then a bearing of 281 degrees, as described in the safety leaflet, to pass the most dangerous section.
After about 0.25 miles the tourist path descends by a series of zig-zags. There is a great temptation to "short cut" the zigzags but the surface is very badly eroded and a twisted ankle is not desirable at this stage. Follow the zigzags to reach eventually the point where you left the tourist path at the lochan. The heavily engineered tourist path now makes for easy if steep going all the way back to the youth hostel.
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