I was out with father and daughter Barry and Rita today with aspirations of traversing the Carn Mor Dearg Arete in winter conditions on our way up Ben Nevis. It was a stunning morning with blue skies and alpine lookig summits. This would mean for some thawing snow, but if we were lucky we might beat the clouds and rain that were forecast for later.
We made our way up the long climb towards Carn Mor Dearg enjoying the amazing views of the North Face of Ben Nevis as we weaved our way between the snow patches. Once established on the upper slopes we were walking through deeper drifts of snow and more continuous snow cover. It was definitely a thawing snowpack so the going was hard in places and sadly as we arrived on the ridge the cloud did too so the views were gone, but it was still bright with the sun reflected off the snow.
We made the decision to put on our crampons and get the ice axes out so that we could refresh some skills on our way up Carn Mor Dearg in preparation for the arête. There were plenty of other walkers heading up some for the full traverse and others just to Carn Mor Dearg. As we reached the summit the cairn was barely visible in the snowpack and there was a significant overhang and bulge immediately to the east that looked higher (a common occurrence this winter). There was a relatively sheltered spot for a drink and a photograph where we discussed how we were feeling as progress had slowed significantly on the final climb to the summit. Our decision was to head back down rather than cross the arête as the climb had taken its toll and conditions weren’t that pleasant as some rain began to fall.
The return journey was good fun as we emerged from the clouds in time to enjoy some dramatic views of the cornices along the ridge before striding down the snow fields to find a sunny spot for lunch. Everyone was happy with our decisions and as we descended the clouds were engulfing the summits as the wind switched to an easterly direction. It didn’t take us too long to regain the Allt a’Mhuillin path back down to the North Face car park and the rain held off until we were back at the cars.
It was a good day out and even though we had to change our plans it worked out for the best. This is the second winter adventure I’ve had on Ben Nevis with Barry so maybe third time lucky?!