Glen Nevis Jan 11-14th 2024

On Thursday the 11th of January Derek W, Gavin M and Dave M drove north to Glen Nevis. The traffic was light, the six-wheeler breakfast at Truckstop 74 was great but most of all the weather forecast and snow conditions were expected to deliver over the whole weekend. The hostel was modern and comfortable, with plenty of space to plan our next few days of winter mountaineering. Derek had brought dinner and Dave's cider helped it along so a pleasant evening was guaranteed.

Friday morning was an 8 o'clock start. Crossing the footbridge outside of the hostel it was just about dawn and the temperature was evidently below zero. On our way up the tourist path to Ben Nevis the path conditions became very treacherous with clear ice covering most of the paving stones and substantial amounts of ice in pools on and across the path where the previous rain had run off. This meant slow and extremely careful progress until reaching the Lochan at 600m. There was evidence of an incident from the previous evening when someone had, unbeknown to us at this time, taken a fall and had to be airlifted from higher up the hillside.

The original plan was to climb by the Carn Mor Dearg (CMD) Arete, however, the ice conditions and the damp cloud layer which was causing the problem prompted a change of intention. We continued our ascent on the main path with the aim of reaching the summit of Ben Nevis before the cloud lifted.

When above the cloud the whole world opened up. There was only a slight breeze and stunning views in every direction. The hard snow was easy to walk on and the condition of the path was now largely dry so crampons were not needed for the ascent.

The final part of the ascent was a real pleasure, very much in contrast to the start of the day. There were a few other people on the summit but it was relatively quiet. The cloud layer below the inversion was gradually rising and the CMD Arete was mostly obscured so our modified descent route retraced the path to the Lochan and then headed north east into the Allt a Mhuilinn where we would meet the CIC hut path and walk down to the north face car park and Torlundy. The untracked terrain was heathery moorland but frozen solid so easier and safer than descending the stone steps.

Into the cloud again and the stones became icy. Our initial, planned route up to the CMD Arete branched off from the Allt a Mhuilinn and was totally obscured by cloud. The path down, however, was good to follow and we made good time to Torlundy where we could get a bus which ran all the way through to the hostel at Glen Nevis. The bus schedule was not the easiest to understand. Different schooldays and combinations of celestial events mean that buses on the same route may run at different times. We eventually got home.

Another good meal, another look at the weather forecast and our plan for Saturday was confirmed as the circuit of Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean. Another 8am start, arriving at the Achriabhach car park at dawn and heading up a good track then onto a well signposted path towards the first summit. It was cold but the path was mostly grassy, therefore there were no difficult problems with ice.

Towards the top of the ascent to the main ridge there is a short craggy scramble. This provided some winter and technical entertainment without terror so was a good fun section. Stob Ban is briefly outlying from the main route of the traverse so rucksacks were left on the ridge when making the ascent to the summit. The condition of the snow was great and the cloud, as forecast, was above our level but covering the tops of the higher mountains.

The rest of the ridge towards Mullach nan Coirean was pleasant to walk along and on firm neve. With good visibilty it was simple to navigate and our route was easy to see from the ridge. The final descent from Mullach nan Coirean was down the northeast ridge which was not so steep as anticipated and with only a few patches of ice.

The route was completed by 3pm which was perfect timing as the cloud had now reached the tops and light rain was beginning to fall.

Sunday, the final day and an opportunity for a swift visit to Coire nan Lochan. The walk-in from car park to the Coire was approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. Steep going, mostly on a good path but ice in places which could sometimes be tricky to negotiate. Crampons were used for ascent after approximately 650m.

The snow and ice conditions in the Coire were, at this time, excellent. Good hard neve and well consolidated throughout. There were other climbers and groups of walkers but it was not uncomfortably busy. Our intention was to climb Broad Gully, however, with several climbers already there a simpler and quicker route was adopted. Several short, not so steep slopes to the north of Pinnacle Buttress were ideal as an introduction to acending steeper, snow covered terrain.

The slope was quickly climbed, our rucksacks left at the base of the slope. A quick, early lunch was taken afterwards and descent to the car park to get away before the snow showers arrived.

The journey home was in good traffic again. Wintery weather had arrived in places although no problems were encountered and the A66 was clear.

Thanks to Gavin and Derek for coming along. It was a quick and brilliant weekend in Scotland, spontaneously arranged after a chat at the climbing wall and great value in every possible way. We're looking forward to more this season. Fingers crossed for the weather!

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Looks like you had a great time.

  2. Unbelievably jealous! Amazing conditions, well in chaps.

Leave a Reply