CMD Arete, or Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête to give it it's full title, is one of the finest ridge walks in the country.
The route we take starts at the North Face car park and follows the path towards the CIC Hut for a little way before breaking away up the flanks of Càrn Mòr Dearg. The views for this first half of the day are simply breath-taking as we look across to the immense crags of the North Face of Ben Nevis.
For keen hill walkers who want a bit of extra challenge in their day and to bag an extra Munro along the way, this is one to go for. It adds an extra hour or two to the day, a couple hundred extra metres of ascent, as well as some delightfully exposed walking and easy scrambling. It's not for novices, but if you're looking for a more challenging walk up Ben Nevis, this is the one for you.
Càrn Mòr Dearg translates to big red pile of rocks. It sounds a lot better in Gaelic! Càrn is a cairn or a pile of rocks, Mòr is big and Dearg is red. Have a listen to the sound file on Walkhighlands to learn how to pronounce it properly. When you look across from Ben Nevis it really is very clearly red and rocky. The granite that the rocks are composed of is beautifully red and fine grained, making it a delight to walk over. It stays clean and grippy, there is very little moss and not very much lichen, so it makes for fantastic walking. Once you have completed the narrow sections of the ridge at the head of Coire Leis and the ridge broadens out, you cross from granite to the black andesite of Ben Nevis.
From the summit of Càrn Mòr Dearg we descend onto the arete and scramble our way across until we are on Ben Nevis itself. The scrambling consists of moving around and over big blocks of granite. It is always quite simple but it certainly requires good balance, the use of hands and arms to help you around the blocks, and always with long steep slopes dropping away on both sides. A good head for heights is useful, or the ability to block out the view down the sides of the ridge! It is certainly not simple walking, but it is very far from rock climbing. Scrambling is what we call the stuff between walking and climbing and this is simple scrambling.
Today was a pretty good day for a traverse of CMD Arete. It was dry and clear on Càrn Mòr Dearg, and just a bit misty on the summit of Ben Nevis. Hannah and Terry got a nice early start and got around to Ben Nevis smoothly and efficiently. John and Will did the same not long afterwards, with camping gear for Will to spend the night up next to the Allt a'Mhuilinn to relax afterwards. The descent follows the top half of the Mountain Track then cuts across country past Lochain Meall an t'Suidhe to re-join the original path back to the car park.
So, if you want to see the most spectacular side of Ben Nevis and enjoy an extra challenge to reach the summit, go for Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête. It is easily one of the finest ridges in the country.
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