Scottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UKScottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UK
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CMD Arete leading up to the Ben.
CMD Arete Map Photos
The traverse of the CMD (Carn Mor Dearg) Arete, combined with an ascent of Ben Nevis, makes for a classic mountaineering day. Once established on the ridge, there are no good escape routes. The views of the north face of the Ben are breath-taking.
Area: Central Highlands
Grade: Winter I   what does that mean?
Total Distance: 15 km
Total Ascent: 1650 m
Time: 8 hours
  • Ordnance Survey Landranger 1:50,000 Sheet 41
  • Ordnance Survey Explorer 392 1:25,000
  • Harvey Superwalker Ben Nevis Map 1:25,000
  • Avalanche hazard: Relatively safe.
    Avalanche Forecast area: Lochaber   more
    Tips: Over recent years, the Ben has been the place to be later in the season when the extra altitude results in good snow cover. The longer days don't hurt either, given the length of the route.
    Alternatives: The CMD arete can be reached from the Aonach Mor gondola via the Carn Dearg Meadhonach route.

    Park at the North Face car park, which is inconspicuously signposted from the A82 at Torlundy.

    Grid Reference NN144764.


    Follow the continuation of the road for about 100 m until you reach a path on your right, signposted 'Allt A Mhuilinn path'. Follow this path for another 100 m at which point a cross-roads is reached. Take the path on the left, which climbs uphill through the trees. A fork is reached after about twenty minutes; follow the left branch until another fork is reached soon afterwards. This time take the right branch and follow it to a forest road. Walk up the road to a higher car park where a stile leads to the Allt A Mhuilinn path.

    Carn Dearg Meadhonach 

    About 750 m (distance) beyond the higher car park, leave the Allt A Mhuilinn path and pick up an indistinct path on your left, which slants southtwest up the mountainside and skirts the minor top of Carn Beag Dearg to gain the ridge below the summit of Carn Dearg Meadhonach. Watch out for large cornices that form on the left (north) side of the ridge. Continue up to reach the large summit cairn.

    CMD Arête 

    Press on to the the next summit - Carn Mor Mor Dearg. Beyond is the start of the CMD (Carn Mor Dearg) Arête. The ridge is normally wide enough to walk comfortably, although there are a few steps where hands may be required. The ridge sweeps round, flattening briefly at the col at the head of Coire Leis (there is a metal abseil marker here) before starting its relentless rise to the Ben.

    Ben Nevis 

    From the col, follow the ridge upwards towards the summit of the Ben, giving wide berth to the edge on your right. When the ridge widens, head NW towards the summit. The summit is unmistakable because it is topped by a large shelter.


    WarningNavigation on Ben Nevis is notoriously difficult. In bad visibility, it is vital that you follow the detailed directions given below. A detailed summit map can be found here.

    Summit Map

    Follow the standard descent procedure:

  • Follow a bearing of 231° for 140 m (distance) from the summit shelter.
  • Then follow a bearing of 282° for 2 km to clear all difficulties.
  • Head north towards the 'half-way lochan' (Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe).
  • Return 

    Shortly before you reach the half-way lochan, pick up the path which heads north initially and then traverses the foot of Carn Dearg. Leave this path when it starts to turn northeast and continue in a northerly direction to meet the Allt a Mhuilinn.

    Follow the bank of the Allt a Mhuilinn to a bridge a couple of hundred metres beyond the higher car park (i.e. downstream of it). Cross the bridge and pick follow the route you took on the ascent back to the North Face car park.

    Alternative Descent 

    In good visibility and snow conditions, it is possible to descend from the summit of Ben Nevis via No. 4 Gully. To do this, follow a grid bearing of 231° for 140 m (distance) from the summit shelter, as per the normal descent descibed above. Continue along the rim, giving extra-wide berth to the incut gullies until you reach the top of No.4 gully, which is marked by a metal post with the number 4 in it. If the cornice is impassable or the snow conditions are not as good as you thought, head back along the rim and follow the the normal descent route via the half-way lochan.

    The descent of No. 4 is steep at first and it's best to face in to down-climb. However, it soon eases off and leads to a wide bay.

    Descend to the CIC hut and walk back along the Allt A Mhuilinn.

    © 2007