Scottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UKScottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UK
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Heading towards Carn Mor Dearg.
East spur of Carn Dearg Meadhonach Map Photos
This delightful little route is tucked away in a secluded glen between the busy winter climbing venues of Ben Nevis and Aonach Mor. It takes advantage of the access provided by the Nevis Range gondola to save the legs and maximise the time spent high above the snowline. The highlight of the day is the east spur of Carn Dearg Meadhonach. When viewed in profile from the glen, the three "pronged" spur appears impassable but, in reality, is relatively straightforward.
Area: Central Highlands, just north of Fort William
Grade: Winter II (easy)   what does that mean?
Total Distance: 9.5 km
Total Ascent: 850 m
Time: 5½ hours
  • Ordnance Survey Landranger 1:50,000 Sheet 41
  • Ordnance Survey Explorer 392 1:25,000
  • Harvey Ben Nevis Map 1:25,000
  • Avalanche hazard: The main hazards are on the approach but even here it should be fairly safe unless there has recently been a heavy snowfall.
    Avalanche Forecast area: Lochaber.   more
    Gear: Take a 25-metre rope and some slings.
    Tips: In winter there is a walker/climber's gondola at 8:00 am, whereas the main service commences at 9:30 am. The last gondola down is usually around 4 pm but times vary through the season so it is worth checking opening/closing times with the resort as well as normal operation. Currently, the gondola costs £10.50 for walkers/climbers.
    Alternatives: If you have the time and energy, you could combine this route with the CMD (Carn Mor Dearg) Arete and an ascent of Ben Nevis. Allow at least 2½ hours extra for this and make sure you don't miss the last gondola! Golden Oldie on the west face of Aonach Mor, on the opposite side of the glen, is a popular winter ridge route. It is also grade II but is harder than the east spur of Carn Dearg Meadonach.

    Park at the Nevis Range Ski Resort. This is located on the A82, about 7 km north of Fort William, and the turn-off is clearly sign-posted.

    Buy a walker/climber's ticket which enables you to take the gondola to the top station at 650 m on Aonach Mor.

    Grid Reference NN171773.


    From the gondola station, turn right (WSW) and follow the ski road towards the "Quad" chairlift. From the chairlift, carry on in the same direction towards a minor summit marked on some maps as Meall Beag. Shortly before reaching this summit, you will find a large cairn. Initially head straight down the steep slopes into the glen beyond but then start traversing left (S) across the hillside to minimise the height loss en route to Carn Dearg Meadhonach. The traverse is easier if you follow the natural terraces that seem designed for the purpose.

    East spur of Carn Dearg Meadhonach 

    Eventually the terraces lead you to the floor of the glen. Walk alongside the right (west) bank of the stream for another 700 m, then cross it and start slanting up steep, slabby slopes (possibly icy) to the foot of the east spur of Carn Dearg Meadhonach.

    Ascend the rocky ridge which involves some easy scrambling. The hardest sections are the descents of the first and second "prongs". In both cases, move slighly left (S) of the crest to find the easiest line. The third prong brings you out directly onto the main ridge and the summit of Carn Dearg Meadhonach.

    Escape Route!
    It's not far to the next and final summit of the day - Carn Mor Dearg - but if the weather is really foul, it is possible to head NNE along the main ridge (watch out for cornices on the east side of the ridge) for about 2 km, crossing a lower summit - Carn Beag Dearg - and descend to your right into the glen where you can pick up your tracks back to the gondola.

    Carn Mor Dearg (1220m) 

    From the summit of Carn Dearg Meadhonach, continue in a SSE direction along the main ridge to Carn Mor Dearg. Watch out for large cornices on your left (E).


    From the summit cairn of Carn Mor Dearg, pick up the well-defined ridge heading east. Descend this ridge until you reach the bealach (col) between Carn Mor Dearg and Aonach Mor.


    Head north back down the glen and pick up your tracks back to the gondola. Unfortunately, this means there is some re-ascent to end the day!

    © 2007