How to Hike the Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg Arête
Hiking Trail Name: Carn Mor Dearg Arête
Distance: 11.2 miles (loop trail)
Total Climb: 1,542m (5,059 feet)
Time: 7-8 hours
What is the Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg Arête?
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland, and indeed the highest peak in the UK. Many hikers aim to bag this summit to officially claim the rites of conquering the highest peak in the British Isles. Many walkers choose to ascend the “Pony Track”. However, for more experienced hikers there’s the Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg Arête.
This hike links the two mountains of Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg by a narrow ridge known as an arête. An arête is formed when two glaciers rub shoulders, eroding away the rock. When the ice melts, all that’s left is a sinewy ridge with sheer edges.
It’s this feature that makes arêtes so exciting for hikers. It’s an opportunity to summit a peak, whilst following possibly the most dangerous, yet most scenic route to the top. With bogs, rocky scrambles, and two Munros, the trail is an ambitious but rewarding undertaking.
How to reach the Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg Arête?
As with most routes up Ben Nevis, the best way to access the trails are from the town of Fort William. Hikers can reach this town by train, bus, or car from cities across Scotland and England.
The Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg Arête trail isn’t as easy to access as the Pony Track. It starts slightly north of Fort William, along the A82 road. The North Face car park near the hamlet of Torlundy acts as the trailhead. If you need to use public transport, catch a local bus to Torlundy then walk to the car park.
How to Navigate on the Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg Arête?
The trail begins with a winding climb on the approach to the North Face of Ben Nevis. The boulder field gradually narrows, shifting to a scramble as you begin climbing the arête. The trail tapers further and the exposure increases dramatically as you cross the steep ridge.
The arête will then lead right to the summit of Ben Nevis. However, this is only half of the battle. From here, you will follow the Pony Track before shortly branching off. You will then take the route alongside Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe where the trail can disappear into a featureless mire.
It’s here where navigation skills are imperative to ensure you don’t get lost. There are also a few river crossings that should not be attempted if the river is swollen. The route will then take you back to the car park where you started completing the loop. Read more about “Navigating when hiking in the UK”
This trail should only be attempted by experienced hikers and those who have a good range of mountaineering skills. Technical climbing isn’t necessary, but any knowledge can’t hurt to handle the Grade 1 scramble. Orienteering may be required to traverse the bogs and reading the landscape and weather conditions will be instrumental to a successful ascent.
In addition to reading the land, hikers will have to scramble across the Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg Arête. This involves navigating a steep field of scree using your hands and feet before clambering across the arête. This is a trail that’s both physically demanding and mentally taxing. Hikers with a broad range of mountain experience and some technical climbing skillset will fare the best.
Recommended Kit List
The Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg Arête trail may require additional equipment compared to your regular hike. Due to boggy sections, it’s likely you will be submerged in mud and water at some point on the trail.
During these moments, gaiters are particularly effective. If you combine them with waterproof hiking boots and trousers, they can keep the worst of the water off. Clip the gaiters over your boots and fasten them below your knee to keep your feet dry when you’re trudging through the bogs.
This route can get very icy and snowy. Crampons may be a good addition to your kit list to help you maintain balance on slippery sections. You may also feel more comfortable wearing a helmet during the scrambling section to provide protection from falling rocks.
In addition to this, hiking poles are useful for providing stability during the steep sections. However, some hikers do emphasise the importance of having your hands free while scrambling. Ultimately, choose whatever gear you’re most comfortable and confident with.
Food & Drink
This is going to be a taxing trail with a high level of intensity. A good supply of snacks is important to keep you fuelled and focused on the Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg Arête. First off, ensure you carry enough water for the day. Isotonic drinks are a good idea to keep your electrolytes topped up.
Due to all the scrambling and bog navigating, you’re going to be burning energy fast. High-calorie food snacks are important to maintain functionality. Protein bars, nuts, nut butters, and trail bars all fall into this category.
You can go into your nearby camping store to buy snacks specially designed for extreme hikes and rock climbing. They will be packed with all sorts of nutrients necessary for conquering this trail.
Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg Arête Bonus Tips
As expected, the footfall on this trail is relatively low due to its difficulty and more challenging accessibility. Plan everything you need on the trail and make sure you can be self-sufficient as there are no toilet or food facilities.
As with many hikes, attempts should not be made during poor weather. However, in the case of the Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg Arête, this is more applicable than usual. Due to the dangerous scramble section and the navigational nightmare of the marsh, attempts should not be made on days with poor visibility. Mist, cloud, rain, and snow can all impair your vision and make this hike much riskier than it needs to be!