Climbing Ben Nevis from the Nevis Gorge (Giubhsachan Valley)

The valley of Allt Coire Giubhsachan, South-East of Ben Nevis

The valley of Allt Coire Giubhsachan, southeast of Ben Nevis

The sun hadn’t risen yet but the sky was clear. The surroundings were lit up by a particularly powerful moonbeam. The frosty grass was crackling under my feet as I walked to the Giubhsachan river. The place was intensely quiet. I looked up at the mountains. The Ben Nevis wasn’t in sight, hidden by the Meall Cumhann hill. Today was going to be a long day.

While the others were still sleeping, I thought about what we had done these last two days. Everything we had done, we’d done on impulse. But now, we were talking about climbing up the highest mountain of the United Kingdom, the legendary Ben Nevis! And we wouldn’t just climb it following a good old official path – there wasn’t any from our location – . We would actually make our own way from the bottom of this cold valley all the way to the top of this big rock.

When the others woke up, we discussed our plan. The weather was perfect: blue sky, no wind, not too cold. But I had often heard about people being rescued on Ben Nevis, and I knew we would have to be cautious because the weather can change very quickly in Scotland, and we didn’t know what the forecast was for the day. Even though we weren’t very confident, we agreed to do this exciting challenge!

We left our campsite when the sun was rising. It was the weirdest sunrise I had ever experienced. The first rays of sunlight spread a bright redish color all over the place, creating a surreal atmosphere in the valley. For a moment, I wondered if I had gone color-blind during the night!

Lonely rock in the valleyWe started walking in this colorful landscape following a stream. After a while, we ended up in the valley of Allt Coire Giubhsachan, south east of Ben Nevis. In front of us stood the famous Carn Mor Dearg Arete. The top of Ben Nevis was still hidden. The place was very strange. The bottom of the valley was wide and completely flat, when we were already around 400 meters high. I really liked that walk in the valley.

The sun was high when we saw the summit of Ben Nevis for the first time. It looked so far away, as if to discourage us. The face of the CMD arete was definitely too steep to climb with our backpacks, so we decided to climb the ridge south of Ben Nevis straight to its top. It took us a while. The grass was slippery but was at the same time our only hold to move forward on the slope.

When I finally reached the top, the beauty of the area struck me. I spent some time admiring the mountains in a peaceful silence. The atmosphere brought strong uplifting feelings inside of me, feelings that I don’t think I had ever felt before.

On the edge of North Face, looking North WestThe summit of Ben Nevis was now clearly in sight but was still so far. I kept considering that menacing clouds could appear all of a sudden from behind the mountain. We spent the last hour and a half making our way through a field of rocks. It was extremely exhausting and seemed endless, but I knew we would be on the top within a few minutes.

And finally, here I was immensely happy, on the top of the highest mountain of the UK!

The shortest way to Fort William from the top was probably the Pony Track (tourist track) that we followed for what seemed to be… days. It wasn’t a very interesting path but at least it was safe and there was no way we could get lost.

After a stop near lake Meall, we finally reached Fort William, and celebrated our achievement in an old local pub. The craziest trek you’ve ever done needs some serious celebration and, I remember now, we had an awesome flat-party that night in Glasgow!

Incredible color of the grass during the sunrise! We felt like we were on Mars! Serious!

Unbelievable color of the grass during the sunrise! We felt like we were on Mars! Serious!

Behind this hill... the Ben Nevis!

Behind this hill… the Ben Nevis!

Lonely rock in the valley

The valley of Allt Coire Giubhsachan, South-East of Ben Nevis

The valley of Allt Coire Giubhsachan, South-East of Ben Nevis

Making our way to the col between Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg, exhausting!

Making our way to the col between Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg, exhausting!

Looking over my shoulder, I can see the Nevis Gorge far away!

Looking over my shoulder, I can see the Nevis Gorge far away!

View from the col

View from the col between Nevis and the CMD arete

South-eastern face of Ben Nevis, a view on the Mamores

South-eastern face of Ben Nevis, a view on the Mamores. Right in the middle of the picture is Stob Coire a’ Chàirn, a Munro we climbed the day before, and next to it, the ridge of An Gearanach.

The landscape was so beautiful that it looked unreal.

The landscape was so beautiful that it looked unreal.

The Mamores from the top of Ben Nevis

The Mamores from the top of Ben Nevis

The top of Ben Nevis. Surprising!

The top of Ben Nevis. Surprising!

On the edge of North Face, looking North West

On the edge of the North face, looking North West

A team climbing Ben Nevis

A team climbing Ben Nevis from the East face of Carn Dearg

Memorable break at the lake Lochan Meall

Memorable break at Lochan Meall

Welcomed by a flock of sheep at the end of the Pony Track

Welcomed by a flock of sheep at the end of the Pony Track

Fort William, a lovely town.

Fort William, a lovely town.

On the way back to Glasgow, wonderful sunset from the train.

On the way back to Glasgow, wonderful sunset from the train.

This is the third day of a three days trek.

First day: What the Aonach Eagach ridge taught me

– Second day : A day in the Mamore mountain

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67 Responses to Climbing Ben Nevis from the Nevis Gorge (Giubhsachan Valley)

  1. Superb and unusual photos there and great to see someone devise their own route up The Ben instead of just following the crowds. The Pony Track is exceedingly long and boring as you found on your descent. I was on Meall Cumhann which you camped near on Saturday and it was the best viewpoint I’ve ever found in that area!
    Carol.

  2. epicurienne says:

    Wow, you had great weather for your Ben Nevis adventure! The day I climbed Ben Nevis it was really cloudy once we reached the summit, and icy cold until we reached the plateau on the way down. It’s nice to see your photos of the sun and blue sky.

    • I’ve heard the top is in the clouds 90% of the time, so yes, I was very lucky :). Then I don’t know, at what time of the year did you climb it? I wasn’t as lucky as that on my second climb but we had a sunny spell during a few minutes though!

  3. Jon Maiden says:

    Another great post with excellent photography to bring it to life. I did the arete from Carn Dearg in zero visibility a few months back. Looking at your photos, its a good job I couldn’t see the drops!

    • Wow really? When was it? When I climbed Nevis for the first time I was like “there’s no way we can do the CMD, it’s just too narrow”. But a few months later, here I was, doing the CMD in February with very poor visibility. I was pretty afraid of getting lost and fall from the east face of Nevis during the last ascent section though. I will post about it sometime later :) Thanks for sharing your feelings!

      • Jon Maiden says:

        It was last October. I can totally understand you’re worry about getting lost on the east face. We faced similar difficulties. Several hours of scrambling over huge boulders just going “up” but without any discernible end point in site! All worked out well in the end though – and it was great preparation for Crib Goch! I’m still plucking up the courage for Aonach Eagach though. This sounds like it has the worst exposure of all…

  4. janeluriephotography says:

    Excellent post and great photos! Thanks for visiting my blog.

  5. Jack Brewis says:

    Stunning article. And I am just around the corner and still waiting to pull my finger and get up there. Thank you so much. Awesome.

  6. Nice pics. Especially liked the good lighting you captured in a select few. Also found the rock cairns interesting. In my explorations along various river canyons I have found similar stone piles in off beaten places that were put there by the ancients. These simple forms of communication stand testimony to us humans need to connect – and quite amazing how far we have come. From rocks to blogging.

    • Orel Di Angelo says:

      Hi there! These cairns here have been made so people wouldn’t get lost in the fog and kill themselves falling from the cliffs, for the top of Ben Nevis is very flat so it’s very dangerous when it’s cloudy. The cairns show the way to the West side of the mountain and the main path to the village.

  7. Chirag Desai says:

    I would like to go to this place some day for sure…:)
    Thanks for sharing..

  8. Craig says:

    Beautiful photos.

  9. Great post, amazing photos!

  10. Christian says:

    As Alex said: “this definitely made me want to trek in Scotland.”

  11. schietree says:

    Make me homesick for the Highlands…Arthur’s Seat does not quite compare.

    Thanks for the likes over on my blog by the way. I’m going to be coming back here for the gorgeous photos and descriptions.

    • Hey thanks! Arthur’s Seat is great. That’s the reason why I love Edimbra :). I’d be so glad to have such a mountain where I live now. It provides such a good place to walk during week ends, and you can even do nice scrambling on some of it’s faces :D

  12. jschraft71 says:

    Your photos are stunning and you are a true writer! I love the way you have with words!

  13. beautiful photos, and it sounds like a great experience. I am much older, hoping the break into my 2nd childhood soon ( rather than midlife crises!) I have told my husband that we would walk Hadrian’s Wall one day! let me know if you get there!
    thanks for visiting my blog, I am sure I will learn more about the world following yours!

    • Climbing Ben Nevis from the “Tourist track” is not hard. It’s just long. If you feel too tired before you reach the top, you’ll still have a great view on Loch Meall! So if ou ever end up in Fort William by a sunny day I recommend you try that!

      I’ve never been to the South of Scotland, although I really wanted to. If you go please make a post about it!

  14. Anonymous says:

    You got a good day for Ben Nevis! :-) We did too when we did it in June 2010.

    I’ve added you onto Asda and Jaspers blog roll.
    and here’s my wordpress which you might find interesting (the hike bit anyway).

    Feel free to add them onto your blog roll, if you would like to. :-)

  15. Cabbie Notes says:

    Congratulations on climbing Ben Nevis! The view of the surrounding area looks stunning.

  16. cocomino says:

    What a great view!

  17. jcreore says:

    I’m really sorry I never made it to that area. It is so beautiful as you have photographed it. Great narrative.

  18. mailynh says:

    i’m repeating the same sentiment- BEAUTIFUL photos :)
    i really like the photo of the grass at sunrise, definitely Mars

  19. Bas says:

    Awesome trip and an awesome report Orel.

  20. Pat Bean says:

    Thanks for taking me alone.

  21. Admin Chennai Focus says:

    Orel, The pictures awed me. I could see nature at its best. Thanks for liking my post. Ever been to Himalayas?

  22. McEff says:

    Excellent stuff, Orel. I’ve tried twice to climb the Ben from the arete side but have never had good weather. Great pictures.

  23. ladyfi says:

    Wow – what spectacular shots! I can feel the pure beauty of the place.

  24. tricia says:

    HI Orel thanks for your visit to my Ukweatherbrief blog and for leaving a comment….will dash to read it in a mo …….fabulous blog and the pics are divine did you find any prehistoric cup and ring markings on that solitary rock you have pictured on this blog?
    Fort William is beautiful and I must visit again sometime, but in the meantime I can come and view your piccies……….ab fab…thanks for sharing

    • Orel Engel says:

      Thanks tricia! Unfortunately I didn’t find any antic artifact! It would have been awesome. I spent only few hours in Fort William and I was exhausted. The distillery is planned for next time.

  25. great read! beautiful pics!!!

  26. megasian says:

    such wonderful photographs. I hope to one day visit these locations…but for now, your blog is the go-to place! Thanks

  27. beingouthere says:

    Maybe the best of all your posts narrative-wise! …and your pictures are stunning as usual.
    Loved the ones with the sunrise on “mars”, the break at Lochal Meall, the team climbing of Ben Nevis from the East face of Carn Dearg and the surprising Top of Ben Nevis. Thanks for the post!

  28. awesome pics and great adventure

  29. I felt like I was there. Very nice.

  30. K says:

    Wow, I didn’t know that you took such wonderful photos! Also, props on mountain climbing. (I would be complaining about how tired I would be, but I suppose the climb is worth the view.) Great job!

  31. Debra Kolkka says:

    What amazing photos of a beautiful place.

  32. Your photos are breathtaking! After reading your blog post, I’m putting this on a list of things I want to do in my lifetime. Thanks for the post!

  33. mzsura says:

    Wow, awesome pictures!

  34. Ed says:

    Amazing shots, 25 years ago I may have tried that trek but not now..:-))

  35. elizabethre says:

    “When I finally reached the top, the beauty of the area struck me. I spent some time admiring the mountains in a peaceful silence. The atmosphere brought strong uplifting feelings inside of me,”

    That’s exactly how I feel whenever I head up/through the north of Scotland. Your photos are stunning. Great post.

  36. Eric Murtaugh says:

    Rad.

  37. Anonymous says:

    makes me hunger for the highlands and I’ve never been. Very stunning photographs.

  38. lynnannetteadams says:

    beautiful!

  39. Looks great, Orel. Twenty years ago (where did the time go?) I attempted to climb Ben Nevis from Fort William, and ended up in thick fog and darkness. I don’t think I reached the top, but it was hard to tell where I was. I certainly didn’t get shots like yours!

    (And thanks for visiting my blog too!)

    • Orel Engel says:

      I know I’ve been very lucky with the weather! I heard that the summit is in the fog 90% of the time usually! And actually my second ascent which will be the subject of another post was in the fog. Aw but too bad you weren’t lucky. Hopefully, you’ll be able to try it again.

  40. Alex G. says:

    It was never on my radar before, but this definitely made me want to trek in Scotland.

  41. A great post, Orel! You were blessed with exceptional weather, and you made the most of it with your wonderful photos. Looking forward to more in the future,
    Paul

  42. Sanjana says:

    Wow! Your pictures gave me goose-bumps! (either that or I’m falling sick and the air-conditioning is going to kill me :P)

    But wow! Looks like an amazing experience! :)

  43. Superbes photos. La liberté existe encore ;)

  44. redjim99 says:

    Brilliant, I love this area, hope to be there sometime this year.

    Jim

  45. myVelleity says:

    Beautifully documented, and an extraordinary summit!

  46. xandimusic says:

    These photos are amazing! I love climbing too :)

  47. Pingback: What the Aonach Eagach ridge taught me | Backcountry Tranquility

  48. Pingback: A day in the Mamore mountains | Backcountry Tranquility

  49. These photos are stunning! what an amazing looking adventure!
    (:

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