The Big Four
Spean Bridge – Fort William Via The Big 4 (Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis.)
We are in Spean Bridge was where we were let down with the bothy and could not get hold of the owner and had to sleep in the Railway station. The trains were going through all night and a railway worker spotted us and said we could stay he opened the waiting room but said be gone by 0600, good man. It was an interesting wander early from the huge Leanachan Forest. I wonder what my Mum and Dad would have said if they had known we slept in the Station? How we needed a wash the last on was at Strath Connon a few days ago, we look fairly battered like tramps!
We passed the old dismantled railway in the forest and then onto the open slopes of Aonach Mor no Ski are in these days but just a huge plod up open cliffs which were to became a favourite climbing area in the years to come. It was a big day these 4 hills and a must as they are all over 4000 feet. The summit was easy to find but huge snow fields still remained and we wandered along the ridge Aonach Beag is a better looking peak guarded by crags and a place where only a few venture to climb in winter . The North East Ridge is a great day in summer or winter but defended by the long walk in. We were going well we had a day off coming in Fort William with showers etc. From here you can see the huge North East Face of Ben Nevis and the next hill Carn Mor Dearg.
As we dropped back down to the huge beleach the views of The Grey Corries and the wild hills in a 360 degree panorama and many hills that we were to climb on our way to Ben Lomond. The weather was great and the descent to the Beleach to Carn Mor Dearg was easy on huge fingers of snow. This is a tricky area in bad weather but not today. It is very steep onto Carn Mor Dearg and the views of the huge North Face of Ben Nevis is incredible. There was still plenty of snow and after the grind up onto the ridge the summit was an airy walk. This is a favourite day The Carn Mor Dearg Arete to Ben Nevis an airy scramble in winter and a place to concentrate as the great North East Buttress and Brenva Face dominate the walk.
I love this area and was to climb so many routes on this huge Alpine Face on winter Courses in the future. Bob Run, Cresta, Frostbite, and of course the North East Buttress great days and wonderful adventures, and rarely meet any other climbers. The ridge drops to the beleach and the old Abseil post ( now removed) gave a steep descent into the huge Coir Leis in winter a place to take care as the snow can be alpine hard. The Abseil post were built by the RAF Kinloss Team under John Hinde after a spate of terrible accidents to walkers descending into the Corrie. From here it is about 1000 feet ( 300 metres) through the summit screes and boulders to the summit Here we met out first people since we started the walk on the hill.
We were very unsociable which I apologise for and had a great break on the summit. The Mamores our next hill looked snowless and this great ridge with it summits radiating from the summits looked incredible as did Glencoe and beyond but the view to the west were wild. Jim and Paul followed me along the edge of the great cliffs, huge cornices still defended the climbs and as the weather was good we just followed the well-worn path down to the Red Burn. In these days there were many accidents on the Ben and the famous 5 finger gully took a toll every winter. Even nowadays the summit plateau should not be underestimated it is wild place in bad weather and in the years to come I was to learn that on many occasions. I tripped on the way down and wrenched my knee it was very sore and swollen and the constant descent is hard on the knees no walking poles in these days to take the brunt of the weight.
We wandered to our bothy and a day off we were staying at the ATC hut in the town and made ourselves at home and then down to the swimming pool for a shower and a swim. My knee was really swollen by now but I had a day off tomorrow so hopefully it would calm down. It was then change and out for a meal and the famous Jacobite pub with its constant bell to announce closing time. We were exhausted but would enjoy this day off and try to recover for a huge day on the Mamores the next day. I still felt rough something was not right.
Distance 16.5 miles and 7500 feet of ascent – Paul and Jim going very well magic day with light bags and the chance of a shower at the end and maybe washing our clothes.
Today’s Munros 4 – Consolidated Munros 39