The Ben - Again & Again

When Ben @GW4BML and I activated Ben Nevis GM/WS-001 and a few others, one day back in April, Getting Ben on The Ben - REPORT - #30 by MM0EFI I personally had a few reasons for doing so.

  1. Have a good day out with Ben
  2. Finally activate Britain’s highest mountain (via an interesting route)
  3. Complete a recce of the arete and The Ben, looking at old winter snow for an upcoming charity hike on June 5th

Monday 3rd June 2024
Back at work after a week off spent rallying (Jim Clark Rally), SOTA on Minch Moor GM/SS-133 and then a week of setting up and running a hill rally.

Bowler Motors Defenders at The Scottish Summer Hill Rally

I’d been keeping an eye on the Ben Nevis forecast for the past few days. As far back as Thursday the forecast was for three days of snow on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with Wednesday being the planned day for my charity hike. By Monday morning, this forecast hadn’t changed, so it was a certainty.

This news put me into a mild panic. Accommodation had been booked, funds raised and twenty five people had been training. Many had never climbed a Munro. Did I want to let them loose on The Ben in full winter conditions? Also, I had a sub-team (including me) who would be taking on the Carn Mor Dearg arete after dropping off The Ben, then heading up Carn Mor Dearg GM/WS-003. This was now looking doubtful.

A quick scan at my OS maps found a few low level alternative hikes - the last section of the West Highland Way, a yomp up to the CIC mountain hut below the North Face - stuff that was still challenging but safe. I printed and laminated some route maps, emailed the team a pretty frank and stark message, telling them to pack for winter, including ski goggles and asking for volunteers with hill experience to lead groups of people. No one could hike alone. A couple of guys I trust came straight back. To be really certain of conditions, it would have to be seen and I’d need boots on the ground. I’d have to go up.

Tuesday 4th June 2024 - all times BST
I left home at 0620 and headed west over the Lecht, then onto Aviemore, Kingussie, Laggan, Spean Bridge and Fort William. At 0910 I pulled up outside The Ben Nevis Inn and Bunkhouse. This would be home for the next two nights for the group.

home, and a great choice. Smart rooms with kitchens and great food in the bar

The Ben Nevis path starts from the Inn. It starts off fairly smooth and not too steep, but once it passes the path that joins from the Youth Hostel, things become more interesting. The path steepens and becomes pretty strenuous up to Lochan Meall ant-Suidhe, otherwise knows as “The half-way Lochan”, which it isn’t. Because if the tens of thousands of boots that go up and down this path every year, it has been build to sustain heavy traffic. Much of it is blocks of rock and the steeper parts are basically rock staircases. Hard on the feet and the thighs.

the stone path

I’d aimed to get to the Red Burn in an hour. This wasn’t based on any science, I just thought that would be nice. I was five minutes late. Nice fresh water here, so I stopped for a drink and a selfie…

The Red Burn

Onwards to the zig-zags. There are eight hairpins. Each leg is shorter than the previous. It is a long and tedious ascent, although never too steep. As I’d been climbing I’d discarded layers as my body produced heat. At the top of the zig-zags I was wearing just my base layer. That’s when the snow started. On went the mid-layer hooded cardigan and then the waterproof on top of that. The wind picked up, driving snow onto my face and nipping my eyes. Goggle time. Visibility reduced to 20m.

There’s a line of narrow tall cairns that mark the path to the summit. The path was still visible, so I didn’t really need them, however it was apparent that the poor visibility wouldn’t reveal the next cairn until I was 20m past the previous one.

a marker cairn

After a steepening where some lads were playing in the old snow pack, the path levelled off towards the summit. I soon passed close to the top of Tower gully, then Gardyloo Gully. Here there were three cairns in close proximity, guiding walkers around to the left, following the edge of the north face the last 150m to the summit, which really didn’t appear out of the gloom until I was almost on it. It had taken me 2 hours 25 mins to climb Ben Nevis from the bunkhouse.

Ben Nevis GM/WS-001 on a fine Scottish summer day

I had posted an alert for mid-day and it was fast approaching. I screwed the RH-770 into my Yaesu VX-7r, spotted and put a few calls out. I worked three stations, including Steve @MM0XPZ down in Greenock, at 99km and also Neil MM7DIR down in Longridge, at 135km. Tim @G5OLD was 75km north on GM/WS-053 Maoile Lunndaidh and we managed a summit to summit. That now leaves me with the prospect of an annoyingly remote Complete!

With bare hands frozen by the westerly breeze and another shower emerging, I decided not to hang around for ever for the fourth contact, despite hearing some activity on the band. This was a “pointless” outing after all.

The descent was long and tedious, the stone blocks yielding no relief. I longed for some grass or a soft bog! It took me the same time to go down as up. I was taking my time, protecting joints and muscles, knowing I’d be doing it again tomorrow.

looking down to the Half-Way Lochan

The Munro Mullach nan Coriean

Back at the bunkhouse for 3pm, just a colleagues started to arrive. “Can we still do the arete?” was the main question. “To be honest, if we could find the damn thing, it would probably have been ok today”, was my reply. Food and ale was consumed and everyone was in bed by 10pm.

Wednesday 5th June 2024
Breakfast at 7am. Sorting gear. Putting on the charity T-shirts for a photo. Raring to go by 8am. I’d split the group into expected ability. I’d take the last group, who I knew would be slower, mainly from previous experience.

Clouds cleared from Mullach and from Stob Ban, on the north side of Glen Nevis. I couldn’t believe what I saw! There was a good covering of snow on these previously bare peaks and it looked to be down to around 700m. I gathered everyone around for a briefing. The arete was off. Groups had to stay together. I checked that someone in every group had GPS and the pre-printed safe route off the top. Right! Off you go. Have fun and keep safe.

Off we go

I had a group of three ladies. One had surprisingly climbed The Ben three days beforehand on Saturday and was still feeling it. Clear skies, full summer conditions and a long queue to get a summit selfie. One had struggled with fitness and terrible blisters on my Knoydart hike a couple of years back. The third was not sure how she’d get on. I didn’t expect I’d see the summit today.

the first part of the ascent

To cut a long story short, with a bit of coaxing, one colleague made it past the red burn, had a nice view and decided to return, along with the lady who did it on Saturday. This left me with the lady who suffered last time. I could see she was so up for it and that her fitness had improved dramatically. She had given up smoking and started gym not longer after failing on the Knoydart walk and I was determined we’d get to the top.

We soon hit the snow line and the visibility dropped. Near the last zig-zag we passed two groups of colleagues coming down, barely identifiable with hoods, snoods and goggles covering their faces. The first group had taken 2 hours 10 mins to reach the summit, which was good going in these conditions!

near the top of the zig-zags

We eventually summitted at 1200, having taken four hours. My colleague was ecstatic and at the same time emotional, recognising that all of her hard work had paid off. I was so glad for her. Pictures taken, I left her for a couple of minutes to put a call out on the radio. Today, I had my Yaesu FT-3d and RH-770. I’d only alerted half an hour before arriving, such was my uncertainty at reaching the top. When I turned on the radio, I heard Gordon @GM4OAS up in Mallaig calling CQ, probably looking for me. We exchanged signal reports and pleasantries. Gordon is a great and reliable 2m chaser, always a delight to hear. A further couple of CQ calls yielded no results although I could hear distant stations on the calling channel. Time to leave.

activating GM/WS-001. Again

a friendly Snow Bunting. It should be in the Arctic for summer, but the food is too good here

As we started our descent, driving snow blasted our faces. Almost hail, it stung in the 30mph wind. Donning goggles, we plodded slowly down, keeping close together, me with GPS at the ready. I could just about make out the sides of the path and always managed to pick out the next cairn. A couple of random folk tagged onto the rear of our short train and stayed with us until we reached the safety of the zig-zags. I do wonder how such un-prepared hikers would get on if they lost the path, vision of the next cairn or couldn’t see the next walker heading up towards them.

emerging from the blizzard with a few hangers-on

Anyway, we eventually got back to the Inn around 4pm, having spent 8 hours on the hill. The rest of the gang emerged from the bar, with much clapping and cheering. Hugs all round, followed by a celebratory drink. Later we had an excellent meal (or were we all so hungry and exhausted that we’d eat anything?) and a few beers. I really can recommend the Ben Nevis Inn and bunkhouse for anyone climing the hills in Glen Nevis. It it well located, with modern rooms. Each has it’s own drying room too.

With three activations of Ben Nevis in one year and sixteen ascents overall, I don’t think I’ll be returning for a while! It was great to make a few contacts, giving chasers 10 points, and giving Tim @GM5OLD reason to activate The Ben once he has compleated his round of Munros.

As for my colleagues, well they had the experience of a lifetime (again!). For many it was their first Munro, and what an adventure they had. Sharing their dramatic pictures after the event has certainly improved their fund raising totals. Not many could believe we were at 1345m in June, experiencing -11°C windchill and driving snow.

We’re raising funds for Diabetes UK, Cancer Research and The British Heart Foundation. My company adds 10% to any donations. Thank you to my many SOTA friends who have already generously donated to the cause. If anyone would like to contribute, here is the link to my justgiving page.

73 and Thank You,
Fraser MM0EFI


Great report and read Fraser.

Excellent shot of the Snow Bunting. Did you take it with your phone? Incidentally the Snow Buntings is described as a “Scarce breeder in the Scottish Highlands”. A few congregate around the ski slopes/cafe on Cairngorm in summer. So they certainly breed there.


Cheers David! Yes, a phone shot which I cropped before posting on here. I was a bit naughty and tempted it over with a bit of my sandwich. However, the only reason it and it’s two mates live up there in summer is because of us humans. I’ve seen a few on Ben Macdui GM/ES-001 summit as well, so I guess they only hang out in the highest and coldest of places.


Top report Fraser. Enjoyed following this and to get your group up in such conditions… top work. it’s no exaggeration the -11 wind chill. Quite surreal for June.

And thanks for adding the Ben to my list :joy:. It’s in arkward queue behind a compete now needed on the inn pin thanks to Gavin, which I fancy HF “Aguile du midi” style.


Great report @MM0EFI Fraser - who would have predicted snow on top of the Ben in June?? I know how hard you’ve been working to plan this day out with your work colleagues, and to recce it the day before and climb it again the day after takes some balls and effort :grinning: I thought I was the mad one, hahaa. Congratulations on your success, and well done for raising money for a good cause! I’m now looking forward to what you have planned next year to top this one off :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: your staff must be feeling nervous!

73, Ben


Great report Fraser! Reminds me of my time on ‘The Ben’. :slight_smile:



Great report. Brought back memories of doing it: 4 hours up and 3.5 down for us and that was 12 years ago. Don’t intend to repeat as there are other hills to be done when we can get to Scotland, and I’m not sure the legs are up to it now.
We still have ES-001 on list of ones we would like to do, but weather has never been good enough when we have been in the area, and it’s probably more of a challenge than the Ben.


Good job Fraser on 3 Bens in one year, 2 of which were days apart. Also glad to hear The Ben was able to keeps its part of the bargain and provide you with full conditions. Finally, kudos for the fund raising effort.


Thanks Ben. I really don’t feel the need to go back up there any time soon. I feel sorry for the mountain guides, some of whom must have hundreds of ascents under their belts.


It too is covered in snow, so best wait until summer arrives, if it ever does. 8°C in Deeside today. :cold_face:

Cheers Pat. I think we are heading for around £25k as a group.