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Ben Nevis and "adjectival grades."

Original Post
Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 938

Can someone help me understand the UK "adjectival" grades, and what they mean in the context of some routes up Ben Nevis? I'm going to be there in July, and will either hike or scramble or maybe even climb the mountain to the summit. I can tell that the pony track/tourist track is just a hike, though in bad weather there are navigation problems. I'd rather take a less populated route, if I can.

How about the CMD Arete? As far as I can tell this is a non-technical climb--i.e. no gear needed for safety. Some sources suggest you need a good head for heights, making me think it might have some exposure and real risk of serious falls. But other sources describe it as a scramble. 

I was also looking at a couple of routes on the north face like Castle Ridge, which is described as "moderate," or Tower Ridge, described as "difficult." What do these routes actually entail? I think they're easy fifth class, so rope and a belayer are necessary, but I'm not sure. How many pitches are they?

Anyone help a Yankee out here so I have a better idea what kind of day I'm planning for myself?

And while we're on the topic, anyone in the area want to climb Ben Nevis on Friday, July 14th? 

Euan Cameron · · Mammoth Lakes · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 62,987

All the routes on the main face should be taken seriously.  A great way to the summit is via the Carnmore Dearg Arete.   This arete is exposed and a fall from the arete would have serious consequences, but it isn't difficult terrain to cover.   From the end of the arete to the summit may involve a steep snow field so an ice axe may be required - although in this light snow year that maybe is an option.   

There are plenty tables online that tell you apron grade conversions.   Tower Ridge is about a 5.3

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 296

I was bored so I poked around a bit. Plus I climb with a few U.K. people so I was just curious..

It looks like the CMD route is a little too easy to get a straight up technical climbing grade. From the sources online that call it "difficult", it doesn't seem that "difficult" is used in relation to the U.K. rock grade "D". It seems like it is more of an adjective used to describe to tourists that the path is hard. Some people give it a Scottish Grade 1, which is scrambling. That would not qualify it for a technical climbing grade. 

Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 938

Thanks guys. After posting this I did find the summit post website with pretty detailed information. CMD Arete looks completely within my ability to hike/solo. The others are clearly technical climbs that--for me at least--would require a belay for some portions. So unless I can round up a partner, I'm planning on CMD Arete.

Any locals interested in climbing Ben Nevis with me on July 14 or 15?

Mathias · · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 308

It might be worth your while finding a UK forum, if you haven't done so. I'm sure someone will take you up on the offer, if only in the hopes of making a new contact for a climbing trip in the US.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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