FATMAP difficulty grade
An epic challenge for the ambitious skier or snowboarder, this awesome alpine day in the mountains summits and descends 4 of the 10 highest peaks in the UK; Ben Nevis (1,345m), Càrn Mòr Dearg (1,223m), Aonach Beag (1,234m) and Aonach Mor (1,221m). This route is both physically and technically challenging, covering around 2,200m ascent over 22km and including both exposed scrambling and extreme steep skiing.
This route is ideal for spring conditions, stable snow packs and fair weather - many of its challenges would be dangerous and unrealistic in more wintry conditions. Starting at the CIC hut (access this hut by a 6km & 630m hike from the North Face Car Park on the previous evening), make sure to set off early on a fair weather, spring day. The scramble up Ledge Route is exposed and has some trickier technical sections with regular use of both hands to do some basic climbing.
In spring, it can be climbed in trainers and then using ski touring equipment for the flatter summit slopes.
More substantial footwear, crampons and axes may be necessary during periods of greater snow cover. After tagging the summit, descend back the way you came to enter number 5 gully.
Be aware of large cornices and extremely steep entrances.
If you have chosen the right day and the right time the north facing steeps of Nevis can offer great skiing in delightful spring snow.
However, other conditions may offer up avalanche danger or bullet proof ice above dangerous exposure. After Ben Nevis, it is then a very tough 500m hike straight up the fall line of Càrn Mòr Dearg, but worth it for the long descent of wide open face skiing on the NE Coire. In spring conditions, by this point you'll be getting used to the regular transitions between ski boots & trainers.
Next, for the 3rd ascent of the day, head up Aonoch Baeg (1,234m).
Again, tag the summit and return to the NE facing An Chul Choire for a fun descent on 25°-30° terrain.
After re-ascending the route you just skied, join the south ridge on the way up to the 4th summit of the day: Aonach Mòr (1,221m).
Then proceed to the north towards the summit button lift of the Nevis Range ski area, before dropping right (east) into Easy Gully. 'Easy' Gully was named by climbers and the adjective isn't appropriate to the difficulty of this route as a ski descent.
Expect a steep, often-corniced top section, although the gradient soon mellows out for a long descent down to the lake. By this point you will have completed 2,200m ascent taking in 4 summits and 4 challenging descents, but 9km still remains to get back to the North Face car park.
Make sure you have plenty of food, water and clothing.
In spring, much of this remaining part of the route will be in trainers with your gear on your backpack.
Certainly not an easy challenge, but an amazing and rewarding one nonetheless.