Seeing the best of Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis CIC Hut

Ben Nevis CIC Hut

One of the most difficult things about painting the landscape is I think, working out how to convey how big everything is. Without a point of reference ….something man made, capturing the vastness of a moor or mountain can be very challenging. With my fuzzy sight, I have just as much a problem when I’m actually out walking in these wild places ….judging whether I have an hour to walk to reach the top of a crag, or five minutes, without the aid of a map, is tricky. Occasionally though, you go somewhere that just reeks its huge scale.

On Monday we went to just such a place ….the base of the North Face of Ben Nevis.

We walked this, Scotland’s and the UK’s highest mountain several years ago by the standard ‘tourist’ path and although I stood at the top, I never really felt quite how big this mountain was. On Monday though, I got the idea.

Ben Nevis North Face

Ben Nevis North Face

A very good path leads up through the forest before following the stream that flows out from beneath the great cliffs of the north face. Your first view is from a small view point created in the forest but at this stage it just looked to me like another mountain. Once above the forest line though I started to realise just how big a lump of a hill Ben Nevis is. I thought the first cliffs were quite near but as we continued to walk towards them I realised we still had a good distance to walk. As we got closer the dark crags grew bigger and bigger and what I had thought was a single line of cliffs, became a series of great buttresses and a deep corrie – Coire na Ciste. Tucked up at the head of the glen beneath this and complex face, is the CIC Hut. It has been very well built so that it blends in with its dramatic surroundings and it was to this that we were heading.

Our friend and walking companion Guy had in the past climbed a couple of the routes on the North Face and it was his idea that we walk up to the CIC Hut. He assured me that it would not be time wasted and that I just had to see and experience this magnificent setting …he also suggested that it would be an excellent place to do some drawing and painting. Well, I can’t argue, he got it right on all accounts! We sat gawping at the face, so big, so complex and so beautiful. On this occasion I just brought my camera but this is definitely a place to return on another fine day to sit and draw.

I’m not quite sure why, but walking up this magnificent glen underneath the North Face of Ben Nevis, reminded me so much of the time I spent in Speyer the other summer …walking around the massive cathedral there. Just like on Monday beneath Ben Nevis, I used to end up with a crick in my neck from staring up at its highest towers and buttresses trying to work out how it all fitted together and how I might do a drawing or painting of it. In the end, I solved the problem in Speyer by matching scale with scale …in other words doing a very large drawing …4.2 m long by 1.5 m high. As we stood, tiny against this great natural structure …the highest in Scotland, I remembered the Speyer drawing and started to ponder on whether I ought to attempt another …this time based on the North Face of Ben Nevis.

Dom drawing, Speyer

Dom drawing, Speyer

  ‘Photographs by Gjuy Hansford and Mike Lauter’

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