This article will tell you all you need to know about climbing Ben Nevis, some of the best climbing routes and information on safety.
Scotland’s mountains and hills offer some of the world’s most spectacular views and thrilling climbs. 75 of the highest peaks in the UK are in Scotland; it is also home to Ben Nevis, the highest in the British Isles. This article will tell you all you need to know about climbing Ben Nevis, the best routes and safety information.
Ben Nevis requires little introduction, and we bet it is on your bucket list. With high peaks, rugged wilderness and deep lochs, Scotland is the most beautiful place to explore and challenge yourself. The hike to the summit of Ben Nevis will be strenuous, but the views and sense of achievement will be immense.
Ben Nevis, Scotland
- The name ‘Ben Nevis’ comes from the Scottish Gaelic name ‘Beinn Nibheis’, which means mountain of heaven.
- Ben Nevis stands at 4413ft (1345m) and is the highest land in any direction for 459 miles (739 kilometres).
- The mountain attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually and stands at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Highland region of Lochaber.
- The summit is a collapsed dome of an ancient volcano; here, there are ruins of an observatory staffed between 1883 and 1904.
- The first paths up Ben Nevis were built in 1883.
How physically fit do you need to be to climb Ben Nevis?
This is a challenging and potentially dangerous climb. It takes an average of 4 hours to climb, with a further 2-3 hours to climb back down. Anyone with reasonable fitness and good stamina can tackle Ben Nevis. However, it is essential to remember that the walk down is just as tiring as the climb up. You won’t need to train specially to hike Ben Nevis, but it is a good idea to try plenty of smaller peaks in Scotland and other uphill climbs before this one to get a good idea of your fitness level.
When is the best time to climb Ben Nevis?
Choosing a time to climb Ben Nevis will depend on your skill level; if you are an amateur hiker, it is best to hike Ben Nevis during the Summer, June – September. This is because the temperature will be warmer, and visibility will likely be clearer. The only downside is that at this time of year, it can get crowded and busy with many people on the paths; start early to avoid this as much as possible. There is often some snow at the summit all year, but snow and ice usually make climbing to the top very dangerous in winter; hiking to the summit of Ben Nevis in the Winter months should only be taken on by very experiences hikers.
Which route is the best to take to the Summit of Ben Nevis?
There are two main routes to take you to the summit of Ben Nevis that we have listed below in more detail. Choosing which course to take will depend on your fitness level and the type of hike you want. Most people visiting Ben Nevis take the Mountain Track the most straightforward way possible. However, the Carn Mor Dearg Arete route is much more challenging, with a very tough ascent and is taken by more experienced hikers.
The Mountain Track Route
6-9 hours to complete | 17km (10.5m)
This route was previously known as ‘the tourist route’. The track is well constructed and takes a twisting route to the summit. Be prepared that as this is the most straightforward route, it can get jam-packed and crowded, especially in Summer and during Holidays.
The Mountain Track route begins at the visitor centre in Glen Nevis, where you can also find plenty of helpful information about the mountain and climb you are about to take on. They can also give you information on the weather conditions that day and how they will affect your climb.
Although considered a straightforward route, it is still a physically demanding route that will require a good level of fitness, appropriate clothing and footwear and knowledge of mountain safety. You can find our safety information on climbing Ben Nevis at the end of this article.
Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête Route
10-11 hours to complete | 17km (11m)
Beginners should not attempt the Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête route. This route is for experienced hikers and mountain climbers and is an unforgettable way to climb Ben Nevis.
This route incorporates two Munros and takes you through exposed ridges and pathless terrain. The trail begins with an exposed open climb and then takes you to the technical, graded scramble up the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. It may not be easy, but it is an exhilarating and view-saturated route.
You should only attempt this route in good weather conditions, where there is clear visibility. Refrain from attempting this trail in snowy conditions. Appropriate footwear, skill and provisions are essential to complete this route.
Where can I park when I am climbing Ben Nevis?
For the Mountain Track route, parking is available at The Glen Nevis Visitor Centre car park, just 1.5 miles from Fort William. It is a pay-and-display car park, and you can purchase all-day tickets for a small charge. Postcode: PH33 6PF.
The Lower Falls car park in Glen Nevis has toilets, bike rails and parking for large vehicles. However, there is limited space, and overnight parking is not allowed here. Currently, as we write this article, parking is a donation based, but that will be subject to change. Postcode: PH33 6SY.
For the more challenging Carn Mor Dearg Arete route, the North Face car park is just 1 mile from Torlundy and is a better place to park. Postcode: PH33 6SW.
Mountain climbing safety
Check the weather
One of the most important things to remember when climbing any peak is that the weather when you reach the summit will be different from when you start at the base, even in the Summer! Summit’s are often very cold, wet and windy. Ben Nevis will likely have snow at the summit even during Summer months. So always check the mountain weather forecast before your climb. The Met Office gives a five-day forecast for Ben Nevis. The Mountain Weather Information Service provides a general West Highlands forecast.
Prepare for your hike by wearing or taking with you waterproof and windproof clothing that will keep you warm. This includes gloves, a hat, a jacket, and trousers. Take warm spare clothes and don’t wear cotton clothing such as jeans and T-shirts. They absorb moisture and draw heat from your body, quickly making you very cold. Appropriate footwear is essential, with good ankle support and grip. Other ideal equipment on any hill or peak walk is a torch, first aid kit, and emergency shelter. It is often cloudy at the summit, so have a map and compass to help you navigate in poor visibility.
Take snacks and keep up energy levels
One thing is for sure. It is going to be a long day. Therefore, taking plenty of water and high-energy foods with you, such as chocolate, dried fruits, cheese and biscuits, is essential. Flasks of hot drinks or soup are great for cold-weather hikes. You will need a minimum of two litres of fluid per person for long walks.
Dial 999 or 112 and ask for Police and then ask for Mountain Rescue if you are lost or injured.
The John Muir Trust works with local land managers in the Nevis Landscape Partnership to manage visitors’ impact on the area. They maintain the upper stretch of the Ben Nevis summit path and the Steall Gorge trail and keep it free from the litter on their regular litter picks. They also survey the wildlife and habitats in the area. This is to encourage the natural expansion of the native woodland, including Scots pine. In addition, they hold planting events with the local community as part of the Nevis Landscape Partnership Future Forest project.
Ben Nevis is a challenge, but the hike and the views will be unforgettable. We hope this article has helped you plan your walk to the summit of Ben Nevis; if so, please let us know how it goes in the comments! We love to hear about your experiences. You can also take the Nevis Range gondola up the neighbouring mountain Aonach Mòr to get great views of Ben Nevis and the surrounding countryside.