Key information: Ben Nevis
- Not Britain's loveliest or most interesting mountain - but the biggest, so it attracts huge numbers of climbers.
- A serious mountains, with always unpredictable weather. Come prepared.
- Walkopedia rating84
- Natural interest15
- Human interest7
- Negative points2
- Total rating84
- Note: Neg: popularity, regular bad weather
- Length: 5-8hrs
- Maximum Altitude: 1,345m/4,413ft
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
Ben Nevis is not Britain's loveliest or most interesting mountain - but it is the biggest, so attracts something like 170,000 climbers a year (as of 2019).
This vast granite lump looms over Fort William. It is said to have been at the heart of a huge ancient volcano, and it's solidifying and contraction will have caused a collapse and therefore caldera above it - once upon a time: the softer rocks around it have long eroded, leaving it standing proud and clear above Loch Linnhe.
The Ben Nevis massif forms a huge horseshoe of Munroes and vast crags around the profound glacial gouge of its northern corrie. Its southern and western flanks - the ones you see most of, and the ones you climb - are long, grey, steep, dour slopes, much of them scree and boulder.
The main path approaches from Achintee farm in lower Glen Nevis. A long, steady slog up across the steep slopes of the whaleback of Meall an t Suidhe and up a narrow gap gets you to a somehow surprising saddle, with a lochan in its flattish bottom.
From here, a series of long switchbacks takes you up the endless scree, rock and boulder slope of its south-western corner to its grey, flattish, rocky summit. This is somehow a bit of an anticlimax until you reach its northern edges and peer over the precipices. The views from the peak are, however, amazing on a clear day, across the sparkling sea lochs to the south-west and, if you are lucky, to the rival summits of the Cairngorms.
This is a long and demanding climb, with an altitude gain and loss of some 1,300m. Ben Nevis has notoriously fickle and bad weather, and conditions on top can be appalling. People die up here, and it is easy to lose your way in cloud. Always come fully prepared and don't attempt the climb unless you are fit enough. Be prepared to abandon the attempt if circumstances change.
A wonderful descent route (or indeed an excellent if longer alternative climb) is via the Allt a Mhuillinn canyon-valley, which runs straight down from the northern corrie. A wonderful path from the saddle traverses around the base of the northern cliffs, deep into the heart of the corrie, where it meets a small hut and where you can gawp at the ring of amazing cliffs and crags above you. You then descend steadily by the burn, to emerge at the local distillery, or near Torlundy. This would make a fantastic walk in its own right, if the summit is not going to happen for whatever reason.
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For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Ben Nevis and Glen Coe Area page.
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COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS
Name: James Kerr
Posted on: 22/12/2011
Walked up Ben Nevis this summer - wonderful walk with terrific views, marred mainly by the popularity of the walk. I estimated that there were in the region of 100 other walkers on the mountain possibly more. It is an ideal charity walk as it easily accessible but there is a degree of strenuousness to make it a challenge. Us two nearly 60 years olds made it up and down in seven hours, this included twenty minutes for lunch at the top. Take several layers of clothing as we encountered conditions from balmy summer at the start to mid winter on the top. We even had to lend a spare wind proof to one idiot dressed in a football strip with only a back bin liner for protection ! James Kerr
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