Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in the UK

Ben Nevis is the UK’s highest mountain. Known as ‘the Ben’, this enormous peak attracts 125k walkers every year who flood to the mountain to take a trip in the clouds. This king of mountains was once an active volcano that exploded and collapsed inwards on itself millions of years ago. The light coloured granite at the summit is the only remaining evidence of volcanic activity.

How high is Ben Nevis?

Ben Nevis is 1,345 metres or 4,413 feet high. 

How long does it take to climb Ben Nevis?

To climb Ben Nevis takes around 8 – 9 hours, depending on which route you choose. The shortest path up the mountain is from Glen Nevis via the Mountain Track, and the longest is via CMD Arete (Carn Mor Dearg Arete).

There are two main routes to climb Ben Nevis

  1. The Mountain Track
  2. CMD Arete via Glen Nevis

There are other routes to climb Ben Nevis, although some will only take you up the glen.

Where is Ben Nevis?

Coordinates: 56.7969° N, 5.0036° W

This famous peak is situated in the North West Highlands of Scotland, near the town of Fort William and is part of the Grampian Mountain Range.

Ben Nevis Walking Routes

1. Ben Nevis via the Mountain Track at Glen Nevis

Time: 8 hours
Distance: 17km (10.6 miles)
Elevations: 1370m (4,495ft)
Starting point: Glen Nevis Visitor Centre 

Formerly known as the Tourist Track or Tourist Route, The Mountain Track (Pony Track) is the most commonly walked path. Described as the easiest route this well-constructed path is not to be underestimated. The path begins on the south side of the mountain at the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre. Despite its former name, the Mountain Track can be challenging, and walkers should come prepared. Ben Nevis is renowned for its snowy and misty conditions, and the Mountain Track is no exception. The snow can cause poor visibility so packing a map and compass is essential. For walkers up for the challenge, this route will not disappoint. 

Setting off from the car park, cross the bridge and head uphill towards the Ben Nevis Inn, where the path starts properly. Angling along the hillside towards Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, the first section is around 500m of climbing. The track then contours left, signally the end of the first section.

Once walkers reach Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, the path will start to veer right and zig-zag. At around 1,100m, the angling of the zig-zag track begins to ease and will lead visitors straight to the summit of Ben Nevis. Once you have reached the summit, soak up the 360-degree panoramic views that can stretch as far as Northern Ireland. At the summit, a cairn marks the highest point, and on a clear day, walkers may be able to spot other peaks such as Torridon Hills, Ben Lomond and Morven at Caithness.

The summit is home to the old Ben Nevis Weather Observatory – which opened in 1833. Once you have soaked up all the views and surroundings, begin to navigate your way back down. Tread carefully when descending as weather conditions can cause slippery underfoot terrain. 

Parking: PH33 6PF. Parking is £3 per day and is located at the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre car park, which is located 1.5 miles from the town of Fort William. For a more accurate location, enter coordinates 56°48’38.90″N, 5°4’38.17″W.

Ben Nevis

2. Ben Nevis via CMD Arete at the North Face car park

Time: 8 hours+
Distance: 19.8km (12.3 miles)
Elevations: 1800m  (5,906ft)
Starting point: North Face car park

This mountain path is ideal for more experienced hillwalkers who are looking for an exciting scramble. The CMD Arete route can be approached from several directions; the Mountain Track via Glen Nevis or via the CMC Hut. The path via the North Face car park is a more direct approach.

Starting at the North Face car park near Torlundy, the track leads up to Coire Leis along the Allt’a Mhuilinn River. The route then crosses the path of the old narrow-gauge line (the Puggy Line) before pulling up to the stile. From the stile, the track opens up onto a good hillside path along the Allt’a Mhuilinn. Dominated by the 600m North Face cliffs, the track continues along the Coire Leis path for around 1km and then takes the faint path uphill. Walkers then begin the long ascent up to Carn Beag Dearg before veering and contouring beneath the summit. Following the track, walkers will reach the first summit of the day – Carn Dearg Meadhonach. Take a moment to soak up the breathtaking views on offer!

From Carn Dearg Meahonach, there is a final pull up to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg. The path opens up into an airy and exposed traverse and curves from the summit of Carn Mor Dearg and partially up Ben Nevis. This scramble will challenge walkers and is advised to be attempted in dry conditions.

The track then reaches an abseil point and continues for a short distance as you begin to ascend Ben Nevis. There are some smaller sections of scrambling before the ridge gives way to a boulder mountainside. Walkers will then complete a final pull to reach the summit of Ben Nevis.

Parking: PH33 6SW. Parking for the CMD Arete route is available at the North Face car park, which is located 1 mile from Torlundy. For a more accurate location, enter coordinates 56°50’31.07″N, 5°2’35.02″W.

Weather

The weather on Ben Nevis is extremely unpredictable. With glorious sunshine one minute and gale-force wind the next. Given its latitude and arctic conditions at the summit, it is advisable to pack for cold, wet and slippery conditions. Before embarking on this challenge, it is best to check the weather conditions. Pack warm, thick clothing for the climb.

When is the best time to climb Ben Nevis?

Summer is the best time to tackle this peak, with sunshine and clear views on offer in the summer months. Walkers will likely see snow all year round, however, climbing the Ben in the winter is only advised for more experienced walkers.

Camping

Camping at the mountainside is not advisable. During the summer months, the peak is exposed and busy with walkers, so pitching a tent in a good location would be difficult. The Glen Nevis campsite is conveniently located near the foot of the mountain for visitors wanting the full experience.

 


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