|Ben Nevis from the summit of
Stob Ban to the west
||Location: Glen Nevis
||Accommodation: Fort William (hotels, B&B), Glen
Nevis has a Youth Hostel,
caravan/camping site, nice B&B and bunkhouse at Achintee House. Camping is
allowed in the upper glen (beyond the carpark and Nevis Gorge).
||Transport: Train and bus station in Fort William. A
summer bus service goes to the carpark in Glen Nevis.
||Trip Date: 23 May 1992
Ben Nevis (possibly from an old Gaelic word meaning venomous) is the
highest mountain in the British Isles at 1344 metres. This also makes it the
highest Munro. It is easily accessible from Glen Nevis via the old pony track
which used to service the observatory on the summit. The path can be started
from the youth hostel or from Achintee House (B&B and a bunkhouse
available) lower down the glen. Note that this is the 'tourist route' up Ben
Nevis - it may be crowded and does not give the best view of the Ben.
Despite there being a 'tourist route', any trip up the Ben must be taken
seriously. You will be spending many hours on a mountain that is known for
sudden and unpleasant weather changes. Take sensible clothing and wear good
walking shoes or boots. I recommend the OS Outdoor Leisure 32 map since it has
a 1:10,000 insert of the summit with the compass directions to get off safely
in mist (remember to take your compass!). People have died on this
For a guidebook to the area have a look at:
Guide: Ben Nevis and Glen Coe or try
Amazon.com. From gentle strolls alongside the lochs to the
ascent of Britain's highest mountain, this guide offers an exceptional variety
of landscapes for the keen walker to explore. The main section of the book
contains 30 walks.
If you want to have a look at the area before visiting then there are
web cameras showing
Ben Nevis, the North Face and Loch Linnhe.
The first route I describe is one of the longer ways to climb the Ben. I
took 12 hours to do it (from 9 am at the distillery to 9 pm at the
Glen Nevis Youth Hostel)
at my usual slow pace during an extremely hot day (for Scotland). It can
definitely be done faster. On both routes the height gain is nearly the full
1344 metres (4409 feet) but the tourist route is shorter - 14 kilometres versus
17 kilometres (8.6 miles vs 10.5 miles).
Start from the
Distillery just outside Fort William at Victoria Bridge. Unfortunately you
should be starting too early to sample its wares. Pass to the left of the
buildings and cross the railway tracks. There is a muddy path that climbs up
through woods to pass under power lines and meet a dirt road. Head left for 200
metres and join another track that leads via more woody patches and a line of
posts to an another dirt road. Off to your left is an intake (this takes water
under the slopes to the factories above Fort William) and bridge on the Allt
a'Mhuilinn. Cross the bridge and follow the bulldozed track upstream. Just
before the track becomes a footpath, there is a good spot for a swim. On a hot
day this is also the best place to refill your water bottles.
The bridge across the Allt a'Mhuilinn can also be reached by a path
across the local golf course. This is more direct but has the disadvantages
that there is only a lay-by on the A82 road (which has fast blind bends at this
point) and you may be approached by golfers, annoyed at the climbers walking
over the course. A better alternative is the North Face carpark at Torlundy
where a rough, eroded path leads up over undulating terrain to the same point.
However this path may be re-routed and improved soon - see the following page:
The Ben Nevis Track.
After about a kilometre, leave the path and make your way up the broad
ridge leading to Carn Beag Dearg (1010m). This 600m climb is a bit tedious but
the opening views to the north and up the Great Glen compensate. Have a
breather on Carn Beag Dearg and look south to the massive cliffs of Ben Nevis.
The same point can be gained from the path up from Glen Nevis by following it
as far as the Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe (also known as the halfway lochan) and
then following the directions below. This is
the best way to do a round trip from Glen Nevis.
|Carn Mor Dearg Arete to Ben
Follow the ridgeline south to Carn Dearg Meadhonach (1179m) and then to
the pink granite summit of Carn Mor Dearg (1223m - another Munro). From here
the path drops 200m to where the ridge sharpens to a narrow arete. The exposed
arete is composed of huge granite blocks which give good footing - needed for
the section that actually overhangs the ridge. Try to ignore the scratches
engraved in some blocks - these are just the marks from the crampons of winter
climbers, not from the fingernails of summer walkers! You can avoid most of the
exposure via a narrow path on the south side of the crest. The arete gives
impressive views of the North-East Buttress.
After the arete, you come to a level section of the ridge with abseil
posts on the north edge. The last post marks the start of a reasonably easy
descent into Coire Leis which may be used as an escape route (not to be used if
there is snow on the headwall). A faint path now climbs 250m over the next 500
metres through a boulder field to the summit. The path is the easiest way up
unless you like clambering over boulders. Most of the year the summit has a cap
of snow providing beautiful cornices above Tower Gully. Keep well away from the
summit edge since it will also have cornices. The summit is a bit crowded with
structures - the OS pillar, a war memorial, an emergency shelter and the ruins
of the observatory. The views can be stupendous (weather permitting).
To return you can either:
Follow the route back or
Drop down the tourist path to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe and follow the path
northwards until you can descend into the Coire Leis and regain the route or
Follow the tourist path down to the youth hostel to stay, be picked up or call
for a taxi.
||Route from Glen Nevis
There are 2 points of access in Glen Nevis for the path up the Ben. The
shortest route starts at the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel where a bridge across the river and
a steep path joins the usual route. This is best used by residents at the
hostel since there is no official parking here. You may want to avoid this
route on the first Saturday in September when up to 500 hill runners pant their
way uphill in the annual
Ben Nevis Race. They do the round trip in under
|Nearing the summit plateau of Ben
The proper route starts at the visitor centre about 2 kilometres up the
glen from Fort William where there is tons of parking. Cross the Nevis River on
a footbridge and head upriver to pass around Achintee House. For 100 metres the
path remains on flat ground and then begins a rising traverse for the next
kilometre on the slopes of Meall an t-Suidhe. It meets the route from the
hostel and turns into the valley of the Red Burn, climbing all the way on a
rocky and increasingly flagstoned path. There are good views up the glen from
here to Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean.
After 2.5 kilometres from the start the path reaches the broad bealach
that contains Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe and levels out to allow a bit of a rest.
You have now climbed 500 metres and have another 800m to ascend. The path makes
its all-too-obvious way across the bealach and climbs slightly to a junction at
a stone wall redirecting people up the Ben. To join the more exciting Arete
Continue north above the lochan
and then NNE along a level path for a kilometre. An old fence marks where the
path turns to the SE below the cliffs of Carn Dearg. Leave the path (which goes
onto the private CIC mountaineering hut) a few hundred metres further. Drop
east over rough heathery ground to cross the Allt a'Mhuilinn for a final 600m
climb to Carn Beag Dearg and the ridge to the Arete.
The path from the lochan heads south and upwards to cross the Red Burn
gully. After a kilometre it meets the first of a series of large zigzags. These
climb up progressively bouldery ground to the enormous summit plateau where the
first glimpse of the northern cliffs can be seen. Keep to the path since the
terrain off it is very rough. The slope eases for the last few hundred metres
to the summit but care still needs to be taken as the path is squeezed between
cliffs to the north and south.