Follow the signs from Fort William to Glen Nevis. Parking is available at several spots in the Glen Nevis area.
Once you reach Fort William, accessing the base of the mountain for climbing Ben Nevis is relatively straightforward, either by walking, taking public transportation, or driving to the Glen Nevis area, where the paths leading to the mountain begin.
How to Climb Ben Nevis: Route Options
There are a few different options for hiking Ben Nevis. This lets you choose the most suitable Ben Nevis ascent based on your skill level and the experience you’re after.
If you’re planning on climbing Ben Nevis, then here are your options for doing it.
Mountain Path (Tourist Path/Pony Track)
Starting Point: The Mountain Path begins near the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre, located at the end of the Glen Nevis Road.
Distance: The round trip along this path is approximately 8 miles (13 kilometres). It usually takes about 7-9 hours to complete, depending on your pace and weather conditions.
Description: This well-marked route is the most commonly used path up Ben Nevis. It gradually ascends through the Pony Track and Zig-Zags, providing expansive views of the surrounding landscapes. Most people climbing Ben Nevis choose this route - especially if it’s their first time.
CMD Arete (Carn Mor Dearg Arete)
Starting Point: The approach to CMD Arete begins from the North Face car park near Torlundy, not far from Fort William.
Distance: The total route is around 10 miles (16 kilometres) long, taking approximately 8-10 hours to complete. The ascent includes the Carn Mor Dearg Arete and then connects to Ben Nevis.
Description: CMD Arete involves more challenging terrain and requires scrambling along a narrow ridge between Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis. It offers breathtaking views but demands experience and caution due to exposed sections.
Starting Point: Ledge Route starts from the North Face car park, similar to the CMD Arete route.
Distance: This route covers approximately 7-8 miles (11-13 kilometers) and can take around 7-9 hours to complete. It involves some scrambling and a more direct approach to the summit compared to the Mountain Path.
Description: Ledge Route offers an alternative to the Pony Track, involving some steep sections and scrambling but is less exposed than CMD Arete.
Tower Ridge and North Face Routes
Starting Point: Tower Ridge and the various North Face climbing routes begin from the North Face car park or the CIC Hut (Charles Inglis Clark Memorial Hut) near Torlundy.
Distance: The distances and durations for these routes vary significantly based on the chosen ascent and the climber's expertise. Tower Ridge is approximately 3,000 feet (900 meters) high and involves technical rock climbing.
Description: These routes are extremely challenging, requiring rock climbing, mountaineering skills, and specialized equipment. They are recommended only for experienced climbers and mountaineers.
Each route presents its own challenges and highlights, catering to various skill levels.
Proper preparation, including assessing one's capabilities, carrying essential gear, and being aware of weather conditions, is crucial before attempting any ascent on Ben Nevis.
However, most people choose to climb Ben Nevis during the late spring to early autumn months, from May to September.
Spring (May to June)
This period often offers stable weather conditions, longer daylight hours, and fewer midges (small flying insects).
The mountain might still have patches of snow, especially at higher elevations, which can add some challenges but also enhance the scenery.
Summer (July to August)
These months generally see the warmest temperatures, making it an attractive time for climbing.
However, this is also the busiest period on Ben Nevis, with larger crowds on the trails. It's essential to start early to avoid congestion and to ensure ample daylight for the ascent and descent.
Early Autumn (September)
September can be a good time for climbing with more settled weather, reduced crowds compared to peak summer months, and colourful scenery as the foliage starts to change.
However, conditions can become more unpredictable towards the end of September.
Winter and Late Autumn (October to April)
Climbing Ben Nevis during winter or late autumn requires advanced mountaineering skills, experience in winter conditions, and proper equipment due to ice, snow, and potentially harsh weather.
These months are generally less frequented by climbers due to challenging conditions and shorter daylight hours.
Weather on Ben Nevis can change rapidly, even in the summer months, so it's crucial to check the forecast before climbing Ben Nevis. You’ll also need to be prepared for sudden shifts in conditions.
How Easy is it to Climb Ben Nevis?
Climbing Ben Nevis is achievable for most people. Although it’s still an impressive accomplishment, Ben Nevis is definitely on the list of easy mountains to climb.
However, the challenge of climbing Ben Nevis can vary depending on the chosen route, weather conditions, and individual fitness levels and experience.
The Mountain Path, also known as the Tourist Path or Pony Track, is the most commonly used route and is relatively straightforward compared to other paths.
It's well-marked and maintained, making it accessible to many hikers with a reasonable level of fitness.
However, it's still a strenuous hike, covering approximately 8 miles (13 kilometres) round trip with an ascent of around 4,409 feet (1,344 meters).
Despite being the most accessible route, it's important to consider the following factors:
Terrain: The path includes steep sections and some rocky terrain, particularly towards the summit. Proper hiking boots and good physical condition are recommended.
Weather Conditions: Weather on Ben Nevis can change rapidly, even in summer. Fog, rain, strong winds, and even snow can occur at any time of the year, significantly impacting visibility and safety.
Fitness Level: While the Mountain Path doesn't require technical climbing skills, it does demand a reasonable level of fitness. The ascent is challenging, and it can take around 7-9 hours for a round trip, so being physically prepared is important.
For more challenging routes like CMD Arete, Ledge Route, Tower Ridge, or the North Face routes, higher levels of fitness, experience in hiking and scrambling, and often specific mountaineering or climbing skills are necessary.
If you are after a greater challenge, you could always consider climbing Ben Nevis as part of the Three Peaks Challenge.
Climbing Ben Nevis requires enough preparation and the right equipment to ensure a safe and enjoyable ascent. Here's a checklist of items you'll need:
Dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions. Include a waterproof jacket and trousers, sturdy hiking boots, moisture-wicking base layers, warm insulation layers, gloves, and a hat or beanie.
Carry a map, compass, or GPS device to navigate the trails. Familiarize yourself with the route before starting the climb.
Food and Water
Pack enough food to sustain your energy throughout the climb, such as high-energy snacks, sandwiches, and fruits. Bring an adequate supply of water or a water purification system to refill from natural sources along the route.
Use a comfortable and appropriately sized backpack to carry your gear and supplies. Ensure it has supportive straps and is suitable for hiking.
First Aid Kit
Carry a basic first aid kit with essential items like plasters, bandages, antiseptic cream, pain relievers, blister treatment, and any personal medications.
Consider bringing an emergency bivvy bag or space blanket in case of unexpected delays or emergencies.
Headlamp or Torch
Even for daytime hikes, having a headlamp or torch is essential in case your hike takes longer than anticipated.
In addition to clothing, bring items like sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat to protect against sun exposure. Pack extra layers in case of sudden weather changes.
Mobile Phone and Power Bank
Carry a fully charged mobile phone for emergencies and use a power bank to ensure it stays charged throughout your hike.
Tips for Climbing Ben Nevis
Being well-prepared will help you make the most of your hike. Here are some tips for climbing Ben Nevis to keep in mind.
Plan and Prepare
Research the routes, check weather forecasts, and familiarize yourself with the trail map before starting your ascent. Ensure you have the necessary equipment, including suitable clothing and navigation tools.
Begin your climb early in the day to allow ample time for the ascent and descent. Daylight hours can be limited, especially in winter or late autumn.
Stay Hydrated and Fueled
Carry plenty of water and high-energy snacks to keep yourself hydrated and maintain energy levels throughout the hike. Drink water regularly, even if you don't feel thirsty.
Dress in Layers
Wear appropriate clothing suitable for changing weather conditions. Dress in layers to adjust to temperature variations. Bring waterproof and windproof clothing to shield against rain and strong winds.
Wear sturdy and comfortable hiking boots with good ankle support. Ensure your footwear is broken in before attempting the climb to prevent blisters or discomfort.
Carry a map, compass, or GPS device, and know how to use them. Familiarize yourself with the route to avoid getting lost, especially in fog or low visibility.
Safety in Numbers
Consider hiking with a companion or in a group, especially if you're less experienced. Keep an eye on each other and support one another throughout the climb.
Leave No Trace
Respect the environment and follow the principles of "Leave No Trace." Carry out all trash and waste and avoid damaging the natural surroundings.
Be Weather Aware
Be prepared for rapid weather changes. Dress appropriately for the conditions and be ready to turn back if the weather worsens or visibility becomes poor.
Know Your Limits
Choose a route that matches your fitness level and experience. Don't hesitate to turn back if you feel fatigued or encounter conditions beyond your capability.
Before starting your climb, inform a friend or family member about your planned route, expected return time, and emergency contact information.
Respect the Mountain
Ben Nevis demands respect. Be cautious, especially in exposed areas, and don't take unnecessary risks.