Navigating Ben Nevis
Seb Fish, April 1, 2012
At a an altitude of 1,344m, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. Located in the Grampian Mountains in the west of Scotland, it represents one of the many highlights of Scottish highland hiking. Being within two hours of Glasgow, and less than three hours from Edinburgh, it is also a very accessible peak which can be summited as a day trip from one of Scotland’s cosmopolitan cities.
There are several routes up the mountain, which offer a strikingly varied selection of difficulties. These range from a simplistic hill walk along a well maintained footpath to climbing vertical faces amongst spectacular ridges, buttresses and gullies – truly alpine in scale and character. This ensures that visits to Ben Nevis never have to be the same, and guarantees a challenge to ambitious hikers, whatever their experiences, whatever the weather.
We chose a roundabout route, initially heading up the first section of the tourist path before routing around the main trunk of Ben Nevis to the north face where we reached the other side of the valley. From here we ascended to the Carn Mor Dearg summit at 1220m, opposite and overlooking the incredible view of Ben Nevis’ peak. From here we picked our way carefully along the Carn Mor Dearg arete before assaulting the final 300m (we lost considerable altitude in the traverse).
We were blessed with perfect weather conditions but warm clothing and comfortable, waterproof footwear were invaluable on this trip. Water and wind proof clothing is a must if the weather is deemed unreliable or anything less than perfect. Expect snow on any of the upper parts of the mountain for most of the winter and spring months during the year with a strong wind chill near ridges and peaks.
An array of accommodation options are available from hotels in nearby Fort William, to camping grounds at the base of the mountain.
Built on the site of Fort William’s former police station, The Garrison Hotel has renovated the original six cells into a comfortable hotel in the town centre. Thanks to a couple of modest rooms with bunks and a single bed, the accommodation caters to a range of budgets, with standard rooms starting from £150.
Ben Nevis is well known for mountain bike races, attracting a race that’s renowned globally among elite enduro riders, Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup. Trail runners should bookmark the Fort William Trail Running Festival which takes place at the end of July, if not for races themselves then for some outstanding routes to take on independently.
The Glenuig Peninsula juts out south-west of Fort William, across from Loch Linnhe with Corran as the ferry crossing point. A stunning 80-mile road bike loop can be made leaving from Fort William, using the ferry 12 miles south from rolling out. The Glenuig Inn is a suitable place to stop en route, for chowder or an overnight stay.