Don's Home Places Scotland Fort William Ben Nevis

Source: The ONs Three Peaks Challenge 2010 | Ben Nevis 'The Ben'

Difficulty : Strenuous. Technically easy for experienced hikers
Risk : Show caution
Distance : Approx. 9,5 miles (15km) round trip from the visitors center
Time : 3.5-5 hrs up - 2-3 hrs. down
Start Elev. : 100 ft.
Summit Elev. : 4409 ft
The pony track (tourist) route was constructed to service the meteorological observatory that opened in 1883, and remains wholly intact. It traverses the SW side of Meall an t-Suidhe, then zigzags the broad west slopes of Ben Nevis to the exposed summit plateau, and consists of a rocky path over steep boulder fields. The problems encountered on this route include the cornices at the head of Gardyloo Gully and Tower Gully, mistaken descent into Five Finger Gully and crossing the top of Red Burn. Despite all this, the Pony Track remains the safest route to take.

Ascending Ben Nevis via the Carn Mor Dearg arete (CMD) route is one of the ultimate classics. Although Carn Mor Dearg is a massive hill itself (9th highest) standing next to "The Ben" this is never really taken into account. The good thing about this route is you see something the tourist path walkers don't see... The north face of "The Ben" what a site! Staying on the rocky part of the ridge is fantastic with great exposure and scrambling.
Distillery > Carn Beag Dearg > Ben Nevis > Visitors center 10.2 mi 5,000 ft ascent 9-11 hrs
Visitors Center > Carn Beag Dearg > Ben Nevis > Visitors center 11.5 mi 5,800 10-12 hrs
Note: Total ascent is more, because you loose and have to regain elevation in several places.

In winter conditions, unless you are an experienced winter climber with winter equipment, you should not attempt this route as escape is very difficult. Even in summer, if visibility is bad on the summit it is easy to get into trouble as the path, once lost, is not easily found.

Sources: Ben Nevis Carn Mor Dearg CMD arete Route
CMD Arete, Ben Nevis - OUTDOORSmagic


During periods of good visibility the navigation is relatively straightforward but as soon as the mist comes down the plateau can be an extremely confusing and frightening place, especially under conditions of snow and ice. Sound map and compass skills along with a little forethought will go a long way towards avoiding the epics which the unprepared often experience, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
The map below shows how to follow a compass heading of 231° for 150 m then take a heading of 282° to avoid the cliffs at the top.

Walkers on the summit of Britain's highest mountain can now follow a line of cairns to lead them safely to and from its peak.
  The Nevis Partnership, which manages Ben Nevis, has rebuilt a line of stone cairns so they mark the recommended compass bearing to be followed to safely navigate off the summit plateau, which has 600m (1,970ft) drops on its north face. In winter, cornices build up on the plateau edges, adding to the hazard for walkers in bad visibility.

Source: Ben Nevis Navigation at the The Mountaineering Council of Scotland and Ben Nevis Map by Harvey Maps

Ben Nevis article in Fall 2010 Patagonia catalogue
Conditions: Snow-plastered rock, freezing rain, sleet, whiteout visibility
  One trip to Ben Nevis explains, with that knowing head-nod, how so many hardcore alpinists come from a small, low-elevation island near the North Sea. A historical mixed-climbing landmark for good reason, the Ben provides not only challenging climbing but also the full "character building" experience that hardens those with short memories. Sideways-blasting snow and sleet, rain and near-zero visibility make for a good day out and good rime build-up. Of course, you just scrape away the rime and scratch up the rock beneath it, battling upward for security and protection alike, simply dealing with the elements that threaten to strip you off the cliffs.
Refers to rock climbing on the north face, but the walk up the trail can be almost as bad.

Me and West Highland Way from Ben Nevis sholder

Links: - Navigation on Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis Trail map - Ben Nevis Scotland -
Grant & Claire
Map of Fort William and Ben Nevis at
Friends of Nevis ~ Support&Protect Iconic Ben Nevis
A walk up Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Scotland
Route Descriptions and pictures - Ben Nevis at
Ben Nevis Trail map - mappery
UKC Articles - Ben Nevis Winter
Summer Scrambling & Mountaineering course by West Coast Mountain Guides - Ben nevis, Glencoe, Skye
Climbing The Great Chimney (IV,5) on Ben Nevis at The jimmy marshall project.
Ice Climbing Point Five Gully (V, 5)

last updated 6 Oct 2010