Ben Nevis Overview
Situated on the western end of the Grampian Mountains, in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Ben Nevis has long been a popular destination for hikers and mountaineers alike.
Rising to 1,345 metres (4,413 feet) in elevation, straight up from sea level, the peak has historically been used as a training ground for British alpinists heading to the Alps or farther afield.
To this day, roughly 100,000 climbers head to the summit of the peak each year. The unique shape of the mountain means the summit may be accessed by dozens of different routes, each of which requires a different level of skill and experience.
Quick Facts about Ben Nevis
- At 1,345 metres (4,413 feet) high, Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom.
- Ben Nevis is part of the National Three Peaks Challenge, in which hillwalkers attempt to climb the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales all in one day. Ben Nevis is usually the first peak climbed in the challenge.
- The observatory at the summit of Ben Nevis was continuously operating from 1883 to 1904. The information gathered during the time period informs modern understanding of Scottish weather.
History of Ben Nevis
The first known ascent of Ben Nevis was made by the Scottish botanist James Robertson, on August 17, 1771. The peak was climbed by an array of other scientists soon afterward to study the geology and other features of the mountain.
While it was widely considered to be one of the tallest peaks in Great Britain, this was not confirmed until 1847, when the Ordnance Survey confirmed it was slightly taller than Ben Macdhui (1,309 metres/4,295 feet).
In 1883, the first path to the summit was made, which would allow ponies to carry supplies for the construction of a weather observatory. The observatory would remain in operation for the following 21 years.
Experience Required for Climbing Ben Nevis
Depending on which route one takes to the summit, climbing Ben Nevis requires varying levels of technical skill.
While the simplest routes to the top do not require any technical climbing gear or experience, there are dozens of other more complicated routes that require some level of scrambling knowledge or multi-pitch rock climbing skills.
In the winter, the peak can be climbed by various routes, all of which require some basic snow and rock climbing abilities.
Regardless of which route is taken to the summit of Ben Nevis, all require a high level of physical fitness as the ascent is steep and crosses uneven terrain.
Main Routes up Ben Nevis
While there are dozens of different routes that lead to the summit of the peak from every side and angle, a few routes are generally used by guides and popular among climbers and hillwalkers.
The most popular route is the Tourist Route, which begins in Achintee, to the east of the peak and follows the pony trail up to the summit. The way is quite steep, but requires no technical ability. Roughly three-quarters of visitors to the mountain climb it via this route.
Climbers looking for a more technical challenge often opt for the Tower Ridge Route, which approaches the peak from the north and involves some steep intermediate-level scrambling.
For advanced mountaineers, the Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête is a popular route. It is incredibly scenic, but takes climbers up the northwest of the mountain along exposed ridgelines. It does not involve much technical climbing, but does require steady feet and a good head for heights. Many climbers come here in the winter to train for ascents in the Alps.