Ben Nevis Hike to the highest mountain in Scotland
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland and the whole of the UK. It is located in the Grampian Mountains (also Grampians), which are one of the main mountain ranges of Scotland, in the north of the country. The area Lochaber belongs to the well-known Scottish Highlands, the next larger city is Fort William.
The summit of Ben Nevis lies at 1345 meters and can offer a great view of the surrounding national parks.
Unfortunately, this is so rarely the case that one should adjust to a successful ascent to poor visibility and just reduced range. Speaking of attitude …
Bad weather and unpredictable changes
The weather in the summit area is usually miserable and the conditions can suddenly worsen. Such changes in the weather are well known and dreadfully dreaded. Hurricane gusts are the rule rather than the exception.
Died hiker at Ben Nevis
The number of casualties during the migration to Ben Nevis is alarmingly high. This is mostly due to a lack of experience, recklessness or unsuitable clothing.
In recent years, about 20 people each died and the number of deaths will certainly continue to increase.
Ben Nevis comes from the Gaelic and consists of the name “Ben” for “summit” or “mountain” and “Nibheis” (more precisely “neamh-bhathais” of: “neamh” = sky or clouds and “bhathais” = peak of the head)) for “head in the clouds” together.
Ben Nevis hike – variants
The ascent of the mountain can be approached differently. There are several options for hikes:
1) Mountain Track or also Pony Track
The “Tourist Route” is the most used hiking trail on the way to the summit. This mountain track starts at Pub Ben Nevis Inn near Achintee.
From the hostel, the trail is steeper.
2) Alternative to the Tourist Route
Halfway along the “Half Way Hole” a path branches off to the north and leads below the north face of Ben Nevis on the ridge of the neighboring mountain Càrn Mòr Dearg (1220 m, Gaelic for “large, pointed, red mountain”) to the summit.
3) Climb over the Càrn Mòr Dearg massif
From the north begins a much more challenging hike in Torlundy. It leads across the massif of Càrn Mòr Dearg.
Climb over the mountain track
Yesterday on my arrival it rained “cats and dogs” and also at night the rain pattered on the skylights. But the conversation with a Scotsman and a look at his weather forecast finally motivates me to face the forces of nature.
From 800 meters there was fresh snow, you can see from the starting point. But snow and ice I’m used to from the Schneekoppe in the Czech Republic.
Start at Hostel Glen Nevis
Glen Nevis Hostel (hostel) is my direct starting point. We are here at 10 m height. Until the summit there are more than 1300 vertical meters on the program.
By the way …
In the breakfast room then the very hard guys are done. All three dressed completely in Bundeswehr camouflage. I would not be surprised if I see this special unit later 😉
And of course I meet the guys again, but totally different than expected …
Immediately I search the conversation with the troupe and ask for 😉
Their clothes belong to their “Gear” and they work for national parks or the administrations of these. Here they now take care of the nature of the paths, clear away stone blocks or arrange them in a skilful manner, similar to Roman roadworks.
Therefore, I praise their work and speak states with us in the Fichtelgebirge, where sometimes for months on trees are on hiking trails.
On the way back we should talk again …
Steep way up
The percentages in some passages immediately remind me of the ascent to Schneekoppe. On the first three kilometers, my hike rises immediately steeply on the southern slope of the neighboring mountain Meall at t-Suidhe. At the so-called “Half Way Loch” (Lochan Meall at t-Suidhe), the trail leads me over a saddle to Ben Nevis and climbs steeply in eight turns up to the summit.
Stone steps begin to annoy
The way up to about 600 hm almost only coarse, currently wet and therefore very slippery stones. I therefore choose a path on the edge, if possible.
The higher I get, the harder the wind blows against me.
Wind, storm, hurricane
What should now follow from about 800 meters altitude, in my view, is comparable to climbs of alpine peaks in bad weather conditions: fresh snow, wind speeds around 100 km / h (9 Bft) and increasingly poor visibility. But even that would be sustainable, but not …
Heavy freezing rain and visibility zero
Conditions at the mountain
Although the hurricane-like wind is unpleasant, in combination with heavy freezing rain it is absolutely violent.
There is no protection on the track against this counteracting force of nature.
I’ve long been in the area of the so-called zig-zags (similar to the ascent of the Carrauntoohil), but only two places are a bit wind-away and thus offer a little protection.
By now my Jack Wolfskin pants are “through”, but where and how should I change these on a free surface? Does this make any sense in the ice storm?
I decide – contrary to the conditions – to increase speed to perform the summit as quickly as possible …
When I get the zig-zags behind me and get to the back of Ben Nevis, I should come to a crucial question.
Reason, weak mind or ascent at any cost?
So far, I have followed increasingly sparse tracks. Now one would say in English “it`s a dead end”.
No traces or recognizable path. What makes orientation impossible is the dreaded fog up here (“Ben Nevis Fog”). The visibility is really zero, as you can see in the photo …
Although I have checked compass and GPS device and find the way back, BUT …
Decision to turn back
Because of the never-ending hurricane, I decide with this nasty ice storm and the lack of visibility – after a futile attempt to find a direct way up – to break here now at 1150 m (200 meters below the summit) and at 11 o’clock reverse.
Way back and a special pants change
To get back down as fast as possible, I put the snow passages back in the “Free-Running-Tempo”.
The wetness of my pants finally forces me to act so as not to get sick.
I change them under impossible conditions: Heavy wind, freezing rain and damp ground. Not so easy to get out of the wet pants. On one leg I defy the forces of nature and keep my footing. Finally, I manage to put on my dry pants. I will now continue my journey quickly.
As already clearly expressed in the book Wanderführer Teneriffa and experienced on the way to Carrauntoohil and Schneekoppe again and again, I can only shake my head and do not understand such approaches!
There comes to me a death rate of about 20 people here in the area of Ben Nevis relatively small. Also, the accidents are not enough elsewhere in view of this credulity, stupidity or whatever you want to call this.
Because of these hard-hitting facts, I feel confirmed in my decision to reverse and when I confess and speak openly, I get a lot of respect from the Scots. “Summit isn’t everything” and that is exactly my thinking:
Climbing a peak and standing on top is a really great feeling. But risking his life is not worth it for me anyway.
Of course, I will soon aim for the next summit, but not at any price. It is the highest mountain in England, the Pike Peak.
My request :
Take care of yourself, make the right decisions and stay safe …