Reaching to the top feels good! If you are in this kind of mindset, you probably want to get on top of the UK and climb Ben Nevis. Indeed, this ancient volcano is 1,345 meters high (4,413′ feet high), making it the highest mountain, followed by Ben Macdui, culminating at a solid 1,309 meters. Climbing Ben Nevis looks like a solid challenge for both amateur and hardened climbers. This article will tell you everything you need to know about the level required to climb Ben Nevis. So, is it easy to climb Ben Nevis?

Climbing Ben Nevis is relatively easy if you take the tourist footpath in summer. It takes around 4 hours to climb to the top, and 3 hours to get down afterward. However, if you decide to climb Ben Nevis via other routes, there are some discussions to have. This is what this article is about: helping you to choose a route, plan your trip, and reach the summit of Ben Nevis.

river flowing down a green mountain under cloudy sky photo in ben nevis
The kind of views you can get during the ascent to the top of Ben Nevis. Picture from Rowan Manning.

How to climb Ben Nevis?

What route should I take?

Climbing a mountain is not something everyone can do. It is totally normal to question yourself about your fitness and about whether you are ready or not to reach Ben Nevis’ summit. As mentioned before, there is a quite easy footpath to climb Ben Nevis, called the “tourist path”. If you take it during summertime and choose a sunny day (be careful, this last point is not that easy in Scotland!), you should not have any trouble. No particular level is required for this path. However, I also mentioned that there are some other routes. Some of them are more challenging than others. After some research, I found an incredible table from Walk Up Ben Nevis, which brilliantly summarized every route, with the starting points, and the distances of each route.

Route NameStarting PointDistanceAscentWalking Time
Ben Nevis via The Mountain TrackGlen Nevis Visitor Centre17km1370m8 hours
Ben Nevis via CMD Arete Glen NevisGlen Nevis Visitor Centre19.8km1800m8-10 hours
Ben Nevis via CMD Arete – North Face Car ParkNorth Face Car Park18km1500m8-10 hours
Ben Nevis Via Carn Dearg SouthLower Steall Falls Car Park8.8km1200m8 hours
Ledge RouteNorth Face Car Park16km1300m10-12 hours
Ben Nevis via CMD East RidgeUpper Steall Falls Car Park19km1430m8 hours
This table is from Walk Up Ben Nevis and gives all the details about routes to climb Ben Nevis.

Choosing a route between all those options is not particularly easy, I admit it. Hence, I will add some details. First, here is a video of the Tourist Path, called The Mountain Track in the table. This will help you to represent the difficulty of the ascent.

As you can see in the video, the weather conditions can be a bit capricious in Scotland, and make the ascent less enjoyable. Make sure to choose the right day.

What level is required to climb Ben Nevis?

The previous video shows you the Tourist Path, which is called this way because of the number of people who take it. It is not called that way because it is extremely easy. Indeed, even if I said in the introduction that it was relatively easy to reach the summit, a basic fitness level is still required. You should walk sometimes and have the self-confidence to get on top. You should also not be afraid of heights since there are some impressive views when you approach the top.

As long as you are properly prepared and you understand the risks involved, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to make the climb and have a great time doing so!

Ellie Weekes, a hiker who climbed Ben Nevis

Where to sleep before and after the ascent?

Since the weather conditions can spoil your ascent, it is a wise choice to stay several days around Ben Nevis and to climb it when the weather is the best. To sleep, you have two main options: you can either sleep in Fort William, or in Glen Coe. The latter is a small village, whereas Fort William is a little town. If you want to buy groceries, and maybe some special equipment to climb Ben Nevis, the best is probably to sleep in Fort William. However, if you are already ready and you just want to enjoy Ben Nevis, sleeping in Glen Coe could be a memorable experience.

When should I climb Ben Nevis?

The timing of the ascent is an important question to answer. Is it safe to climb during winter? Is it too warm in summer? I will answer all those questions. As an amateur hiker, the best for you is to reach the summit during the summer months. Indeed, the temperatures drop very quickly as you climb up, and they can even fall below zero degrees on top! You will probably even see snow on top of Ben Nevis.

Also, if you choose to climb Ben Nevis during the summer months, you will encounter a lot of other hikers, which will help you not loosing track of the path. The path is overall well indicated, but as you have seen before, there are several routes, so you could find yourself taking the wrong one at one point.

Finally, if you are here for the challenge, you could try to climb Ben Nevis during winter. However, if you choose that option, I must warn you: it is not for everyone! Since one image is worth a thousand words, I will show you a video of people climbing Ben Nevis during the winter months to show you what kind of ascent to expect if you choose the winter months.

Paddy Cave from Trail Magazine explains to you the obstacles of a winter ascent of Ben Nevis.

That video was shot on one of the hardest routes to climb Ben Nevis. But still, you can see the clothes those people are wearing: the weather conditions are extreme during winter! If you want to read about the story of Ben Frost, who climbed Ben Nevis during the winter months, you can read the article I wrote about it.

I hope that this article was helpful for you in any way, and that you know possess all the information needed to plan your Scottish trip around Ben Nevis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *