This article comes from my first hand experience of conquering The Ben (as it’s known by locals). Whether you take on the Three Peaks Challenge, or you just fancy ticking the UK’s highest mountain off your bucket list, then here’s some useful information to keep you safe.
Where to stay
I stayed in this Air B&B and it was the perfect location within Fort William. At just £25 per person per night based on four people sharing means it’s affordable too. The apartment was just ten minutes drive from Ben Nevis Visitor Centre, and close to conveniences such as Aldi, Home Bargains, the Town Centre and Ben Nevis Distillery. The Corpach Wreck (pictured) and the Glenfinnan Viaduct were also within easy reach.
How long does it take to hike Ben Nevis?
The average time taken to hike Ben Nevis is around seven hours up and down, but this will largely depend on your walking speed, experience, conditions and the time taken to eat, drink and snap photographs.
The climb itself is not as strenuous as you might imagine, since it begins on Glen Nevis and snakes around on to Ben Nevis. The Waterfall marks the half way point, and it’s from here that the terrain becomes more treacherous and the ascent more vertical.
It took my team 6.5 hours to reach the summit, this was largely due to a frequent number of stops. For a normal able-bodied person, you can easily reach the summit in four to five hours. It took us three hours to descend on minimal stops.
What to wear to hike Ben Nevis?
Climbing in October, the weather was just comfortable but not warm. We were aware that the summit would reach minus temperatures, but of course the climb itself will raise your body temperature somewhat. I’d recommend taking layers – thermal ones – that you can take on and off as you climb.
The weather can change in an instant from glorious sunshine to snow showers, so be sure to take some waterproof outerwear to protect yourself from the elements.
A good pair of shoes
Even with my North Face hiking shoes my feet were in agony on the descent. The terrain is very rocky, include loose rocks and even climbing over boulders, so be sure to wear a good study pair of shoes that are comfortable – you’re going to be wearing them for hours!
And of course, blister plasters won’t hurt.
What to take to hike Ben Nevis?
You’re going to be outside climbing for a good few hours, so it’s recommended to pack food, water and even some energy gels. This is of course the minimum I carried, and only because we had a seasoned hiker with us who had all the gear. Do some extra research into what survival items you might need if you’re new to hiking.
Expert advice from Rhys, Founder of bennevis.co.uk
Hundreds of thousands of people each year consider climbing Ben Nevis and over 150,000 carry out the climb. Well, attempt to at least! It sounds like a bit of fun and a little adventure right on our doorsteps. However, even for an experienced climber, Ben Nevis is not a mountain that should be climbed without preparation and a thought-out plan.
Going back to basics is often essential to ensure your safety on the mountain. Unfortunately, people do run into trouble on Ben Nevis and there have been deaths over recent years.
The biggest thing to consider is the weather. People sometimes underestimate quite how high Ben Nevis is (1,345 metres above sea level), which means the weather at the summit can be and often is, vastly different to the weather at the base of the mountain. Check the weather before you leave where you’re staying to attempt your climb and then check the weather for a second time before actually ascending. It’s not uncommon for people to not consider this and when they reach the summit, the fog is so thick, they can’t see further than their feet.
Ensuring you have enough food and fluids is also another major consideration. We always recommend that no-one climbs Ben Nevis unless they have a backpack with suitable foods such as bananas along with plenty of drinking water. The average person will be able to do the climb in around 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours. That’s not an easy 3-4 hours though. Ben Nevis is not a nicely paved climb and it will take all your energy. When you climb Ben Nevis, you will be shocked to see how many people are climbing with only one small bottle in hand. It’s simply not enough to be safe.
While the two pieces of advice mentioned above sound extremely dull and obvious, you would be surprised by how many people climb the mountain each year without even considering the above. This mountain while beautiful and inspiring is not a climb to take lightly. There was recently a viral story about a person climbing Ben Nevis in flip flops. They certainly hadn’t considered the basics!