Hill: Ben Nevis
Date: Sunday 9th October 2016
Company: Myself, Joanne, Becky, Cuillin and Mac
Distance: 14.1km, Ascent: 1425m
Time: 8Hrs 40Mins (including 30 minutes at summit)

Twenty-five years ago, when I were but a lad, I ascended Ben Nevis for the first time via its 'tourist path'. Since that walk in 1991, I have ascended Ben Nevis on four further occasions mostly via the Carn Mor Dearg arĂȘte. On visiting the Lake District earlier this year with my daughter Becky, we got talking about the highest hills in Scotland, England and Wales i.e. Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon. Becky told me she was keen to ascend all three of these hills sometime in the not too distant future. Of these three nation summits, Becky was especially keen to ascend Ben Nevis. Having recently found out that Joanne was also extremely keen to ascend Ben Nevis, all that was required was a day when we would all be together and the right conditions.

On checking out the forecast for this weekend, Sunday's forecast looked ideal for an ascent of the Ben. Wind: negligible, Rain: unlikely, Chance of cloud-free Munros: 70%, and sunshine. Recent temperatures had also been sufficiently low for midge die off, a real bonus when walking in Lochaber!

Given the nights are already fair drawin' in, we set off from home at 04.10 to arrive in Fort William by 07.00 i.e. with time for a quick MacDonalds breakfast before commencing our ascent of Ben Nevis at sunrise. Starting nice and early makes a lot of sense at this time of year especially for a hill like Ben Nevis. This would grant us eleven hours of daylight, not that I expected our walk to take that long. I anticipated an overall time of circa eight hours. Two further advantages to starting early were, i) finding a free parking space next to the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel thus allowing us to start the walk from the youth hostel instead of from the visitor centre and ii) as yet there would be few other walkers on the path.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

Once suited and booted, and with dogs in tow, we crossed the Glen Nevis road and then the bridge over the River Nevis. We stopped on the bridge for an initial photograph and would do so again later in the day for a final photograph.

On the bridge over the River Nevis directly opposite Glen Nevis Youth Hostel:

The initial ascent from the youth hostel was steeper than I remembered (perhaps I am just getting old). It posed no problems to young Becky who I had to ask to slow down in order to conserve energy for what lay ahead.

First light catching the tops of the Mamores:

During the entire walk we heard a rutting stag and saw a single raven. Ben Nevis is not the best of hills for wildlife encounters. We saw much more wildlife driving to Ben Nevis in the dark - badger, barn owl, roe deer, mice, rabbits, etc.

Becky on the tourist track:

As we progressed up the track, taking care not to slip or trip on the multitude of man-made steps, we passed a number of other walkers and a number of other walkers passed us. We were going at a fairly average pace.

Looking down to Glen Nevis:

For me, it was a relief to get off the man-made steps and onto a good section of track running just above Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe.

Track next to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe:

Beyond the north-face/tourist path junction, we began to zig-zag up the hill. I agreed with Becky that we would have a very brief stop at the end of each zig-zag. Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe was reflecting the small hill behind.

Looking down to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe:

As we gained more and more height the views got better and better. While the air clarity was not as good as my perfect day on Ben Nevis on 1st October 2015, the views were still 'no bad'.

Loch Linnhe coming into view:

A wee rest just off one of the zig-zags:

Joanne's Jelly Babies went down a treat during the ascent. These were enjoyed by all except Mac, who obviously prefers Liquorice Allsorts!

View towards Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil:

Another wee rest on the zigzags:

Loch Linnhe:

On seeing the top of Carn Dearg, a Munro Top I really need to get round to doing sometime, I knew we were not far from the summit.

Looking back towards top of Carn Dearg:

A brief stop at one of the marker cairns:

The zig-zagging track is fairly awful underfoot especially when one has a niggling knee injury. However, given the footfall on Ben Nevis, if it were not for these stones there would potentially be a six foot deep muddy trench.

Final stretch up towards the summit:

Looking back to Carn Dearg:

It was great to see the summit trig point, observatory ruins and war memorial all come into view. We were almost at the summit. Before ascending the plinth to the trig point, we stopped for some photos.

Becky standing next to the summit war memorial and observatory ruins:

Joanne, Becky and Mac standing next to the summit war memorial and observatory ruins:

Top of Tower Ridge and Carn Dearg:

Becky, Joanne, Mac and Cuillin (and a few randoms) at the summit of Ben Nevis:

Cuillin and I had a brief look inside the emergency shelter. I think the last time I sat inside was in 1997.

Cuillin checking out the inside of the summit emergency shelter:

After visiting the trig point we stopped for some lunch and to take lots more pics.

Lunch stop in front of summit emergency shelter:

Happy to be at the summit of the Ben:

Dad, Becky and Cuillin (photo by Joanne):

Tower Ridge with Carn Dearg beyond:

On testing out the zoom capability of my camera I could see tat left in place around the rock at the TD gap.

Tower Gap (zoom):

Joanne and Mac with upper section of Tower Ridge behind:

Despite the sun coming in and out of the clouds, it was a bit chilly up top. After spending thirty minutes at the summit, we needed to get going to once again warm up.

Joanne, myself, Mac and Cuillin (photo by Becky):

Joanne, Becky, myself, Mac and Cuillin:


We returned to the car via the same route as we had taken to get to the summit.

Loch Linnhe taken during descent:

Loch Linnhe / Loch Eil:

Had we began our ascent later in the day we would have encountered many more people on the path. Had it been mid-summer this number may have been tenfold! Regardless, I was getting grumpy during the descent owing to the path being awful, people pushing past (or walking right up my heels) and having a dog in tow who still had far too much energy. Can you tire out a young Cocker Spaniel?

During the descent, numerous walkers were somewhat astonished to find ten-year-old Becky making her way down and several stopped to congratulate her on her achievement. While many adults were huffing and puffing there way up, Becky was fine.

A 'line of ants' coming up Ben Nevis:

Meall an t-Suidhe and Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe:

Looking back to the Ben:

At the end of the walk we again stopped on the River Nevis bridge for a photograph and on reaching the car it was a huge relief to get the boots off.

Back to where we started from:

A massive well done to Becky for ascending Ben Nevis completely under her own steam. This is a big hill for little legs. Mega proud dad!

Also well done to Joanne and the boys (Mac and Cuillin).

Postscript: the day previous, 267kg of litter was removed from Ben Nevis. If you climb Ben Nevis please DO NOT drop litter there. Put it in your bag/pack and carry it out. If you see litter why not pick it up and carry it out too. Well done to those involved with the clean up.