Nick Sellen

This used to appear on which was all about a bike tour I made around the UK in 2011/2012.

Ascending Ben Nevis

30 October 2011

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK (1344 meters / 4409 feet) located a couple of miles from Fort William, Scotland. I’m not particularly inclined to do things just to feel I’ve ticked a box and walking up and back down the same route feels kind of pointless. My brother asked me whether I was and I pondered for a bit and decided whilst I was there it would be something to do, there might be a nice view!

In summary it was fantastic – surreal arctic-like conditions.

an american walking towards me (still someway off the summit)


As I’m in no hurry I waited around in the glen for a good day (good meaning clear but also cold) to make the most of it. As I waited (well, I did other useful things for my winter preparations) the snow started forming on the peaks and I was getting a bit apprehensive.

A guide to ascending Ben Nevis in the winter said to take crampons and ice axes which sounds scary, it’s not yet winter, but definitely not summer. There was no advice for the middle-ground. I spoke to a few people and they suggested it would be fine with my walking gear (sturdy boots, full waterproofs, etc).

My gloves worked well and kept my hands toasty warm.

Black Diamond Punisher

The ascent

Ben Nevis is the mountain furthest on the left with snow on it, the summit is quite a bit higher and hidden from view (the bottom of the snowy bit is just over half way)

Wednesday stood out as the best day by a long way and perhaps even a chance of a view from the summit, it turned out a glorious day and the lowland parts were in stunning sunshine.

the river that runs through the glen on a lovely day

there is a very well marked path making it pretty easy going

with lovely views back down towards the glen

it soon turns to all snow

Quite a lot of people walk up this route, and a large number of people wear spectacularly unsuitable clothing – tight fashion jeans and a pair of trainers. Most of them seemed to see sense when it gets snowy and turn back but impressively (and maybe stupidly) a group of Germans made it to the summit dressed in jeans, they did not look very happy though.

The summit

my brief moment as highest man in the UK

At the summit there is some remains of an observatory that amazingly was permanently staffed between 1883 and 1904 to study weather at high altitude but closed due to government cuts. There is now a small hut to protect people in case of bad weather.

the hut at the top resembles a bus shelter near a school

The descent

some lovely views looking back while descending

The whole thing was far less dramatic than I had prepared for: I had over half the food I carried up with me when I got back to the bottom and didn’t once look at my map (I had taken a battery pack too giving me perhaps a month of battery life).

I’d be interested to try an ascent from the north side one day which is far more demanding and requires climbing or scrambling.