Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the British Isles, is attempted by thousands of people every year. While it is definitely possible for an amateur to reach the summit, the main thing to keep in mind is that Ben Nevis is not to be underestimated. It is a difficult and potentially dangerous climb, and takes an average of 4 hours to climb with a further 2-3 hours to climb back down. However, as long as you are properly prepared and understand the risks involved, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make the climb and have a great time doing so!
Why should I climb Ben Nevis?
Climbing the UK’s tallest mountain, which stands at 1,345 m (4,412.73 ft) tall, will give you an enormous sense of achievement. It is a real test of fitness, grit and stamina, and it will definitely give you something good to tick off your bucket list. Furthermore, many people climb Ben Nevis for the amazing views it gives, of the nearby towns, valleys and lochs. While the view from the top is nearly always hidden in clouds, the views from your journey up will astound you and will give you many opportunities to take stunning photos as you take a break from walking. Climbing Ben Nevis will be an experience that you will never be able to forget.
When should I climb Ben Nevis?
If you are an amateur walker, it is strongly recommended that you only attempt to reach the summit of Ben Nevis during the summer months. However warm or sunny the weather may be at the base, by the time you get up near the summit the temperature will have dropped dramatically, normally below freezing. Even at the height of summer there is a high chance you will still come across snow near the top, and the clouds and drizzle that frequently roll in can cause the temperature to plunge still further. You would be likely to find the summit almost unbearably cold if you were to attempt the ascent in winter. Moreover, while a small amount of snow on the mountain should not cause you too many problems, the more there is, the more dangerous the climb becomes. Snow obscures the path, meaning you could easily become disorientated and find yourself veering towards hidden drops without realising. Finally, there are certain to be more people climbing with you if you go in the summer, which makes the walk a lot safer because having people around you will help you not to lose the path. Check the forecast beforehand to make sure the visibility will not be too bad at the top. If you have a few days to spare in Scotland, it would be a good idea to plan to go near the beginning of the week so that if the weather turns out to be unsuitable you will still have further opportunities.
What should I bring to Ben Nevis?
If you climb Ben Nevis in June or July you may well find that you’re in summer at the base and in winter at the summit! You will; therefore, need to prepare for all weather. To begin with, if you have fair skin you might want to consider bringing sun cream and sunglasses to avoid getting burned or dazzled by the sun. Whatever month you go in, you will also definitely need to prepare for the freezing temperatures near the top, so make sure you bring gloves and a hat with you. In terms of what to wear, layers are key. While you may want to wear nothing more than a T-shirt for the first hour of hard work, the nearer you get to the top the more layers you will need. It is much better to bring too many than not enough. You will almost definitely encounter rain at some point during your climb, so waterproof trousers can be a good way to avoid having heavy wet trousers chafing your legs. You will also need a good waterproof coat, and proper walking boots. Attempting the climb in trainers could be very dangerous as the rocky path can become very slippery and in several places is next to a severe drop, making walking downhill particularly difficult. Furthermore, make sure you have plenty of water and high-energy snacks, as well as a map and compass, which could prove vital should you become lost near the summit. Ben Nevis also has surprisingly good phone signal, so it is worth making sure your phone is fully charged in case you get into any difficulty. I would personally recommend bringing music with you; it can be very motivating when your legs are hurting and you are close to giving up! Finally, bring your camera, as you will definitely want to take photos of the impressive views below.
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On the day
When your chosen day comes, make sure to check the weather again. There is nothing wrong with deciding that you cannot safely climb the mountain; it is much better to postpone it for another occasion than to take too big a risk. If you feel you can go ahead, prepare for the challenge ahead by having a big, energising breakfast. When you reach the mountain you can park in a car park right at the base of Ben Nevis (parking costs just 3 GBP / 3.94 USD). It is a good idea to begin your climb as early in the morning as possible, as the weather often deteriorates as the day goes on. Before you set off, remember to stretch! It really can make all the difference to how your legs feel. When climbing, take the time to keep checking your map so you know where you are, both for safety’s sake and also so you know how far you’ve come and how far there is to go. You may well find that the challenge is too much for you, and that’s okay — if you want a target that’s less intimidating than reaching the summit, there is a lake halfway up the climb that makes a great place to aim for. The part of the path immediately before reaching the lake is probably the toughest part to climb, so knowing the lake is ahead should give you the motivation to carry on. Moreover, be careful you stick to the Mountain Track, as the other routes can be highly dangerous even for experts.
Hopefully this article won’t have put you off making an attempt — climbing Ben Nevis is definitely a serious challenge and not to be taken lightly, but as long as the visibility is not too bad and the path can be clearly found, it can be completed by most people. Take your time and take as many breaks as you need — climbing a mountain this high is a fantastic achievement in itself, and is definitely a marathon not a sprint! As long as you take care to keep safe, you will have a brilliant time.
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