Up above the clouds: Ben Nevis – The Grampian Mountains

21st August 2020

Nearing the halfway point of Ben Nevis and the last real view I got of the surrounding hills.

The rain pelted down by the bucket load as I arrived in Fort William at approximately 5.30pm on Thursday the 20th of August. In all fairness, it had been raining for the last 2 hours solid, beginning just as I passed the end of Loch Lomond, before quickly turning full throttle upon leaving the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. By the time I reached my destination, in the stunning and picturesque hills of Glen Nevis, the wind was really picking up and I wondered if I would even be able to pitch adequately with the way the weather was heading. It was ironic that as I squelched down the gravel driveway of the Glen Nevis Camping and Caravan Park, a car passed me on the way out, complete with a sticker on the interior side window which boasted ‘Welcome to Sunny Scotland’.

‘Welcome to Sunny Scotland’. Glen Nevis, Scottish Highlands.

I had travelled up to Scotland from Sheffield after catching the 06.40 train that morning. The journey up had been pleasant enough and I had hardly been able to keep still in my excitement as I gazed out of the window at the lush scenery as the train sped along. My mind was on fire as I imagined the trip ahead, the sights awaiting me, a long weekend of hiking and most of all.., my hope to finally climb the biggest mountain in the UK, the mighty Ben Nevis!

The UK had just recently left lockdown after experiencing a global pandemic, and since March of 2020, there had been travel restrictions literally everywhere. We were not out of the woods yet however, there were still restrictions in place and social distancing measures were expected in nearly every establishment open, but most people were just glad to be able to get outside and enjoy what hadn’t been available in the long months when Covid 19 had been at its peak.

It had only been one month since I had finally taken the plunge and booked myself a pitch at the campsite. Until then, climbing Ben Nevis and hiking in Scotland had just been a distant dream. Something I thought about often, but never actually did anything about. I have always been a walker and one for the great outdoors and had walked around parts of the Peak District more times than I care to remember. Until recently, I had been happy with areas such as Kinder Scout and Dovedale, two stunning locations within the Peak District National Park in England, however, I had developed a zest for adventuring and wished to explore new places outside of my comfort zone. I had wanted to climb Ben Nevis for a while now and as Scotland looked so inviting and tranquil, I thought what better time than the present to turn my dreams into realities.

The current time of year was nearing the end of Summer and so the temperature was no longer blazing hot like it had been in earlier months. As the Summer season drew to a close, there had been a lot of rain and the nights were beginning to draw in slightly earlier. Scotland was no exception, in fact from the looks today it seemed that this location had begun the change much earlier. There was definitely a nip in the air up here, and I noticed the difference in temperature almost as soon as I stepped off the train in Fort William.

After checking into the site and pitching my tent, I decided to chill in preparation for the adventures ahead. The weather had brightened up a little as I neared my camping pitch at the far end of the site and the sun had came out briefly, allowing me to pitch and get sorted without getting my kit wet. This was a welcome experience as I hadn’t really wanted to set up in the rain but I guess we cannot control the weather.

The view on the first evening from my tent at Glen Nevis Camping and Caravan Park. The sun was out briefly and I managed to sit with the door open and cook tea whilst viewing the spectacular Ben Nevis stretching out in front of me.

A really useful thing I had noticed on my arrival at the park reception was a constant broadcasting of the weather forecast. After looking at this for the next day, I was a little dismayed that it was showing extremely high winds for the area with gusts of up to 70mph likely. This did make me think seriously about my plans and thought that I may have to reschedule Ben Nevis for another time. As much as I wanted the experience, I wasn’t prepared to risk serious injury or worse by attempting a mountain climb knowing that the weather was unsuitable. I decided to check in the next day and see if it had changed, and made an alternative plan to explore the trail path along the River Nevis instead if the situation remained the same.


Overview

The edge of Ben Nevis, Glen Nevis, Scotland.

Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in Scotland and all of the UK. Standing at 1,345 metres above sea level, its summit is often submerged in mist and cloud and is known as the ‘venomous mountain’ or ‘mountain with its head in the clouds’ (visitscotland.com 2021). It is located in the region of Lochaber, close to Fort William in the Cairngorms National Park which is in the western area of the Grampian Mountains of which the Cairngorms forms a part.

Due to Ben Nevis being the tallest mountain in the whole of the British Isles, it is a popular tourist destination often attracting up to an estimated 100,000 people a year. Local attractions in this vicinity are:

  • Fort William
  • Glen Coe
  • Aonach Mor
  • Steall Waterfall
  • Buachaille Etive Mor
  • Lower Falls

Glen Nevis is also passed through on one of Scotland’s famous and well trodden trail routes, the West Highland Way, a 96 mile hike which begins in Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow and ends in Fort William town centre. If all goes to plan, this is hopefully my chosen trail hike of 2022.

The plan was to climb Ben Nevis by way of the Pony Track (or Mountain Path as it is now known). This is the most popular route up the mountain and is the one recommended by the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre and the Ben Nevis Trail Guide. Anyone who has never climbed Ben Nevis before is recommended this route as it is ‘suitable for beginner level hikers and even children’. This does deceive people though, and upon reading this in the trail guide, it can easily make this route seem easy pickings. I can honestly say that it is not easy at all! It is just the ‘easiest’ option out of all the rest!

I chose the Mountain Path over the alternative two routes due to the fact that I had never climbed Ben Nevis, was unfamiliar with its terrain and was climbing solo. However despite this, I felt that having other climbers around me was important and I wanted to enjoy the experience. As much as I love walking, and have done so for many years, I am inexperienced in mountain climbing and felt that anything harder would be taking a huge risk when it came to my safety and that of others.

Alternative routes up Ben Nevis are the Carn Mor Dearg Arête (CMD) and the Ledge Route, the latter only being recommended for professional and experienced climbers. It is the least trodden route and involves rock climbing and having the equipment to do it. The Carn Mor Dearg Arête (CMD) is a longer version of the Ledge Route, is very challenging and again is only recommended for experienced mountain climbers.

Upon reaching the summit of Ben Nevis, the plan was to return down the mountain the same way that I walked up by using the Mountain Path.


Trail Head and Route up the Mountain

The official trail head begins at the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre located on the eastern side of Ben Nevis at Achintee, Glen Nevis. The path proceeds to gradually climb the mountain, weaving in and out of its contours for a considerable amount of the climb until it reaches its summit at 1,345 metres (4,413 feet). The hike is approximately 10.5 miles (17km) in total from the start to the summit and back down, and can take anywhere in between 7-9 hours to complete.

The Mountain Path route up Ben Nevis, Scotland.

Before I started my hike up Ben Nevis, I visited the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre to chat to the staff there about the route and gather some information. I was given the following advice:

“Stick to the path at all times and do not be tempted to take a short cut on the unfortunate new formed paths which might not be safe. Ensure that you are wearing appropriate clothing and footwear and that you have additional warm layers as the temperature higher up the mountain drops considerably. The weather forecast is due to change in the early afternoon and is going to rain so ensure you have waterproof clothing with you. Use the cairns near the top as guides as these were built to guide hikers in mist and snow when the path cannot always be seen. They will prevent falls down the cliff side which can happen if straying from the path. The path is challenging despite what the billboard and guide states and care should be taken at all times. Never underestimate Ben…”

Cairns nearing the summit of Ben Nevis. These are used to aid climbers when visibility is poor and when the path cannot be seen due to snow or mist. As can be seen here, the path becomes almost non existent in this part and extra vigilance is required to prevent straying from the route.

Gear and Equipment

The following is based upon what I took during my climb up Ben Nevis alone.

  • 20 litre day rucksack (it wasn’t filled to capacity either)
  • Base layer hiking leggings (worn)
  • Base layer hiking top (worn)
  • Mid layer fleece trousers (worn)
  • Walking boots ( worn)
  • Waterproof trousers and overcoat (packed and worn at times)
  • Hiking jacket (worn)
  • Mid layer fleece jacket (worn)
  • Additional spare sweater for if the temperature dropped extremely low (packed)
  • Gloves, hat and gaiter (worn at the summit)
  • Lunch and snacks for the day including drinks (packed)
  • Map of the route
  • Mobile phone and external battery
  • Information leaflets purchased from the visitor centre
  • A selection of dry bags to protect the contents of my rucksack
  • First aid kit and blister plasters

Ben Nevis Visitor Centre to the trail head signpost

The famous trail head signpost for Ben Nevis. A favourite spot for a photograph or two and the true start of many an adventure.

I arrived at the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre at approximately 9.30am and after a brief look around and a chat to the friendly staff there, I headed outside to begin my climb up Ben Nevis. The time was nearing 10am by this point and there were already around 50 other people outside with their backpacks and gear. I had been overjoyed upon waking to find it was glorious sunshine outside my tent that morning, and it gave me an instant energy boost at the thought that I may get to climb after all. Whilst at the Visitor Centre, I had enquired about the weather throughout the day and was pleasantly surprised to be told that Ben Nevis actually has its own forecast! Up until that moment, I didn’t know this so you really do learn something new everyday. The forecast predicted that the weather would be fine until approximately 1pm and then anything beyond the halfway point was a very high chance of rain. Luckily the winds were only reaching 40mph at the most today. That to me still seemed strong but the staff reassured me that for Ben that was reasonable. I decided to give it a go.

The midges I had noticed, were quite troublesome as I headed towards the information board located outside the Visitor Centre. I had been pre-warned before my trip about the severity of the midges in the Scottish Highlands and had been advised by a number of people to purchase insect repellent and a midge net. So far I had done none of these things as I had underestimated their comments. After being bitten several times I decided to buy a can of Smidge Midge Repellent which I put on almost instantly. I decided against buying a net though, which would later prove to be the worst decision I had ever made and definitely not a mistake to make anytime soon!

The Ben Nevis information billboard at the start of the hike. It is useful in giving details about the route up, approximate times to reach certain points of the climb and some general information about the different areas of the mountain throughout the Mountain Path walk.

The hike up Ben Nevis begins by taking the route over the River Nevis via a wooden bridge supported by metal girders. From the bridge, I could see right into the valley and across to the surrounding mountains in the Nevis Range. The path then heads in the direction of Ben Nevis along the bottom of fields separated by a wire fence for around 10 minutes before arriving at the signpost for the mountain. This was proving to be a very popular spot as there were several people already there having photographs taken and more were arriving. Some people say that the trail doesn’t even begin until this point is reached but from the looks of the photographs taken over the years, it would seem that the location of it has moved several times. I am therefore inclined to believe the trail guide at present which does state the official trail head as Glen Nevis Visitor Centre.

The view from the bridge which crosses the River Nevis.

Trail head to the halfway point (Meall an t-Suidhe)

The trail leaves the signpost almost immediately and begins to head off along a straight footpath towards Achintee. Here, I discovered the famous Ben Nevis Inn and Bunkhouse which is a popular stop off point for weary walkers heading down from the mountain. The bunkhouse is exactly what it states on the tin, and was once an old barn which has been fully converted into a spectacular dining outlet. I have to admit that I did attempt to book a table here as my reward for reaching the summit, however due to popular demand it was fully booked up for the next coming days and unfortunately, I was unsuccessful this time around.

Upon leaving the bunkhouse, the path climbs over a stile and heads right. As I followed the trail, I could see the views ahead and to my right opening up. The pathway although it had a slight incline, had not begun its proper climb at this point but already I was beginning to feel that tingle of excitement as I knew that I was finally on my way up the mountain. The views already were spectacular in my opinion and this propelled me forward as my eagerness grew.

The early stages of Ben Nevis and the rocky path leading away from Achintee and Ben Nevis Restaurant and Bunkhouse.
Beginning the climb and the views down Glen Nevis.

After approximately 30 minutes of walking, the path meets a junction where an alternative start to Ben Nevis begins. This is the route used by people who stay in the Youth Hostel in Glen Nevis and is a footpath that leads from there to this section of the mountain climb. It is at this point that the track becomes very rocky and turns a few corners so that in affect, it doubles back on itself in a zig zag form. This section involves some scrambling to get around the corners and care needed to be taken to prevent falls. Some of the rocks had been weathered smooth here and I imagined them being very slippery when wet. I remember this clearly as being the first part of the walk where I had to use real effort to climb and the place where I met my first Ben Nevis trail runner! A woman was running up the mountain and was quickly followed by a group of around 6 ‘strapping’ men. I later learned that the Ben Nevis trail run competition takes place yearly in September and around now, people are doing their training for it. The current record for completing Ben Nevis at that stage was 1 hour 30 minutes to reach the summit and get back down to the visitor centre. Now that is some achievement!

The path stretched onwards and upwards as I climbed and eventually came to a place where a stream was trickling down the mountainside and crossing the track. It meant having to walk in the stream in order to cross and looked very picturesque. The drop down the side however is very steep and care should be taken not to walk too close to the edge at this point. The views however, are beautiful and I could see right across the valley of Glen Nevis towards the campsite.

The stream crossing during the walk up Ben Nevis.
A short distance ahead, there is another river crossing, this time by way of a wooden footbridge. The path begins to get steeper beyond this point. As an be seen here, the terrain of the path is rocky and uneven.

Shortly after the wooden bridge, the path veers towards the left and begins to follow the contours of the mountain as it curves round the side of it high above a stream which tumbles down from the middle of the mountain. The path stretches ever forward and it was here that I quickly learned that the top of the mountain that you see from the ground at the visitor centre is actually just a false top! Ben Nevis, upon reaching the halfway point, begins to head off to the right, up what looks like another mountain. It is only when the halfway point is reached properly that you can see that it is in fact the same mountain and the journey continues ever upwards and onwards.

The journey stretches onwards…

Meall an T-Suidhe: 711 metres, 2333 feet.

Upon reaching the halfway point of the climb, there is a beautiful lochan named the Meall an T-Suidhe. This is a popular spot in which to take a well earned rest and I took full advantage of this opportunity. The landscape here opens up to rolling green hills and has a smoother appearance. The ground also levels out somewhat and the path is much flatter here allowing for a much easier walk for a short distance from here on. The time taken to reach this location had been around 2.5 hours and it was now 12.30pm. I remember just starting to feel the first twinges of fatigue at this point as it was quite a long tiring climb up from the footbridge. Due to the path being narrow during this stage and having a steep drop down the hillside towards the stream, it had been difficult to stop and rest on the way up and there are not a lot of places at the side to sit without blocking the access for other hikers. I had just pressed on upwards until I reached the lochan but felt now that I was in need of something to eat and warm refreshments.

I continued on the route until I reached the Red Burn at the end of this section of the hike, and then found a flat rock overlooking the Loch in which to sit and heat some water for hot chocolate. It was a stunning place to sit and observe my surroundings and I was beginning to feel a sense of great achievement upon reaching this far up the mountain. Other climbers must have felt similar that day as many were also taking the opportunity to grab refreshments and gather strength for the imposing next stage of the route.

The Meall an t-Suidhe. The halfway point up Ben Nevis after approximately a 2.5 hour climb.

Halfway point to the Zigzags

After this point, the weather began to change just as the staff in the Visitor Centre had warned it would. The mist began to sweep in and the first spots of rain were felt. As can be seen here, the terrain also changes at this point. Gone is the lush greenery that was enjoyed, we were now heading onto sharp, grey unforgiving rocks which were treacherous underfoot and an ankle snapper at the best of times.

The Red Burn is a section of the route where the path divides and walkers can choose their route from then on. The official mountain path takes a right turn here over a further stream crossing before curving round and continuing up the mountain, however, an alternative route can be taken. The route to access the Carn Mor Dearg Arête (CMD) and Ledge Route continues straight along past the turn off and the path can clearly be seen stretching away into the distance past the Meall an T-Suidhe. Seen as I was following the mountain track on this occasion, I began the steady climb along now very different terrain.

The weather had started the first changes of the day just as I had finished my refreshments sat on the rock. As I was eating, I had felt the first raindrops on my cheeks and the chill in the air that the staff in the visitor centre had warned me about. I noticed upon crossing the stream that the landscape from here on was starting to change also. Up until this stage, I had been surrounded by lush greenery, the occasional tree and the pathway had been a mixture of sandy and rocky terrain. Now it was heading into sharp, grey rocks which were not easy underfoot and the whole mountain landscape was exactly the same. The first swirls of mist were just starting to sweep over too and I knew that it wouldn’t be long until the view was completely obstructed.

I took a photograph at this stage of the view of the surrounding landscape from the halfway point and in hindsight, I’m so glad I did! It turned out to be the only photograph I got of any view from here onwards, as shortly after this point, the weather changed drastically and the whole place became swathed in thick mist. There was nothing to be seen at all within just a short distance either side of me and I saw even clearer the reason why the mountain path had been the more sensible option for me. The photograph I took that day of the view from here can be viewed at the start of this blog post. It gives an idea of the great height of Ben Nevis even from just halfway up. The views were absolutely spectacular!


Zigzags to the summit

The mountain track as it heads towards the Zigzags.

The Zigzags section of the Ben Nevis climb is in my view, the most challenging part of the hike. It is the most tiring and often, most talked about when discussing the accent and it’s difficulty. By the time I reached the start of the Zigzags, it was raining steadily and had been for a good 15 minutes. The wind was beginning to really pick up and I could feel it blowing strong as I slowly picked my way up.

It is called the Zigzags as the path literally zigzags back on itself up to three times as it weaves up the mountainside. The terrain is grey, sharp, uneven rocks and sturdy footwear is definitely needed. I found this section challenging for a number of reasons. It comes at a time when the summit is not far off and tiredness is really starting to kick in. It is time consuming as it is not a straight or direct route up the mountain. I could totally understand the temptation to skip the zigzag and try and climb straight up between the rocks as many others have, but this is a very dangerous risk to take. The rocks are not as sturdy as they look and are very sharp in places. It is strongly advised to stick to the main pathway for safety reasons and to avoid accidents.

I stayed on the path for the whole of the journey up and so did everyone I met going up. It was definitely eventful and I met some incredible people at this stage of the climb. Some had done it before, others hadn’t, but there was lots of banter and encouragement. Despite it being the most challenging, it was definitely my favourite part because of this. I was extremely tired during this section and if I’m honest, my legs were really feeling it. I later learned that this is the part of the mountain where, if people are going to give in, it is usually here. What they often don’t realise, is that they are only a short distance really from nearing the summit.

An interesting section of the climb was just before I reached the summit. It was extremely misty and visibility was not great. There were times when I could not see the path in the rocks and I remembered what the staff in the visitor centre had said. Just a few yards to the side of me was what looked at first to be another access route off to the left. There was a gap in the rock face, and what appeared to be a pathway but due to the mist and now falling hail, I could not see beyond it. After consulting my map of the route and by looking at where I roughly was in relation to the cairns, I was shocked to discover that I was virtually on the edge of a gully which was a 1000ft drop straight down the mountainside onto rocks below. What I also couldn’t clearly see, were the cairns that had been built there to guide climbers when visibility was poor. It was only as I got close enough that I was able to locate them. They were however when spotted, a brilliant help, and I was only too grateful of their presence.

Tower gully

Tower gully. One of two gullies near the summit of Ben Nevis.

Gardyloo gully

This gully is almost at the Trig Point for the mountain summit. Unfortunately, due to extreme poor visibility, I was unable to get close enough to take a photograph safely.

Both gullies are open and exposed, and are not fenced off. They have a 1000ft sheer drop down the mountainside and care needs to be taken not to stray from the path. The second gully, Gardyloo, has an amazing view if lucky enough to catch it on a clear day but this opportunity from what I have heard is extremely rare. It is also the most dangerous spot in Ben Nevis as the edge is often misjudged and is not always spotted especially when there is ice and snow at the summit. Snow often forms a lip which extends further than the actual edge and can easily break off if a person is standing on it. This is apparently a common mistake made by many when venturing up the mountain.

The summit (Coire na Ciste)

I reached the summit! Ben Nevis Trig Point (4,413 feet above sea level).

So, this was my triumphant moment when I reached the summit after what seemed like a back breaking climb… I have to say, it was absolutely freezing and most of all, there was no view of the surroundings whatsoever! All I could see was mist and plenty of it, rain, hail and rocks. I had a quick look around at the memorial plaque from the first and second World Wars, the sundial, the emergency shelter and the ruins but due to the cold and the now very heavy rain, I found it impossible to stay at the summit any longer and hastily made my way back towards the path to head down. The journey up in total took me 4 hours and 20 minutes including stopping off for lunch and to take photographs. Not a bad time really to say that the average time is usually 5 hours with no stop off.


The Descent

It didn’t take long at all to locate the path which lead the way back down the mountain and soon I was back on my way again. It was a very strange and surreal experience as I began to pick my way slowly down the jagged rocks once more. I think others felt it too. On the way up, there had been lots of laughter, shouting, jokes and pleasantries from the different people I met. Now, no one uttered a sound as we all trundled down the mountain path. The only noise heard was the wind, rain and the sound of boots on the hard rock.

The journey down was eventful in itself and was not particularly easy in parts. The rocks by now had become slippery in the wet and I tripped a few times before I had to tell myself not to rush and take it slowly down. I was extremely tired and deflated at this stage and every step I took felt like my knees were going to shatter any second, but at the same time I found myself smiling. Smiling because I had climbed Ben Nevis, the biggest mountain in the UK! I had managed to achieve what I had set out to do and that was an amazing feeling. I will never forget it as long as I live.

The rocky section of the mountain near the top was a difficult decent just as climbing it had been. It involved a lot of hopping from rock to rock and using them as stepping stones to get down. Then there was lots of climbing up and over rocks and climbing down large ledges of rock which I had barely even noticed on the way up. It’s surprising how much you notice when you are tired and tender! Before I knew it though, I was heading back into clearer skies as the lochan at the halfway point came back into view. It was almost like I was emerging from another world. As soon as I reached the Red Burn, the sun came out again and I felt warm. I had to stop and take off some layers as I was sweating so badly.

I have to say that the journey from this point onwards was much easier as I was no longer walking on the jagged rocks and was now on much friendlier terrain of paved path. Care still needed to be taken though, as a little in front of me, I watched a man slip and fall on the wet stones which had become slippery with the rainfall. He was fine though luckily and we managed to make it down to the visitor centre without any more accidents.

Upon reaching the familiar footbridge near the visitor centre, a sense of calm came over me. I sat down at the tables outside and relaxed whilst thinking about everything that had happened that day. It was a completely surreal feeling and I cannot put it into words despite trying. The journey down the mountain from the summit took me 3 hours. 7 hours and 20 minutes to complete the whole of Ben Nevis.

A well earned cider at the Glen Nevis Restaurant and Bar.

With that thought in mind, I decided to celebrate my achievement by treating myself to a pint of Cider at the one public house that could fit me in, the Glen Nevis Restaurant and Bar. They were actually fully booked up but kindly made allowances for the fact that I had just climbed Ben! I was extremely grateful of their kindness that day and they made me feel welcome as I talked about all I had experienced during my climb. I would definitely recommend this public house to anyone.

Although I was initially disappointed that I missed out on a seat at the Ben Nevis Restaurant and Bunkhouse, I realised that maybe it had been for the best, as I could not have eaten a scrap if I had wanted to. The climb up the mountain although enjoyable, had taken a lot out of me and after my cider, all I wanted to do was sleep…


Climb Summary

Total distance covered: 10.50 miles (16.90km).

Total distance and mileage up Ben Nevis via the Mountain Path as tracked using Strava app.

Total elevation gain: 1,437 metres (4,713 ft)

Total elevation gain throughout the whole Ben Nevis climb as tracked using Strava app.

As I look back at my experience of Ben Nevis, my mind is a whirlwind of positive memories. It was my first ever real mountain climb and was the biggest mountain in the UK at that. It was definitely my greatest achievement in adventuring yet and I feel proud that I was able to stick it out and complete it without any real difficulties. Despite the weather being hit and miss in Scotland at the time I visited, I managed to experience some lovely breaks in the clouds so it wasn’t all rain and mist. Seen as I was appropriately kitted out with gear for all weather conditions, I managed perfectly fine throughout the periods where the weather was not at its best. Having my waterproof trousers, jacket and good walking boots definitely made all the difference to my climb and I cannot advise these items enough! I don’t know what I would’ve done without them.

The actual climb up the mountain was one of the best yet exhausting experiences ever. The spectacular scenery and people I met and chatted to along the way made it for me. I don’t think I have ever experienced anything quite like this in all my time of walking. The support and encouragement that everyone offered to each other, especially during the most challenging parts of the climb (zigzags) was amazing. I hadn’t expected that and it made the experience that little bit more special in my eyes.

The summit, although bleak and no view to be seen on this occasion, was still worth the climb in my opinion. Whether it was just the exhilaration of knowing I was standing at the top of the UK’s tallest mountain I’m not sure, but I still enjoyed looking at the memorial and emergency shelter up there. I didn’t stay long at the top but like always when you stop walking, you quickly become cold and up there was much colder than normal. I remember being pretty shocked by this at the time as it was August and it was sunny down in the bottom of the Glen but then again, it goes to demonstrate just how temperamental the weather can be high up on a mountain.

The summit of Ben Nevis. Absolutely freezing at the emergency shelter just before the heavens opened.

The above photograph is probably the best example without saying a word that I can give of what it is ‘really’ like up Ben Nevis. When I shared this on various social media platforms I was met with many comments stating that most people had felt the same. It wasn’t that I was unhappy or felt let down in any way, my expression was purely down to extreme cold and fatigue after such a strenuous climb. Believe it or not, I was actually over the moon to have been part of it all that day in August 2020.

In regards to the lack of a view upon reaching the summit, I have since learned that it is a very common thing. Many websites showing Ben Nevis tend to feature stunning photographs of the panoramic scenery viewed from the top of all the surrounding mountains and landscape. After chatting to locals in Fort William and the surrounding areas, they have all said that getting a clear moment at the summit is in fact a rare occurrence and it is sheer luck that they are near enough to the mountain to get there and capture it. Out of all the people that have left a comment on social media, and there’s been many, not one has ever seen a view from the top on any of their climbs up Ben Nevis. This made me feel much better about my experience that I wasn’t really missing out as I initially thought I had.

Lastly, the midges! That is probably the only negative aspect of this hike that I can think of. Upon descending back down the mountain and arriving at the visitor centre again, I found myself being viciously attacked by these awful creatures once again and had to reapply Smidge Insect Repellent in large quantities! I strongly recommend purchasing an insect net as an additional measure when contemplating doing any hike in the Scottish Highlands as midges there are much worse than anywhere else I have ever traveled to. Despite Glen Nevis being bad for its midges however, it is not as bad as another hike I did up there to Steall Falls which will be published at a later date. Be warned!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my hike up the Ben in the Scottish Highlands. I have thought about returning in the future and maybe attempting the CMD route with the assistance of a guide now that I have a better idea of the difficulty. I guess I will just have to see how things go. Everyone’s experiences of climbing Ben Nevis are different, I am just grateful that I got to experience it in my own way and a way I will cherish forever… Bye for now, and hope to see you soon.

I wish to Thank everyone wholeheartedly for taking the time to read my blogs. As always, it means a lot to me when people show an interest and any words of advice are greatly appreciated.


This blog post has been written as a personal account of my experiences whilst climbing Ben Nevis and the views and opinions shared within it are from my own personal perspective only. Additional safety precautions may need to be taken if planning your own trip or climb up the mountain and should be catered to own individual capability. I have sourced information to aid this post from the following websites:

http://www.visitscotland.com

http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk

http://www.walkingbritain.co.uk

http://www.ben-nevis.com

Map image sourced from:

http://www.knowledge.me.uk

All photographs not including the map image were taken by myself Lucy Bailey using iPhone 7 camera device and copied from my Instagram account @ soloexplorer23.

For more information regarding Ben Nevis, a useful site to consider would be:

http//bennevis.co.uk

2 thoughts on “Up above the clouds: Ben Nevis – The Grampian Mountains

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