I have just completed hiking Ben Nevis this weekend and I have to say it was hard work. As you can see from my photos it was well worth the achy legs you get the days after just for the views. So here are my beginners top tips, if you are planning hike up Ben Nevis.
About “Ben Nevis”?
Ben Nevis is one of three of the highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales, Snowdon and Scafell Pike being the other two.
Standing at 1,345 metres (4,411 ft) above sea level. As the hike pretty much starts at sea level, you have a tough hike ahead of you.
Prepare before you go…
I would strongly advise you get training now. I did “some” training before I went, which was in the form of strenuous hikes lasting between 3-5 hours. Approximately one hike every two weeks. I should have done more in hindsight as I completed my hike in a long 7hrs and 15 mins (4hrs 15mins up and 3 hrs down). Whilst my friend did it in less than 6 hrs (2.45hrs up and 3 hrs down). The more training you put in, the less time you will be on the mountain. Average hike time is between 6-8 hours.
Find long walks and trails that include high elevation and inclines. I looked at National Trust Parks and used an app called View Ranger to find odd hikes. Some of the routes are free, whilst others you need to pay for. I would advise to download the app and take a look.
If you can’t get on any local hikes, then you can try mimic the training at the gym. In my opinion a combination of hiking and the gym is best. At the gym, the stair master will be your new best friend. Climb as many meters as you can in one go without stopping. Keeping in mind Ben Nevis is 1345 metres.
What to wear and take?
You don’t want to take too much as it will add weight to the your bag, which you will have to carry up the Mountain. I would therefore advise you take as little as possible. For items you do take, ensure they are as light weight as you can make them. For the hike itself, I would recommend you take and wear the following:
The following list is what I took on the hike and I’ve linked to items in Amazon to show you the types of item I have. However any thing similar will work just as well. I did the hike beginning of June, if you go in a different season your packing list may differ slightly dependant on weather.
- Hiking trousers (or if you like shorts) – I would advise getting these as water resistant for light rain. This is so you don’t need to stop and dig out your over trousers straight away if it rains lightly. (I wore the women’s Craghoppers trousers – hubby has the men’s version)
- Waterproof over trousers (for heavy rain) – Ben Nevis typically only has 14 days of good weather a year. Climbing up the mountain when your trousers are sticking to your legs is quite uncomfortable and can slow down your walking pace. (I have the Mountain Warehouse Downpour Trousers)
- Sports T-shirt – I would put this on first. Layering up is the best so you can adjust your body temperature easily whilst climbing. Any sports breathable top will do.
- Base layer – a warm layer which is light weight. I put this on just after half way when it started getting colder. (I wore the Columbia women’s half zip long sleeve base layer )
- Waterproof Rain Coat – a must! Make sure it is waterproof. Some coats state waterproof but only for light rain. Remember you are on top of a mountain. So pick something that will survive windy, heavy rain weather. (I wore a North Face DryVent 2-in-1 Jacket)
- Hiking Socks – I would advise getting thick socks to cushion your feet in your hiking boots. (I wore the Bridgedale Trekker Socks)
- Hiking Boots – If you don’t already have some, this is the main item I would invest in. Good hiking shoes do make a difference. Main things to look out for is the sole, the material (waterproof – you don’t want wet socks and feet) and comfort (sometimes its worth investing in a good insole too).
- Thin Fleece (optional) – I wore this at the peak. It is cold at the top so you may want an extra layer if you plan to explore the top for a while. (I wore the North Face Glacier Pullover – mines an old model)
- Gloves (optional) – near the top it gets cold and windy, so these came in handy. (I wore the North Face Etip Outdoor Gloves – mines an old model)
- Neck warmer (optional) – this is great near the top to stop the wind getting to your neck. (I wore an old trespass neck warmer)
- Cap (optional) – for me this was great at keeping the sun out of my eyes and head warm from the wind. Was also great near the bottom when it started raining, keeping the water away from my eyes stopping me from squinting. (I wore an old Roger Federer Nike Cap)
- Sunglasses (optional) – I didn’t use these as I did have my cap.
- Hiking Bag – Along with hiking boots, I would invest in a good hiking bag. As a minimum you will be carrying water and it is heavy! I feel it makes all the difference to have a comfortable bag whilst hiking. Buying tips: I would ensure the padding on the straps are good, possibly good ventilation on the back, but waist straps to take the weight off your shoulders is a must! (I wore my old Osprey Tempest 30 backpack)
- Hiking Poles – what I would call life saving sticks. These helped save my leg energy and helped me balance across the rocky terrain. I used these all the way up and down the mountain. Without them I think I would have been much, much slower. (I used my old Trekrite Antishock hiking poles)
- Water – I would advise to take 1.5-3 litres of water but it really depends how much you drink during normal exercise. The trial walks you do will let you know how much you really need.
- Snacks (to keep your energy up) – I think this is very important. Near the top I started losing energy to the point I felt like I couldn’t push on. Then I forgot I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast so sat down for a break. Had some snacks. When I was off again I felt like a have regained my energy again. Don’t take a whole meal up, I would advise, energy bars, nuts and chocolate bars. (I had a lion bar and pack of Graze mixed nuts)
- Hydration bladder (optional) – I feel that a hydration bladder is best for going up Ben Nevis. You have you hands full from the hiking poles, you don’t want to keep reaching back or taking off your back to get a drink from bottles. With the hydration bladder you’re pretty much hands free. (I recently replaced my old one with the Osprey Hydraulics 1.5ltr)
- Shewee (optional -just in case) – For ladies, there are no toilet facilities at the top or any where along the route. So instead of getting your bum our for everyone to see, I had this in my bag for emergency. (I carried a the official Sheewee Extreme)
- First Aid kit (optional) – this is just in case. You never know what might happen.
- Paracetamol (optional) – I took some half way down the mountain as my feet/legs really starting to hurt and once it kicked in I soldiered down the mountain (not pain free) but it was a lot more bearable.
Where to stay and getting there…
I would recommend staying in or close to Fort William . As the Ben Nevis Visitors Centre (starting point) is only 5 min drive away. I would advise to hire a car to make travelling around the area easier.
The car park is £4.00 for 24 hrs for cars. The car park machines do not take card and are coins only. Worst case, if you do not have change, head to the Ben Nevis Visitors Centre where you can pay by card.
You can stop of for your final toilet break at the visitors centre. Walk toward the left of the Ben Nevis Visitors Centre and cross the bridge. Your hike will begin.
The hike consists of 9 “turns”. The point where the path zig-zag’s.
The first turn is at the lake which is half way up the mountain. Past the first turn it looks fairly flat and you’ll appreciate the small “break” you get from the tough incline, unfortunately this doesn’t last long. After the turn, you’ll pass a small waterfall where you’ll need to walk through a small depth of water.
Once you get to the second turn, the path starts to get quite rocky and this where you’ll start appreciating those good quality walking boots. Warning, it does get much rockier as you get nearer to the top. This is where your hiking poles come in handy.
Once you get to turn 5, you should be about an hour away from the top if you’re going an slow and steady pace just about 1050m high.
Near the top, the path opens out. You’ll notice people going up and down two separate paths. I would advise not the take the “short cut”, it is much steeper and tougher than the “longer path”. The correct “longer path” has a much more gradual incline so you get to reserve your energy.
Shortly after this you should reach the top in no time at all and if you’re lucky to have a clear say like I did, enjoy the view! You’ve done it!
At the Top
Spend some time now and rest, eat some snacks and refuel. Explore the the Trig point, the Ruins and the Shelter.
Once you’ve made it to the bottom, you can head into the Visitors Centre. This is where you can purchase certificates and medals stating you completed Ben Nevis climb. Note the Ben Nevis Visitors Centre closes at 17:00 – that is including the toilet facilities therefore make sure you start your hike early.
Like me, you will probably feel extremely hungry at the bottom. A couple of minutes drive from the Visitors Centre there is a restaurant called “Glen Nevis Reception”. You can grab a drink and a bite to eat before heading back to your accommodation.
If you have any questions about the hike, feel free to send me an email.