#1 – Ben Nevis – United Kingdom

By Matthias / 28summits on 2013.08.21 In The 28Summits Challenge


(Based on the following file under creative commons license)

On a trip with friends to the Scottish Highlands I came to the first summit on my list: Ben Nevis. With 1,343 m Ben Nevis is not only the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, but also the highest on the British Isles. Ben Nevis once was an active volcano millions of years ago, but it collapsed and turned into its current shape. The cliffs on the north face of the mountain provide excellent climbing possibilities and are a famous spot for ice climbing. For our ascent however we chose the popular and easier “Pony Track” that brings thousands of visitors every year to the top. This track was established 1883 to supply the observatory that was operated on top of Ben Nevis. However, the observatory was closed in 1904 and nowadays it is the most popular route up to the summit.

Following the Pony Track

The path starts at Achintee 2km out of Fort William on a height of 20 meters above sea level. After going along a small river and crossing meadows populated by sheep you reach the steep ascent to the saddle next to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe (at around 570m).BenNevis_1

The path is maintained quite well and in some parts almost resembles a staircase with sometimes high steps. Once you get high enough on this climb up the steep trail the more amazing the view becomes. For me this has been one of the most stunning parts of the Highlands with a mix of snow capped mountains, giant valleys and lochs on different heights of the surrounding area.BenNevis_2

Reaching the saddle next to the Halfway Lake

Sadly I did not bring a GPS device on this trip, so I cannot precisely say how long it took to get up to the saddle next to the “Halfway Lake” (Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe). We have been at the mountain in the end of March, however, even outside of the summer season you could see that the mountain attracts many tourists with hundreds of them on the mountain with us. Considering the conditions around that time the manager of the hostel in Fort William already warned us to be careful even though we all have quite some experience in hiking and climbing. On the ascent however we met all kinds of people from tourists in sneakers to hikers and climbers with crampons and ice axes.

After we reached the saddle we followed the path up the west flank of Ben Nevis. Here the path goes on in a zig-zag along the rocky surface of the west flank. Smaller patches of snow and ice cover the path and made this part often quite difficult and slippery. However, the view got better and better like in the picture below with the saddle and the then frozen Halfway Lake shows:BenNevis_3

The final ascent

At the height of around 1,000-1,100 meters the patches of snow closed down towards the big snow cap of the mountain. In this part the slope becomes less steep, however, because of fog and clouds in this height people often lost the path in this part of the route. There are big piles of rocks along the path to help the people to follow the route and to prevent tourists to fall off one of the cliffs of the mountain. We have been very lucky with the conditions on our ascent and had an almost unobstructed view while going up the mountain and especially when we reached the summit:BenNevis_4

While we came over the west flank a group of ice climbers made it over the 700 m cliff of the north face. Considering how busy the mountain was that day it was nice to have a few minutes at the summit with just a few people around. The observatory that was built in 1883 is still next to the summit, but nowadays is sadly just used like a trash dump for the hikers and tourists. Nonetheless, it was a really nice hike with a staggering view from the top especially because of the prominence of the mountain (more than 1,300 m).

Side note: On the 18th September 2014 there will be the Scottish independence referendum to decide if Scotland should become independent from the United Kingdom. If that should be the case and Scotland would not be part of the United Kingdom anymore I will include another mountain in my list for the UK. This would probably be the highest mountain in Wales (Snowdon with an elevation of 1,085 m).


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About me

This blog is about my 28Summits Challenge with the goal of reaching the highest points of each member state of the European Union.


My name is Matthias, I am 28 years old. Growing up close to the Alps I have been hiking basically all my life. I love being outdoors and exploring the nature. When I am not doing this I am working in media management or follow up on my other passion of cooking and baking.

On this site I will share my experiences along the road to achieve the challenge I set myself. Furthermore, I will blog about my other hiking trips as well as media about the outdoors.

/ Matthias



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