A walk up Ben Nevis

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Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK, at 1344m (4066 feet) above sea level, and if you are lucky enough to climb in it good conditions it offers excellent views from the top.  I wasn't, but still got a great sense of achievement on reaching the top.  Because we were climbing with a 5 year old, we decided to take the simplest route up and down, the Tourist Route or Pony Track starting from the car-park at Achintee.  This route has the advantage of being very direct, it's marked on the OS map and is very easy to follow.  However, according the guidebooks we missed out quite a lot of the grandeur of the mountain, since it's impossible to get a good view from this side.  The recommended route is to make a traverse from Carn Morn Dearg which is along a ridge to the east.

We climbed in August, with the expectation of very hot weather, so we put a few water bottles and chocolate bars in the freezer overnight.  As it turned out some of the water was still frozen when we reached the top, but it was still good to have some ice-cold water and chocolate to cool down on the way.  The route starts almost at sea-level, so there's about 1300m to climb.

The first part of the walk is a steady climb along the side of Meall an t-Suidhe, at about 400m you start to see some of Carn Dearg and the side of Ben Nevis itself.

View from the Pony Track up Ben Nevis

Waterfall on Ben Nevis

At about 510m we reached a small loch,  Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, and stopped for some sandwiches.  The ground was quite boggy around the loch here, but the walk over flat ground was a welcome break from the uphill slog.  However, the climb started again after a short break.

Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe

As we got higher up the mountain, the vegetation started to disappear, leaving more rocks.

View from the Pony Track up Ben Nevis

 

There's quite a large plateau at the top, and the path carries on for quite a distance to reach the summit cairn.  There are cliffs off to the left in the photo below, and probably in most other directions too.  When we climbed, there was no risk of getting lost since there was a steady stream of walkers (and some runners) going up and down the very clear path.  However, in poor visibility it could be a lot more difficult.

Ben Nevis plateau

 

We stopped for about an hour at the summit for a picnic, a rest and to admire what we could see of the views.  As you can see from the photos there are some fairly impressive cliffs down into the Coire Leis, but we couldn't make it out too clearly due to mist and some cloud.  There's a ruined observatory at the top here, but not much remains apart from a bit of the walls.

Summit of Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis summit

 

We took the same route back down, running over the rocks for some of the way.  By this stage we were fairly exhausted, so needed the thought of a cold cokes, beers and ice-cream from the cafe down at Achintee to keep us going.  Overall it took us about 10 hours, but that was at a fairly leisurely pace most of the way.

On the way back down, it's important to avoid the cliffs off to the south for the first couple of kilometres.  Apparently a number of walkers have mistaken Five Fingers Gully (where the waterfall is marked on your OS map) for the path, and have encountered difficulties, including fatality.  This link has some printable safety information if you are planning a climb of Ben Nevis.

 

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