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Where is Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis is located near Fort William in Scotland. From Glasgow take the A82 and follow this road past Loch Lomond and through the highlands until you reach Fort William.

Map of Scotland

The height of Ben Nevis

There is great controversy regarding the true height of Ben Nevis. The l794 map of Scotland proclaimed, "Ben Nevis is, at 437Oft the highest mountain in Great Britain", although it shouId be remembered that this new, map was simply an updated version of the 1782 map drawn by Lt. Campbell. By "Updated' it is meant that this was the first map showing the summit of Ben Nevis as Britain's highest point prior to this it had been accepted that the Cairngorm area held this claim to fame.

Many people (and many reference books) still give the incorrect height of 4406ft. The post-war triangulation of 1964 gave the new height of 4418ft. But, and this is the main point, this height was that of the Flush Bracket at the base of the Survey Levelling plate built into the base of the Triangulation pillar and NOT of the ground height. As the pillar on the cairn is nine and a half feet high this makes the actual ground height of 4408ft 6 inches. Mountain heights are, by tradition, rounded down so the true height of Ben Nevis is 4,408ft. All mountain heights in Britain are calculated from their altitude above Ordnance Datum which is the average elevation of the sea at Newlyn in Cornwall.

The first ascents of Ben Nevis

The first recorded ascent of Ben Nevis was made in 1771 by the noted botanist James Robertson who was on an expedition to collect plant specimens for the College Museum of Edinburgh. A few years later (1774) an ascent was recorded by John Williams, although his visit was made with another purpose. He was trying to discover whether there were any minerals of commercial value around the summit.

The summit of Ben Nevis - The Trigpoint

On the summit of Nevis next to the ruins of the observatory you will find the Triangulation Pillar. This is more often than not simply called the 'Trig Point' [Grid reference 166(5) 712(8)]. Many experienced climbers and walkers say that the Trig Points are always found at the highest point on a hill or mountain. This is incorrect. These are actually sited so they can be seen from the other trig Point positions on the surrounding hills, in many cases this is the highest point, but not always. It is important that these are positioned in this manner as each Trig Point forms a corner' of a triangle, polygon or other geometric shape. This is used to produce An Accurate framework which in turn is used to provide very exact fixings to the latitude and longitude, thus allowing the map maker and others to be able to work out their precise location any where in Great Britain.

The summit of Ben Nevis - The Observatory

The footpath and observatory was constructed during the summer of 1883. The contractor vas James McLean of Fort William. The last rise on to the summit is named McLean's Steep in his honour. The observatory although opened on Wednesday, October 17th 1883 did not start operating until November 28th. The Observatory was managed by the Scottish Meteorological Society and the Royal Societies of Edinburgh and London. The building was manned by a superintendent and two assistants who were responsible for taking readings. During the long dark days of winter, staff would brave gale force, icy winds and driving snow to carry out their labours. Inside heat was provided by an open cooking stove in the kitchen and a closed one in the office - fuelled mostly by paraffin coke.The observatory, was built to record "The diversity of the mountain environment" e.g. temperature, wind speed, rainfall, air pressure, etc. During 1902 it became apparent that insufficient funds were available to continue the running of the observatory, and it was closed on October 1st 1904. Although one room of the keepers hostel was opened during the summer months as a small refreshment room. This continued until 1916. The observatory fell into disrepair, this process being helped by a fire during 1932 and the actions of both weather and unthinking climbers.

Climbing Ben Nevis in the summer

Ben Nevis provides some of the finest mountaineering and rock climbing routes in the British Isles. On the north-east side there are routes of all lengths and grades from two pitch Very Difficult climbs to E grade routes nearly 300 metres in length. At 420 metres, 'The Long Climb' (Very Severe) is one of the longest rock climbs in Britain. A climb up one of the classic ridges of 'The Ben' can give a mountaineering adventure which is second to none in quality and situation. The most popular of the ridges is probably Tower Ridge, a stupendous 600 metres of superb scrambling and climbing at Difficult standard. The north side of Ben Nevis is not the place to practise elementary mountaineering and climbing skills and beginners wishing to venture up this side of the mountain should go with an experienced mountaineer or mountain guide. Lower down on the south side of the mountain, the smaller crags of Glen Nevis provide dozens of shorter climbs.

Climbing Ben Nevis in the winter

In winter Ben Nevis can present opportunities for mountaineering and climbing of the highest quality. Ben Nevis ice is renowned throughout the world for its ability to provide superb placements for ice axes and crampons. The reason for this high quality ice is the frequent 'freeze - thaw' activity which can take place throughout the winter. The temperature often hovers around zero degrees and the ice is continuously changing from gentle melting to hard freezing. This produces a 'toffee-like' consistency which makes climbing ice an invigorating and satisfying experience. There are routes of all lengths and difficulties. The classic ridges, which in summer can be relatively straightforward, provide winter excursions requiring all the skills of mountaineering - routefinding, axe and crampon work, belaying in a variety of situations, moving together and finally navigating safely off the mountain. The first ice climbs were done during the end of the last century and activity has continued until the present day with new routes being climbed every year. Many of the hard routes of the late 1950's and early 1960's have now become classics with frequent ascents each winter. The three most popular classic ice climbs are Point Five Gully, Zero Gully and the Orion Face Direct. Modern equipment and technology have brought the ascent of these routes within the grasp many modern climbers and on a good clear day with a hard frost and a plentiful supply of ice, the north face of 'The Ben' is covered with enthusiastic climbers completing routes and creating memories which will last for the rest of their lives. Ben Nevis in winter is no place for the unprepared - make sure you have the necessary experience or go with an experienced mountaineer or mountain guide.

The Ben Nevis race

The Ben Nevis race is well established on the first Saturday in September and up to 500 entries are accepted from suitably qualified hill runners The record for men stands at 1 hour, 25 minutes and 34 seconds and is held by Kenneth Stuart of Keswick AC and for ladies it is 1 hour, 43 minutes and 25 seconds, held by Pauline Haworth, also of Keswick AC. The Connochie Plaque was instituted in 1972. It is awarded to those runners who complete 21 Ben Nevis Races. A list of those awarded with the Plaque can be seen
here. The Late Eddie Campbell of Fort William holds the record for the most Ben Nevis Races.


Bed and Breakfast

Abrach House Caithness Place Fort William PH33 6JP Tel /fax: 01397 702535
B & B at Woodside Tomacharich Fort William Tel: 01397 705897
Ferndale B & B Torlundy Fort William Tel: 01397 703593
Seangan Croft B & B Banavie Fort William Tel: 01397 772 228 or 01397 772 077
Ardlinnhe B & B Achintore Road Fort William PH33 6RQ Tel: 01397 702071
Balcarres B & B Seafield Gardens Fort William PH33 6RJ Tel: 01397 702377
Guisachan House Alma Road Fort William PH33 6HA Tel/Fax: 01397 703797
Rustic View Lochyside Fort William Tel: 01397 704709


Clan Macduff Hotel Fort William Tel: 01397 702341
Cruachan Hotel Fort William Tel: 01397 702022
Grand Hotel Gordon Square Fort William Tel: 01397 702928
Inverlochy Castle Hotel Torlundy Fort William Tel: 01397 702177
Glenloy Lodge Hotel Banavie Fort William Tel: 01397 712 700

Camping Parks

Glen Nevis Holidays Glen Nevis Fort William PH33 6SX Tel: 01397 702191
Linnhe Caravan & Chalet Park Corpach Fort William PH33 7NL Tel: 01397 772376
Invercoe Highland Holidays Glencoe Argyll PA39 4HP Tel/fax: 01855 811210
Lochy Holiday Park Camaghael Fort William PH33 7NF Tel: 01397 703446

Northern Constabulary Hill Form

It is recommended that you leave details of your intended walk before you set off. The Northern Constabulary run a mountain safety form via there website.
Click here for more details.

Live Ben Nevis webcam

Other useful links

Ben Nevis weather
Avalanche Information Service
The mountain rescue committee of Scotland
The Three Peaks

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