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All about Ben Nevis!

Ben Nevis, although not as high as Alpine mountains, is positioned much further to the north and the climate can be similar to Arctic regions. While there may be a welcoming sea breeze on the shores of nearby Loch Linnhe, 20-30 knots of chilling wind may be howling on the summit of the Ben. Many walkers / climbers find weather conditions changing within minutes - usually for the worse - as they work their way up the mountain.

The imposing effect of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain, is increased by the fact that it begins its rise from sea-level and continuous up to tower 4,406ft (1,344m) above the town of Fort William, providing a constant brooding presence.

Weather

Ben Nevis's altitude and maritime location frequently leads to extremely poor weather conditions, which all too often catch out poorly-equipped or inexperienced walkers. In an average year the summit is covered by cloud (for at least part of the day) on 355 days, sees 261 full gales, and receives 4,350 mm of rainfall. Rainfall on Ben Nevis is about twice as high in the winter as it is in the spring and summer and snow can be found on the mountain throughout the year, particularly lingering in the deep gullies of the north face - indeed the average annual summit temperatures is just below freezing, nine degrees less than Fort William below! Remember that, and pack extra warm clothes no matter what time of the year. So there you have it - this is the highest of the 3 Peaks and whether you do 'The Ben' first or last, this is a serious mountain where the weather can change in the blink of an eye.

Route

The Glen Nevis 'Tourist Path' The original path (now named the 'Tourist Path') was constructed in the 1880's to service the observatory which was being built on the summit plateau. This is now no more than a badly derelict building, however the path remains. The path on the summit plateau is not very obvious, and should be treated with extreme care in poor visibility. Large cornices will sometimes remain well into the summer months, disguising the top of many gullies.

Topography

Although this is the highest of the three peaks, the path is well designed, and avoids any extremely steep ascents. The disadvantage is that the path does not always take the shortest distance, and finishes off with the 'zig-zags' - seemingly endless when you are on them!

Geology

The Ben was formed around 400million years ago from mainly igneous rock. The mountain is formed by two main rings, the Inner Granite, which constitutes the southern bulk of the mountain above Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, and also the neighboring ridge of Carn Mr Dearg; Meall an t-Suidhe forms part of the Outer Granite, which is redder in colour. The summit dome itself, together with the steep northern cliffs, is composed of andesite and basaltic lavas. The mountain has been extensively shaped by glaciation.

Interesting facts

What does 'Nevis' mean? The river and glen running past the mountain both carry the name, as does the sea loch at Knoydart, 40 miles to the west. In Gaelic the mountain's name, Beinn Nibheis, has been linked with Irish and Gaelic words meaning poisonous or terrible, implying a fairly ominous character - enjoy!

Maps

OS Landranger (1:50,000) no 41. Outdoor Leisure 1:25,000 no 38: Harvey's Walkers Map (1:40,000), and Superwalker (1:25,000) Ben Nevis - this includes a 1:12,500 enlargement of the Ben's summit.

Tourist information: Fort William