Ben Nevis:

Ben Nevis is 1,345 meters high and we begin the ascent from almost sea level. The popular Mountain Track (sometimes called the Tourist Track or the Pony Track) is the easiest route up Ben Nevis and travels 17km up and down the mountain's benign western bulk. The track begins at the Ben Nevis Inn, at Achintee on the east side of Glen Nevis about 2 km from the town centre of Fort William, just above sea level.

The track starts with a steep climb to the halfway Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, zig-zagging on rocky paths up to the summit plateau. If you are lucky with the weather then the views from the summit, and even from half way up, are quite stunning. On a good day you can see all the way to the majestic rock spires of The Isle of Skye and looking the other way, down Loch Linnhe to the Irish Sea.

There is a rocky path most of the way to the summit. In its lower sections it is ‘stepped’ and consists of large rocks & boulders forming a path. In some of the middle & upper sections of the route the path is made of scree - smaller rocks and stones. In wet or snowy conditions, the path and rocks become very slippery.

We will aim to reach the first rest stop below the lochan after 45-50 minutes, and the Red Burn at halfway after 1.5 hours. If it takes more than 1 hour to reach the first rest stop then this gives you an indication that you are falling behind schedule.

After the Lochan, there are a number of zigzags (9 in total), which get gradually shorter as we ascend. It should take us around 1.5 hours to complete the zigzags and reach 1,200m on the summit plateau. The plateau is more like a very broad ridge as there is steep and dangerous ground on either side.

From here, we follow the prominent cairns another 30 minutes or so to the top, although more often than not, these are shrouded in mist. Most of this section is easy angled with a couple of short uphill sections. Please be aware that there can be snow on the plateau into June, and the first snows of the season often arrive in September.

About half a kilometre horizontally before the summit, we pass the edge of Tower Gully and. In the final 150m we change direction to avoid Gardyloo Gully, a large chasm in the plateau, which even in summer can have its edges hidden by a large snow cornice.

The summit area is marked by the summit shelter and trig point, and the ruins of the old Weather Observatory.

The summit area can be very dangerous. The path follows very close to the edge of the North Face, which has steep cliffs over 300m high. Even in summer, in low visibility it can be very difficult to identify where the edge is. In bad weather, navigating down from the summit of Ben Nevis can be difficult. If you veer too far to the right while descending from the summit trig point you risk falling down the North Face cliffs or dropping into one of the gullies. If you veer too far left, further down, you may fall into Five Finger Gully (a known accident blackspot). Unfortunately, every year people do die in this area due to navigational errors. In low visibility, it’s essential that you stay with your Mountain Leader.

Ben Nevis is usually completed during daylight hours, however a headtorch is still essential as conditions on the summit can vary dramatically from those in the valley. Even in the middle of summer the summit temperatures can be below freezing, and the summit temperatures are typically 10 degrees lower than in the valley.