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Which Are The Hardest Routes Up Ben Nevis?

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles, with a summit 1,345m (4,406ft) above sea level. The drama of the violent volcanic eruption that formed it 350 million years ago still echoes around the ridges, screes, and windblown slopes today. The combination of challenge, adventure, and wild beauty draws 125,000 visitors every year.

Situated in the West Highlands, Ben Nevis is part of the Grampian Range, which was once a chain of volcanic islands. Several of Scotland’s highest mountains form a part of the range, including Ben Macdui (1,309m), Braeriach (1,296m), and Cairn Toul (1,291m). They tower over deep crystalline lochs and sweeping glacial glens.

All of these peaks offer rewarding climbs with breathtaking views, but it is Ben Nevis that draws in both experienced and amateur walkers alike. Of course, this is partly because people like the cachet of bagging Britain’s biggest mountain, but it is also because of the variety of different paths to the summit, which make it an achievable target for many.

For less experienced walkers, the mountain path also known as the Pony Track, is the easiest route to the top. However, it is steep in places, and should not be underestimated, especially in poor visibility, owing to the steep drops in the higher stages. A well prepared and reasonably fit walker should be able to complete the route in about eight hours.

For those seeking more of a challenge, the Carn Mor Dearg arete route is the first choice. It’s a longer route, encompassing Carn Mor Dearg (1,222m), which is Scotland’s ninth highest mountain. It has (a 1km long) some demanding stretches of scramble, which are steep rocky sections which require the use of hands and feet to ascend.

To take this route, you need to be physically fit, and comfortable with heights and rocky terrain. You will be treated to some spectacular views, reaching over 100 miles of lochs, glens, preserved wildlife areas, and islands.


The North Face of the mountain offers the greatest challenges of all. The Ledge route is a non-climbing route, but it still has some sections of grade 1 scrambles. You may encounter pockets of snow even in early summer, so it’s best to have some knowledge of using ice axes and crampons.


Walkers will be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding national parks, (there aren’t any in the area but there are SSS Is) and a stunning array of peaks and glacial glens. This route also has the advantage of being less well-used than the Pony Track, so at busy times of the year, you can avoid congestion on the paths.


The Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis is regarded as a classic conquest by more experienced mountaineers. It’s a grade 3 scrambling (It has a very difficult climbing grade, which is harder than the trickiest scrambles) route, which means you should expect steep sections of rock or grassy sections with limited handholds, and potentially hazardous drops.

There are a lot of) sections which will require rock climbing, with ropes, harnesses, and other safety equipment. It requires a good head for heights, and some previous experience of scrambling or rock climbing. Many walkers choose to make their first ascent of this route with an experienced local mountain guide.

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