One of our goals while living in the UK was to climb the highest peak in Scotland, England and Wales. Our first year, we travelled to Snowdonia and climbed the highest peak in Wales, Snowdon, and spent some time enjoying ourselves among the castles and seaside.
Last summer, we visited the beautiful and remote Wasdale Head, and climbed Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England. That left the largest peak and longest drive, Ben Nevis at 1344 metres above sea level. We booked ourselves into the Achintee Farm B&B which is located right by the Ben Nevis Inn at the trail head and crossed our fingers for good weather.
The day we planned to hike was GORGEOUS. No wind, no rain and most of all reasonably good visibility for most of the hike. We followed the main trail up to the summit, also known as the Mountain Trail, the Pony track (because it was originally built for ponies to carry supplies to the observatory on the summit) or the tourist trail. We were 2 of over 1000 people who summited that day. The trail was absolutely heaving. For the most part, people were considerate, and it was fun to stop and chat for a bit with others making the climb.
The last hundred metres of so of climbing were in the cloud, and sadly there wasn’t much of a view when we reached the summit. We waited in line for photos with the OS point and wandered around the ruins of the observatory and old hotel.
The descent was just as tiring as the ascent, and took about the same amount of time. After lunching on the top, we headed back down into the valley and stopped for a few pints at the conveniently located Ben Nevis Inn at the base.
A few notes about climbing Ben Nevis:
I read a lot of guidance on line that said one needed to be proficient in the use of a compass to attempt the climb. It is true that the main path passes within a few feet of gullies that drop off hundreds of feet, and that the visibility on top can be poor or the gullies can be obscured by snow. That said, the mountain was absolutely packed with people, and on most days in the summer you’ll be following the masses.
It wasn’t windy when we ascended, but it can get chilly on the peak, so dress in layers and bring plenty of food/snacks. It’s a long day.
It took about 3 hours to hike up, 3 to hike down and a half hour on the summit, so 6.5 hours in total including all stops and breaks. Nowhere near the record of about 1.5 hours up and down!