How Long Does It Take to Climb Ben Nevis?

climb-ben-nevisPlanning on hiking to the tallest point in all the United Kingdom? Great! Sitting at an elevation of 4,413 ft, the summit of Ben Nevis offers stunning views (when the weather is clear) and a sense of satisfaction that you’ve stood on the top of the UK! You’ll begin your hike around sea level and then trek nearly 5 miles, covering all 4,413 ft of elevation gain along the way. After you’ve reached the top, you’ll need to double back down the trail to return to the trailhead at the base of the mountain. In total, you will end up hiking nearly 10 miles roundtrip when summiting Ben Nevis.

With that in mind, you’ll want to budget plenty of time to reach the summit and return during the daylight. That way you’ll avoid having to hike along exposed sections of the trail in the dark. In total, the timescale that you should go off of for hiking to the top of Ben Nevis is roughly 9-10 hours if conditions are perfect. 

But what other factors should you consider when planning out your hike? Keep reading to get the best information to ensure that you give yourself plenty of time to tackle this impressive peak!

Weather Conditions

When planning your hike of Ben Nevis, start with checking the weather report. Weather conditions on the mountain can be extremely different compared to those at sea level, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you set foot on the trail.

Ben Nevis ViewsThe Ben Nevis Pony Track is open year-round to hike, which means that you’ll experience significantly different weather conditions depending on the time of year that you go. For summer months, make sure to give yourself an additional hour on top of the 9-10 hour base timescale to account for taking breaks while hiking in the heat of the day. There are few shady spots along the way, so a good idea for hiking in the summer would be to start as early as you feel comfortable, so as to avoid being on trail while the sun beats down on you. 

In the winter, it is also important to budget a little more time to summit Ben Nevis safely. Keep an eye on the snow report, especially in the weeks leading up to your hike. While there isn’t usually enough snow to warrant wearing snowshoes, you may want to bring along some crampons to give yourself as much traction as possible in areas that may be a bit icy. 

Hiking Gear

Taking on the tallest point in the UK will also require that you wear the proper attire if you’re going to successfully stick to your timeline and summit Ben Nevis. While the path to the top is very well marked, as it was built specifically to allow horse travel to the very top during the 1800s, you’ll still need to bring along the right gear to make your journey safe and enjoyable.

You’ll want to make sure that you have the following before you begin hiking Ben Nevis:

  • A comfortable pair of hiking boots or trail runners
  • Wool or polyester socks
  • A waterproof jacket
  • Non-cotton layers 
  • A backpack
  • Sunscreen
  • 4-5 liters of water
  • Plenty of high calorie snacks
  • Gloves
  • Crampons (for winter hiking)

The most important thing to keep in mind with your gear is that you want to avoid wearing cotton as much as possible. Cotton absorbs moisture and will leave you feeling wet and cold at best and hypothermic at worst. Whether you’re hiking during the summer or the winter, always try to wear clothing that is made out of wool or polyester. These fabrics are amazing at wicking away moisture, which in turn will keep you comfortable and dry throughout the hike. 

Footwear is another key part of keeping to your timescale when hiking Ben Nevis as your feet are the main way you’re going to get to the top! Wear a pair of hiking boots or trail runners that you have broken in well before your hike. Wearing a new pair of hiking footwear to start your hike can spell disaster as you’ll likely develop hot spots and blisters, which will surely slow you down if not end your hike all together!

Fitness Level

ben-nevis-summitOne more key part of planning your hike of Ben Nevis is your fitness level. Remember, even though the trail is nicely laid out, the elevation gain and the roughness of the rocks in several places will be strenuous. It is a very difficult hike to be sure! Take an honest assessment of your fitness level before you consider hiking Ben Nevis.

If you’re used to hiking regularly and you’re in decent shape, spending 9 to 10 hours on the trail should be enough time to summit and come back down. 

If you’re more of a part time hiker who only gets out once or twice a month, consider adding on some extra time to reach the summit.

For those who are sedentary and don’t hike very often, plan on giving yourself at least 12 hours to summit Ben Nevis and come back down. 

In each case, be sure to take plenty of water and snacks to keep yourself fueled to reach the top safely.

Final Thoughts

Ben Nevis offers hikers from around the world the unique opportunity to say that they’ve visited the highest point in the UK. The views that you see from the top can be absolutely spectacular, especially when there aren’t any clouds surrounding the summit! Even when the summit is in the clouds, the beauty of Nevis Glen Valley will reveal itself as you climb the Pony Track ever higher towards the summit.

Give yourself plenty of time to take pictures of the views along the trail, to sit by glorious waterfalls that lay along the edges of the trail, and to rest at the top of Ben Nevis. Now get out there and bag that peak!