Looking up at Ben Nevis from the Allt a' Muilinn f...
At 1343m (4400feet), Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the United Kingdom. To the South and West, a relatively gentle slope with a well-maintained footpath take you easily from Fort William to the summit. It's a long slog, but not technically challenging. The North East is a different story: huge rock faces are broken by steep gullies and buttresses, all dropping precipitously to the valley floor. Here is the domain of the mountaineer, who must negotiate the challenging terrain and battle hostile Scottish weather to reach the summit.
The classic gully routes are perhaps the most typical of the Scottish style. When making their first forays onto the mountain in the winter, the early pioneers saw them as lines of weakness, though none are to be underestimated. With it's steep, sustained ice, Point 5 is a challenge even with modern tools and techniques, but spare a thought for the first ascentionist, chopping steps over multiple days. Zero gully poses a different challenge, technically easier but often lacking gear or even decent belays.
You may notice a pattern emerging. The gullies are not named elaborately, but numbered from minus 3 to number 5, with a point 5 in the middle. Still, these simple names are as evocative to most British mountaineers as any others, at home or abroad.
The buttress routes are as iconic as the gullies, though a very different style. Tower ridge provides a magnificent outing: a long day, varied climbing and a sting in the tail in the form of tower gap. It has all the feel of many alpine routes, and can be just as committing.
Finally, face routes sneak their way up between these strong features, Orion Direct being the biggest of them all. It is the closest thing in the UK to an alpine North face, finding an intricate way up a vast, steep expanse of the mountain, through iced-up grooves, over snowfields, and round rocky buttresses on thin/mixed ground. A classic expedition on a classic mountain.
From Fort William, it is normal to continue up the A82 to Torlundy, and park in the North Face car park. Forestry tracks take you to a higher car park (those in the know can obtain a key to the vehicle track up to here). From here, a well-maintained trail (the Allt a' Muilinn footpath) takes you up to the CIC hut. Again, if you have the right contacts, you can secure a bunk here, the UK's only alpine hut.
Ben Nevis is covered by the Cicerone
select guides, and the definitive guide for the area is the SMC's guide Ben Nevis
The relevant maps are the Ordnance Survey Explorer
(1:25000) and Landranger
Weather station 2.1 miles from here
6 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',5],['3 Stars',1],['2 Stars',0],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]
Featured Route For Ben Nevis
: United Kingdom
: ... : Ben Nevis
A big route. The closest thing to an alpine North face you're going to find in the British Isles, with all the excitement and challenges. It weighs in at 420m of climbing (8 pitches), and deposits you abruptly on the summit plateau of the Ben, within a few hundred feet of the trig point. Orion Direct has quite a formidable reputation, as ice cover is rarely fat, and the belays leave much to be desired. Despite the name, the route winds an intricate way up the Orion face, linking subtle features ...[more] Browse More Classics in International
The summit trig point, looking out over a cloud in...