Ben Nevis

’The Ben’

Ben Nevis, also known as ‘The Ben’, is the highest mountain in the British Isles and stands at 1,344 meters (4,408 Ft) above sea level. It sits at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Lochaber area of Scotland and is close to the town of Fort William.

Ben Nevis comes from the Gaelic words, ‘Beinn Nibheis’. ‘Beinn’ is the Gaelic word for ‘mountain’, while ’Nibheis’ is thought to have more than one meaning and is commonly translated as ‘venomous’ or ‘malicious’, giving Ben Nevis the meaning, ‘venomous or malicious mountain’. Another version is that Ben Nevis derives from ‘beinn nèamh-bhathais’. The word ‘nèamh’ means ‘heavens or clouds’ and ‘bhathais’ means ‘top of a man’s head’, giving the translation, ‘the mountain with its head in the clouds’.

An estimated 125,000 complete the ascent every year, with a further 100,000 partial ascents. Many of these are made by walkers using the Mountain Track (also known as the Pony Track or Tourist Track), from Glen Nevis on the South side of the mountain. The 700 metre (2,300 Ft) high cliffs of the North face are the main attraction for climbers and mountaineers, offering some of the best scrambles and rock climbs. It is also one of the leading locations in the UK for ice climbing.

Three Peaks

The National Three Peaks Challenge in Great Britain is a mountain endurance challenge, in which participants attempt to climb the three highest peaks, Ben Nevis (Scotland, 1,344m), Snowdon (Wales, 1,085m) and Scafell Pike (England, 978m). The mountains are climbed in order of elevation, highest to lowest. Participants have to try and complete the challenge within 24 hours, which includes the transportation time to travel to each mountain.

Ben Nevis Race

On or around 27 September 1895, William Swan, a hairdresser from Fort William, made the first recorded time ascent up the mountain. He ran from the old Post Office in Fort William, to the summit and back in 2 hours and 41 minutes.

The first competitive race was held on 3 June 1898 under Scottish Amateur Athletic Association rules. Ten competitors ran in the race, which started at the Lochiel Arms Hotel in Banavie, making it longer than the route from Fort William. Hugh Kennedy, a 21 year old gamekeeper at Tor Castle, won the race with the exact time as William Swan, 2 hours and 41 minutes.

The Ben Nevis Race takes place annually on the first Saturday in September and has been run in its current form since 1937. A maximum of 600 competitors are allowed to take part on a first come, first served basis.

It starts and finishes at the Cloggan Park football ground on the outskirts of Fort William. The race is 16 kilometres (9.9 miles) long, with 1,340 metres (4,400 Ft) of ascent. Those taking part must be members of a credible Athletics Club and have completed three documented ‘Grade A’ hill races. Competitors who have not reached the halfway point within one hour and anyone who has not reached the summit after two hours are turned back.

The record times for both men and women have stood since 1984. Kenny Stuart and Pauline Stuart (nee Haworth), respectively recorded 1hr 25m 34s and 1hr 43m 25s.

The Summit

The summit comprises of a large stony plateau of around 100 acres. The highest point is marked with a large, 10 feet high cairn, on which sits the Ordnance Survey trig point. For those lucky enough to reach the summit of Ben Nevis, the views, under ideal conditions, are extensive and unrivalled. It extends to nearly 200 kilometres (125 miles) and includes mountains and ranges, such as the Torridon Hills, Morven in Caithness, Lochnager in Aberdeenshire, Ben Lomond, Bara Head in the Outer Hebrides and even as far as County Antrim in Northern Ireland.