Frequently Asked Questions

I only have light clothing - is it safe to climb Ben Nevis?

Ben Nevis is a mountain, the UK's highest, and as such is exposed to the absolute worst conditions the weather can throw at it including extremely high winds, sub-zero temperatures, heavy rain, snow and blizzards - sometimes all at once, therefore it is essential that anyone climbing it takes suitable precautions and dresses appropriately, even in summer. Light clothing that is adequate at sea level is unlikely to provide suitable protection except on the warmest of fair summer days.

I want to climb Ben Nevis in winter wearing trainers

You're an idiot. Stay at home. Further reading: Stupidity on Ben Nevis

I don't have a map or compass - will it be okay to climb Ben Nevis?

Although Ben Nevis is often busy with other walkers the short answer is 'no.' Navigation on Ben Nevis is notoriously difficult, even for experienced walkers and climbers. On the best of summer days hill fog can roll in at any time to shroud the mountain and is extremely disorientating, often resulting in people walking in the wrong direction. There have, unfortunately, been deaths caused by disorientated people mistakenly following the wrong route in the fog.

Observatory ruins shrouded in hill fog - Ben Nevis Summit

According to the photographer, Dave Ungar, who took this image, "This was taken in Mid-July. It was freezing. The rain was horizontal. 60mph winds."

There's a path - surely it is safe?

The path to the top of Ben Nevis, while well built and easy to follow in clear conditions on a summer's day, peters out near the top as a result of the rocky terrain.

Unwary walker stands on cornice.

The route to the summit marker also passes within a few feet of the precipitous cliffs and 2,000 foot drop of the North Face. Even in mid-summer snow is often corniced (overhanging) the clefts of the cliffs, meaning that the unwary could find themselves standing on nothing more than unstable snow hanging over nothing but air.

Sponsored Events

I am planning a sponsored event - who do I need to contact to get permission to climb Ben Nevis?

If your sponsored event is for 10 people or less then you do not need to seek permission from anyone to climb Ben Nevis.

If your sponsored event is for more than 10 people and you intend to use the Glen Nevis Visitor Center car park and other facilities you will need to get in touch with the Visitor Center. A fee may apply. There may also be timetable clashes with other events so again, get in touch with the Visitor Center.

General Questions

Are there Toilets?

There are toilets at the Visitor Center you can use but they are only available during the Center's opening hours. There are NO TOILETS on Ben Nevis itself.

How long does it take to climb Ben Nevis?

It depends on how fit you are, how many breaks you take and of course the weather. Generally, the time taken to walk to the top of Ben Nevis via the Mountain Track in summer is around 3½ - 4½ hours although it can take longer. Descending Ben Nevis in summer generally takes around 2½ hours to 3½ hours.

Climbing Ben Nevis when there is snow on the ground or the weather is less than ideal is an entirely different ball game and you should allow up to 8 hours (or more) for the ascent. Read more...

Do I need permission to climb Ben Nevis?

No. You do not need to seek permission from anyone if all you intend to do is climb Ben Nevis.

I want to cycle to the top - do I need permission?

No, you do not need permission to use a mountain bike but do bear in mind that the mountain is normally very busy and other people may not share your enthusiasm about your mode of transport, particularly if the path is congested.

I want to sleep in the summit shelter at the top - is that okay?

No. The Emergency Shelter at the top of Ben Nevis is for emergency use only. It is not to be used for planned stays.

I want to bury / throw away my apple cores, banana skins or sandwich crusts - they're biodegradable, right?

No! Ben Nevis (or any mountain environment) is a fragile ecosystem that has taken millenia to evolve. It has been estimated that a single banana peel will take over two years to appreciably break down and up to five years to disintegrate entirely. During that time the non-native organisms involved in breaking down the banana peels, apple cores and other food items are having a negative impact on the native organisms' environment. The golden rule is - if you take it in, take it out.

Can I take the chairlift to the top and walk down?

There is NO CHAIRLIFT ON BEN NEVIS. You can only climb Ben Nevis on foot. If you are in a queue for a gondola you are on the wrong mountain! Aonach Mòr to be precise.

How much does it cost to climb Ben Nevis?

Climbing Ben Nevis is free. There is, however, a charge to use the car park at the Glen Nevis Visitor Center, currently, £ 4 per car and £ 10 per minibus / motorhome / coach, per day.

I plan on carrying a piano / Model T Ford / unusual object to the top of Ben Nevis - do I need permission?

Yes. You will need to seek permission from the John Muir Trust, the owners of Ben Nevis, before you embark on anything that involves carrying large objects to the top of Britain's highest mountain.

I want to land a helicopter on the top of, or around, Ben Nevis - do I need permission?

Yes. You will need to seek permission from the John Muir Trust although it is unlikely this would be granted. (Okay, not frequently asked but it has been asked).