How Long To Climb Ben Nevis

How Long Will It Take Me To Climb Ben Nevis?

How long it takes to climb Ben Nevis really depends on how fit you are and how many breaks you take but a rough guide is it will take you around 3½ - 4½ hours to climb it via the Mountain Track in summer under reasonable weather conditions. The descent from the summit back to your starting point will normally take approx. 2½ - 3½ hours.

If you or one of your party is slower than average then it can take a lot longer.

In winter conditions and especially with snow on the ground, climbing to the summit of Ben Nevis via the Mountain Track can take up to 8 hours (or more) with a descent time of around half that so particular care must be taken to plan around sunrise and sunset times.

Naismith's Rule

The most common way of estimating your time is to use Naismith's Rule, a system devised by William W. Naismith, a Scottish mountaineer, in 1892, to calculate time taken to climb mountains. There have been various tweaks and adjustments added over the years but essentially the rule of thumb has withstood the test of time quite well.

He calculated that it would take 1 hour for every 3 miles PLUS 1 hour for every 2,000 feet of ascent. In metric terms that would be 1 hour for every 5 km and 1 hour for every 600m of ascent.

Naismith's can be broken down further into times for speed and distance...

Timing Chart
Naismith's Timing Chart

and also time that should be added for metres of ascent...

Timing Chart
Naismith's Ascent and Time Added

During reasonable summer weather, using Naismith's we can calculate the time to be added just on the ascent part of the rule: 135 mins. The distance to the summit of Ben Nevis is approx. 8,500 m so if you can sustain a pace of 5 kph for the duration of the walk and don't take any breaks the distance travelled part of the rule gives 102 mins.

Add them both together to arrive at a figure of 237 mins (3 hours 57 min).

Obviously it is different for everyone and some people can zoom up Ben Nevis much faster than others. Generally speaking, the fitter you are the faster you will get to the summit. But it isn't a race (except when it is) so you should take the time to lift your head to look around you during your walk to enjoy some of that unique and spectaular scenery. If you don't, all you will remember of climbing Ben Nevis is a stony path and not much else.