How to tackle Ben Nevis as a first-timer

How easy is it to train to climb Ben Nevis in Scotland? 

What is Ben Nevis?

Ben Nevis – or Beinn Nibheis to give it its Scottish Gaelic name – is the tallest mountain in the UK and the British Isles. In fact, it’s the tallest land for over 450 miles in any direction. It’s actually a volcano which was active millions of years ago and collapsed in on itself after erupting. The summit of Ben Nevis is 1,345m (4,411 feet) above sea level and the mountain is surrounded by water, with Loch Linnhe and Loch Treig nearby.

Is Ben Nevis suitable for beginners?

Ben Nevis is a hugely popular climb for hikers, walkers, and mountaineers. It’s one of the three peaks in the famous Three Peaks challenge (many people say it’s the toughest). So is it suitable for a beginner climber, or someone on a walking weekend?

How do you climb Ben Nevis?

The first thing to know is that there are two routes up and down Ben Nevis – the Mountain Track (or Tourist Track) and the Carn Mor Dearg Arête which is typically tackled by more experienced climbers. The Mountain Track is doable as a beginner if you have generally good fitness and go prepared for the conditions. 

What are the two routes up Ben Nevis?

The Mountain Track up Ben Nevis starts at the Visitor Centre near Fort William, beginning with a steep climb and then zig-zagging to the summit. It’s about 11 miles and should take 4-8 hours.

Carn Mor Dearg Arête is a challenging route that’s not suitable for beginners – only the most experience hikers and climbers should attempt this route. It has exposed sections and technical graded scrambles and can take up to 13 hours.

Can you climb Ben Nevis by yourself?

 Yes, you can climb Ben Nevis by yourself if you choose to do the Tourist Trail, but there are plenty of guided climbs too. If you choose to walk Ben Nevis by yourself or with friends, make sure you take the challenge seriously. Research the route and be sure to have a map (you can use an app but it’s always smart to have an OS Explorer map with you).

Wear suitable clothes including gloves, take layers, and wear comfortable socks and shoes or boots. Don’t forget to pack food and water, and it’s a good idea to take a portable battery pack and cable for your phone. The summit is often windy, and can be 10*C colder than the base. You can expect the route back down to take roughly half as long as the walk up.

The Visitor Centre close to the start of the Tourist Trail is a valuable resource with lots of information about weather, routes, and local conditions.

How fit do you have to be to do Ben Nevis?

Ben Nevis might not be Everest, but it’s no joke. Don’t forget, this is the highest point of the entire British Isles. You’ll need good cardio fitness to keep walking uphill for 6+ hours, and strong legs, core, and upper body to carry your stuff. If you don’t hike regularly, we highly recommend you train for your Ben Nevis climb by following a structured walking programme for at least 4 weeks beforehand.

How hard is it to walk Ben Nevis?

Most beginner to intermediate hikers would classify Ben Nevis as hard. It’s certainly not something to take on without any preparation, but it’s completely doable as an amazing challenge!

5 steps to training for Ben Nevis

  1. Increase your weekly steps
  2. Prioritise uphill walks for 4 weeks beforehand
  3. Work up to at least one x 10-mile walk
  4. Focus on strength training for your legs and back
  5. Do some training walks in a weighted vest

Is it a crazy idea to do Ben Nevis in a weighted vest?

Not many people do Ben Nevis in a weighted vest – it’s hard enough without! The weather ca change quickly on Ben Nevis and you’ll want to be able to take off and add layers of clothing. Why not use a weighted vest as part of your training instead? If you can do long weekly hilly walks in a weighted vest, Ben Nevis itself will feel easier. Plus all those weighted vest walks will get you in amazing shape.

Force Fitness weighted vests are slimline vests designed for functional training, rucking and hill-walking. Take a look at our range of weighted vests and take your outdoor cardio to the next level.

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