Seven Facts About Ben Nevis
One of the UK’s most famous natural landmarks, Ben Nevis is a bucket-list journey for many passionate walkers! Its history is as rich as the journey itself, and knowing some of its secrets can help to make the adventure even more spellbinding.
Here, we look through some of the fascinating facts about the Scottish landmark, tracing how people have appreciated the mountain for countless generations.
It is actually called Beinn Nibheis.
The name Ben Nevis is an anglicisation of the original Gaelic name. Many people translate this historical title as meaning ‘Venomous Mountain’, but its original purpose may be more complicated than that.
Beinn is easily translated as mountain. While Nibheis can be translated as ‘malicious’ or ‘venomous’, it could also refer to a god’s name, specifically the Celtic god Lugh, whose place of worship was said to be on mountain tops.
Ben Nevis’ peak is over 4,000ft above sea level.
It is the tallest mountain across the British Isles, beating the next tallest, Ben Macdui, by around 100ft.
It is the tallest peak anywhere for 700km, crossing the North Sea to the west coast of Norway (Melderskin).
Ben Nevis was once an active volcano.
Specifically, what we now see is the remains of a volcano that collapsed in on itself, with ascents generally travelling through what was once the inner dome. Evidence suggests that the collapse caused a mega explosion comparable in force to Krakatoa. Glacial eroding has further shaped the mountain into what it is today.
The first ascent to the summit was completed in the 1770s.
The first person to climb to the top of Ben Nevis is reported to be a botanist from Edinburgh in 1771. The first account of the mountain’s structure came from John Williams in 1774.
Despite these early climbs, it’s height – and position as the UK’s tallest peak – wasn’t confirmed by the Ordnance Survey until 1847.
The Most Popular Route is known as the Pony Track.
Dating back to 1883 and otherwise known as the Mountain Track, the path incorporates many zig-zags on its way to the summit, making it less steep and much more accessible. Over 100,000 walkers enjoy Ben Nevis every year, and the majority use this path.
A more challenging walk to the summit is called Carn Mor Dearg Arête. While crossing the Pony Track and about halfway, it follows a different, more exposed path which requires scrambling skills and proper levels of fitness. Rock climbers frequently ascend Ben Nevis’ famous North Face.
The ruins of an observatory can be found at the summit.
The mountain’s summit is a stony plateau which stretches for 100 acres and features various landmarks, including a cairn at the highest point.
The most striking feature of the summit, beyond the breathtaking views, is the old observatory. Initially opened in 1883, it was fully staffed until the early 1900s, leading to significant discoveries in mountain climate and, eventually, the invention of the cloud chamber.
While the observatory is now mostly in ruins, it can still be used as a shelter in emergencies. Since its roof is higher than any point at the summit, it is technically the tallest manmade structure in the UK.
Views from the summit can stretch as far as Northern Island.
Panoramic views can be enjoyed from the peak of Ben Nevis. If you are fortunate enough to reach the top during ideal conditions, it is possible to see out for around 190km (120mi), allowing for views stretching across the Inner Seas to the Northern Ireland mountain of Knocklayd.
Is Ben Nevis a location on your bucket list? We’d love to help you reach the summit! Here at LOWA, we’ve been making high-quality hiking boots for generations, delivering quality and support that you can trust on the toughest of ascents. Why not check out our range of Vibram sole boots, guaranteed to give you control across the mountain’s mixed terrain?
Looking for more exciting challenged in the UK? Discover five of the most exciting mountains to climb in Britain!