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Ben Nevis attracts an estimated 125,000 complete and a further 100,000 partial ascents per year, most of which are made by walkers using the well-constructed Mountain Track (Pony Track) from Glen Nevis on the south side of the mountain. For climbers and mountaineers the main attraction lies in the 700-metre (2,300 ft) high cliffs of the north face. Among the highest cliffs in the United Kingdom, they harbour some of the best scrambles and rock climbs at all levels of difficulty, and are one of the principal locations in the UK for ice climbing.

The summit, at 1,344 metres (4,408 ft) above sea level, unusually for a mountain in Scotland, features the ruins of a building, an observatory, which was permanently staffed from 1883 until it's closure in 1904.

The Origins of the Name

The name, 'Ben Nevis,' is from the Gaelic, 'Beinn Nibheis.'  While 'beinn' is a common Gaelic word for 'mountain' the word 'nibheis' is understood to have several meanings and is commonly translated as 'malicious' or 'venomous' therefore giving the meaning of 'Venomous (or malicious) mountain.'

Another interpretation of the name Ben Nevis, is that it derives from beinn nèamh-bhathais, from the word nèamh meaning 'heavens (or clouds)' and bathais meaning 'top of a man's head.' This would therefore translate literally as, 'the mountain with its head in the clouds' although this is sometimes also given as the more poetic, 'mountain of heaven.'

Ben Nevis (Scottish Gaelic: Beinn Nibheis) is the highest mountain in the British Isles. It is located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Lochaber area of Scotland, close to the town of Fort William and is affectionately known as 'The Ben.'

Ben Nevis, Scotland

Mountain Track

The track up Ben Nevis commonly referred to as the 'Tourist Route,' the 'Tourist Track' or the 'Pony Track' is in fact the old access route to the now ruined Observatory and was designed as a rough bridle path for ponies.

It was properly designated as the 'Mountain Track' around 2004 in order to move away from what was considered the misleading title of 'Tourist Route' as it was felt that the latter persuaded the unwary that the route to the top of the mountain often experiences what is arguably the fiercest mountain weather conditions in Scotland. This route can be a challenging walk and is definitely not suitable for a spur of the moment ascent. Visitors must be properly prepared!

The Mountain Track to the summit (also known as the Ben Path, the Pony Track or the Tourist Route) remains the simplest and most popular route of ascent. It begins at Achintee on the east side of Glen Nevis about 2 km (1.5 miles) from Fort William town centre, at around 20 metres above sea level.

Bridges from the Visitor Centre and the youth hostel now allow access from the west side of Glen Nevis.

The track climbs steeply via several small zig-zags to the saddle by Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe (known as the halfway lochan) at 570m, then ascends the remaining 700 metres up the stony west flank of Ben Nevis in a series of larger zig-zags.

It is well-made and maintained throughout its length, and, thanks to the zig-zags, not unusually steep apart from in the initial stages, with a gradient of not more than 1 in 5 thanks to its initial purpose of construction as a path for ponies to supply the observatory.

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