/ Climbing Ben Nevis In Mid October 2018 (Novice)
As the title states i would like to climb Ben Nevis (tourist route) with my brother in mid-October.
We are both novices in hill-climbing but fit enough to take on the challenge. I can use a map and compass efficiently and have the appropriate clothing for cold weather.
My only concern is that of the weather around October, particularly sub-degree climate, snow and more importantly MIST.
What would you prescribe for my concerns? Is the weather unbearable around this time of year and does the mist make it hard to negotiate on the way down around five finger gorge and the like?
I am well aware of the risks this challenge involves and that 80% of accidents happen on the way down and am fully prepared to quit should I feel unable to summit. I have spent a lot of time on the internet making sure i know as much as possible about Ben Nevis but these questions I thought would be better asked to experienced climbers.
Let me know what you think!
Edit: Seems from the couple of responses that it should be okay provided that I follow the advice given, HOWEVER, if anyone has any damning evidence as to why it shouldn't be attempted at this time of year, please let me know!
Check the local mountain weather forcast the day before. Weather can be great in October but remember that days are getting shorter so a prompt start is always a good plan. Synthetic layers (proper walking trousers and fleeces) are much better than cotton and are pretty inexpensive from places like GO Outdoors or Decathlon and are absolutely fine for October. Remeber fleecy hat and gloves. A flask is a great luxury if its cold.
Even in mist you are unlikely to be alone and should be able to follow the cairns / path because its not likely to be snow covered. Not a bad idea to write down the distances and bearings off the summit, though, so you aren't trying to take the bearings off the map there and then.
Unfortunately none of us have a crystal ball, there was snow on the summit this weekend, today it may be a clear blue sky, you just have to be prepared to change plans based on your judgement at the time.
There are massive summit cairns that guide you most of the way, and the path is usually very well trodden. If you can use a map and compass you shouldn't have any problems navigating away from the summit.
If you have appropriate clothes for cold weather then you should be fine for cold weather! It's not Alaska, wind chill is your most likely foe.
Whilst Ben Nevis is not to be underestimated (it seems you have a healthy amount of respect), the tourist path is pretty straightforward. Check the mountain weather forecast, familiarise yourself with the route, leave early and you should find it very straightforward.
Thanks for the speedy reply, this is really helpful stuff.
Brilliant stuff, thanks for the information.
One word of warning. Navigating off the summit in poor visibility can be tricky. So tricky in fact that there used to be a little crib card you could get to help you with directions and step counting so that you avoid the dangerous gully's on either side.
Don't go with the attitude of "we've come here, so we are going to go up whatever the weather". Have a Plan B (and even a Plan C) that will still give you a good day's walking in a less serious situation. It's OK to leave it for another time when the weather is better.
> Don't go with the attitude of "we've come here, so we are going to go up whatever the weather". Have a Plan B (and even a Plan C) that will still give you a good day's walking in a less serious situation. It's OK to leave it for another time when the weather is better.
Good advice. Made me think of Don Whillans' famous quote "The mountain will always be there, the trick is making sure you are too"
Put some mapping software like ViewRanger on your phone and buy it a waterproof case.
Bring the map and compass as a backup but use the GPS if you need to navigate in the fog.
Bring a small plastic bag and pick up a bit of rubbish. If everyone did, the summit would not need the regular clean ups. Set a good example. You get the moral high ground as well that way.
> One word of warning. Navigating off the summit in poor visibility can be tricky. So tricky in fact that there used to be a little crib card you could get to help you with directions and step counting so that you avoid the dangerous gully's on either side.
Yeah. It was a good cribcard but a quick google might bring up an old one with incorrect magnetic variation. Make sure it’s recent ;)
Follow these in good weather
Sorry Tom but I would not recommend this.
A GPS will not stop you walking into 5 finger or gardyloo. Decent navigation skills using a map & compass will
A GPS with the correct waypoints in its memory will allow you to follow the safe route. But of course having a map & compass (plus the skills to use them) is essential (any electronic can break, malfunction, batteries can die, etc)
> A GPS will not stop you walking into 5 finger or gardyloo. Decent navigation skills using a map & compass will
A GPS will show you your position accurate to a few meters directly on the OS map displayed on the phone screen. That is exactly what you need. You can also put down waypoints or mark your track. Unless there is really extreme weather a phone GPS app which works from downloaded OS maps plus a weatherproof case and a reserve battery is a massively superior solution to a paper map and compass.
Compared with the GPS chip in a modern phone trying to walk on a bearing and count paces across a boulder field in thick mist is massively inaccurate. Nobody can keep equal length paces in that terrain and walking on an accurate bearing when you can't see any distance ahead is not exactly easy either. You are going to make lots of legs and each time you will lose accuracy and the error will accumulate. There is no cumulative error with GPS.
It can be fun to navigate with a paper map and compass like it can be fun to knit your own clothes but if you want to know where you are GPS is far superior.
What happens when your phone battery dies because you've been using it for viewranger?
A GPS is a great tool but it cannot interpret the map for you. Again, it will not stop you walking through the cornice on gardyloo by accident
Map & compass (Primary)
I disagree unless you mean primary in the sense of knowledge. If I had gone to the expense of buying a GPS it would be my primary navigation tool. You should of course know how to use and carry a map and compass regardless.
> What happens when your phone battery dies because you've been using it for viewranger?
I get out my reserve battery and plug it in. Also, I'm careful with how I use ViewRanger to preserve the battery. If you have it tracking your location all day it will go through the battery, if you have it so it only locates you when you ask then it uses very little battery.
> A GPS is a great tool but it cannot interpret the map for you. Again, it will not stop you walking through the cornice on gardyloo by accident
How much interpretation does it take to keep the little blue dot on top of the dotted line marking a path and not too close to the big cliff. I'm looking at the exact same O/S map I would have if I was using a compass but there is a little blue dot telling me exactly where I am on it .
> Map & compass (Primary)
> GPS (Secondary)
GPS Primary because it is a damn site more accurate and easy to use.
Map and Compass secondary just in case something goes wrong with the GPS..
> GPS Primary because it is a damn site more accurate and easy to use.
... you can only see a small rectangle of map at one time which limits understanding of your surroundings and..
...part of the pleasure of being outside is actually navigating and not outsourcing everything to electronic gadgets.
"Again, it will not stop you walking through the cornice on gardyloo by accident"
It will if you use waymarks correctly, but, as with a map & compass, you need to know how to use it
I think you might be overstating the perils facing the OP here. They will be essentially following a path between prominent cairns on the summit plateau and all their compass work really has to achieve is finding the next cairn 30m away.
I mean primary as in if you stop navigating using a map and compass then you lose that skill.
A map and compass would always be my primary method, with a GPS as a backup if I needed an 8 figure grid reference quickly in the event of a white out for example. I'd still then revert back to map and compass.
> I think you might be overstating the perils facing the OP here. They will be essentially following a path between prominent cairns on the summit plateau and all their compass work really has to achieve is finding the next cairn 30m away.
I agree, most likely they'll just be following the path and other people or be able to see the next cairn and there's no navigation challenge at all.
Also, I've no problem with people using a map and compass because they enjoy it or because they've put effort into learning how and want to preserve the skill.
My only point is, if you actually need to know where you are in low visibility and it is important because you could fall off the edge of a cliff if you get it wrong and you have a smartphone in your pocket then you should use it. If you try and "walk on a bearing of 231 degrees for 150m" across a boulder field in low visibility there is going to be a huge uncertainty in your location after you are done compared with what you would get if you used GPS.
> I think you might be overstating the perils facing the OP here.
Not sure about that. It's a few years since I was up there but at the time there were frequent accidents due to people descending in the wrong place and I distinctly remember on a number of occasions having to take a bearing and pace out the distance before changing tack and pacing again. Are you saying there are cairns there now?
Any updates on your decision to climb during October? I am planning on going up on the 2nd or 16th of october. Currently alone but wouldn't turn down joining others if the weather is bad.
I have been keeping an eye on the weather forecast and it seems to be very unpredictable, but seems light snow on nevis is a given this year.
Light snow on Ben Nevis can occur on any day of any year! In the autumn it';s obviously more likely, but still tends to melt again within a few days. It would be very unusual if the current snow didn't disappear soon, quite likely on Saturday with heavy rain at summit level. More snow on Sunday, more thaw on Monday...
Joel, If you aren't comfortable taking on Ben Nevis under your own ability, get in touch with a guide. A qualified Mountain leader would be more than suitable to take you up the pony track (tourist route), perhaps even a Winter Mountain Leader if conditions continue to become more wintery.
The Ben is doable all year round if the weather/conditions allows it. Conditions change with the seasons and vary from year to year. It's massively important to know what the current conditions are like before setting off, under winter conditions the Ben is a much more serious undertaking.
Generally speaking the path is incredibly obvious, its well trodden and can be very busy. On the summit Plateau the path can be less obvious, even more so when covered in snow and visibility is low. If you are able to use a map and compass to navigate competently then this shouldn't be an issue.
While working on Ben Nevis last weekend, from about 1100 to the summit, conditions were fairly wintery. No axes or crampons required yet but certainly very cold and windy with some snow around, serious conditions, especially if not wearing the appropriate clothing or don't have the skills not to get lost on the plateau.
Get in touch if you have any questions, would be happy to help.
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