Where can I practice for climbing Ben Nevis?

Q. I live in London and am taking a small group of people from London and Essex up Ben Nevis on 1 July.

Are there any walks involving hills which are easily accessible from Central London (we tend to meet in Central London and get a train to our destination) so that we can get some practice in?

We have been to on the South Downs Way from Eastbourne to Exceat (taking in Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters) and going up Box Hill shortly.

Many thanks

Caroline Jeffery


A. I've climbed Ben Nevis twice in the last 12 months, once in May 05 doing the 3 peak and again in Aug 05.

In may there was approximately 2ft of lying snow at the summit with 10-12ft drifts in places.

In August, although there was no lying snow, it was steadily sleeting at the summit.

In any weather the summit of Ben Nevis is a dangerous place to be, a wrong compass reading can have to heading off over a 2000ft cliff edge.

As for training for the walk I would recommend as much hill walking as possible, anything will be good, but the steeper the better.

I trained a lot in the Edale area of the Peak district, Jacobs ladder is particularly steep.

If you can't make it to any decent sized hills walk up as many flights of stairs as you possible can!

It all depends on how quickly you want to get up and down the mountain.

We did it in a little over 5 hours in May during our 3 peaks attempt, at this speed you need a high level of fitness.

In August we took a steady hike to take in the fabulous views over Fort William and Loch Lynne, it took us a little over 8 1/2 hours.

To complete the hike in this time doesn't need 'superman' fitness levels (although it does help).

David Mann, Lincoln


A. Hmm - Ben Nevis is a big hill. I mean a really really big hill.

The ascent up Box Hill in Surrey (walk su103 Box Hill from Westhumble  ) is about 140m (459ft) on easy ground and a tea shop near the top.

The ascent up Ben Nevis (from Achintee) is 1337m (4388ft) - over nine and a half times as high on a rough rocky mountain path.

The top is covered in mist around 80% of the time and snow lingers well into the summer months. The nearest terrain to London that is remotely similar is in the Lake District in Cumbria (though Ben Nevis some 1200ft higher then Scafell Pike - England's highest mountain).

If you need route instructions - see walk h100 Ben Nevis via The Tourist Path from Achintee, Fort William  which follows the relatively easy 'route touristique'.

Make sure everyone in your party is properly equipped with plenty of their own food and water, proper walking boots and waterproofs (even if the weather forecast is good!).

Hope this helps

Mike (Editor)


A. We have just walked up Ben Nevis where we met a group from London attempting the three peaks challenge. Only 2 from two mini-bus loads made it. One of the girls said they had attempted to train for it by walking up local 'hills' but that this had turned out to be totally inadequate - so be warned. The 1st hour / hour and half is tough but if you can get through it onto the flat part you should manage but expect a good 4-5 hour slog if you haven't done this type of walk before. My advice is take the first steep ascent on the steps nice and easy or you will struggle . . . good luck!

Mark Arbuthnott, Brechin


A. I think it's hard training for a climb. I live in Norfolk which is very flat but try and walk as much as possible, swim too if you can. I would love to walk up Ben Nevis it's on my list of things to do! I know this might sound silly but try and run up and down your stairs at home as many times as possible and you will be surprised how hard it is. Good luck!

Jackie Jest, Norwich


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