What's Ben Nevis like in November?
Ben Nevis in November, winter wonderland or wind and storms?
Ben Nevis in November? It can be stunning, crisp autumn in Glen Nevis, the start of the main route with the first touch of winter on the top.As you get higher the patches of ice may become larger and thicker, covering the whole path at times. In November you can have full winter conditions with deep snow higher on the mountains, but on this trip to the top of Ben Nevis there was only a dusting of snow with some patches of ice.
"ben Nevis in November? It's not the time of year, it's the weather on the day..."
“What time of year can you climb Ben Nevis” or ‘what is Ben Nevis like in November’ is maybe the wrong question. It’s not the time of year, its the weather on the day that has the biggest influence. OK the weather is broadly affected by the time of year, but the west coast of the Scottish Highlands has a huge variety of weather at any time of the year.
Loch Linnhe is the sea loch that runs for 30 miles from the Scottish sea port of Oban, down to Fort William, where it changes its name to Loch Eil and carries on for a further 10 miles to Kinlocheil (this translates to ‘End of Loch Eil’). This sea loch combined with the mountains creates a weather funnel aimed straight at Ben Nevis. Add Ben Nevi’s height, well over a kilometer above the loch and it magnifies the weather. If it is windy at loch level (sea level) it will be much stronger on the summit. My house is about 40m above sea level, so if we have a frost I know it will be a very cold day on top of Ben Nevis summit.
The Ben Nevis weather rules are very simple. What ever is happening at sea level, more of it will be happening at the summit!
Depending on how flexible you are with your route to the top of Ben Nevis you can plan for this. If the wind is coming in from the west going up the scramble called Ledge Route on the North Face of Ben Nevis may keep you out of the wind until you get to Carn Dearg at 1221m, a subsidiary summit of Ben Nevis.
It is really the weather, not the time of year that you need to be aware of.
If it is all about the weather, what weather forecast should I use for Ben Nevis?
Ben Nevis guides normally look at several different weather forecasts to get a full picture. You will get some Ben Nevis guides who swear one weather forecast is better than all the rest but most guides working on Ben Nevis use a combination of forecasts.
So what forecasts do I use?
I will often start with the Mountain Weather Information Services West Coast Forecast.
This gives me a good overall picture of the area. I will then compare it to the Met Office mountain weather summit forecast.
The Met office also does a mountain summit forecast, this is the one for Ben Nevis summit. Remember this is for the summit, so it will often show it as winder and colder than the rest of the mountain. This gives me a good all round picture of what the weather will PROBABLY do. When I am guiding on Ben Nevis I always keep one eye on the weather and compare that to the forecast.
'What ever the forecast I always carry full set of waterproofs and warm layer'
Even with the most perfect forecast for Ben Nevis I will carry a waterproof jacket and trousers. If it is a ‘just in case’ waterproof I currently carry a Arcteryx lightweight gortex jacket and trousers. If it is going to be a wet day I often wear my Paramo jacket and trousers, which is heaver but more comfortable to wear all day due to is unique fabric that breaths literally like no other fabric on the market.
I also carry a warm spare layer to go over everything for the summit, having to take a waterproof off just to put on a warm layer means you tend to delay it and it is very uncomfortable. Currently I use a gillet and jacket from paramo that are designed for going over the top of wet waterproofs and they make any day out, even in bad weather a much nicer experience.
Disclaimer: As a professional guide I do have an account with Paramo and receive discounted Arcteryx products. But I am still paying for them and receive no direct benefit from recommending these products.