Who looks after Ben Nevis?
Over 150 000 people climb Ben Nevis every year. The huge majority use the classic route called the ‘Pony Track’ to the summit of Ben Nevis.
But who looks after Ben Nevis?
Ben Nevis is not owned by one single person or estate, a number of different organisations own different parts of this vast mountain. The John Muir Trust owns a large part of Ben Nevis, having bought 4 400 acres in 2000 for £50000 from an accountant in the Midlands of England called Mr Fairfax-Lucy who inherited it in 1979 after his family brought it as an investment in the 19th century.
The John Muir Trust looks after the summit and upper parts of Ben Nevis and other nearby mountains such a Carn Mor Dearg, Aonach Neag and Sgurr Choinneach Beag. The Trust also looks after the stunning Nevis Gorge and parts of the Waters of Nevis.
Other parts of the mountain are owned by Liberty British Aluminium, As a community, we have tried to buy this land from them so that it could be managed by people who live and work in the Scottish Highlands, we have not succeeded. Yet!
'....Nor is Ben Nevis part of a National Park..'
Nor is Ben Nevis part of a National Park, yes, I know it sounds amazing but Scotlands highest mountain is not part of a national park and is looked after by a charitable trust that depends on donations to maintain the busy summit path, a path that sees hundreds of thousands of feet each year and has to deal with snow, rain, lots of it, and avalanches.
The path building team is careful to use only local rocks to maintain the path, often using a helicopter to lift rocks to the right places to repair the path. It can be really scary to have a helicopter flying over you as it uplifts huge bags of rocks directly above your head. I know the bags they use to haul the rocks are safe, but one day, without saying a word, my client and I instinctively speeded up to a gentle jog to get out of the flight path!
"the professional path builder who was working with me created at least six times the distance without even sweating'
Building and maintaining the path is hard, skilled work, they also need constant maintenance due to the heavy footfall and weather. I spent a day helping maintain a path at Polldubh (The Black Pool in Gaelic) a brilliant climbing venue in Glen Nevis and spent all day sweating, creating blisters and about one foot of path. The professional path builder who was working with me created at least six times the distance without even sweating and giving me lessons and tips at the same time.
How do you help?
Nevis Landscape Partnership, Friends of Ben Nevis and the John Muir Trust all offer volunteering opportunities. They are also reliant on funding from visitors at the start of the Pony Track by the wooden signpost is a box built into a boulder for donations.
Many professional guides, charities and outdoor companies use Ben Nevis as a venue for paying clients and they have the opportunity to donate to those that look after Ben Nevis for us. Wild Mountian Guides gives a percentage of all bookings to the Nevis Fund and is a member of the Lochaber Chamber of Commerce who help administer the Nevis Fund.
So who looks after Ben Nevis?
We all do if we chose to take action from donating to working on the paths.
Because of the number of organisations that look after Ben Nevis, the Lochaber Chamber of Commerce set up the Nevis Fund. https://www.lochaberchamber.co.uk/2019/07/the-nevis-fund-a-call-to-action/ to act as an umbrella for giving.
Or you can make a direct payment to the Nevis Partnership that helps coordinate the care of Ben Nevis. https://www.nevispartnership.co.uk/donate.html