Who owns Ben Nevis?
Well, a few different organisations actually, probably the best known being the John Muir Trust. They look after the higher section of the mountain in order to conserve the rare environment and its wildlife, flora and fauna.
Then we have Rio Tinto, Fort William Alcan, the aluminium smelting company. They own the lower sections of the path and have recently replaced the two aluminium bridges.
Friends of Nevis is a community based conservation charity manned largely by volunteers. Their aim is to preserve, protect and support the iconic mountain of Ben Nevis and the surrounding landscape with activities that include path repairs, litter picking, education projects, and liaison with land owners and the local community.
The Nevis Partnership brings together these and other interested parties to ensure opportunities for visitor appreciation and enjoyment of the Nevis area.
Gales from the west (and often from the North and East as well), the traditional unpredictability of Scottish weather in general, and the close proximity of the North Atlantic ocean combine to make the climate on Ben Nevis varied, harsh, and often unpredictable. Conditions on the mountain can change rapidly.
The summit delights in an average rainfall of more than 4300 millimetres (more than twice that of nearby Fort William), it is around 8.5C colder than at its base, it is covered by cloud and fog for 70% of the time, and it is snow covered for around 7 months of the year. In fact snow can be seen throughout the year on the mountain’s North Face. Despite all this visitors frequently encounter brilliant sunshine and superb visibility during their Ben Nevis adventures.
Throughout the summers of 1881 and 1882 the indomitable meteorologist Clement Wragge made daily trips to the summit to take weather measurements. It was his commitment that inspired the construction of The Weather Observatory the following year. Wragge applied for the position as Superintendent, but was passed over for the job, despite his obvious dedication. That same year he left Scotland for Australia where he settled with his family near Adelaide. He went on to establish weather observatories throughout Australia and in 1886 Wragge was a founding member of the Royal Meteorological Society of Australia.
The Pony Track, the mountain path we use today, dates from 1883 when it was constructed to take building supplies to the summit for The Weather Observatory.
Their first winter was a disaster with up to 4 metres of snow and constant daily digging to get to their instruments. The following summer the building was extended and modified to better cope with these extreme conditions.
Apparently the weathermen were not alone in their Arctic conditions at the top of The Ben. Mountain hares were regular visitors, a family of stoats took up winter quarters there, and the daily log for 2 February 1904 reports that the observatory cat had to be put down as it was suffering a form of paralysis. The cat’s first appearance in the log had been 26 July 1895 when it had joined the staff as just a wee kitten. A mountain hare became quite tame and developed a liking for cinders and scientific literature!
The final log entry is 1st October 1904, the day the observatory closed due to lack of funding.