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Britain’s highest mountain claims another life, as 23 climbers rescued on Ben Nevis

Hikers on the snowy summit of Ben Nevis
One climber dead and 23 rescued in brutal conditions on Ben Nevis (Image credit: Westend61)

It’s been a deadly week in Scotland’s mountains with another fatality taking place on Ben Nevis in addition to a mass rescue effort. A 28-year-old man died on Tuesday after falling 300m down an ice slope on the west side of the mountain, becoming the sixth climber in two weeks to perish in the Scottish mountains. 

Members of an army group who were climbing at the time went to his aid in an attempt to rescue him, which resulted in two further injured men being transported to the hospital. All in all, 23 hikers and climbers were airlifted or walked off the mountain by Lochaber search and rescue during brutal weather conditions.

At 1,345m tall, Ben Nevis is Britain’s highest mountain and becomes much more treacherous in the colder months, requiring gear like crampons and ice axes as well as navigation skills, as Mike Pescod of Loachaber Mountain Rescue explained when we interviewed him for our article Is Ben Nevis hard to climb?

“When there is no snow, the path is really easy to find and there's usually people on it. But when there’s snow on the ground, which can be any time from November to May, the path is covered in snow and it’s impossible to follow the trail itself so you need to navigate.”

A group of hikers ascending Ben Nevis

While the rest of the country enjoys its first glimpses of spring with warmer temperatures and blooming daffodils, the conditions up on Ben Nevis continue to be ferocious (Image credit: Westend61)

While the rest of the country enjoys its first glimpses of spring with warmer temperatures and blooming daffodils, the conditions up on Ben Nevis continue to be “ferocious” according to Brian Bathurst, the deputy team leader of Glencoe mountain rescue team, who was interviewed for the Guardian (opens in new tab) about Tuesday’s tragedy.

“The snow fields are glazed over with ice and are quite lethal. One slip and you will go a long way,” says Bathurst, adding “The conditions last night were very difficult. As well as the ice, there were very strong winds and rain. The helicopters did an amazing job.”

If you are planning on hitting the trails in the Highlands this winter, check the weather before you go and be willing to adjust your plans. You may want to consider guided hiking for tackling a mountain like Ben Nevis in winter and you’ll want to read our article on hiking in Scotland so you can be well prepared with navigation training and appropriate safety equipment for snow, ice, shelter and self-rescue. 

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.