Winter in Glen Nevis: Two Munros and a revamped hostel
Gordie and I enjoyed a visit to the superbly refurbished Glen Nevis Youth Hostel for a weekend of hiking in the local mountains.
Hostel and hiking in Glen Nevis
Driving through Glen Nevis on a winter’s evening, we glimpse the outline of the mountains climbing steeply around us.
When the clouds allow, the moon briefly illuminates the dark but stunning hulks of land on either side of the road.
Come the morning, after a night in the superbly refurbished Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, the view is entirely different.
I peek out of the double-glazed window at the front of the building to see the lower flanks of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, bathed in the low glow of a promising sunrise.
The summit is cloaked in a thick mist, although by the time we are eating breakfast in the glass-fronted dining area it has thinned.
We are delighted to be able to see the start of the snowline on the mountain’s higher reaches because this tells us the ski season might not be too far away.
Looking again, half an hour later, the vista has changed once more as a sudden patch of bright blue sky lights up the dramatic glen, located in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands.
It is in winter that I most enjoy the vistas created by the fickle mood of the weather.
The glen is accessed via a six-mile tarmac road leading from the west coast outdoors town of Fort William
Of course, Ben Nevis is one of the biggest draws for outdoors fans, however there are many other attractive summits nearby.
Close to the Ben are Càrn Mor Dearg, Aonach Mòr and Aonach Beag, while to the south are the Mamores mountains with a total of 10 Munros (Scottish mountains with a summit of more than 300ft) to hike.
We choose two in the Mamores range, Stob Ban (3277ft) and Mullach nan Coirean (3080ft), which offer a circuit via a high-rise ridge traverse.
Driving deeper into the glen to reach the Polldubh car park (£4 charge) at the start of the walk we are treated to more spirit-lifting views.
Autumn has not yet left and the moorland and trees are still vibrant with a rich palette of bright colours.
It is no wonder that Glen Nevis has been the setting for many atmospheric films, such as Highlander, Rob Roy and Braveheart.
As we leave the car to start the walk, climbing south at first on a gradual incline and then quickly steepening, the clouds drift around the mountain tops.
The forecast rain is holding off for the time being and each time we stop for a breather we turn to look back over an ever-widening and glorious panorama.
Climbing higher on Stob Ban the path becomes rockier and we avoid several sections of steep crags as we head for a wide ridge.
By now, the clouds have returned and we feel cut off from the rest of the world, walking through the mist.
This might not sound too pleasant except every so often there is a break in the clouds and the resulting view over the surrounding landscape is suddenly strikingly beautiful.
The drama of clouds, patches of light and glimpses of a distant valley floor are breath-taking.
Ahead, the higher slopes of Stob Ban tower impressively above. The path zigzags steeply and then eases to towards peak.
At first the view is shrouded in cloud before a short opening that gives sight of spectacular Ben Nevis to the north.
We wonder how many of the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel guests have decided to hike the Ben today.
The walk to our next Munro begins with a sharp descent, first over shattered quartzite rocks and then on a softer, grassier path.
We reach a high bealach between mountains and then a minor summit and further ups and downs before a huge cairn is spotted on top of Mullach nan Coirean.
Here we are treated to more fantastic views, in between the clouds, especially to the west and over Loch Linnhe.
The long descent brings another mix of weather fortunes with brighter spells and the threatened rain.
However, we don’t mind because we are heading back to the hostel where there is a drying room, laundry facilities and a fire already lit in the wood-burning stove.
The thoroughly modern hostel also sells beer and wine and we are looking forward to exchanging stories with other guests who have enjoyed a day out in Glen Nevis, too.
Other things to do in Glen Nevis
Walk a trail through Nevis Gorge to see the magnificent Steall Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in Scotland. See Walk Highlands.
Visit Nevis Range Mountain to ski, mountain bike and experience a Tree Adventure. SeeNevis Range.
Ride Glen Nevis by mountain bike from the Ben Nevis Woollen Mill Visitor Centre. See Ride Fort William.
Where to stay
Glen Nevis Youth Hostel
This year marks the hostel’s 80th birthday and it’s estimated that more than 1.3 million guests have stayed over that time.
The hostel reopened in July after a major refurbishment and has been awarded five-star VisitScotland accreditation.
The hostel has seven twin bedded rooms, a triple, seven quads and four eight bedded rooms.
Excluding the shared space, all of the rooms in Glen Nevis are en-suite.
Hostel facilities include laundry and drying room; large self-catering kitchen; secure bike storage; cooked Scottish or continental breakfast available; and food, drink and snacks available all day.
Scottish Hostelling also ensures hostel staff offer a warm welcome and can take the time to offer local knowledge to guests about activities in the area and places to eat.
To find out more and for prices see Glen Nevis Youth Hostel.
This article appeared in my Sunday Mail outdoors column. Read the pdf.