Ben Nevis Navigation - Cairns Movedby Nevis Partnership Oct/2009
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Following consultations with mountaineering organisations, The Nevis Partnership has completed work on the relocation of the line of stone cairns that traditionally marked the path over the summit plateau of the UK's highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
The relocated cairns now mark the recognised compass bearings that are used by walkers and climbers to navigate off the summit, avoiding the snow cornices that fringe the edge of the mountain's north-east facing corries.
The cairns are almost six feet/1.8 metres in height and are spaced at 50 metre intervals.
Snow covers the summit plateau of the Ben for much of the year making the route of the path useless for navigational purposes. When the summit is free of snow visitors are recommended to follow the path, but when snow is lying on the ground the new line of cairns should be followed.
Although the new line of the cairns will certainly aid walkers and climbers leaving the summit in bad weather Nevis Partnership Chairman Cameron McNeish said hill users should still carry a map and compass and know how to use them:
"Because of its status as the highest mountain in Britain Ben Nevis attracts about 200,000 visitors a year," he said. "Many of these people are not mountaineers and have little knowledge of navigation skills. However, I would urge everyone who wants to climb to the summit of Ben Nevis to learn how to navigate by using a map and compass and be fully prepared for the worst possible conditions, especially in winter weather. The new line of cairns will certainly help people to leave the summit plateau safely but a good knowledge of navigational skills is, by far, the safest option."
Heather Morning, the Mountain Safety Advisor for the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said:
"The MCofS commends the work carried out by The Nevis Partnership to improve the safety of visitors to the summit plateau of Ben Nevis. However, visitors still need to be aware that provision of these navigation cairns is no substitute for sound navigation skills. The summit of Ben Nevis can be a hostile and inhospitable environment at any time of year. Anyone wishing to climb Ben Nevis should ensure they are wearing suitable clothing, carrying appropriate equipment and be aware of the prevailing weather conditions".
NB. The above image is an updated map of the summit cairns, courtesy of Harvey Maps.