Smith's Route

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 56.79674°N / 5.00942°W
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering, Ice Climbing, Mixed
Seasons Season: Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Scottish 5
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 3
Additional Information Grade: V
Sign the Climber's Log


Geographical Classification: Scotland > Ben Nevis >Smith's Route

Smith's Route is a Cold Climb's classic on the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, the Ben Nevis. The route is located on Gardyloo Buttress in Observatory Gully Area, which is the valley just north of the summit of the Ben. In order to climb the route you'll have be prepared on a pretty long walk to the base of the route, especially when your starting from the parking near Fort William. The route is a pure ice climb, of course when in good condition. The route is 130 meters long and can be climbed in three pitches. The second pitch is the crux, which can be climbed in two ways. Refering to most Scottish guidebooks the route is worth climbing, which makes it pretty popular. Like Indicator Wall and other routes high up Observatory Gully Area the route is quite often in condition. Especially when other routes are not in condition, you'll found a lot of parties in this route. So, in order to enjoy the climbing it is adviced to start early, or at least, before other parties
Smith s RouteSmith's Route.

Getting There

The summit plateau.

The...Gardyloo Buttress
In General, to the Ben

See the excellent Ben Nevis site on SP: Getting there!

To Smith's Route

From the North face car park start the 45 minute walk to the CIC hut on the North side of Ben Nevis. The path initially follows the side of a golf course before climbing through a light wooded area. After rain the path can be a bit of a mess. It soon reaches the upper car park. Those lucky enough to a have a key to the forrestry commision gate can park here. From the upper car park the trail climbs gently to the CIC hut crossing a couple of streams along the way. Walk past the CIC hut and enter the Observatory Gully Area, by going around the Observatory ridge. Continue ascending through the Observatory gully untill you'll bump into Tower Scoop. Pass tower scoop left and continue through Observatory Gully untill you'll bump into Gardyloo Buttress. Smith's route starts on the NNW flank of the Buttress.

About 2 hours from the CIC-hut.

Route Description

Smith s RouteSmith's Route second pitch.
Smith's Route (Scottish: V,5 - 130 m)

First pitch
  • A rather short pitch to warm up for the crux. Go slightly left and make a belay in chimney after about 30 meters.
Second pitch
  • The crux of the climb with two options. You can tackle the icecle or go more to the left. Both options are pretty steep, up to 85-90 degrees, depending on ice conditions. After about 40 meters you'll enter a snow gully.
Third pitch
  • Exit the route either left, more direct, or right. Both short and not very steep ice pitches.

Smith s RouteSmith's Route second pitch.

Essential Gear

Two Ice Tools, Double 60 meter Ropes (allows you to climb the route in 3 pitches), 8-10 Ice Screws (depending on conditions and skills), Crampons, Helmet, Warm Clothes (not much sun) and Navigation tools for the descent.

External Links

The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) - Avalanche information
Scottish Mountaineering Club - Guidebook for Scottish winter climbing
Youtube movie Smith's Route - Climbing movie of Smith's Route from SP-member Ron Walker
Winternet-Scotland - Scottish mountaineering conditions
Weather Forecast - Weather Forecast for Fort William
Tourist Fort William - Webcam Ben Nevis North Face



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