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The innermost of these, known as the Inner Granite, constitutes the southern bulk of the mountain above Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, and also the neighbouring ridge of Càrn Mòr Dearg; Meall an t-Suidhe forms part of the Outer Granite, which is redder in colour.The summit dome itself, together with the steep northern cliffs, is composed of andesite and basaltic lavas.The first recorded ascent of Ben Nevis was made on 17 August 1771 by James Robertson, an Edinburgh botanist, who was in the region to collect botanical specimens.Another early ascent was in 1774 by John Williams, who provided the first account of the mountain's geological structure.The following year William Mac Gillivray, who was later to become a distinguished naturalist, reached the summit only to find "fragments of earthen and glass ware, chicken bones, corks, and bits of paper".It was not until 1847 that Ben Nevis was confirmed by the Ordnance Survey as the highest mountain in Britain and Ireland, ahead of its rival Ben Macdhui.They are also the principal locations in Scotland for ice climbing. Wilson was inspired to invent the cloud chamber after a period spent working at the observatory.
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A route popular with experienced hillwalkers starts at Torlundy, a few miles north-east of Fort William on the A82 road, and follows the path alongside the Allt a' Mhuilinn.
It can also be reached from Glen Nevis by following the Pony Track as far as Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, then descending slightly to the CIC Hut.
Rainfall on Ben Nevis is about twice as high in the winter as it is in the spring and summer.
Snow can be found on the mountain almost all year round, particularly in the gullies of the north face – with the higher reaches of Observatory Gully holding snow until September most years and sometimes until the new snows of the following season.