THE new path up Britain’s highest mountain, which is nearing completion and has cost £900,000, could fall to pieces again unless money is found to keep it in good repair.

The team that has rebuilt the main path up Ben Nevis has no money yet for essential future maintenance, but says hundreds of local businesses that reap handsome profits from the tourists who use path should be coughing up cash to keep it in good order.

The Nevis Landscape Partnership charity organised the rebuild of the old tourist track up Ben Nevis from Glen Nevis, and it has taken three years for the new surface to be reconstructed.

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Staff have had to work in harsh winter mountain conditions to avoid most of the 120,000 people who summit the Ben via the path each year. In total more than 200,000 use the trail, as many only venture part-way up.

The path was last reconstructed around 25 years ago but fell apart in recent years under the impact of growing visitor numbers and lack of maintenance, becoming a jumble of rocks and eroded gravel.

The new path, which should be finished in time for the tourist season this year, is smooth gravel and carefully-laid stone, making the trip up the mountain and back far easier.

But the builders say boots and walking poles will continually wear the surface, allowing the mountain's torrential rain to wash it away. The hundreds of stone-built drains in the path will get blocked with path run-off and other material washed down the mountain. They need to be cleared regularly.

Almost half the money for the reconstruction work came from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with other support from Scottish Natural Heritage, Sportscotland, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

But those grants don’t cover maintenance for the many decades the path could be expected to last, and the charity, which maintains the landscape on the mountain and surrounding glens, now needs to find a way to raise the upkeep cash.

The man in charge of the reconstruction on behalf of the Nevis Landscape Partnership is Dougie Sinclair. He says about £60,000 a year is needed to keep all the paths in the area in shape, with most of that figure being needed for the Ben track.

He said: “If you don’t maintain the path the water starts to erode it and it causes massive erosion problems. If we can't maintain this path then in a few years time, maybe even shorter than that, bits of it will start to fall to pieces and then we’ll be back to square one.

“Ideally someone should be going up and down the path on a very frequent basis ... That obviously has a cost.

“It’s one of the busiest paths in Scotland and the people who benefit from the path, from local shops to taxi drivers to caravan sites, anyone who wouldn’t be making a living if Ben Nevis wasn’t there, perhaps should contribute a very small amount. Lots of small amounts would make it all feasible.”

But Frazer Coupland, a director of business group Lochaber Chamber of Commerce who runs an outdoor events firm, said persuading local firms to act collectively to cough up for one individual project would prove tough.

Some local firms already back the Nevis Landscape Partnership financially, and he said: “I would happily contribute towards Ben Nevis because it’s an important asset to my business and I am passionate about Ben Nevis.

“But there’s a lot of pressure as to where discretionary spend will go, and what cause is more worthwhile than the other.

“I can’t speak for all businesses but I think it would be difficult to get a great amount of support. Getting businesses together for one cause is quite difficult... Ben Nevis is of huge, key importance to the area as regards to tourism.

“Nonetheless so is the West Highland Way, so are our magnificent lochs and glens, and it would be quite difficult to isolate opinion as to what is the most worthy cause.”