Tuesday, 9 August 2011

19) Climb Ben Nevis

I hadn't even heard of Ben Nevis until I was about 22, but after doing some (very quick) research I read that it was the UK's highest mountain at 1,344m (4,409ft). It stands in the Scottish highlands about 10 hours from my house, so not something I can just pop outside to for a ramble. I instantly wanted to put it on my list, because living in the country there is no reason why I shouldn't have climbed it's highest mountain (especially since it doesn't require any major training). I had asked my friends a few times previously, and tried arranging things, but it never came about.

In April my mom and dad asked if I wanted to go to John O Groats with them. I thought that since we were passing by Ben Nevis it could be a good chance to save future petrol and have a nice family memory. My mom was all for it, as she is always up for a challenge and does a lot to help me complete my list.

We camped at the foot of Ben Nevis on the Friday night, and woke up early on the Saturday to climb. I could see the top of the mountain from the bottom, and didn't think it looked too bad. Maybe a couple of hours if I take it steady.

We got walking, and after only 100m into it we encounterd two young Scottish guys, holding a bottle of Vodka, incredibly drunk. They were really helping the stereotype. They asked if it was our first time, and wished us luck.

There were many groups of people hiking that day. Early on we were passed by what looked like some kind of army training team. We were then passed by a few hikers that were in full gear. I was in my long coat and jeans, and my mom and dad were in similar. We had one bottle of fizzy cream soda between us. Everybody else was wearing hiking bags, hiking boots, had water bottles built into their bags, and had walking sticks. Early on I silently mocked them.

After a while of walking we started to go around the side of the mountain, and the wind got very, very strong. I mean stronger than I have ever seen before. I literally couldn't stand up straight. It was blowing dust and debris in my face, which was making it hard to continue. It was also at this point, near the top of the mountain I had seen at the start, that we saw that far, far into the distance we could see people walking up a different mountain. We then realised that you climb up the first one to get to the foot of Ben Nevis. I died a little inside.

Nonetheless we carried on. I was encouraged by my mom and dad to go on ahead, since they weren't sure they would make it, given how far away we could see the people. I wanted to stay with them, but I also knew we couldn't spend all day walking and I was worried I would have to cut it short.

I made good ground over the new few minutes, getting to the top of the first, now 'little', mountain. I was amazed to see on top it had some kind of lake. I started to walk over to it, the wind still blowing incredibly hard, but the ground got more and more marshy. I decided to wait for my mom and dad so I could show it them and take a photo with them.

I then went off again. From here I could see what I again thought was the top of Ben Nevis. I was overtaking a lot of people, finding little need for a break. I was impressing myself with my walking abilities, though I had started to really need to pee. Along the way I passed a waterfall which was pretty, and got a really nice view over the Scottish Highlands. The terrain changed from being a rocky path to being a horrible rocky path. This encouraged me to hurry up.
The whole way I kept trying to look for mom and dad lower down the mountain, though everybody looked like ants on an ant hill. I was pretty sure that they would have turned around by now since I had again reached what I thought was the top of the mountain, to find that it actually extended much further, and it was a much, much more difficult walk than anticipated. I had already seen many people turn around.

I pushed on, and started to see more and more snow. I had to pass one section that was entirely walking through snow, which was difficult. I again reached what I thought was the top, to have my emotions crushed by seeing it go further. Towards the top there were rock mounds where people were encouraged to leave a stone on. I didn't do this. I felt like going along knocking people rocks off, so it was like they were never there, but that would have been mean.

As this blog post is getting longer than intended, I will skip to them moment that I finally reached the top. It was windy. And cold. The top of the mountain had ruins of an old observatory. It had an engraved stone saying that it was sent all the way from Dudley in the war, which is pretty much where I live. Black country people seem to get everywhere.

I waited my turn to stand on an elevated rock, which essentially made me the highest up person in the whole of UK for a few moments. I felt quite the achievement. I did feel a little more achievement when a few seconds later I had sneaked off to become to highest person peeing in UK.
I started walking back down the mountain, disappointed that I wasn't able to get any good photos of me on top (an average person taking photographs is terrible). About a mile down the hill I was really shocked to find my mom and dad still pushing on. I was certain they had gone back. I was incredibly impressed/proud, and decided to walk back up to the top with them (intentionally not telling them that what they could see as the top actually wasn't close).

We all got to the top, posed for photos, and started back down. I had pretty much no trouble getting up the mountain... but getting down was a nightmare. It was the most painful thing I have done. Each step killed my knees, ankles, and newly formed blisters. I couldn't wait to get down, and it seemed to be taking even longer than getting up there. I won't write any more about it, since it is a moment I want to forget!

At the bottom we celebrated with a meal, and set off to see the Loch Ness.


  1. This sounds like a really great experience. I'm glad your parents were able to experience it with you. I love the picture of you looking out onto the vista, I took a similar picture at the Grand Canyon this summer.

  2. Wow, that sounds like an amazing experience... especially getting to do it with your parents.

    Great photos too... so jealous of all the awesome travelling you have done!

  3. making me feel like to switch place of you with mine, when i went through all what you aimed to do,and succeeded even!

  4. How foolish! Your blog just shows how ill prepared people can be when climbing Ben Nevis. This mountain claims peoples lives every year, and many many more injury's The Lochaber MRT spend hundreds of unpaid man yours on the mountain searching for people who climb the mountain ill prepared, some not as lucky as you, for instance..


    Glad you all returned safely, and enjoyed your adventure.