Monday, July 23

SCOTLAND TRIP: DAY 2 Fri 13/7 (Ben Nevis)

Glen Nevis SYHA/Ben Nevis via tourist track
Total ascent: 1268m; Top 1340m; Time: 5.5 hours; Avg. Speed: 2 mph

My first Munro. And Friday the 13th as well - unlucky for some, but not me I hope.

Well I might as well start at the top of the Munro list and Nevis is the undoubtedly the daddy of all UK hills. And with it a completion of the 3 Peaks after only, oh say 30 years or so (where did that time go?)

As the stats show it was one long trek up, a quick sandwich/warm clothes stop; A meander around the top whilst I was there; And one long slog back.

Less a walk enjoying the hills, and more a challenge of stamina both with the continual climb, and to avoid knocking over the edge the never-ending stream of walkers trudging their ways past.

And what a crowd.

After a while I started to relieve the trudging boredom by playing a game to try to assess an individual's experience and ability based on their clothing. Designer labels de rigeur of course. Adidas and Nike the front runners. Occasionally I even saw a map. Shock horror!

I shouldn't have been too surprised really. Crossing the bridge outside the YHA two European students stopped me to confirm that they were on the right track for the Ben, and then wandered off. Trainers and jeans; some sort of street wear top; one small knapsack shared between two; No sign of map/compass or fallback gear.

Of such things are "famous" hills best known at times.

And this sign at the foot seemed to go largely unread, but the message is clear as to the difficulties that could encountered. For some people, possibly terminal.

And for the record, in case this comes across as some sort of elitism, today I was using my £9.99 Tesco 45 litre daysack (45l? ha ha - yeh right) But a cheap offering that conveniently folds up to fit inside my backpack between hostels, and still seems to take up all the space normally occupied by my Akto tent. But full of dry clothes, water, food and basic emergency and first aid gear.

But on the whole many of the walkers seemed safe, bugging out by Lochan Meall an-t-Suidhe on seeing the rough zig zag path stretching ahead, after the steepish haul up from the valley floor.

Passing through the snowfields near the summit, cloud base low but intermittent, temperature dropped nearer freezing, I couldn't help but wonder how some of the more adventurous ones were getting on.

(Ben Nevis summit)
We all have to learn somewhere. But Ben Nevis is not necessarily a good place to start. It's not only a test of navigation on leaving the summit, despite well worn paths, but any minor injury turns the 3 hour descent into a major undertaking not to be considered in rough weather.

And my did some show worrying concern on the descent, carefully picking their way from stone to stone along the rocky path for a 5 or 6 hour descent if they were lucky.

I'm happy to have finally ticked this one off the list, but like many of these "status peaks" not one that I would rush back to. Such a joyless slog, missing much of that essential feeling of peace and close interaction with the landscape around.

I could see so many quieter alternatives all around me in the distance as those feet of mine carried on trudging down hill. Endlessly plodding onwards to a hot shower.

And to save some of you a trip, here's the view from below the summit.

Highlite of the day? Sad to say it had to be the (very) white buttocks unintentionally displayed by a young lady who just HAD to stop for a wee. Her male partner keeping a gentlemany eye out for walkers in the distance. But it's amazing how far away a flash of white can be seen if you're in the centre of a valley, with 2 miles of open land behind you. Not a sheewee user apparently. And I even managed to keep a straight face when I walked the couple a few minutes later.

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Nice post, JH. Having just admired blog-wise the posterior of "Sally in Norfolk", your own evocative description was too much of a good thing!
Nah - Sally had at least a semblance of a sun tan. This was WHITE!
Sunglasses required
You mentioned snowfields, John. Was there much still there?

I ask as we could see the Ben from the north this weekend as we went round the Cluanie Horseshoe, and weren't sure if it was snow we could see on it or not. No money rests on your answer.
Not really. Not much that required walking through, except for the one I posted a few days ago on the main tourist track up. Several paths on the edge of gullies, but nothing I'd recommend climbing down to make snowballs with
Must have been a mere trick of the light, or cloud formation we saw then. Cheers John.
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