Our primary reason for visiting Scotland was to attempt to climb Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. At 1345m (4411ft) it is certainly not huge on a worldly scale but it was my first time doing anything like this so this height was more than enough for me.
The closest place to stay is Fort William and from there the visitor centre and car park is only just outside the centre. For longer stays in the car park you do have to pay so some people did just walk from their accommodation to the start of the hike. At the visitor centre you can pick up any last minute items you may have forgotten e.g. a compass, first aid supplies or a map.
The beginning of the hike first goes across a river, around a field and then begins to climb from there. After this there are pretty much no downhill sections until you reach the top and start to head back down to the bottom. The first part of the ascent comprises of lots of uneven stone steps, some of which are really large, that wiggle their way up the hill. Some points are quite narrow so you do have to stop to let others past in the opposite direction (or overtaking you) fairly often. It is hard work but not too bad if you do it at your own speed.
I the middle there is a slight let up where it flattens a little as you head past a tarn. This is the one point on the trek where you can actually get into any sort of stride so we had to make the most of it. Just above this are a couple of waterfalls where we, along with many others, refilled our water bottles as I didn’t take anywhere near enough up with me.
The top section is shale and is horrible. You feel like you are taking one step forward then sliding half that stride length back again. It is energy sapping and seems to go on forever, not helped by the fact we were in cloud by that point so there was just no end in sight. This continued all the way to the summit and on the way down can make finding footing difficult and I saw more than one person fall over.
The summit was cold and unfortunately completely in a cloud (which apparently is very common even when it is a nice day like ours was) meaning we didn’t get a good view from the top. This reduced visibility is the main thing that makes climbing Ben Nevis dangerous as there have been cases where people have wandered off the edge by mistake. The way down is the same as the way up.
Whilst Ben Nevis is not the biggest and probably not the hardest mountain to climb in the world for me it was still a challenge particularly due to the terrain. I wore walking boots and was glad for the ankle support as I did so much sliding on the way down. I also found having a walking pole very useful for combating this. The waterfalls meant I didn’t need to carry a full day’s worth of water as we could fill up on the way up and the way back down again. On a nice day be prepared to share the route with a lot of other people but also expect to not have the greatest views from the top as the peak only has a few clear days a year. The pub at the bottom was a welcome rest after the trek.
For me this was a great achievement and is relatively straight forward to organise and complete for anyone else who wishes to try their hand a summiting Ben Nevis. All you need is some basic gear, a fair level of fitness and a good level of determination.
Have you ever climbed Ben Nevis, how did you find it? Any other challenges you’ve set yourself and completed recently?