Over the weekend Steven and I went to Fort William and climbed Ben Nevis. I had never been to the Highlands before and so was keen to compare it to Switzerland, where I’ve spent at least ten summers climbing mountains over 3000m.
We set off from Edinburgh on Friday evening and my SatNav Garmin kindly made us avoid all pretty scenery and instead made us go along this dull windy road for miles and miles behind the slowest car ever. It also told us we could make Fort William in 2 hours, which was a load of bollocks. Thanks Garmin!!! We eventually got to Fort William but couldn’t see any
mountains hills (Go to the Alps or a proper mountain range for some actual mountains. They have pointy peaks!) due to the very dense fog that had followed us most of the journey.
The B&B we stayed in was wonderful. It was basically someone’s house with a spare room, and the only downside was I felt like I was invading! The room was lovely and we had an en-suite bathroom (I wish it had a bath not a shower however, sorely needed after the climb) and had a perfect view of Ben Nevis. Sadly, I never did see Ben Nevis, as it was constantly in the clouds. The B&B owners were great hosts with a very cute cat called Kiwi. I recommend anyone going to Fort William checking out Glenafton B&B, only £22 per night per person.
On Saturday morning the weather was still very miserable and a bit drizzly, so we headed into Fort William to buy some waterproof coats before driving to the Glen Nevis visitor centre to begin the walk. According to walk highlands the whole walk takes between 7 to 9 hours and this and other sources say it’s relentless and tough. However we managed to do it in 6 hours and it was much easier than I expected. I think the fact that we were wearing proper walking boots, waterproofs, hats and gloves and had climbed mountains before (much harder ones) in Switzerland meant we were very prepared for 3 hours 40 minutes of continuous uphill slog. I’m not saying it was easy, it was tough going, but it was easier than I thought a 1300m vertical climb would be over a 4 mile path.
We overtook a huge number of people going up, and I sadly did not see any of them when going back down. Going down, we overtook almost everyone as we stormed down in our fantastic walking boots. I saw so many people wearing ridiculous shoes to go walking (converse All Stars?!) slipping and sliding all over the wet rocks and scree. With proper boots you don’t need to worry about that or twisting ankles as the boots are so stiff they hold your feet and ankles firmly in place.
The walk itself is really nice on a well laid out path. The first half is through hills and a bit of woodland and you can actually take some photos since you’re not in the clouds yet. Roughly half way the path takes a sharp turn and you start climbing the actual mountain. Here the fogs sets in and you can see nothing but path. Finally, the last leg is crossing the massive plateau at the top and here the landscape changes dramatically. Nothing but grey rock as far as you can see, with a misty fog enveloping tall cairns every 50 or so metres. It feels like you’re on Mars. Also, the distinct drop in people gives the once packed and noisy path an eerie tranquillity as you approach the memorial at the top.
I paid the price of doing the walk without any build up to it – my legs are still aching three days later 😦 However, well worth it! I’d really like to do the climb after coming back from Switzerland and see how much my time improves. I’d also like to actually see Ben Nevis, I still don’t know what it looks like (apart from photos obviously).
On the way home we forced the Garmin to go via Glencoe (well worth driving through!) and I saw MY FIRST ACTUAL HIGHLAND COOS! MOO! So cute!