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Archive for June 2009

Bonnie Scotland & Conquering Ben Nevis

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scotland_bennevis004View from the top of Ben Nevis

Having never visited Scotland before, I was raring to get up there when a few friends suggested we head north for a week in the Highlands.

The journey wasn’t bad, unlike the miserable weather. None of Scotland’s rugged beauty was visible from the car as we snaked our way to base camp near Fort William.

Once there, the seven of us settled into our comfortable, newly built lodges, had a few beers and hit the sack.
Next morning, the weather cleared enough for us to admire the imposing north face of the Glen Nevis range.

Dodging the drizzle, we managed to grab the best of the weather visiting some truly beautiful areas. Bathed in glorious sunshine, we dispatched the all-important Loch Ness, including a boat trip on the famous deep dark waters. Over the week we walked some lovely routes, a 13 mile walk here, a pub meal there, Neptune’s staircase, forest walks, Lochs Sunart and Lomond and a trip on the Jacobite ‘Harry Potter’ steam train were a few of the highlights. It’s a shame my four legged friend Blue wasn’t with me, he’d have loved the walks.

On Wednesday evening, a beer induced confidence led me to suggest that the 4409 feet of Ben Nevis looked like a piece of cake, and a plan to climb it on a forecasted sunny Friday was hatched.

On Friday morning I drowsily ignored my early alarm and woke up in a panic around 10.30. Completely unprepared, my mate Guy (who was the only mug to agree to the ‘expedition’) and myself arrived at the Glen Nevis visitor centre an hour later. A quick trip to the shop, to grab a map and an essential sun blocking baseball cap, we were set to go. It was glorious weather, the strength of the sun in Scotland seems amplified compared to middle England.

At 11.45ish we set off armed with a dismal food supply with the sun beating down. We had one round of sandwiches and a handful of cakes and biscuits between us. I hadn’t even had any breakfast. I say one round of sandwiches… it was meant to be one round each, but when it came to stop for lunch many hours later, Guy furiously discovered that he had left his lunch in the boot of the car. It wasn’t funny for him, but I couldn’t help laughing amid his swearing.

Prior to lunch, just ¾ of an hour in, I realised my grave error in thinking it would be easy. I knew I couldn’t make it, the sun was relentless, my legs like lead. I wolfed down a few Jaffa cakes, which helped immensely and slowly soldiered on, trying to keep up with my walking partner. It was tough for me, I find it incredibly tough hiking, even walking uphill, but incredibly easy downhill. I thought this was the norm, the status quo. It seems I was mistaken, a lot of people I have spoken to find it is vice versa for them.

We kept going, occasionally thinking we were close to the top, only to be thwarted by the numerous false summits. Soon we could see the snowfields, and knew we were close. Guy wanted to throw the towel in, but with a little persuasion we cracked on.

One more push and we made it, we summated Ben Nevis around 5.15pm on 29th May 2009. We were greeted by a remarkable view. The weather was perfect, bluebird skies and hundreds of peaks as far as the eye could see. It was truly stunning, breathtaking, staggering and unforgettable.

I found the whole experience quite emotional. I know Ben Nevis isn’t a big deal to serious walkers, but combined with the view, the feeling of achievement, genuinely elation and self-fulfilment I did feel very emotional. I also felt completely refreshed and re-energised. I sat next to the triangulation point and smoked a well-deserved Café Crème cigar. It was a bloody marvellous feeling.

A few hours later we were back at the base and heading back to the lodge, sunburned, knackered and starving. With our new found confidence, talk turned to completing the triple with Snowdon and Scafell Pike on the ‘next’ list.

After a large bowl of pasta, I went out on the deck with a beer and peacefully watched the pinky orange sunset slowly bathe the north face of my first ever ‘bagged’ Monroe, with a new found admiration and respect for it. I’m sure I’ll be back someday, with Blue by my side.

scotland001Rugged scenery became visible when the drizzle lifted

scotland_bennevis001A Tarn nestling on Ben Nevis

scotland_bennevis002Westerly view over Loch Linnhe towards the Isle of Mull

scotland_bennevis003Another westerly shot over the boulder fields

scotland_bennevis005A little higher, amongst the snowfields

scotland_bennevis006The old observatory on the summit

scotland_bennevis007I finally made it!

scotland_bennevis009We made it

scotland_bennevis008Me & Guy in the snowfields at the start of the descent

scotland_bennevis010Watching the sun set on the north face of Ben Nevis with a beer

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Written by rufdog

June 11, 2009 at 9:39 am