Bring On Ben (Nevis)
In April/ May of this year I took on my biggest challenge yet, Ben Nevis. Now, from my blog you will know I am a very outdoorsy person. If I am not running, I am hiking, climbing or just enjoying the great outdoors. None of the Tough Mudder training or mountains I had previously climbed could have quite prepared me for this. We drove up to Scotland on the Friday afternoon arriving pretty late, (the 6 hour drive definitely wasn't my idea of fun). The views did make up for the hours in the car, especially once we passed Glasgow and the buildings turned into towering forests and peaks. We set up our tents in the dark with torches, had a drink and before I knew it I was out like a light (the drive had obviously taken it out of me).
Rise and shine was at 7am, my camping breakfast consisted off a hot cup of tea and some protein flapjack bars to fuel me for the day ahead. Two of us didn't have appropriate footwear (go figure) so chose to rent it from the local shop, this climb required ice axes and crampons you see because rather than walk the path, we climbed up through the snow of gully four (I didn't actually realise this was the route before we got there, which explains my lack of appropriate footwear). I believe the guy in the shop said watch out for the skiers, so that should hopefully give you an idea of the slope we were going to attempt to climb.
Once we were all set up with our rented boots we rejoined the group back at camp and set off into the forest. After not very long, Ben was in our sights and what a sight it is indeed, the looming figure got closer and it suddenly dawned on me what I had gotten myself into. The hike slowly began to elevate, as it did the views got more beautiful. The path got quieter as we became cut off from the noise of towns and the people back at camp. With Ben Nevis standing right in front of us, we unfortunately lost a member of our team who had a previous injury flair up, so he had to turn back.
But after a 6 hour drive, 350 miles and 4 hours sleep I refused to not tackle this challenge! It was now or never...
Winter Is Coming
The hike suddenly got more difficult, as the route began to ascend. As you can see the landscape went from a green thriving forest to an icy wasteland. It was once we hit the snow that we had some safety training, sporting a very sexy pair of waterproof pants it was time for some fun.
When climbing in the snow, if you slip and fall there is a good chance you will slide quite a fair distance so we learnt about seal manoeuvres. If you fall you are too hold your axe against your chest with the pick facing away, arching your back like a seal. Before, then digging into the snow to help slow you down. It is important to be on your front and hard to explain here in the text, but after a lot of rolling around it was time to get going (Funnily enough later once we reached quite some height turns out we would need more than the manoeuvres to save us).
The crampons went on my boots and I realised the important part they were going to play, kicking in little steps to follow up the snow as we zig zagged up the gully. It really takes its toll on your toes and legs as a whole, the climb was much slower than expected and this had a huge impact on energy levels. The higher we got, the more aware I became we were on a mountain. Now, I am not a person who is scared of heights and happily will walk a knifes edge ridge but in the snow the danger level is raised. I felt like I was really climbing a mountain, whereas in the past I would say they were more of a hike. As we approached the very top a vertical ladder in snow was our last hurdle. Holding my breath I scrambled over the top and was relieved to be back on more level ground, even if it was on the top of a mountain.
That wasn't our summit though, oh no. We still had a fair few metres to climb on a slow slope that raised into the mist (above left), with the wind pounding my face I pushed on. In the picture above you can see we made it to the summit (never missing a photo opportunity). Seeing is believing, not that the view was much to look at from this point. It is an amazing sense of achievement that washes over you when you finally reach these summits, there's also a relief which lasts a few minutes before the realisation I have to climb back down. My body is so much stronger than I often give it credit for, in those moments you focus so much on the challenge in front of you that you forget about the little things. It is incredible not just where you are but who you are, what you can do, I always find myself at my most reflective whilst climbing a mountain.
'Danger Of Death'
The original plan was to drive back the night after, but I found the climb back down Nevis resulted in swollen feet and as I was struggling to keep my eyes open I decided against it. Gareth, who I had driven up, and I decided to stay another night. This meant that the next day we decided to squeeze in a much smaller hike, to see Steall waterfall which is situated in Glen Nevis near Fort William. It is Scotland's second highest waterfall with a single drop of 120 metres. Fun fact for you, it featured in Harry Potter. The title of this section is in reference to the sign at the beginning of the trail 'Danger of Death', that's good to know.
The trek involved a rope bridge that we had way to much fun on. I am not going to lie the morning after Nevis my whole body was in some discomfort, my knees and shoulders especially so the couple of miles we walked to the waterfall was certainly not easy. On a normal day I would probably not have really noticed the miles, but in my weakened condition it felt longer than expected. We headed back to the car after a few photos were taken. To begin the 350 mile journey home. Let's just say the drive back was not as fun as the drive up.
It was also my first time in Scotland, and I was in awe of the natural beauty. I consider myself a northerner, but this was the furthest north I had ever been! This place is so full of adventure that I can't wait to come back and see more of what it has to offer. Not just in the hiking area but visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh is something I hope to fit in next year!
🍑 A B Y
Aby, 24. Northerner.