Let me start by saying, if you are novice like me when it comes to hill walking, if I can do it so can you! Walking up Ben Nevis was one of the toughest challenges I’ve taken to date.
The 5am start on the 17th June from Glasgow to the foothill of Ben Nevis was relatively easy in comparison to what was to come. The SWiT group met, and all 13 of us cheered and rallied together as we knew what we were about to take on was no easy task…mainly because those thick dark clouds looming over our heads looked angry and heavy. We knew before we even set off that it was going to be our sheer determination and grit that was going to get us up that mountain!
The first half was good, from my point of view. We sang, said ‘morning’ to all those we passed by and admired those who were already coming down the mountain and this was before 11am (those crazy 3 peak challenge folks!). Then it got tough – the heavens opened up and the rain did not stop, the winds howled and the half way point was in sight.
As half-way points go it was quite nice….a lovely crossing of streams (more like a waterfall from the amount of water my boots took in!) but it was nevertheless a chance to refuel and energise. I’m so thankful for the tip a friend gave to me to take some hot soup up in a flask as that really did hit the spot.
What a sense of achievement and feeling of relief came over me as I looked around and saw similar expressions mirrored on the faces of others. Took a few pics on the iphone and did a quick change of footwear, from hiking boots to heels as something funny - those who know me, know I love my high heels! Then back into soggy socks and damp hiking boots to start the descent down….it was something like -10 oC so no hanging about.
From their upwards it was really challenging. I was remembering all the things people said about the gorgeous views from Ben Nevis – that’s all we had to go by as the visibility was zero from here on up. The fog was so thick and dense that you could not see 10 feet in front of you! At this point we had ended up splitting into smaller groups and pairs as paces were varying within our group. Suzanne (aka @TheHappyLass) and I put the worlds to right as we distracted ourselves from what was a really grueling part of the climb. The path zig zagged up to the top as the boulders and rocks became looser and more unpredictable. It was the comments of those friendly strangers telling us that we were only 20 minutes or so from the top that really got me to the top (so they may have lied a little, I’m sure I was hearing that for about 40 minutes ), that and all those lovely donations and comments people made on our JustGiving page for our chosen charities Bliss and Beatson Cancer. Thick dense fog, rain, wind and even snowy glaciers are what we experienced during the final stages, and then all of a sudden…we were there…at the top of the summit after 4 hours of climbing:
Jean Kerr’s (aka @jmacaskillkerr) tip on having walking poles for the way down was so true – I’m glad I took her advice as I looked around with many folks struggling to climb down Ben Nevis. Its funny as most people who have done it tell you all about the climb up and very little is spoken of the decent…this in my opinion is equally as tough as you are using different muscles in your legs, you are already exhausted from the hike up and have mentally started to check out.
Don’t want to lower the tone but have you ever tried as a women to pee on the slide of a cliff with the wind blowing in every direction and with walkers passing you by?….let’s just say its interesting!
With still terrible weather and aching legs and damp skin we managed somehow to get to the bottom of Ben Nevis in 3.5 hours….with smiles on our faces may I add!
‘Doing the Ben’ in a total of 7.5 hours in total so I’m happy with that and really proud that all 13 of the SWiT walkers completed this great achievement. So I raise a glass to all of you that have done it and pray hard that the weather is kinder to those of you that are yet to take the Ben on!