Saturday 30 July 2011

Ben Nevis

Today was a not too early start for our ascent of Ben Nevis, meeting Lena our Guide at 9am. We had booked to go with Liz from Great Glen Adventures, but she had been taken Ill she had contacted Lena for us.

From the start the path climbs steadily and at first I thought the pace Lena set was really slow. We kept being overtaken by other walkers and it was tempting to speed up... an hour later though whilst others sat at the side of the path huffing and sweating we made our way steadily past!

The views on the climb grow more and more beautiful with height. We were lucky to have blue skies and sunshine again after yesterday's rain, although it was almost too hot and we were both soon sweating buckets.

Lena was great company and good to chat to, as well as a great guide pointing interesting places like the Harry Potter quidditch field and the hill they superimposed Hogwarts on.

Reaching the 'halfway' Lochan, that's less than half way, we could see down the next Glen. The Lochan is definitely on our wild camping list, just stunning! We crossed the Red Bun, knowing we had fresh water on the descent, and soon it wa onto the famous zig zags. As we started climbing the clouds started coming down on the summit, we stopped before reaching them for a quick food break, then it was back up the zig zags.

Until the zig zag we were still surrounded by grass off the path, but soon the surroundings were rocks and loose scree. It was so desolate and it started to become easy to see why some many people get lost. The temperature was going from hot to cold as the clouds came down then parted and soon we were higher than the main layer of clouds.

Nearer the top the paths straightens, but still climbs as at the top you can see the observatory and hotel ruins and realise they are at the far side of the summit plateau.

Lena took us over to look down the steep North Face, a gully with nothing between you and the ground but hundreds of feet of thin air. There was still now in the gully, we had seen a little patch a bit lower, but this made us realise how you could see the summit hotel and it bad weather or thick snow walk straight ahead and straight down the North Face.

Reaching the summit was a great feeling, Sarah's first mountain and the first together. Although cloud kept coming across we had enough breaks to enjoy a view across to the mountains on Skye and over Glencoe.

Photos, lunch and a call to Sarah's mum and it was Time to descend. I (Sarah) found the down harder than the up with serious concentration not to slip or twist and ankle.

Once the path evened out slightly we got to take in the views again, now under cloud level. Filling our bottles at the Red Burn was lovely, ice cold fresh water!

The descent seemed never ending, it had taken 3 hours 20 up, half an hour at the top and 2 hours 50 back down.

We said a huge thank you to Lena and hit the Ben Nevis Inn for the best pint of cider ever. A paddle in the ice cold River Nevis, shower, change and it was back to the pub for far too much burger and sticky toffee pudding before almost falling asleep in the Baileys coffee!

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