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A gorgeous climb ... But why call it Ben ??
Ben Nevis (Fort William, Scotland)
Member Name: Jadey-Jade
Ben Nevis (Fort William, Scotland)
Advantages: Stunning views - Knowing you have achieved the tallest UK mountain
Disadvantages: Long, tiring, pricey if you have to buy all the gear, preperation is needed
I had never been to Scotland before and never climbed a mountain, yet Ben Nevis was my first climb and part of the 3 peak challenge which I took part in for charity. ( Yes I know how bonkers it sounded, my first mountain to ever climb, was the highest one in the UK, but hey I took challenge ... And loved every minute).
We was in a group, however my friend and colleague was struggling with her chest around an hour in, so myself and another colleague (actually our manager) took the decision to walk her back down and then walk back up again; I know crazy again! Due to this we lost the remainder of our group, had no map or compass and no idea were to go, other than following the path to the top.
What is it?
For those who don't know Ben Nevis is located in the Scottish Hylands, near the town of Fort William. It sits 4,409 ft above sea level, making this the tallest mountain in the British Isles. A lot of people are aware of this, whether they have been up the mountain or not, it's somewhat of a trivia questions often used. It attracts around 100,000 accents in a year, and it's also a key mountain to the popular 3 peak challenge. Due to the 3 peak challenge becoming more popular a friend told me she had heard that they was going to try and stop being climbing these mountains due to the erosion that it was causing. Realistically I don't think no amount of tourist can truly erode the biggest mountain in the UK, however you can understand that prevention is key. There is a car park at the base which I believe is £3 per car and £10 per mini bus. There was a shop also, but time wasn't on our side for me to have a browse. I'm not sure if there was any cafe facilities but the ladies toilet area was a decent size, enough for you to change into something dry.
Location & Scenery
The accent up really is picturesque, you just look out and see countryside and fields going on and on. Depending on weather depends on what you are able to see. Unfortunately the closer to the top we got the worse the weather became so potentially the best views we never saw; however it's England, we can't predict the weather ... Or should I say we can .... Rain :) . Anyway moving on, when you look at pictures online of the views on a clear day, you really can just see for miles and it just makes the perfect photo, ideal for your screen saver on your computer. When and 'if' you make it to the top, you can reach what (from what I remember) was monument which looked like a sun dial, From what I can remember this had possible directions on, of what you can see or how far you can see on a typical clear day. There is also an old 'observatory' or the remains of this on top, which was once used to determine various weather measurements. On further route up, just over 1/2 way I would say, there is a stunning waterfall, you literally turn a corner and just hear and see it before your eyes. You have to actually walk past/through it, in which I touched the water and it was most definitely crisp and extremely icy to the touch. Another view which I'll include in this section is the clouds; you notice that you are walking in mist more, but it's only around the waterfall section I actually looked around and saw we was in the clouds, what's more strange is seeing birds fly below you and couds below you! That's when you get a true sense of just were you are. This links in with the weather as well. If you see approach to a cloud, make sure you've got your hood up, as the wind blowing the sleet and rain at you isn't great, but it's fascinating as you see this stop immediately after you walk out og the cloud.
Will I get lost? And Safety?
Personally from my experience if you make your accent on a clear day and avoid the mountain if it's recently had snow I think you would be fine. I found that on the way up, there was a very clear path, it was obvious which way was to the top; not only that but if you go at a good time of the day there will be a lot of other passers by who are either going up in the same direction or they will be passing you on the way back down. On route up we had no idea how far long we were until asking a fellow walker (who was geared up with proper kit) she checked on her map and informed us that we wasn't even near the T junction which was the 1/2 way point (approve). This was a little diss-heartening for us however informative also as she guided us to turn left at this point. When we approached the T junction is was very obvious, and we turned left (again due to the amount of traffic going up and down, this was the obvious route to take; it was only coming down were we understood how easy it could be to forget this T junction was here. Deciding the mountain you have momentum on your side, and you tend to glide down, depending how quick you was going up as well, their may be less people around when you are on the climb down. We was on the lookout for the T junction on the way down and we literally only saw it when it was straight in front of us, on the way down the paths are so long you just feel as though your walking straight for ages, until we saw a turning. It was here we released this was the T junction and we made the correct decent down. However it then became conversation to us, that if it was a very foggy, and possibly snow it would be very hard to remember were the T junction was, and more important walk past it, it's here were you could get in trouble and become lost very quickly.
Another pointer I would recommend is that closer to the summit, the very obvious zigzag zigzag paths comes to a stop, and its just open land you are climbing up, parts of it are rugged rock, others more slate like rock and some even snow. Again it wasn't a major problem for us as were was ascending and descending when there was other hikers around, however if you was more alone and there had been a lot of snow, then were you would have had previous marker points in the rubble and rock, these would be blanked by the white snow. I can only imagine that it would be very easy to veer off and unfortunately then all your bearings and surrounds are gone from you.
I would advise that you take your time, particularly on the way down, when your momentum gets on top of you, your gliding down, if it's wet it can be very slippery. Now I didn't quite realize how close to the edge these paths would be, it was very daunting at some points. Parts of the path are made up of rubble rock, so on the way down be extremely careful and make sure you have your balance, before taking any further steps.
When you look at photos online Ben Nevis, can get a lot of snow, so much that sometimes it can even cover the actual 'peak' dun dial monument at the top, now we all know with snow comes ice, parts of Ben Nevis is actually used for ice climbing, I can't imagine how dangerous this is, but you can find more information of this online. What I will mention with the snow fact is that when you reach the summit, you veer left slightly to were you see the monument; however be careful as there is an extremely sheer drop on the left also (which looks frightening just looking at it) ... You can be assured there's no footprints in the snow leading to that area. Fortunately for us, the actual cornice was identifiable by the harsh black slate and rock as the snow didn't' lead all the way up to the edge. Sometimes though during heavy snow, this will sit, rest and congregate around the cornice; if this overhangs also it then creates a 'false' edge. This is exceptionally dangerous as what you think you are standing on a solid surface with snow on top, is in actual fact just snow ... With nothing underneath. For a better understanding of this you can see photos online, there is nothing to worry about as long as you stay clear of the edge altogether (which of course is the most sensible thing to do, however some photos online show some very silly people)
What kit / equipment will I need ?
There are plenty websites giving advice on what to take with you for this big a climb, however here is what I feel personally helps.
*A waterproof jacket & pants - Now this will no doubt stay tied round your waist like mine did for the first 1/2 of the climb, however as soon as you reach the clouds and the rain starts, trust me your going need it. Another pointer, ideally get one with a hood that has the nifty little toggle ties to help it stay up. I had difficulty with mine, and no matter how many people tried to help me keep my hood up, it kept blowing down. Waterproof pants are a definite, having not had these for the Ben Nevis climb, but then finding them for Snowdon, I noticed such a huge difference they make.
*Hat & Gloves - Now this may seem obvious, however I would recommend a good pair of walking gloves. I thought mine were waterproof (and although they was for a period, I sill felt the rain seep through to the fleece inside). I also had a wooly hat from H&M << Not the best idea, as due to my above problem with my hood falling down, this therfore drenched my little wooly hat (which my manager who I climbed with, reffered to it as a 'tea cosy') Another pointer is a 'snoodle' I think they are called these, I personally didn't have one of these, however it would be less bulky than a scarf, but still keep you warm around your neck.
*Clothing - I chose to wear leggings as my 'base layer' however these were no good as they got soaked, If I would have had the waterproofs maybe these wouldn't have got so wet, however ideally proper base layer leggings would be much better. Walking socks, or just generally really thick bed type socks, and take a few pairs. The amount of socks that were scattered around out mini bus trying to dry from the vents was too many to count - hence why a few went missing probably. I took a few pairs which I was envied for by others I think. A thick fleece or jumper as it gets cold up there guys, them winds are mean and mean business at that.
*Extras - Personally I'd reccomend a walking pole, these can be picked up very cheap but they really do help you when your at a low; I was bashing mine into the ground at one point. A back pack, essential to store all your neccessaries. A little first aid kit, including a whistle, foil blanket, peanuts, energy bars, flapjacks (ideal to keep in your pocket too to pick at for bursts of energy on the way up), plasters, paracetamol, a wee but of sunscreen (can be applied priar to the walk, depending on time of month your climb is). Energy drinks are a great little boost, and I really noticed the difference when I had a drink of this apposed to the water. Now I invested in a 'camel back' << well in fact I got the cheaper brand, but basically it's a flat water pouch which come in a variation of sizes, I bought mine so that it fitted into the inner pouch in my back pack; a straw then gets feeded through and is always at end througout the walk. A head torch is adviseable also, as even though you may be preparing for a day climb, you need to be prepared.
There are loads of websites online, and if you want an idea of what it looks like priar to the climb you can look on youtube. I would reccomend you research first, as at the end of the day its the biggest mountain in the UK and not something which should be tackled lightly. I personally did climb without a map, reason being is that I genuinly had no idea how to use one, and I was with a group (however we dissperced from the group, but that was another story) On a clear day the route is simple and clear, however you hear stories of how things can change in minutes, so it's better to be preapred.
How was it overall?
The route is not a nice one, personally I found it very tiedeious, constant zig zag walking, that felt lit it was never ending, you never felt no progression in my view. You'll read this lots on websites but on a few occassions you feel like your at the top, but then your sadly dissapointed when you see the rest, so much so when you do finally get to the top, you actually can't belive your there. The feeling was immense, so much so my emotions got the better of me. I really found it tough, I had no idea what climbing a mountain felt like, however theres a very good reason why it's the tallest in the UK ... because it was blimming tough to climb it. Some of the group within the party said they wouldn't do it again, now whether they was referring to the 3 peaks or just Ben Nevis I don't know but for me personally I would to both. With more time and planning and more knoweldge on what to take with me I feel I would be more preapred and know what to expect. I would like to camp at the bottom, be more prepared, have a hot meal priar to the climb (rather than some cold pasta in the back of a minu bus) and just take the whole trip up in a lot more. It took us around6-7 hours to complete it all (that including us backtracking at the beggining). As I said previous something like this should not be rushed, it's a loely experience and view, a camera is a must up there. One final thing ... I promise, on the way up when we knew we was reaching the top we asked a few people who was on their way down " how far?" This lead to a mixed response, as I would advise not to ask, the times varied from 1000 yards, 100 yards, 20 mins, 15 mins, we gave up beliving people. Therfore when we was on the way back down, we avoided telling people as we knew how dissheartneing it was, so we mearly did the polite nod of the head and "well done", "not far", as asspossed to a specific time, it was much kinder to them :)
Some interesting facts
On our climb, we saw a number of sites, a women coming down holding a brolly up. 2 guys in nothing but shorts and a t-shirt, one chap had a leather jacket on, and another guy choose to wear his good old pumps/converse for his accent. Not my choice of attire but it was interesting to see. But not as interesting as I'm sure for Joelene Clark who in 2010 at aged 24 climbed it in just a bikini and hiking boots, or for the cha in 1911 who throughout the course of 10 days drove an old Ford car up to Ben Nevis for promotion. There are just a few but theirs more intersting stories online.
Well by goodness, if your reading this now, congratulations, you've read 2652 words (this has to be my longest review so far). I just feel as though there is a lot to discuss, before I climbed it I looked on here for a review and was shocked to see it was't even on here, which Is why I suggested it to DooYoo so I could pass on my experience and findings to other potential climbers. I have tried to cover most areas, however like I said online their are loads of other bits of useful information. It would be great to read other peoples reviews
and see how their experienecs was different.
Happy Climbing !!
Summary: Overall a great achievement !!
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