Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ben & Glen Nevis

Today I climbed my first Munro – the highest one – Ben Nevis.
I hadn’t intended to – in fact I hadn’t even intended to stay in Fort William another day except the day dawned gloomy and rainy and I was saddle sore and just didn’t feel like the long haul to Inverness this day.
Interestingly two lads in my hostel dorm were from the Basque country and were cycling back to there from Thurso on the north coast of Scotland. Other than that I was relieved to leave the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ Backpackers hostel.
I decided to decamp to the YHA in Glen Nevis to reconnoitre the paths to Ben Nevis – the tourist route and the North Face climbing route. At 12:30pm I considered it far too late in the day to set off (plus I wanted to save it for another time in nice weather with me bagpipes to play on the top) except a young German lad just coming down to the start said he’d just done it in 4 hours not including 10 minutes at the summit so I was off. The Information Centre had told me 7 hours.

It was an easy climb – mostly rock stairway and I ran the flatter parts thinking I must be the last person ascending this day. There were no views the entire trip except mist and the odd patch of snow. But the view from the top of the rugged North Face was certainly thought provoking. As I reached the summit I caught up with what I thought were the last stragglers of the day and the summit was quite busy.

After the usual photo takes I lingered to figure out how to get the top off my new thermos flask and the hot coffee within but it defeated me, highly trained Engineer that I am. A rock fixed it. When I looked round I was there alone so I decided to hurry back and catch up with the days last stragglers, safety conscious as I am.
As I sprinted past the last stragglers, pushing them aside (joke) to get up and down within the 4 hour challenge I was amazed to find people still coming up, some in light gear and no backpacks starting as late as 4:30pm.
Back in town in hunt of some chips I encountered a lovely friendly young couple cycling John O’Groats to Lands End. They were camping wild, on a borrowed tandem, and at 6pm and in the rain, were still hoping to make Glencoe, up-hill and at least 2 hours distant. They were clearly in love. I expect it would have passed by the time they got to Lands End.
Back at the YHA I got chatting to Ralf and Ina from Dresden in the old East Germany where still nobody seems to speak English. I was glad to use my German again but after a while realised poor old Ralf had had no one but his wife to speak to for the last couple of weeks and here I was trying still at 11pm to write up my blog.
And still the midges have left me alone. Saving me perhaps till later…