The Big One
by annakerr » Sun Mar 18, 2012 6:26 pm
Route description: Ben Nevis by the Mountain Path
Munros included on this walk: Ben Nevis
Date walked: 13/03/2012
Time taken: 7 hours
Distance: 17 km
Ascent: 1352mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
The day was overcast but as good as it was going to get. Due to endless roadworks on the road from Oban we were late arriving and didn't set off until 11.45. With sunset at 18.20 we knew we had our work cut out for us (we are southern softies) and set deadlines for turning back. We set of with layers of clothes, waterproofs, poles, boots, plenty of food and drink, sunglasses (wishful thinking) and Molly the dog. We should have had a compass and a map (left at home by accident) but we figured if we stuck to the path and there were others around we would be okay.
The ben wasn't busy with it being March and a weekday. I think we say about 20 people all day.
We got to the lochan and I couldnt quite believe we were not yet halfway but made to to the Red Burn in 1hour 45mins. Up until we met the clouds at about 700m we had great views. From this point though, all the way through the zigzags we were in cloud and while we felt safe enough it made it hardgoing with nothing to look at except grey stone that seemed to go on....and on.... and on. It was a relief to get to the snow, for about 50 yards!
I think we hit snow at about 1100m. We had no crampons or axes but had met several people along the way that had made it without, and advised us that with caution, in our walking boots we would be fine. Clambering through knee deep snow was extremely tough with aching muscles and still climbing higher. If it hadn't been for the footsteps and cairns we would not have been able to continue as the cloud was still thick. You could just about see the next cairn when you arrived at one. We had a conversation about whether to proceed and decided to take it step by step.
Eventually the snow started to plateau out and the sight of our first ever fogbow spurred us on. It was amazing! A helpful fellow walker came to explain to us about brocken spectres and then proceeded to effortlessly stride off towards the fogbow - I thinks he must have got to the top of the mountain by helicoptor!
When we reached the summit we were rewarded by 10 minutes of sunshine as we broke through the cloud. No views but I had long given up any hope of those! For a short while Molly sat on the trig point and was the highest dog in the British Isles It grated slightly that there were two 'tourists' in jeans, hoodies, fashionable trainers and a tescos carrier bag, while we laboured under the weight of necessary supplies!!
We sat on the summit cairn for our picnic not realising that it actually forms a 10ft structure ans the snow met the top! The emergency/observatory hut was visible but there was no way of knowing that there were any other ruins/structures on the top.
It soon got cold when the clouds engulfed us once again, and our muscles started to stiffen up. At 3.45 we set off for the car. At this point Molly gave up temporarily and had to be carried until we were off the snow - in fairness she was quite literally out of her depth!! Coming off the snow was scary in places but we took it easy and eventually made it to the stoney zigzags.
It was speedy going down although our knees took the brunt of it and by halfway I had jelly legs. We came out of the cloud just above the lochan and enjoyed the views going the rest of the journey back to the car. We made it back at 6.30, 10 minutes after sunset. To our disappointment the inn wasn't open for a rewarding tipple but the log fire and bottle of red back at our holiday cottage was reward enough!
As much as it loaths me to say it I suspect some would deem us to fall into the 'tourist' group. We received scathing looks from one couple that we passed when we were near the top and asked if it was much further. I may have been out of breath at this point and struggling but we didnt warrant such disgust. We may not be seasoned climbers - we live at least 100 miles from any hill - but we love having the opportunity and making the most of the beautiful British Isles that we live in. They laughed and told us 5 mins, then told us more seriously - about 2 hours. We reached the summit in less than an hour so I don't understand what they were trying to acheive other than trying to make us turn back! All the other walkers were a pleasure to meet and made our cloudy journey a pleasure.
Although I said never again for the few days it took for my muscles to recover I can't wait to return and try another route - hopefully on a clearer day!
by Jockstar » Sun Mar 18, 2012 7:28 pm
nowhere near that deep, but it was still enough then to warn people (tourists!) nearly walk off the cornice. Also we saw the buildings that were the original weather staion but you didn't see anything. Molly looked as if she was enjoying it. We also have a border called Ruby and she completed her second munro yesterday in Glen Lochay.
by blanchie » Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:04 pm
Harveys do a great map of the area with all the details you need for getting of the Ben in poor viz - ie the two crucial compass bearings and distances for pacing. I like their maps for details and clarity anyway and try to buy them where possible.
Enjoy the rest of your hols!
by annakerr » Sun Mar 18, 2012 9:44 pm
Last year 4 people missed the cairns and tracked off towards Five Finger gully, 3 others saw them, reckoned they knew what they were doing and followed them, as did another group of 3. 10 people were eventually led to safety by Lochaber Mountain Rescue. wrote:
My biggest fear is going wrong - the experience walker who chased the brocken spectre invited us to follow him but we didn't dare and instead stuck to the footprints and cairns and met him at the summit. He said he had had to go right to the edge - not my cup of tea! I might have missed something special but I'd rather be safe!
by blanchie » Mon Mar 19, 2012 8:16 am
by KeithS » Mon Mar 19, 2012 9:59 am
I have been up the Ben six times (enough I think to call it by its first name) and every time I have had no views from the top, cloud, snow, mist etc each time. Don't forget you cannot always follow footsteps on the plateau, they might be covered by falling snow, they might be from people taking different routes on or off the top to the tourist route, they might be your own footprints (remember Winnie the Pooh and Tigger!) That is the case at any time of the year. Map and compass every time.
Lecture over, enjoy your holidays and your walking and welcome to the site
by BoyVertiginous » Mon Mar 19, 2012 12:43 pm
The photo at the trig is a cracker, almost looks like you're on a cloud, framed within the "fogbow".
by skuk007 » Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:44 pm
Good job not giving up when told you might have 2 hours still to go, but as others have said a map and compass should be a necessity on a mountain like this. I'd hate having to rely on following others wondering if they knew where they were going.