That´s right, as the tittle says I managed to reach Ben Nevis a 1344m mountain in Northern Scotland and which makes it the highest in Britain. It seems easy just by reading this but I will tell you now that after all it has been a 3months task to get up it.
Why 3months and 4 attempts to hike up a mountain then?
Since January in the Highlands and Islands, and as you know weather in Scotland can be quite tricky and unpredictable, the opportunities of getting out of four walls and a roof have been quite reduced, although I actually tried making it for 3 times before I finally managed yesterday. The particularity of Ben Nevis is that you can only get up there by using your own feet as access by vehicle is totality impossible due to the step and rocky way up it so adding to with the fact that it´s around 20km return from Fort William, if the conditions are not right, it can be a spoiled day.
So the first time I tried I was really excited and started going up thinking it would be a piece of cake…but it didn’t end actually like that. Having spent a lot of my life in mountains I thought my experience was enough to judge the difficulty of the hike up Ben but which come out to be actually useless in that point of view as what I found after reaching half way up the mountain was a complete snow cover and very dangerous slops which with snow made them too dangerous for my very poor and unsuited trainers for those extreme conditions.
Well so first time, 650m out 1344, I faced my back to the mountain and said to myself “opportunities will come, making a correct assessment of the risk and taking the wise options is what gives me a possibility to try again later”. So this is the end of take 1.
Take 2. This time the weather wasn’t promising, very strong winds were part of the forecast but still I gave it a try hoping this time I could try and go a bit further and then see how the conditions were but clearly after reaching about 500m high these 100km/h+ gusts started to literally trough me everywhere on the path being quite difficult to support myself without falling and so once again I wisely said to myself “better days will come”.
Take 3. This attempt was about 3 weeks ago. The mountains seen from the bottom were looking nice with most of the snow to be seen only at about 700m+ so I thought this was the day D. There I went up the path which by the way I haven´t referred is quite hard in the first 1/3 of the total way as there are big stones in the way to help and support the soil of the path so it makes it the most difficult third of the total way. So step after step I started going up and reached 650m very easily (this was where I came back on the first take). So yes, I felt very confident that this would be the day and continued on. Snow started to appear at around 700m but still I was determined I had to make it that day! After around 30min more I reached about 900m and came across with an enormous quantity of thick snow covering completely the whole path loosing reference of the direction. I looked at the GPS and I was really very close to the final part but once again this wasn´t the day, 180º turn and there I went all the way down with another attempt failed.
Well and after all these attempts, the next time I didn´t want to have to come back again without having stepped on the summit of the Ben and so I decided to hire some crampons and a piolet as I was determined to go all the way “whatever” it took without of course putting in risk my health and security!
So the 4th and last attempt on the 08.04.2015 began with other confidence. This time I was perfectly aware that the probability of reaching the top was almost 100% and it came out that I wasn´t wrong! After 3.30h walking me and other 4 guys reached the top. The crampons came out of the bag at about 900m, exactly where I turned back the last time. It was a great day with a wonderful sunshine and amazing temperature with even people hiking up in shorts, just imagine!
My top goal for my stay in the H&I was finally accomplished. It felt so good to have that 360º view sight from the top and feeling full filled with having managed to do it!
From all of this what’s important to retain is that although it’s a very small mountain (1344m) it doesn´t mean we shouldn’t respect it. Mother nature can have such amazing things to give us but we always have to respect all the risks that those amazing emotions can cost to us if we judge them wrongly.
I probably could have done in the first time I tried going up yes but it’s true that the possibility of me being here right now writing for you would be a lot less possible.
Act wisely and plan your adventures thinking on every detail and what could go wrong if the risk lines are crossed. For sure each of you want to come back home and share how amazing the outdoor experience can be.
It´s excellent to have objectives in life and have this strong desire to accomplish them, but never forget that before them everyone has the will to make it safe and healthy back home.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.