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First time up Ben Nevis, happy with time!

First time up Ben Nevis, happy with time!


Postby Stevemarsh1973 » Sun May 07, 2017 3:36 pm

Route description: Ben Nevis by the Mountain Path

Munros included on this walk: Ben Nevis

Date walked: 06/05/2017

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 8 km

Ascent: 1345m

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This was my first ascent of Ben Nevis and my second Munro. In fact, I am very new to climbing/walking, just really taking it up this year at 43 years old. I saw on Thursday that the weather was to be great all over Scotland and decided to head up after work on Friday, camp overnight, and then get an early start on Ben Nevis. The reason I chose Ben Nevis for this gorgeous weather was because as an inexperienced climber, I knew it was important to tackle this mountain on a clear day with little chance of the weather closing in. And I could see why when I got near the top - it would be very easy to walk off the edge if your map reading skills weren't up to scratch and the visibility disappeared! I also decided to set off early as I knew how popular the mountain would be on a weekend with this weather!

I got to Glen Nevis car park for 545am, paid my £3 and did some final checks of equipment. I try to walk as light as possible, but always carry the essentials including lots of water and high energy snacks. I ALWAYS get through the water, but rarely eat enough - this is something I need to focus on in future, actually eating even if I don't feel that hungry. One reason might be my impatience and Summit Fever, neither a good thing, I know! I just get excited to get to the top and rarely stop for breaks.

The climb started well, and I was talking to the sheep and going along quite happily in the lower stretches through the glen in glorious weather. After the first switchback though, the gradient really increased, something I hadn't expected so soon in the ascent. It's fair to say this first hour was a real struggle for me, and I was getting through a lot of water. If it had carried on like this much longer, I think it would have been a problem. But the path levelled out a bit towards the loch, and I was so happy when it came into view on my left hand side in just under one hour. From all the reading I had done, I realised this was roughly half way, and although I knew there was a lot of work still to do, it was a real boost to be here so quickly after the tough start.

On to the zig zags, and under foot it became a little more difficult, but the gradient was manageable. The big solid stone steps of the first section became smaller moving rocks and stones here, so more care was definitely needed. This is also where I spotted 3 guys ahead of me. Up until this point it was only me and the sheep! They were about 25 minutes ahead of me, and I didn't think I'd catch them, but I did pretty quickly. They were from London and were going for the 3 peaks challenge this weekend in Scotland, England and Wales. Respect! As I passed them, we had a chat and it was good to hear of their adventure. I thought this was going to put me first on the summit, but after the path faded near the summit I saw at least 5 guys heading back down. I also saw some runners coming up behind me - just when you think you are racing up in super quick time, there superhuman with equally superhuman looking long bronzed pins come racing up behind. Unbelievable effort! Anyway, at the end of the zig zags, I found myself battling into a big hard sun. Not something you often have to deal with in Scotland, but this was a real struggle even with sunglasses on to make a clear route to the top. The cairns were invaluable in mapping my route as I crossed the scree. Soon there were sections where I had no choice but to cross the ice. My inexperience again showing as I didn't think I'd need to do this in a scorching May day. Something learned again. It was slow going, and I could see some massive drops to my left which again made me thankful the weather was clear. Before long, I got to the 3 cairns sitting together, and this opened up to a view of the buildings on the summit. I'd finally made it, and it was all mine alone, apart from a wee (i think) snow bunting who welcomed me to the top! I first checked my watch and was delighted to be at the summit in 2 hours and 26 minutes. I had a genuine target of 4 hours, so that felt good! I tried to spend as long as I could at the top, although it was super cold, and just getting the camera out was painful on my fingers. I walked around a little, and fancied a look at the famous North Face, but I didn't get so close as I was worried about cornicing. This is something I have read a lot about and I'm glad I did! It would be so easy to get too close, and even beyond, the edge without realising. My rule on this is if you don't know, don't go, and there was no problem sticking to this!

Before long, the 3 Londoners arrived behind me, and we had a bit of a chat and I took their photo before I headed back down. I paused for another quick look around, and tried to take in the magnificence of the view. It seemed to go on forever, and the only disappointment was I didn't really know what I was looking at - a guide, or someone with more geographical knowledge than me would have added so much to the experience. The initial descent off the summit was a challenge, and a couple of times I almost lost my footing in the snow/ice. I tried to place my feet in the footsteps already carved into the ice and took it really slow! Pace soon picked up though, and back on the zig zags is where I started to see more and more people heading for the top. A lot of 'morning's' and some longer chats to people with the expected questions like 'how much further?'. It sure felt good to have done the hard work and be heading down again. But I was also so happy to have set off early. It was so special to have the summit to myself for a while in such spectacular weather. That is something I will treasure forever. As I got down past the loch, I genuinely felt for a lot of the people as they came through the toughest incline, and was happy to motivate some of them and assure them it would soon get easier! All in all, with the tricky initial descent, and stopping to speak to people, the descent took quite a bit longer than expected, but I was still happy to be back in the car park wayyyyyy earlier than expected at 11am. So, it was 2:26 for ascent, around 40 minutes on the summit, and a couple of hours back down.

When I was back in the Visitor Centre, I was amazed to hear some of the questions by people, like 'can I get a coffee anywhere on the way up?' That was my favourite! Some folks in trainers as well. I guess a lot of people just don't realise that although this is far from a technically difficult climb when compared to some of its peers in Scotland, it is still a serious mountain challenge and deserves every bit of respect. I would't go near a mountain without the proper equipment and research, but I am the first to admit some surprises were thrown at me throughout the day as well, in particular how cold the summit was compared to the valley below and the presence of so much ice at the top which was in parts unavoidable for a summit push. But I hope everyone on the mountain yesterday had a great day and nobody got into any difficulties.

I was so impressed with the climb, the mountain, and the views from the top. I definitely recommend holding off for a clear day as the reward at the summit is truly breathtaking! Thank you for reading my report, and please see my images of the day on instagram. My name on there is instasteve73 and it's a public page so anyone can see it. I have about 30 shots from my Ben Nevis adventure up on there, and also from my first munro a few months back, Ben Lomond. Thanks! Any questions or feedback welcomed!
Stevemarsh1973
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Posts: 6
Munros:2   
Joined: Mar 1, 2017

Re: First time up Ben Nevis, happy with time!

Postby Sgurr » Sun May 07, 2017 5:46 pm

Hope there will be many more reports from you.

Not a bad time for a second Munro. I did this when I was 57 and auctioned off every minute of possible arrival time at the top from 1 hour to 9 hours for charity (1/4 for prize money). My personal task was to beat husband's time of 3 hours when he did it as a first Munro at 26....3 hours. I just did it, by a minute, and found that the lowest bid had been for 4 hours. My Sales Spiel included my age and the average time it took, plus the current best ever Ben Nevis Race time, so was pleased to beat the guesses, but less pleased that the person who won was a close friend and only put what she considered to be a ridiculously low estimate as she didn't want people to think she had benefited through inside knowledge....my husband then said he couldn't really remember his time, but it was "about" 3 hours.

Always good to have good weather for the Ben.
Wikipedia wrote: According to the observations carried out at the summit observatory from 1883–1904, fog was present on the summit for almost 80% of the time between November and January, and 55% of the time in May and June.


So you and I both beat the odds.
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Sgurr
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 3443
Munros:282   Corbetts:222
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Joined: Nov 15, 2010
Location: Fife

Re: First time up Ben Nevis, happy with time!

Postby mrssanta » Sun May 07, 2017 8:13 pm

Well done to you I am seriously impressed with your time.
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mrssanta
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2904
Munros:233   Corbetts:10
Grahams:3   
Sub 2000:9   Hewitts:44
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Joined: Jul 18, 2011
Location: north yorkshire moors

Re: First time up Ben Nevis, happy with time!

Postby Stevemarsh1973 » Mon May 08, 2017 4:48 pm

mrssanta wrote:Well done to you I am seriously impressed with your time.


Thanks very much! I was well happy with it, and am motivated now to try something different, fancy a nice ridge or something! :)
Stevemarsh1973
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 6
Munros:2   
Joined: Mar 1, 2017

Re: First time up Ben Nevis, happy with time!

Postby Stevemarsh1973 » Mon May 08, 2017 4:50 pm

Sgurr wrote:Hope there will be many more reports from you.

Not a bad time for a second Munro. I did this when I was 57 and auctioned off every minute of possible arrival time at the top from 1 hour to 9 hours for charity (1/4 for prize money). My personal task was to beat husband's time of 3 hours when he did it as a first Munro at 26....3 hours. I just did it, by a minute, and found that the lowest bid had been for 4 hours. My Sales Spiel included my age and the average time it took, plus the current best ever Ben Nevis Race time, so was pleased to beat the guesses, but less pleased that the person who won was a close friend and only put what she considered to be a ridiculously low estimate as she didn't want people to think she had benefited through inside knowledge....my husband then said he couldn't really remember his time, but it was "about" 3 hours.

Always good to have good weather for the Ben.
Wikipedia wrote: According to the observations carried out at the summit observatory from 1883–1904, fog was present on the summit for almost 80% of the time between November and January, and 55% of the time in May and June.


So you and I both beat the odds.


Haha yeah what a bonus with the weather! Thanks for your reply :) and a great charity idea you had there!
Stevemarsh1973
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 6
Munros:2   
Joined: Mar 1, 2017

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