The weather was pretty awful for the entire three days I had in Fort William and for two of those days there was a yellow warning for rain and thunderstorms. On the third day there was a break in the weather and it was supposed to be relatively clear. I decided this was my chance.
I started off from the centre of Fort William and made my way towards the car park at the start of the Mountain Track. From there I walked up the mountain track heading to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe. The weather was pretty foggy, but there was a forecast suggesting it would clear up. This would not end up being the case!
I stopped for a quick bite / second breakfast near the turning off to the CIC Hut. From where I was sat you couldn’t even see the loch, visibility was very low! It was a fairly non-descript hike around the base of Ben Nevis to meet the Allt a’ Mhuilinn. It was rather boggy going after several days of rain, but the path was in mostly good condition. As I rounded the base, I got glimpses into the valley below every now and again. The mist had so far not added to the difficulty of the walk, but did add a somewhat romantic feel to the landscape.
I reached the CIC Hut, and saw the man who had overtaken me with the dog while I stopped to eat a snack. He quickly disappeared into the mist though. Up more towards Coire Leis. From the CIC Hut after stopping to fill up water, I crossed the Allt a’ Mhuilinn and proceeded up the steep side of Carn Mor Dearg.
This was tough going. It was still very misty, and this made route finding rather difficult. I had to do plenty of backtracking and it was rather hands on. From what I had read it was a tough slog, but this was made so much more difficult by the fact I could see not much further than 30 or 40 metres for much of the climb. There were a couple of points where visibility actually became so low I had to stop where I was and wait it out for quite a few minutes to wait for a clear moment so I could pick my path!
After what seemed an age, I reached the top of Carn Mor Dearg and visibility was very low. I stopped for a rest and a spot of lunch and after a few minutes up came the man with his dog I had seen earlier. We had a chat about the conditions. It was still misty, but there was a little wind and it had had cleared up a bit. We decided to cross together, and a German couple also appeared slightly behind us. Apart from a group of four I saw from a distance in a brief clearing of the mist, presumably heading towards Tower Ridge, they would be the only others I saw until the summit.
Due to the conditions, we stuck mostly to the path and there were only a few areas of hands on. I only really had one moment on the arete about two-thirds through where I was a bit unsure of footing and felt a bit exposed. Overall, except for a slightly banged shin, it was an enjoyable crossing, although I had no particular view. I needed a rest by the cairn for a few minutes before attempting the final climb.
I’ll be honest, after the backtracking and difficulty in climbing Carn Mor Dearg, it was a very trying climb up the final boulder field to the summit of Ben Nevis. It seemed like forever and it was a very tough slog to the top. Eventually we made it and sat down for a well-deserved rest. This was my first time up Ben Nevis and the amount of people on top despite the still pretty foggy conditions was a bit of a surprise considering.
The man with his dog carried on down the mountain while I took my time on the descent down the mountain path at a relatively leisurely pace. It was pretty busy and some of the people I saw on the Mountain Track seemed woefully underprepared and near the top I even smelled someone smoking a joint!
As I descended the weather finally started to clear and I eventually got some views which made for an enjoyable descent despite the sudden increase in the density of people. Approximately 9 hours after I started that morning I reached the Ben Nevis Inn for a well earned pint. The sun even came out for a bit!
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