This was my first mountaineering adventure and decided a mountain closer to home might be a good choice to start out on.
As I'm an avid fan of wintery conditions, early January seemed like a good time to join a small motley crew in ascended Ben.
Little did we all know at the time of the booking that Storm Gertude would be rearing her ugly head at the same time we were booked to head up. Now I know how it feels to have plans thrown into chaos from the effects of weather conditions and everything meticulously designed previously gets re-hashed as you go along.
On arrival in Fort William a couple days before the hike we already had reservations that we would not be able to go anywhere near the mountain but had to wait till the morning of the hike to decide what we could do.
Skip several days to 7am. We head out from the Glen Nevis youth Hostel as our 'base camp'. For days previous there has been torrential downpours in Fort William and almost all snow except that from the summits had gone, we were prepared for a muddy excursion but upon setting out found that it had snowed overnight building up a good 10cm of snow at the bottom, only getting heavier the higher up we got.
Calm conditions with no rain helped move us fast up the first section up the main mountain path. After a twenty minute hike up the footpath we took a quick gear check and unloaded several layers and continued up.
An hour and a half in as we started to circle round the first section on the mountainside and up the final leg towards the plateau where you could see the Halfway Lochen the storm hit. Out of nowhere from behind, a white shroud appeared and smothered us within seconds and for the next 2 hours we battled up to the Halfway Lochen and to where we could spot through the gusts the 'zig zag'path up to the Summit. At this point the winds were around 70-80 mph and we were struggling to walk straight let along spot anything more than 10 metres away only getting a couple minute reprieve between each blizzard.
There was no chance we were making it up to the summit today and decided to try hike round through to the North side to check out the ice-climbing routes. At one point we had to take shelter behind a large rock and wait part of it out whilst stuffing sandwiches down our throats.
Figuring this was a lost cause we now had to bite the bullet and hike back into the headwind and through the blizzard back down the path we can come. Goggles on and crampons out we pushed through.
You are only as fit as you think, and as I mainly focus on rock climbing and bouldering my core and upper strength was nothing on the fitness and stamina you have to have, walking up such steep terrain. My knees took a banging.
6 hours after we left the hostel we made it back, wet, shattered but happy that we had experienced such a condition.
I will be back....and will be better equipped (and hill fit ready) next time.
See you soon Ben.
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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.