Sunday, 18 May 2008

Fort William and Glen Coe , Munros

The Ben


Distance: 10.5 miles
Ascent: 1233 metres
Duration: 6 hours 7 minutes

Walk 28 / M001: Ben Nevis / Beinn Nibheis

First of all, don't be fooled by the timing above. We may have been moving for just a little over six hours, but the entire day's walk including breaks took half as long again. The walk up took four and a quarter hours; the return trip four and a half.


We didn't intend to climb the mountain today. After all we've done very little walking in recent months. Nevertheless the view from our bed towards Ben Nevis was perfectly clear so we decided to set out from Achintee on the Pony Path with the goal of only going as far as the halfway lochan as a warm-up to the week. That first part of the path really is very good. It's steep, but the walking is relatively easy on large stone slabs.


We knew that the character of the path would change at Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe. Looking ahead we saw a much more uneven way, strewn with loose, sharp stones. It took us ten minutes to make our mind up. The weather was clear, and we still felt pretty fit: we'd head out for the summit, taking it one leg of the zig-zags at a time, agreeing that if either of us wanted to turn back then we would, without hesitation or comment.


The man at the Visitor Centre had warned us there'd be snow on the summit plateau, and an hour and a half later we got a clear view of it. This was the moment it became clear to me that we'd reach the top. I led us straight across a patch of snow on McLean's Steep, not noticing that this was in fact the steeper direct route and that the zig-zags continued to the south. Still, once that was conquered the summit buildings were in sight, just across the deep snowy plateau.


Unlike on Snowdon where passing walkers encourage each other all the way ("You're almost there!", "You'll make it!"), on the Ben there was a reverent silence, just a nod which combined encouragement, respect and warning. At the summit that silence broke and the pent-up congratulations flowed.

We stayed just quarter of an hour at the top: enough time to eat lunch, take a few photos and make the odd phone call. It was tempting to stay for longer, but it was too cold and we had one eye on the time we were due to check in at the bottom.

The view was spectacular. Although there were clouds overhead, none were below us and there were a multitude of other summits to identify. To the north we saw the Cuillin. To the south, the Mamores and the mountains of Glen Coe.


The walk back down was slower. For one thing we'd not taken many photographs on the ascent so we stopped more frequently on the descent. For another Emma's knee started playing up about quarter of the way down so each painful step was taken with care.


Finally we reached Achintee again, nine hours after we left. Launching straight into climbing Ben Nevis on the first day of our holiday may mean our bodies will seize up tomorrow and rule out any more walking all week, but I've not a single regret we did it.

Posted by pab at 23:11 | Comments will be back later in the year. Please email me instead!