O Caledonia! Land of the Mountain
I’ve never thought of myself as a person who climbs mountains. I have enjoyed hiking for a few years now, but even six months ago I didn’t aspire to mountain climbing. When The Husband suggested that by the end of our time here we should hike Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the United Kingdom, I thought, “Hey, why not?” We have been training by climbing higher and higher peaks, but even so I didn’t really comprehend how high a mountain is until I was on top of a really big one.
At 4408 feet The Ben is 1000 feet higher than I have ever been on foot. A testiment to its height is the lack of children on the summit. Children made it to the top of Snowdon Mountain, but not Ben Nevis. The north face is for serious mountaineers. There are two “easier” paths going up the east. We talked about trying the more difficult one; the locals call that way “heart attack hill.” We opted for the more popular route after the man at the Visitors Centre warned us of rain predicted for 3:00. You can see our route on this map. Look for the green marker near Fort William on the west coast of Scotland.
The websites I found suggested the climb can be done round trip in 5-1/2 hours. What? It took us 8 hours, 7-1/2 not counting the time we spent hanging out on the summit. I know The H thinks I stop a lot, but we make pretty good time. The only people who passed us the whole way up were adult men in prime condition and one friendly tall strong blonde woman. I think the 5-1/2 hour goal is for two kinds of people: testosterone-dripping 25 year-old men and the Dutch.
By the way – ladies, if you’re looking to meet young hot guys in Scotland I’d suggest Fort William. There was a steady stream of fit hot guys coming from the Ben Nevis Youth Hostel. I didn’t actually talk to any as I was already with a hot guy. Plus, I imagine they were on the look-out for fit young hot girls who were not panting and declaring they are “about to die.”
At one point I looked up and saw a crazy woman in shorts and a tank top running down the rocks. She must have been training for the Three Peaks Challenge.
If the path up was exhausting, later we would find the way down treacherous. The H and I fell once each which didn’t help our knees. I felt badly for anyone who was caught in the rain. Oh wait, that was us. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic – it wasn’t pouring rain. It didn’t even qualify as a drizzle. I’d call it an extended voluptuous sprinkle. Happily, there were surprises around the bend …
The hardest part is nearing the summit. What is left of the path zigs-zags up the mountain. We picked our way up the rocks and over a few patches of snow.
The view is spectacular / amazing / grand / overwhelming. None of our pictures will do it justice. I would need a camera that could focus on the mountains and the far trees and the clouds and the sky and capture the panoramic view all at once – in other words eyes.
We stretched. We ate granola bars. We sat in awe.