At 4,411 feet, Ben Nevis stands as the tallest mountain in the United Kingdom. It is the remnant cone of an extinct volcano that exploded and then collapsed in upon itself 350 million years ago. From 1883 to 1904 a weather observatory sat upon its summit, the data from which remain the most important resource for the study of Highland climatology. The ruins of the observatory can still be seen.
One might conclude that climbing “The Ben” is no great task. Many make that mistake and climb with insufficient preparation. Quickly changing weather and dangerous cliff faces have resulted in frequent rescues and fatalities (3 deaths in 2017, considered an average year). The summit is clear an average of only 1 day in 10. Since my ascent occurred on one of those unlucky 9 days I am including these 2 internet images of The Ben:
I had some forewarning of what my climb would present. Good friends Kris and Dennis from Colorado had accomplished the ascent a week earlier. They are both quite fit and Kris regularly leads Colorado Hiking Club groups on multi-day treks all over the world. We made her acquaintance during our 2013 hike on the Camino in Spain. Here is what Kris said, “Seriously f***ing steep hike today up Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK. Basically 4,000’ of elevation gain in 4.5 miles. Then back down. Relentless. Character-building.”
I agree. I also learned a lesson, bring more water. The 4,411 foot ascent took me just over 3 hours, and so did the return. One might assume going down would be quicker and easier, but one would be wrong. It was incredibly punishing on the knees. Furthermore, insufficient hydration on my part led to a serious case of leg cramps, one bout taking me to the ground. Needless to say, I survived and did not become one of the rescue statistics. Christine was waiting for me at the base where there is a welcoming Inn. 2 Cokes later and I was (mostly) recovered.
My iPhone and altimeter statistics tell the following tale for the day:
• Total ascent, 4,440 feet.
• Total distance walked, 14.1 miles.
• 36,365 steps.
• 364 flights of stairs climbed.
Tomorrow is predicted to be sunny and a warm 72 degrees. A perfect recipe for our last day in Fort William. Our experience with Shana and her Air-BnB continue to be rewarding. We will be heading back Thursday for 2 more days in Glasgow and then 3 in Edinburgh before returning to the Continent.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. Not everyone is satisfied with just hiking The Ben.
PPS. A week later Dennis Waite, who I referenced in this post, died in a tragic fall while hiking a cliff trail on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. He was a good friend who lived life large.