Week 124

Friday 17th July 2020 to Thursday 23rd July 2020

Being on the west coast of Scotland the weather around Fort William is very changeable; it’s usually either wet, very wet or extremely wet. When the wind gets up it drives the rain down the glen and it is extra extra miserable. And this is all at about 20m above seal level, I imagine up on Ben Nevis at 1345m it’ll be like being in a fucking washing machine.

Ben Nevis is somewhere in that cloud

Very occasionally the sun does come out but never for too long then it’s back to the wet

Meanwhile Reigate basks in beautiful sunshine…

On Friday afternoon, amazingly, the weather did brighten up  so we jumped on Zippy and headed down the glen to see the Steall waterfall. The short ride down the glen was absolutely beautiful and we stopped off at the Lower Falls.

The Lower Falls

At the end of the single track we had to park up and yomp the rest of the way. The path started out friendly enough…

Common Spotted Orchid

but it soon became a little challenging in places.

wet too

We came across numerous waterfalls

and eventually made it to Steall waterfall.

Scotland’s second-highest waterfall, with a single drop of 120 metre

On Saturday the weather was very poor but the car park of the start of the Mountain Trail up Ben Nevis was full to overflowing. From where Nelly is parked we can see a little of the start of the mountain trail, we can see the people trudging along; sitting in Nelly listening to the rain hammer down I wondered how many people on the trail were actually enjoying their walk up the Ben Nevis today; poor bastards.

More of the same on Sunday, we managed a short walk but it did rain. We are eating up box sets.

Spear Thistle

the end of the rainbow

Monday was forecast to be a dry day but it still rained a lot and I still got wet riding Zippy into town.

Monday; still no sign of the top

I knew from past experience that the west coast of Scotland can be very wet so I booked in here for 9 nights here hoping that we’d get at least one decent day but I was quite prepared to leave without going up Ben Nevis if we didn’t get a dry day; going up a mountain in the wet is not my idea of fun.

Since we’ve been here the weather forecast for Tuesday has varied between wet and sunny, it turns out to be dry so after waiting around for 6 days I can finally get to go up Ben Nevis 😀

The start of the mountain trail by the Ben Nevis visitor centre

The Mountain Trail used to be called the Tourist Trail but so many people got in trouble by thinking it was easy or by looking for something a bit more challenging that they changed the name to emphasise this is not path to be messed with.

The trail has 4 distinct parts: the lower zig-zags to the tarn, the path from the tarn to the upper zig-zags, the upper zig-zags themselves and then the plateau.

The first zig-zags are largely paved to stop the soil being worn away, they aren’t great for walking on.

The first zig-zags are quite steep. I’d necked a  couple of energy gels at the start of the trail and after about 15 minutes walking I had buzzing in both my ears; I wondered if this was the precursor to a stroke but pressed on anyway, like you do.

Plenty of Eyebrights on the lower slopes

It took the 80 minutes walking up to the tarn for my legs to properly get going

Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, the tarn, is known as the halfway point but at just 570m it’s more 3/8ths up

From the tarn the path changes to a more gravelly surface, much much better for walking on

As the morning wore on the cloud began to lift to give a good view of the tarn


On the upper zig-zags the path turned to lumpy scree which was painful to walk on.

a Snow Bunting hopped around

The higher it got the worse it got…

the scree path became farcical. This was fucking awful to climb over.

Eventually I made it to the plateau which was much easier on the feet, ankles & knees

It’s been a while since I saw any snow

I made it to the top in about 3½ hours. No stops apart from taking some pix and taking off layers.

the moonscape of rock at the foggy top

I was going to have a pie barm at the top to celebrate but a cracked another couple of energy gels at the start of the really rocky scree and I just couldn’t face any food.

This is the edge people fall over, naturally some people wanted a good look; not me.

The last of the Three Peaks done I set off back down the mountain. I found walking down the upper zig-zag scree a real twat but some people found it annoyingly easy and bounced past me at twice my speed.

On the way down the cloud lifted further and there were some great view but the camera on a smart phone can’t quite do them justice

out across the highlands

When I was about to go on the pavement of the lower zig-zag something, a muscle or a ligament, on the outside of my left knee began to complain and I couldn’t bend it without being in pain. A little later my right hip joined in the chorus of complaints and it took me nearly 3 hours to come down from the tarn; more than twice the time it took me to walk up it!

So it took me 3½ hours to walk up Ben Nevis and 4½ hours to walk down. For an old git that’s not too shabby. Apart from the knee and my hip my legs felt okay too. Would I go up it again? Absolutely no way 😀

FYI, there is an annual race up to the top of Ben Nevis and back down called The Ben; the winner usually does it in a time of under 2 hours, the record is 1 hour 25 minutes 34 seconds! I have absolutely no idea how they do that.

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