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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ben Nevis-Mountain of Terror!!!

I want to say that I rocked.  That I was a tramping (hiking) superstar and that I summited Ben Nevis and slapped in the face.  I want to say there were no tears, there were no moment self complete self defeat...gentle readers, that would be a lie.  Did I climb Ben Nevis: Yes.  Was it pretty?: No.

Due to my exhaustion, I have invited my good friend Eddy to be my guest he goes:

So, to escape from her incessant nagging, I’ve finally agreed to be a guest writer on the gnarly action packed epic that is Stilettos in the Solomons (abbreviated to SS by its dedicated readers). I’m Eddy, I live in Edinburgh, and it is my flat that Sara has been inhabiting for the past week, I’ve been busy all week though so she’s mainly been entertaining herself, though I did have a couple of days off, and Sara mentioned she’d like to climb Ben Nevis...

Did Sara mention how we met? I think she did, I was working on a farm in New Zealand. It was a peaceful farm, a tranquil farm. I was a shepherd. The grass was green, in the morning the birds sang in the trees... Well, I digress. That all changed...

Anyways, Ben Nevis is Britain’s highest mountain, at 1344 meters, and it rises dramatically from beside Loch Linnhe. It’s one of the busiest mountains in Scotland, mountaineers love it because of it’s dramatic north face, whilst it’s popular amongst tourists too because an easier path zig zags it’s way up the western slopes. The path is called the Pony Trail because it was originally built to service a meteorological observatory on the summit. The observatory was manned from 1883 to 1904 and its ruins are still up there. The Pony Trail is a long tedious slog and it’s always packed with tourists. A more interesting route climbs Carn Mor Dearg, a mountain to the north east of The Ben, walking along it’s summit you’re rewarded with views of the famous north face. It’s a longer walk and there’s not much of  path. Once you make it to the top of that first peak there’s a perilous scramble along a knife edge ridge onto Ben Nevis itself, then a quick steep slope covered in boulders takes you to the top. It’s longer and tougher than the Pony Trail, but the route rewards those up for the adventure; or those tricked into it, I suppose.

Ha, I just remembered the car! Did Sara mention the car? We bought a car together, on the farm, a 1979 Ford Cortina. It ran ok, but it was showing its age. It burnt oil almost as much as it burnt petrol and you’d have to keep topping up the radiator too. Funny story; Sara didn’t know how where to put the oil or the water, she went of on holiday with the car and when she came back and I drove into Christchurch the engine blew up! Ha ha, funny days...

Nine years ago, don’t the years fly. Where was I. Oh yes, so we decided to take the exciting adventure route, rather than the easier boring pony route. Some friends of mine from Edinburgh joined us and we left the car park at 9 and trekked up through the forest onto the hillside. Walking up across the grass and the heather, finding our own path. It took us a couple of hours to reach the stony hillside and then a while more along the ridge to the first summit. The wind was blowing a gale by now so we stopped for lunch before taking on the knife edged arrete on to The Ben itself. Along the ridge was hard going, it’s a steep drop of several hundred meters on either side and you have to pick you’re way carefully. Sara seemed quite nervous by then, and tired, it had been a long climb on to Carn Mor Dearg.  (I thought I was going to die, people!  DIE!!! In that moment I cried like a baby, wished that Antony was there because he was also my hero, talking me down any  mountain.  But, I realised he was gone forever and I only had two chooses, dear reader.  Hit Eddy or climb the mountain.  I did just that...)

That ridge line is good fun, I’m still convinced Sara secretly loved it. It did her good, like the learning experience of stripping out and fitting a new 2 litre engine to a 1979 Ford Cortina. Not that that has anything to do with anything.

After the ridge you’re about 300m below the summit of Ben Nevis, and all that’s left to do is scale the 45° boulder field to the top. Once you’ve had a bit of practise, leaping from boulder to boulder is good fun and you can fairly fly your way to the summit. You want to save a bit of energy for this part though, or you’ll be crawling slowly on your hands and knees. Ask Sara.  (I have no shame...I did crawl on my hands and knees).

But we made it! It was 5pm and the summit was beautiful. It’s wide and flat on the top, covered in the ruins from the old observatory. The clouds had cleared and we could see up the Great Glen to Loch Lochy, and down Loch Linnhe to the sea. Then across to the mountains around Glen Coe. And there was the slightest dusting of snow. We took a photo and headed of, only 4 hours down the pony trail and we’d be done. 4 hours. We’d be down by 9.  (I hate tramping in the dark...but mostly at that point, I just hated Eddy)

P.S. In other news, I came home from work today to find Sara drinking whiskey in bed with my flat mate. (Hey, I can explain, it was perfectly innocent...we were watching a movie!) See, I told you she’d been entertaining herself.