Monday, 21 July 2014

Challenge Number 7: Ben Nevis

On Saturday the 19th of July 2014 I, along with four friends, climbed Ben Nevis. This was the seventh of twelve challenges that I have set myself for this year.

The Thursday prior to the climb my friend Andrea sent me a link to a weather forecast which predicted thunder and lightning around the West Highlands area on Saturday. It should be pointed out here that I have two great fears. The first, as you may know, is putting my head under water. This is a fear which I have well and truly conquered this year. GO ME!! The second of my great fears is lightning, so you can imagine my disappointment at the weather forecast. I reacted to this horrible news by doing three things;

1. Frantically googling 'what are the chances of being hit by lightning when up a mountain and have nowhere to hide?'
2. Stressing to my boyfriend that the odds of me being hit by lightning in this situation were actually quite high as evidenced by previous google results.
3. Trying to convince everyone to sack off the idea of climbing the mountain based on questionable statistics found on Wikipedia.

Saturday morning arrived and of course, I woke up to the sound of rain lashing against the window. Sigh. We had a three hour long journey to Ben Nevis which gave me plenty of time to highlight to Ryan again, the exact likelihood of my being hit by lightning on the mountain side. 

Thankfully as we drew close to the foot of the mountain, the weather cleared up and we were left with a fairly warm, humid day to begin our walk. The layers I had brought with me (quick question - how many raincoats are too many?) to guard from the cold were quickly discarded and the whole group found ourselves longing for a little rain to cool us down.

Once my fear of being struck by lightning had been quelled, due to the apparent lack of thundery storms, my full attention was then focused on the arduous nature of the task at hand. I had done a little bit of hill climbing before, persuaded by Andrea who was joining me on the Ben Nevis climb. However I was somewhat fooled by how easy my previous attempt was. This time around the climb was much steeper, more unrelenting and punishing on the legs and the whole journey lasted for a much longer time.

I didn't consume nearly enough food for the climb. My fuel consisted of a few haribo sweets which is apparently not enough to power a climb up the tallest mountain in the UK. Who knew? Due to this spectacular lack of common sense, I found myself about half an hour from the summit, wobbling all over the place and considering lying down to nap on what looked to me like a comfy pile of rocks. Luckily Andrea and Ryan noticed me struggling up the hill and asked if I was ok.

'Just so wobbly'  I responded feebly.

At which point Ryan gave me a shoulder to lean on and Andrea force fed me a protein bar which brought me back to life. After being rescued by others in the group the last little jaunt to the top wasn't too bad. The temperature drop, on the other hand, was extreme and the wind at the top was incredibly strong. 

There was also no view from the summit due to the cloud cover. Of course, this was a little bit disappointing but on the other hand we did get to look at an interesting pile of rocks at the top so you know, it was a case of win some and lose some. Given that we could see the square root of nothing and the temperature was cold enough to result in hypothermia, we quickly decided to begin our descent.

It was a relief to drop a few feet and head back into the relative warmth and humidity although the rain that had started while we were at the top continued for most of the way down. This made for an interesting lunch with the five of us huddled behind a rock, desperately seeking some shelter to eat our rain soaked sandwiches.

During the walk to the bottom I lost my footing, slid a little bit down the hill, thought I had recovered and then promptly fell right on my backside. This wasn't entirely unexpected given that I have a propensity for falling over my own feet at the best of times, never mind when my legs are numb from scaling a mountain.

We arrived back at the bottom of the Ben in under 6 hours and 45 minutes which seems like a fairly reasonable time (estimated times for climbing Ben Nevis are 7 - 9 hours). What's more, all members of the group arrived in one piece despite a few sore limbs and one sore bum from a very undignified fall.  To round the day off we ate dinner at the Ben Nevis Inn and Bunkhouse where we celebrated our achievement by eating ALL the calories.

It's a tough call but I think that this has been one of my favourite challenges so far because I shared the experience with so many of my favourite people.

We stayed at the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel for this adventure.

As per usual I'm begging for money so if you think that my facing the threat of death via electrocution is worth a few pennies then you can donate to Sick Kids Friends' Foundation or Stroke Association via the links.


  1. Wow, sounds tough but looks incredible! I'd love to do this.

    1. Ha, it was fairly tough but I was perhaps a bit underprepared. It was great fun though. Definitely something to put on the bucket list.