The simple things can reward. They make it easy to draw you in, then hook you.
A simple plan, allbeit a long drive. It was to be a 3 day weekend mission, leaving here in Nottingham on Friday, via Manchester airport to pick up Owain who was over from Munich, then up to the luxury of a house we’d been given kind permission to stay in, yes yes, we all would have camped if we had needed to. Walk up Ben Nevis, drive back.
It had been a long time since I’d been on ‘The Ben’, in fact it had been a long time since I’d been into the Scottish Highlands full stop, so a trip was well overdue. Well wouldn’t you know, I recently got asked to accompany a bunch of 40 year olds in a quest to put right their missed opportunity to summit some 20 odd years ago. Matt had just turned 40 and wanted a suitable celebration, so dragging back two of his old pals from Venture Scouts they were on a mission and nothing was going to stand in their way.
So first up, it certainly hasn’t got any closer. After some re-routing to avoid traffic hold ups on the M6 we made it to Manchester Airport and were soon trundling northwards passed the Lakes. Discussion turned to the inevitable weather and it soon became apparent that another pair of waterproof trousers was needed amongst the group so we pulled into Gretna retail outlet for a flying visit. An hour and a half later we were pulling into another outlet village and concerns were heightening that this was turning into a boys shopping weekend, but thankfully this time it was just for petrol. Unfortunately darkness descended as we skirted the lower regions of Loch Lomond so we were not blessed with the views as we made our way across Rannoch Moor into Glen Coe, but finally after 9 hours we pulled through Fort William and turned towards Arisaig. The road was dark and the odd ghostly figure of a large deer by the roadside kept Matt alert as we finally reached the sleepy village.
Spirits were high the following morning as we realised that it wasn’t raining too much. It might be the highest mountain, but the ‘tourist route’ didn’t fill us with much excitement and so although the primary aim was to get to the summit we were also after a bit of adventure, which meant we'd be taking the Carn Mor Dearg arete to spice it up a bit. Parking up at the visitors centre in Glen Nevis we would head up to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe before splitting from the main path and traversing round to the CIC hut sitting at the foot of the northern buttresses, heading steeply up onto the arete and coming back round to the summit of Ben Nevis before looping back down the tourist route and finishing with a good celebratory drink in the Ben Nevis Inn.
The first section was pleasant enough and you gain height quickly, but it is just a trudge. Despite the rather drab weather it was surprising to see so many people out, testament to the draw of reaching ‘the highest point’. The impact of the numbers coming onto Ben Nevis can seriously threaten the stability of the path and there’s been a lot of work ongoing to protect against erosion. Large bags of rock dotted the path, evidence of the effort and work of the Nevis Landscape Partnership and ongoing volunteering from the Friends of Nevis (