Climbing Ben Nevis – The Highest Mountain in Britain

Climbing Ben Nevis – The Highest Mountain in Britain

Conquering the UK’s Tallest Peak

After months spent cooped up in the concrete jungle of London, I was beginning to feel like a hamster on a never-ending wheel – my craving for adventure and the great outdoors growing stronger by the day. So, I set my sights on the Scottish Highlands and a date with the UK’s highest mountain: the mighty Ben Nevis.

Now, I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure if I had the fitness levels to take on such a challenge. My previous hiking experience had been limited to relatively flat terrain, so would I really be able to conquer the 1,345-meter (4,413-foot) summit? There was only one way to find out.

Two Paths to the Top

There are two main routes to reach the top of Ben Nevis. The first is the Mountain Track, also known as the Pony Track – the easiest and most common path used by walkers. Given my concerns about fitness, this seemed like the sensible choice.

The alternative is the Carn Mor Dearg ArĂȘte route, which involves climbing two mountains – Carn Dearg Meadhonach and then Ben Nevis via a breathtaking ridge. This would certainly be a more challenging hike, but with the promise of incredible views and a sense of real achievement.

Setting Off from Fort William

After an overnight stay in Glasgow, my twin brother and I made the 2-hour 20-minute drive to Fort William, where the ascent of Ben Nevis begins. The drive itself was a scenic delight, hugging coastlines and passing through the peak-encrusted valley of Glencoe – one of Scotland’s most beautiful and atmospheric landscapes.

We parked up at the Achintee car park, near the start of the Mountain Track, and made our way towards the Visitor Center, grabbing a map just in case. As we began our ascent, I could already feel the sun beating down on me – not ideal given my aversion to hot weather. My brother glanced over with a concerned expression, but we were determined to see this challenge through.

The Zig-Zag Climb

The start of the route was steep, with the path zig-zagging its way upwards. We crossed a couple of small streams and curved around, climbing above the valley of the Red Burn towards Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe – a picturesque lake that signals you’re around halfway up the mountain.

As we paused to catch our breath, we heard a voice behind us. “I’m afraid it is!” came the reply, as a tall, radiant young man jogged past us with the grace of a gazelle. “He’s running?” I exclaimed to my brother in disbelief. “Who runs up Ben Nevis?”

“Superhumans,” my brother replied.

Pushing on Through the Pain

From that point on, we trudged on for what felt like an eternity, the rocky pathway sapping our energy with every step. And then, just 45 minutes later, the same young runner came bounding past us again – he’d reached the summit and was now making his way back down. I felt a slight pang of humiliation, but also a renewed sense of determination. If he could do it, so could we.

As we climbed higher, the cooler temperatures and occasional refreshing breeze were a welcome relief. Encouragement from fellow hikers descending the mountain spurred us on, and we found ourselves submerged in the clouds, a stark contrast to the heat and sunshine below.

Reaching the Summit

Finally, we reached the large, stony plateau that marks the summit of Ben Nevis. Greeted by the ruins of the old observatory and various cairns, we took a moment to soak in the stunning 360-degree views. Under ideal conditions, the vista can extend for over 120 miles, encompassing mountains from the Torridon Hills to the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland.

After a well-earned rest and a bite to eat, we began our descent, racing down the zigzagging path as quickly as our legs could carry us. At one point, I took a tumble, but with the grace of Usain Bolt (or so I’d like to think), I was back on my feet in an instant, following the blur of my brother in front of me.

Refueling at the Ben Nevis Inn

As we neared the bottom, a familiar face appeared – our guide from last year’s Cuillin Ridge adventure on the Isle of Skye, Andy Hogarth. After a quick chat, we continued our rapid descent, finally arriving back at the Achintee car park.

There was one final stop we just couldn’t resist – the Ben Nevis Inn, located conveniently at the bottom of the trail. As we stood at the bar, thirsty and weary, the barman eyed us knowingly. “You look thirsty,” he said. Dervla Murphy would have been proud.

Conquering Britain’s Highest Peak

Completing the ascent of Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain, was an incredibly rewarding experience. Despite my initial doubts, the challenge pushed me to my limits, both physically and mentally. But the sense of achievement and the breathtaking vistas made it all worthwhile.

If you’re looking for your next outdoor adventure in the UK, I can’t recommend conquering Ben Nevis enough. Just be prepared for a tough climb – and maybe keep an eye out for any superhumans sprinting past you on the way up!

Loch Ness Shores offers a fantastic base from which to explore the Scottish Highlands and take on the mighty Ben Nevis. With comfortable accommodations and easy access to the trailhead, it’s the perfect starting point for your own Highlands adventure.

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