I think I’m quite an adventurous person, but I’m always aware of my limitations and dislikes. For example, I generally don’t have an issue with heights (see: rock climbing) but anything to do with deep water makes me wary (see: cliff jumping). I’m quite fit but going uphill in any capacity is not my idea of fun.
So when I read about Ben Nevis, I was like NAHHHHHH. I knew I wanted to do some kind of walking while I was in Fort William, Scotland… but the idea of trekking up Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK, was a bit too daunting for this urban dweller.
Until my guide, Jack, convinced me that I could do it, and that I would especially enjoy the Carn Mor Dearg arête. To be honest, I was still a bit leery even after I agreed to it. But I thought, what the heck who knows if I will get the chance to do it in the future. I mean, how hard could it be?…
A LOT HARDER THAN I EXPECTED, YET NOT AS HARD YOU’D IMAGINE TREKKING UP A MOUNTAIN COULD BE.
Let’s break it down, for those wondering what my day was like.
Jack & I started the day a little after 8.00am. I was feeling good and ready to tackle the day. The first 2 hours or so were quite easy, even with one section of the walk going uphill. We were still on marked paths and the weather was excellent.
And then, shit got real real. Jack shared with me the various paths to the summit and also which one he was planning for us to take. I was like, lead on sir.
So we took a left off the marked path and thus began the hardest part of the trek. For me, at least. There were some wet and boggy sections, and I had to be very careful about where I was stepping. Yeah, I was very nervous. I felt every inch the city slicker as I was gingerly and slowly going up the side of this mountain.
But we were barely halfway up and the torture continued as we went further uphill. By this point, we were back on rocky ground and there was sort of a trail.
But wow, I got a real awakening about my fitness level because I was seriously huffing and puffing like I was the wolf blowing the little piggies’ houses. To make things even more fun, the wind had picked up considerably and I had to brace myself a few times else I would’ve been blown off that damn mountain. OH BOYYYYY.
As we went further up, I got a better look at the summit of Ben Nevis, and the route we would take to get there. And it really hit me how tough it would be. HOW THE HECK WOULD I GET MYSELF UP THERE???!
After what seemed like forever, I reached my first milestone: the peak of Carn Mor Dearg! HOLLLLLLAAAAAA!
The view was pretty damn stunning. I felt so pleased that I had gotten myself up there! At this point, Jack told me I had the option of turning back but me, feeling the high of adrenaline (and completely forgetting the pain of the past 1-2 hours going up) was all, NO LET’S GO ON!
Look how beautiful it is! It looks much narrower in pictures, compared to real life. It seems quite harrowing but when you’re on it, there is definitely room to maneuver and I never once felt in danger of falling off the side of the arête.
Once we reached the end of the arête, Jack told me that we were at another “Turn Back” point. He did point out that the way down was extremely rocky and not a lot of fun, and that we were only about 30 minutes away from the summit. I looked up what seemed like a neverending mound of rocks and took a deep breath. It looked awfully steep, and I knew it would be tough.
Here’s the thing about trekking up a mountain: at some point, you realize that you’re committed and (barring any real physical impediments) the only way to go is up. It’s just will power and commitment to see it through.
And well, I didn’t want to be only 30 minutes away from the summit of Ben Nevis only to throw in the towel. So I grit my teeth and soldiered on.
It took me something like 40-45 minutes and a handful of stops on the scramble up to catch my breath (and give myself pep talks)… but you know what?
I MADE IT TO THE SUMMIT OF BEN NEVIS YATTTTTTAAAAAAA!!! It was a pretty fantastic feeling, and quite surreal.
I don’t know why, but I had expected the summit to be flat ground so imagine my surprise when it was as rocky as the final ascent, haha! And my brain was like, of course it’s gonna be rock you doofus! My jelly legs weren’t very pleased but I was too happy to be at the top that it didn’t matter.
All too soon, it was time to head down. After going up via the CMD route, we took the so-called “Tourist Path” (which is the route that most people take) down. It’s said to be the easy path, but let me just say that when your legs feel like jelly, easy is subjective. And you’d think that going down is much much easier than going up, but that’s not necessarily true. It still took quite an effort, and it’s even more mentally-taxing because you’ve hit the peak, you’ve reached the goal… so you really have to push yourself and keep your spirits up on the way down.
It took some very brisk walking once we got off the mountain but I made it on my bus with seconds to spare! I heaved a huge sigh of relief and accomplishment once I was safely on the bus and off my feet.
I never ever conceived of trekking up a mountain, it wasn’t something that was on my Bucket List. But sometimes you can’t plan for some of the most wonderful experiences in your life and this was one of them. In a trip that is so memorable, trekking up Ben Nevis definitely ranks high as an unforgettable moment and one of the many reasons why I love Scotland.
Massive shoutout and thanks to Jack of Best Nevis Mountain Guiding! He was the gentleman who told me I could do it, and was endlessly encouraging and patient throughout the long day. If you’re in Fort William and looking for a guide to take you on a walking adventure, he’s the man!