I’m at the top of Ben Nevis, having wholemeal pita bread (no hummus, halloumi or lountza, just bread) my adopted brother Andi, like a modern Jesus brought with him and shared with me and the rest of us, a group of colleagues/ex-colleagues, family and friends. How did this happen?
About a year and a half ago Fraser, Rob, a couple of other colleagues and I are gathered around Fraser’s desk brainstorming on how to sort out a work issue.
It’s busy, loud and three or four different conversations going on at the same time. Chaos.
Rob and I ended up talking about his weekend plans. He was going to climb Snowdon with his daughters.
When I went back to my desk I told Donna, and that’s when I had the idea of climbing Snowdon and raise money for a local charity to make it worthwhile.
Last June, six of us climbed Snowdon, an amazing experience, and raised £1,226. After that, we were itching, eager to do something similar again, but bigger!
‘What to do next? What about Ben Nevis? The highest peak in the UK’ Darren suggested.
I wasn’t sure if it would happen, it will take longer preparation, organising, planning. Flights to Glasgow, drive to Fort William, accommodation.
A year later, somehow, we are in the car, five of us, Priya, Mike, my Sofy, and Syed driving us to Luton to catch our flight to Glasgow, Andi is already in Glasgow and the Allens, Darren, Donna and Georgia and Andy are at Southampton airport waiting to board their flight.
Even then we were not sure it would actually happen. We almost missed our flight (for once, thank God for flight delays) and though the weather was not too bad the poor visibility forecast for the following day, the day of our hike, was not promising to say the least.
The drive from Glasgow airport to Fort William was stunning. Lakes, mountains, deer, sheep. I didn’t even get car sick.
We stayed at Travelodge at Fort William, which I definitely recommend if you are on a budget. Clean, comfy and right next to Loch Eli, one of the most serene, breathtakingly beautiful places I’ve ever been.
After quick dinner, I went to bed early, although I kept waking up- what if something goes wrong and any of these lovely people get injured? What if I die? I’m not gonna see my family and friends ever again, they’ll be devastated (of course overthinking and anxiety made its appearance).
We agreed to have breakfast around 7am the following day and get to Glen Nevis base by 8am. The next morning, after a light Wetherspoons breakfast and food shopping, around 9am we began our hike.
We took the Mountain/Tourist/Pony track, the easiest route to the top as the rest require experience and preferably a local guide.
We were advised at the Glen Nevis base camp to turn back if at any point we could not see the signs (not real signs, just pile of rocks the locals put together to mark the Mountain Path) on our way to the top. But we really wanted to make it. We may never get the chance to attempt it again and we are raising money for a great charity, Dan’s fund for burns who were close to Mike and Sofy’s heart, as they supported the families of their beloved friends Jon and Ellie who sadly died a couple of months ago at a horrific accident whilst on their honeymoon. Life is so painfully cruel sometimes.
Off we went. The start of the climb was not too physically demanding, it wasn’t that cold, we were all in our t-shirts after half an hour and we were all smiling and laughing.
After about three hours and many stops to catch our breath and re-fuel on Jaffa cakes, Mentos, jaffa cakes, hobnobs and other random snacks we were halfway through, just by the gorgeous waterfall with clean, tasty water right under our feet. It was not easy, there were a lot of steep turns and unsteady rocks. I wouldn’t have done it without the hiking poles my lovely friend Pat lent me.
The closest we get to the top, the more tired we get and the terrain is harder to climb. At least it’s not as misty, that means we’ll make it.
‘About an hour and 15 minutes to the top, a couple of steep turns and it then evens out to the top’ a sweet green-eye man told us.
We didn’t ask other hikers as often as we did last time when climbing Snowdon as none of the estimates were accurate. But Sweet Green Eyes was right.
We asked another lady, after the last steep, painful climb before the top who said ‘I promise you, ten minutes‘. She did not lie.
We made it! We made it to the top! Andy, Andi and I got there first and waited for the rest to climb the last bit together. We put our gloves, hats and waterproofs on, it was drizzly and cold. Andi kept the hat I gave him last year and brought it with him, so sweet. I miss not seeing him every day.
You definitely need extra layers and gloves and hats to keep you warm at the top.
After some snaps, delicious pitta bread and a quick lunch break we made our way down. It started raining, it was foggy and the longer we delayed the harder it would get.
I could see how most accidents happen when climbers blindly try to find their way back to the Mountain path. There are dangerous cliffs around the top, although it’s beautiful and mystical and feels you are in the clouds, you can easily fall into if the visibility is poor and you don’t know how to use a map and a compass.
That was the hardest part for me. The rain and the slippery rocks meant I had to concentrate and watch every step I take. I slipped a couple of times but didn’t fall thanks to the hiking poles, I wouldn’t have made it without them. Andi’s knee hurt and the rest struggled too.
After 3 hours we finally reached the bridge were we started off from 9 hours ago.
We were exhausted, in pain, I couldn’t bend my legs, but we made it, relatively intact!
After a hot shower, dinner and a celebratory drink, bruised and tired we went back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.
The following day we passed by Glennfinnan Viaduct, the bridge to Hogwarts, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see Harry, Hermione, Ron or the rest of the gang.
We arrived at the airport about an hour and a half before our flight to return our cars. Word of advice: If you rent a car with Enterprise Rent-A-Car make sure you thoroughly check the tyres for any scratches before you get in the car and drive it, otherwise they will charge you for any marks they may find when you return the car.
After a short flight and taxi ride from Southampton airport to my little castle back in town and a long sleep, I was back at work the following day.
It still feels like a dream. I can’t believe we not only made it to the top, I’m so proud of all of us, but we managed to raise £1170 for Dan’s fund for Burns so far!
If you get the chance, even if you don’t want to climb Ben Nevis, visit Glen Nevis and Fort William it will not disappoint. Clean, fresh air, idyllic mountain and lake scenery and friendly locals.
If you decide to climb Ben Nevis, I recommend training for a month or two in advance. You can do it without any training if you are relatively fit, but it will take you less time and it will hurt less afterwards.
Thank you to Donna, Darren, Georgia, Syed, Priya, Mike, Sofy, Andi and Andy for an incredible, once in a lifetime experience. It’s totally worth the soreness and pain.
Love you all.
PS Thank you Syed for some of the pictures xx