If you are travelling to Scotland you really should experience the beauty that the Highlands can offer. Fort William makes an excellent base to stay for a few days with easy access to Skye, Glencoe and Loch Ness. Whilst you’re staying in the area what better way than topping off your holiday than by climbing Ben Nevis?
Around 100,000 people get to the summit of Ben Nevis every year and, if you are moderately fit, you could be among them. There is only one path recommended for the novice hill walker – the Tourist Path – which is well signposted and marked.
At 1,344 metres Ben Nevis is the highest of all the mountains in the UK and the temperature at the summit on average is one degree below freezing. Walkers are advised to take waterproofs and a jumper with them as although the effort of walking up can make you warm, you will soon cool down at the top. Novice walkers should not attempt to climb this mountain between November and May. Even in the middle of summer you could find yourself walking on snow at the summit.
The walk takes between 6 and 10 hours depending on your fitness level so you will need to take water and food for the day with you. Although this is a walk suitable for a novice, it is always advisable to take an emergency blanket for warmth should an accident happen on the uneven ground, and a map and compass in case fog comes down to help keep you to the path as there are some steep crevasses and drop offs if you go astray.
At the summit there are the remains of the old hotel and observatory and off course the cairn marking the highest spot. Be sure to have your photo taken here as a record of your achievement.
Ben Nevis is often climbed as the first part of the Three Peaks Challenge where people climb all three highest British mountains in 24 hours, including the travel between them. Don’t despair by any super fit individuals or groups speeding past you! Whatever time you take to climb is a good result for you. Be sure to take breathers on your way – it is a long hard slog. At times you may think you are moving on will power alone, but the thrill of getting to the top will be worth all the effort getting there.
Going up takes stamina, coming down is actually harder on your muscles. You will need a good pair of well fitting walking boots to protect your toes on the descent. If you are going to take up the walking hobby do invest in a good pair, but for a one off these need not cost a fortune. Good fitting walking boots should be able to be laced tight enough so that your toes do not hit the front of the shoe when you stamp down on tip toe.
Other useful equipment include a pair of walking poles – these really help with balance and make the going easier.
As you walk think about some of the others who have gone before you – Wragge, the meteorologist who climbed the peak every day to take weather readings in the 19th Century, Henry Alexander Jr who drove a Model T Ford to the top as a stunt for the Ford Motor Company in Edinburgh in 1911, and more recently, Katherine Humphrey who, despite being disabled herself, carried a pole to the top to become the first pole dancer on the summit.
The highlands of Scotland is a beautiful area to spend your holiday, and If you climb to the summit of Ben Nevis it is something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Trish Haill started MountainWalk.co.uk to introduce Serious Walks to Novice Walkers. The site describes the walks up the three highest peaks of the UK and includes contributions from walkers relating their experiences of the walks as well as containing useful information to help people prepare for their excursion.