Day 64: 26 May 2014; Glen Nevis to Fort William

Day 64: 26 May 2014; Glen Nevis to Fort William
Walk descriptor LEJOG2014 Day 64
Date Mon 26 May 2014 Start to end time 08h 41m
Start point Glen Nevis End point Fort William
Miles today 11.92 Cu miles 1,174.69
Ft today 4,962 Cu ft 163,193
Route miles left 324.72 Route ft left 42,768
Today’s weather Overcast and humid at start. Light cloud on summit, sunshine in afternoon, rain by evening. About 2C on summit. Very little wind
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Today’s location
(the red cross in a circle shows where I am at the moment)
GPX based track of today’s walk
(click here to access to access downloadable file)

“My route has four “big days” after finishing the West Highland Way, and this was the first of them. The ascent of Ben Nevis – highest point in the UK, and the sixth of the eight “milestones” on the LEJOG route (the others, already completed, are Lizard, Land’s End, Snowdon, Wigan-halfway, and Scafell Pike; only John O’Groats and Dunnet Head remain now). The next three days are also “big” because they involve 25 mile-plus hikes, or traverse pathless mountain ranges.

I was lucky to have company, again, on today’s hike in the form of our younger son, Rob – a former Scout and participant in the Sweden Jamboree. He’d just finished his year 1 exams at University and was able to make the journey up to Fort William to join me. So, just as on Scafell Pike, I had company which made the climb that much more enjoyable.

We made an early start to ensure that we didn’t have to rush the ascent. I dismantled my tent from the Glen Nevis campsite and carried my full pack to the top – as one of my other “rules” for the hike is that I have to carry my gear all the way to everywhere I stay. It’s quite heavy so I knew I’d be slow. I also wanted to get away early as I thought the hike might be busy, this being a Bank Holiday Monday.

So at 7:30 am we started the climb, battling through a sea of vicious midges. Full body armour was required until we got to about 1,000 ft where the breeze picked up and the temperature fell sufficiently to dispel them. The good thing about Ben Nevis is that, although you start from an altitude of just 59 ft, you go straight up, all the way. There are no false summits or annoying descents which waste precious altitude. So we plodded up, and only stopped once for a snack on the way up.

The weather was pretty benign. Although the forecast had been for thunderstorms, it was mostly clear and bright for the ascent, with occasional glimpses of sun. The swirling mist revealed tantalising glimpses of the summit, so we pressed on quickly, through rapidly falling temperatures. We hit snow at about 2,700 ft at by the time we reached the summit plateau, the snow cover was pretty much continuous. It was just above freezing at the top – a stark contrast with the valley below which was about 15 degrees warmer.

The summit itself is an interesting place – the UK’s highest war memorial, a ruined observatory, and a refuge hut surround the iconic trig point. There were a few people there but it was so cold we didn’t hang around for long.

By the way, for aficionados of statistics, I completed the “Three Peaks” in 32 days, and from starting the ascent of Snowdon to finishing the descent of Ben Nevis, I walked 573 miles.

On the way down, we met an almost continuous crocodile of hikers aiming for the summit – one advantage of the early start was that we’d missed most of this. The summit-pilgrims were wearing an interesting variety of clothing – from full mountain gear with trekking poles and mittens, to those in t-shirts and shorts with just trainers on their feet. I heard one such climber, wading through thigh-depth snow in her plimsolls, exclaim “I didn’t expect it to be like THIS”. I did wonder exactly what she expected the summit of a 4,000ft Scottish mountain to be like, and what had happened to the principle of precautionary common sense.

Anyway, we descended swiftly – the ascent took 4 hours and it was 3 hours to get back. I’ve treated myself to a B&B tonight in preparation for the next section of the walk, and after a hot shower am going out to sample the culinary delights of Fort William. Celebratory battered haggis, here we come!”

Today’s photos (click to enlarge)
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Preparing to set off. The midges were out in force this morning – full biological warfare protection needed! Looking down into Glen Nevis from about about halfway up the mountain
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On one of the snowfields approaching the summit. There was actually more snow than I’d expected Anyone know what sort of bird this is?? (Subsequent expert consensus is that it is a rare late-season snow bunting)
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With my son, Rob, at the summit of Ben Nevis Solo summit pic with full Scouting regalia! The highest person in the UK, at that particular moment!
Panorama looking North West from just below the summit, as the clouds lifted
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