This was our first trip to Scotland and proved to be the catalyst for many years to come. We travelled up the day before and booked in at Voringfoss with Tom & Sheena. The following morning after the usual hearty breakfast and a trip to Safeways to pick up supplies for the day we set off down Glen Nevis in search of a parking spot.
The car was duly left by the youth hostel and the three of us set off in high spirits up the tourist path. After a nice and easy walk to the half way point of Lochan Meall, rather than continue with everyone else I suggested that we should traverse around the back and over Carn Mor Dearg. Paul was hesitant but as usual eventually gave in to our bullying and threats of leaving him on his own (we wouldn’t really have done that would we Mark?). The route around the back of the Ben was easy, the views that opened up in front of us were outstanding and all of us Paul included were happy that we had taken the longer route. Snap time was called by the Allt a’ Mhuilinn where we had a cracking break for food and relaxed for a while in the sun - life was perfect!
Fully fortified and ready for the true ascent we set off up the 2,000’ hillside, which was a continuous slog up scree and rubble all the way to the ridge. The higher we reached the better the views of the north face of the Ben. Unknown to all of us Paul was now suffering with his thyroid, the result being that he was very slow up to the ridge. So much so that “mountain goat Mark” had to carry his rucksack for quite a distance. In truth I was glad of the regular opportunities to rest as the gradient, terrain and the heat made the going very hard work.
By the top my back had started to give me some jip, however this was soon forgotten when the realisation set in that we had climbed our first “munro”. At the top I produced a large card from my rucksack, which stated “1 down 276 to go” (little did I know that munro numbers were soon to be reviewed again and increased to 284). The views from the summit were amazing and included The Grey Corries, The Mamores and Ben Nevis, Ahhh brilliant!
We had taken a long time to reach 4,000’ but were now in a superb position to traverse across Carn Mor Dearg Arete and up Ben Nevis. Not for the first time today we had to “crowbar “ Paul off the summit cairn and persuade him that the knife-edge arete was more of a spatula than a scalpel. As it turned out it wasn’t that bad after all and we had great fun in the beautiful weather hopping from one block to the next. Paul in the meantime was struggling big time and this time it was my turn to help him out with his rucksack. Anyway one final push and we were there on the snow covered summit of Ben Nevis.
Partially due to the amazing views, Paul being knackered, the survival hut, the ruins of the observatory, the sunshine and the vast array of cairns and memorials we spent quite sometime taking in the atmosphere. I had to have my photo taken whilst stood on top of the trig point, thus proving that I was the highest person on land within the country. Also whilst bathing in the glorious sunshine I saw my first Snow Bunting amongst a jumble of rocks. One rock incidentally had the name “Tinto” carved upon it (this is a hill that we usually pass in southern Scotland whilst on our way to or from the highlands and one which a few years later we were to climb on our way back south). Reluctantly it was time to leave the sun, snow and brilliant views and yet again prize Paul off the summit cairn. Believe it or not it took us three hours to plod down the tourist path, by which time we were all tired and sunburnt. This wasn’t quite the end of the day as we were now starving and in need of liquid intake. Our first attempt at finding food ended in failure when we were told that the bar had stopped serving food as it had passed their closing time (they must have been using something other that GMT in an attempt to get rid of three very smelly walkers). Our second attempt was a little more successful even though we were kept away from other customers and tucked away in a far corner of the Chinese restaurant.
Full of our success and the enthusiasm of the day we settled in a pub for the odd pint or dram and revelled in the first walk of the newly formed “Half Mile High Club”.
PS. It must be added that Paul was suffering big style from his thyroid and was to improve very quickly thanks to appropriate medication.