Scotland: Fort William – Ben Nevis summit

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Almost at the summit of Ben Nevis

Fort William – Ben Nevis summit

If you’re ever in Fort William, Scotland and you have a spare day, don’t miss out on a great opportunity of walking up to the summit of Britain’s highest mountain. And it’s not overly difficult, as long as you encounter a relatively fine day.

I was on the train from Morar to Fort William. I met up with Jim and two hikers and shared the carriage, watching some of Scotland’s best known views pass by our windows.

Out at Fort William – a really tourist oriented town. A map from the tourist office and some food, before walking the three miles to the youth hostel. The hills next to Ben Nevis were shrouded in low clouds. The road to the hostel followed the Nevis River. It was a large hostel with an alpine feel about it. Lots of TV and relaxing to rest up for tomorrow’s climb.

I awoke a little early – but that was because 9.00 am was the starting time for the walk to the summit of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. Pack my daypack with gloves, wet weather gear, food and water. It was overcast and quite fresh outdoors. I also met the three Canadian girls that I had met at lunch in Broadford – Mary, Karen and Anita.

We all crossed over the Nevis River and headed up. Jim, being a fitter walker soon moved ahead. I continued at my slower pace, while the girls took their time. Climbing any track soon warms you up. I stopped frequently, and sometimes nibbled on my ‘tropical mix’ of nuts and dried fruit pieces.

There were quite a few people on the track. This was the original summit access path that ponies carrying goods to the top followed many years ago. The summit once supported a weather observatory and a hotel. Cars have actually been driven to the top!

The climbing was getting harder. There were a few vigorous walkers. I reached a plateau near a lake. The views from here were great. A little further on was a waterfall. This marked the ½ way point. From here the mountain’s landscape became more barren and stony. Another rest and a snack. The weather closed in and visibility dropped. Luckily there were rock cairns placed at frequent intervals to mark out the track, because the rocky surface looked the same all over this part of the mountain.

Snow lay ahead on the track and it had become very cold. Only slightly dispiriting. Walkers were returning from the summit. I decided that this was my limit. I reckoned that I was about fifteen minutes walk from the summit, but I headed down the track, happy that I had made it to this point. Down the mountainside, the rain set in and it was a relief to finally return to the warmth of the Fort William youth hostel.

Jim returned a little later, after having made it to the summit. The girls made it back as well, so we decide to have a meal at a nearby restaurant. Unanimously we agreed that we should pop down to the lounge bar to celebrate the climb. After all it was not every day that you climb a mountain like Ben Nevis.

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