Ascent of Ben Nevis on 1993-06-29
|Date:||Tuesday, June 29, 1993|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Elevation:||1343 m / 4409 ft|
Ascent Trip ReportThe ride to Fort William, Scotland was a long trip, at first through the suburban sprawl of Glasgow, and then through forest, past pretty Lake Lomond on a curvy road that made me carsick, and past the green moors of Glencoe, up in the highlands. It was a cloudy, grey day, but with no rain, and the bus finally pulled into Fort William at about 1 PM or so. I next had to figure out how to get up to the Glen Nevis youth hostel, where I wanted to spend the night, and where the trail to Ben Nevis started. I was surprised to find that there was no bus service, and taxis were extremely expensive. Bummed, I ate lunch in a crowded diner-type place, and started walking along the busy road leading northeast out of town until a roundabout, where I took a right and started walking up towards the youth hostel.
I put my thumb out at every car that went by on the lightly travelled road as I sweated while hiking up along the shoulder, but none of the twenty or so cars that passed me stopped. After forty-five minutes I reached the hostel, glad they had my reservation, and threw my stuff on my bunk. I thought about what I was going to do--it was 2:30 PM, and, although very cloudy out, it wasn't raining, and there were a few sunny patches here and there. I knew that at 56 degrees north in late June the sun didn't set until 10 PM, so I decided to go climb Ben Nevis this afternoon--tomorrow the weather could be worse.
So I threw my jacket and water bottle in my pack and started up the trail, which began just across the street from the hostel. Although Ben Nevis is only 1344 meters (4409 feet) high, I was starting virtually at sea level, so I had a long hike ahead of me. As I attacked the treeless slope, with mobs of people passing me coming down, I swear that I set the world record for sweating. It was pouring out of me by the gallon, drenching me completely, as if I were swimming--due, I guess, to the same extreme humidity I had noticed in Glasgow, the afternoon warmth, and my exertions on the trail. However, the sun wasn't even shining. Aside from making me drink my precious water too fast, the sweat made my eyeglasses keep falling off my drenched face, so I had to tie a string around the earpieces to keep them on.
I passed a couple of women also going up, and a young English soldier in jeans and no shirt I teamed up with briefly before my pace proved too much for him, but everyone else was going down, due to the lateness of the afternoon. The trail slabbed around a ravine, passed a lake, and then started ascending the main mass of Ben Nevis, shrouded in clouds. I checked my altimeter often as I climbed, especially once I was in the cloud, where I was basically in a white-out. Higher up, too, my incredible sweating ceased, since it was colder and windier. The number of people coming down diminished greatly, too, since I only saw one in the last quarter of the hike.
Eventually I reached the summit area, at 6 PM or so. There were a bunch of run-down stone huts scattered about the largely flat summit plateau, a few snowbanks in the couloirs of the precipitous north face, and a few guys who were hanging out in one of the huts that were acting as support for a bunch of fell runners who were trying to do Ben Nevis, Scaffel Pike, and Snowdon in 24 hours--sort of speed peak-bagging. This was my second ever country high-point (after driving up to Hungary's highest hill in 1985), and my first ever island (Great Britain) highpoint.
Sadly, there was no view, since the summit was totally socked in, but I consoled myself with the thought that at least it wasn't raining, a good day by Scotland standards. I rested, ate some food, took some pictures, chatted briefly with the fell-runner guys, wandered around the summit area, and then started my descent. I didn't see a single soul on the way down until I was quite low, where I passed people who had passed me when I was going up--apparently the other upward-bound hikers I had seen bailed out. Tired, I reached the youth hostel at 8:50 PM, it still very bright out despite the overcast skies and the late hour.
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