Ascent of Ben Nevis on 2013-07-25

Climber: Steven Thompson

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Thursday, July 25, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Ben Nevis
    Elevation:4409 ft / 1343 m

Ascent Trip Report

Ben Nevis - the highest point in the British Isles.  I found myself dreaming about the summit of this stunning mountain more than I dreamed about the golf I had come here to play.   Dovetailing off a business trip to Edinburgh, I decided to bring a long time friend and avid golfer to the home of Golf  here in Scotland.  I don't golf.  Well at least what I do, most people wouldn't call golf. 

Jerry and I actually started learning how to play golf together, thirty years ago.  My enthusiasm for the game waned a long time past, while Jerry continued to improve and become a relatively good player.  I pick up my balls when they go out of bounds.  Jerry doesn't make me keep score.  I can live with a round or two every couple of years. 

In planning for this trip, I mentioned to Jerry that he could play all the golf he wanted, but I wanted at least one day to hike Ben Nevis.  Picking up a map, I wasn't sure it was going to be possible with Fort William a long 5 hour train ride from Edinburgh.  Working with the train station ticket helpers, I found a sleeper car leaving Edinburgh at 4:50 am (I would get a seat not a bed) with two possibilities for return trip after the hike.  The first at 5:25 pm;  the sleeper car returning at 7:50 pm, arriving back in Edinburgh after midnight.  It would be a long day. 

Catching a cab, I boarded the train and began the trip.  I love European rail, what a great way to travel.  The country side was beautiful, and I tried to get more sleep as the train made it way through the towns along the way.  All sleep was lost as we entered the highlands and I was mesmerized by the hills, mountains, streams and crags. 

Fort William is the end of the line for the sleeper train, I grabbed my pack and headed for the door.  Hungry, I stopped at a restaurant inside the train station.  Apparently I wasn't the only hiker / backpacker that passes through the area.  Sandwiches line the shelves, and all kinds of good travel foods were available.  Just outside a cab waited and within just a few minutes I was riding down the winding road to the trail head for Ben Nevis. 

The trail head is only 2.5 miles from the train station and I was surprised on my return trip to see a number of people walking the distance.  With a limited amount of time the 5 pounds was worth the taxi fare to arrive and return quickly.

The Ben Nevis Pony Trail is a straight forward class 1 hiking trail.  Be prepared for steps.  Lots and lots of steps, as this well traveled path rises toward the summit.  With an elevation increase of 4,286' feet, it is quite a climb, but the trail is well marked and plenty of people make the journey.  It is estimated that over 100,000 people venture to the summit each year.   The trail head map highlights several important points along the way.  Of interest to me was the Loch at the saddle, the impressive waterfalls and of course the massive cairns as you near the summit.

Legs and lungs will help you reach the top, more specifically hamstrings on the way up and quads on the way down.  Hiking poles help, if you are challenged in the quad department.  Making that many downward steps, I saw more than one person on very shaky legs, hiking poles help relieve the pressure somewhat.

The summit was clouded and raining, but that did not dampen the spirits of many who reached the top with me.  No visibility left the ruins at the top shrouded in fog which was an impressive sight in its own right.  A little cloud makes the hike stunning as it moves through the glens and across the face of the mountains.

Returning to the Inn at the trail head, the friendly help called a cab, and I was back at the train station in time to catch the 5:25 pm train back to Edinburgh.  One would think I would have slept the entire way back, but the highlands kept me glued to the window dreaming when again I might return to this beautiful place.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail

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