At the weekend I went off to Scotland to climb the tallest mountain in the UK with two of my friends. My oldest (and by oldest I mean longest) bestie Pauline and I turn 40 this summer and we decided to have an adventure to mark the occasion. This turned out to be pretty great for my entire family because all four of my boys got behind me and decided to help me train. Thus, Sundays have now become #walkersundayfunday (as you may have seen on my instagram!).
I wasn’t too nervous about the climb itself because Andy has had us do some pretty crazy climbs and hikes this year in the mournes so I felt well prepared. I was mostly nervous about the extensive gear list. Every week it seemed that the Adventure Company we were going with added more items to the numerous ‘essentials' we would need to climb Nevis and survive:
- Headlamps. This had me imagining us all huddled in a frozen pile after failing to descend before nightfall. The additional requirement for 'spare batteries' further compounded my fear of freezing to death after a failed attempt to cannibalise the weakest member of the Adventure Gang once the sandwiches had run out.
- Layers and layers and layers. Made up of fabrics I’ve never heard of before - base layers and top layers and fleece layers and waterproof layers - this was confusing for the girl who climbs every weekend in a 20-year-old (no joke!) Abercrombie body warmer worn over an equally aged and falling apart hoodie. Whilst I was glad of my layers after the second row of zig zags across the mountain (brrrr), I was slightly bemused when I was overtaken by a man dressed as a Mario Brother, a lady in a WonderWoman costume (sans ANY layers...) and a very depressed looking dinosaur man who looked like he'd be happier jumping off the side of the mountain, never mind zigzag across it till he reached the top.
- Walking boots. OH THE BOOTS! They must be specifically THIS kind of boot - do not contemplate climbing this scary and treacherous mountain in anything other than the boot we have told you to show up in. Thankfully I just went in my regular walking boots as they are well worn in and supportive and more than capable. After all the worrying I did about The Boot Issue it was particularly satisfying to see someone in our group of climbers rock up to the base of the mountain in flip flops!
- Backpack. 'You will need your backpack to be Big and Capable’. Capable of holding what, I’m not sure. I mean, we brought a sandwich and two bottles of water with us. Thankfully, I also went with my gut on this and did not attempt to hike for 8 hours with a 50L backpack containing one small sandwich and a head torch I would never use.
- All the extras. Hats, gloves, waterproof covers, emergency medical kit, spare socks, spare everything, poo bags (I mean, where the hell we were supposed to poo has never yet been explained to me!), an entire toilet roll each (again, my mind boggles at the notion of going to the loo enough times to use all this toilet roll), 10lbs worth of sugar for when we collapse in a heap (probably after expelling all the excrement from our bodies at once)...the list went on. I did not bring poo bags or loo roll and I did not suffer the indignity of having to take a crap in the middle of a very commercial tourist route filled with poor innocents just out trying to raise a few quid for charity.
- Whistle. This one probably horrified me the most on account of the very suggestion that we may get lost up a foggy Scottish mountain and have no other way of signalling for help. In hindsight, perhaps they were playing it safe, just incase we should get split from the group during one of our leisurely public roadside dumpings. These things happen. Probably. Well, maybe if you really were determined to get through that entire loo roll in your massive backpack.
So, once I got over the absolute fear and horror after mentally breaking down the Necessities To Survive list, I was rather looking forward to getting away with the girls. We traveled to Glasgow on Thursday night, had a wee gin on the plane (standard), and a sensible early night. On Friday it was BUCKETING in Glasgow, and by bucketing I mean: sideways rain that you can’t even see through. The weather forecast for Saturday gave more of the same and I started to fret that my hole-filled hoodie and not-actually-all-that-waterproof waterproof ‘top layer’ were not going to cut it. So off we went to Nevis Sportswear to buy the things that we should have already bought and packed beside the poo bags, whistles and loo roll in our 50L backpacks. After clearing our bank accounts on some very fancy and very waterproof layers, the manager at the store gave us the best advice ever - ‘make sure you go to Morrison’s and get a tin of gin and tonic to drink at the summit’. GENUIS! How she even guessed that we would be cool enough to do something like this is beyond me! Next stop Morrison’s for enough gin and tonic to last the three hour bus trip to FortWilliam and one for the summit.
The bus journey to FortWilliam was a glorious thing. Lying back toasting our cool new gear with our tins of gin and admiring the scenery, it was a blissful few hours indeed. On arrival we checked in to the Premiere Inn, had a couple more gins and a merry dinner with the rest of Adventure Gang. I was very well behaved and went to bed at 8pm with my book and a cup of tea - you see, I do have a bit of sense sometimes :)
Our climb up Nevis was around 5 hours due to the varying levels of fitness of Adventure Gang. All my fears of poo bags and whistles and public use of loo roll went out the window when I actually saw the Nevis path and realised how public and busy and commercial it is. I don’t know how you would get lost up there but I guess Adventure Gang Leaders had to prepare us for the worst. And, maybe they’ve had the unfortunate luck to lead a different gang who DID have public poo-ers on board and so they felt obligated to remind us to be prepared. Speaking of which, I have never been more glad of all my fancy new layers for it was FREEZING from about half way up. The rain was sideways and I was mega-glad I wore my hat as it kept the wind and rain off my face a bit.
We didn’t spend much time at the summit as it was very freezing with zero visibility. I tragically only managed a sip of my gin tin for it was too cold to hold. The rain stopped a few miles before the end of the hike so I got a few panos of the view (good job too or this entire post would be pictures of gin with a few scattered selfies!). I found the hike upwards to be absolutely fine - when compared to all the dodgy and decidedly dangerous hikes I’ve been on with Andy. The descent wasn’t too bad for the first couple of hours but that last 40 minutes or so you really felt the knees starting to complain a bit. The ground was so wet and slippery we had to go a little slower and I do think that works your legs harder.
So, that was Ben Nevis! The rest of the evening was happily spent drinking gins and making new chums. A great wee adventure, worthy of the trip to Scotland and a few days away from reality. Next up is the Mournes 7x7’s challenge in August and I’ll be training a bit harder since I’m doing that with Andy and I probably will need the head torch, whistle and 50L backpack because dear knows what shape we’ll be in after he drags us up and down the seven highest peaks in Northern Ireland!
Just don't mention poo bags 🙄