Ben Nevis and the CMD Arete

IMG_1192This trip took place on 30th June, so exactly half way through my atempt to walk 1000 miles in a full year.  At the end of the day, I was sitting on 473.7 miles, a little under where I need to be, but not much.

I considered myself very lucky on this trip.  I’d wanted to do this walk for a number of years, a definite “wishlist” walk and the continuation of the recent clear and warm weather conditions made me feel my chance was here.  The first day of the summer holidays looked like hill heaven so I made my plans.  I was also lucky as a mile into the walk I realised I’d left my sunglasses in the car.  This wasn’t the lucky bit of course.  The lucky bit was I hadn’t realised I’d left the glasses until I came across another pair, hung up on a tree just next to the path.  Thanks to whoever left them there.  I intend on leaving them elsewhere, in a kind of pay it forward donation.

On a less happy note, the body of Marcin Bialas was also found on the 30th June (the same day as my trip) in Observatory Gully, which you can see on the picture above.  He had been missing since January after falling through a snow cornice and although I didn’t find this out until I got home, it’s a sobering reminder of how mountain dwellers need to take care and hope luck stays on our side when we are out.

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The sun was strong and the heat was high, even on the highest top on The Ben.  My route also involved a detour via the CIC Hut, before climbing the steep slopes of Carn Mor Dearg, which was pretty tough.  The views at the top were worth it though.

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The Arete isn’t as exposed as you might think but the rock hopping and views over to Ben Nevis and the rest of the Mamores were more than I could have dreamed of.  The outlook even helped me forget about that steep climb.

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Better than a toblerone?

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The last push up to Ben Nevis reminded me of the CMD climb, just more bouldery.

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The top and the old observatory.  I think I saw about six people all the way round to the peak.  On the peak were an entire village.

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I wanted to take the quiet route home to the North Face car park so headed off by the rougher, north shoulder, rather than the tourist path.

An awesome walk.  And with a last lucky touch to the day, I got the last box of ice lollies from Tesco on the High Street (since a single lolly just wasn’t enough) and had finished them by the time I got to my bed for the night.  I also made a wee film of the trip.  Take a look below.

Our 7 Days of the West Highland Way – April 2014

This is the story of our West Highland Way trip. We walked the Way from Milngavie to Fort William in 7 days (Thank god we didn’t try for 5…). Those 7 days were some of the best days I’ve ever experienced with a mix of fun, adventure, banter, wildlife, gorgeous views and a great feeling of achievement. I’m genuinely sad it’s over (although my legs and I have been forced to disagree on this point). Thanks to all those who were involved, whether walker, supporter or feral animal.

1 long distance trail
10 mountain enthusiasts
96 miles walked
117 compeed used
141 litres of water consumed
1000’s of Scottish mountain views
Infinite memories…

Fossil Watch

The West Highland Way.  The phonics that blend to give this short phrase its meaning are a source of huge excitement in our house at the moment.  Many have walked this 96 mile snake of a walk, rounding its neighbouring high peaks and rivers through some of the most gorgeous bits of Scotland.  Many have walked into Fort William or Milngavie with blistered heels and heavy shoulders wondering why they put their bodies through it.  But in a few short weeks I will be able to stand proudly and happily and say that I’ve walked the West Highland Way.  That is, I hope I can still stand.

The walks and trails we follow in the hills of Scotland and elsewhere are like fossils or remains of our past, both recent and ancient.  The West Highland Way was only opened in 1980.  However the old drovers and military roads that it is built on and around have existed for hundreds of years, long before the first “man in a berghaus” made it look easy.  I like looking down at the different path surfaces and imagining who once walked there before me.  Their footprints are so deep in places it seems hard to imagine the scars could ever be removed from the earth.

Over the last few months our training miles have steadily grown, as has our fitness and confidence.  Last weekend we decided to do 2 days walking, roughly 10 miles each day.  Saturday saw us venture up to Cairn William.  Our walk on Sunday was in the Correen Hills near Alford, a circuit with views of Bennachie, Tap o’ Noth and, most pleasingly, an old abandoned farm called Hillock of Terpersie.  I’ve become a bit obsessed recently with dilapidated structures and urban exploration and the sight of the grey granite set against the greens of the surrounding hills was one of many highlights.  It might just have been its age, but the building looked so organic, as if it had always been there, not a man-made construction at all.

I was further reminded of how exciting our hills are when passing an old quarry and wooden workers hut.  Kirsty found something lying on the ground.  She thought she had found a fossil, a clay pot perhaps.  It turned out to be a gorgeous rock.  No less marvellous but I immediately thought back to the farm at Terpersie and was in genuine awe at the things you can find on a simple walk in the Scottish hills.  Each one a remnant of a bygone age, whether millions of years ago in geological terms or 200 years in human history.  If only they could tell their tales like clyping children.

We didn’t have time to stop in at Terpersie for a look.  That possibly increased my sense of wonder as I wasn’t quite close enough to get the best view of it.  The old abandoned farm, and a thousand others scattered across the country like the seeds farmers sow, are part of our historic record.  Through clearance, failure or death, these old homes have been left to nature and reclaimed by her with glee.  There is something hauntingly beautiful about a building being overrun by nature.  A few of them dotted around the West Highland Way would make the painful blisters and pulled calf muscles worth the effort.  Even if I need the services of a wheelchair, a bottle of whisky and a nurse by Fort William.

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Kirsty, Gordon and Tilly on Cairn William.  Lunch being munched.