Ben Nevis

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July 23rd 2012
Published: July 23rd 2012
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So the last of the three peaks is now complete. I travelled up on Friday with another first: the longest train journey I have ever taken; four trains, 10 hours and 480 miles. The last train was packed full of walkers all heading to Fort William, all carrying rucksacks and the equipment for their own adventures. The rest of the gang collected me from Fort William station and we called in for a quick pint before heading off to our accommodation in one of the many bunkhouses in the town all catering to the tourists. We set off early the next morning. At the bottom of the trail we met two guys who had just completed the three peaks in 19 hours: impressive stuff as this includes the travel time between them as well. What can I say about Ben Nevis? It’s a long long, long slog. My nephew had commented on my Facebook page that the best part was the pub at the bottom when it was all over. The first half of the climb was a relentless climb along a boulder strewn pathway of constant steps. Since finishing the London to Paris cycle ride my training has taken a nose dive for various reasons, and this lack of fitness bit hard on the first leg and I struggled. My back and shoulders and neck were really painful, I think pure bloody-mindedness got me through to the halfway point. I had a list of excuses of course: I’d had a cold, just had my typhoid inoculation, just finished the London to Paris, been too busy to train. Anyway after halfway it seemed to get easier, or I got my second wind. Whichever it was we were able to get going and the constant steps disappeared and we were on to loose gravel paths. As we climbed on, as we ascended into the cloud that shrouded the summit the temperature dropped, extra layers of clothing were applied along with gloves, hats and scarves before pushing on. In the mist that surrounded the top you could not see that far up the path so we had no idea how far we had to go but there was no problem with navigation, there were so many people walking it was case of follow the leader. Each change in direction took use closer to the top and then we were there in the clouds on top of the highest peak in the UK. We had made it. Andy had brought along something for us to celebrate with, his hipflask filled with a lovely single malt. There was also a piper at the top playing. It seemed an appropriate celebration. After some food to replenish the energy level we set off on the descent. The first half of the journey down wasn’t too bad, it was kind of nice to see all of the other people sweating and slogging their way up to the top when we were on the easier part of the journey. There were also some sights to see, as the mist had lifted and we were able to enjoy the views on the way down, and there were the human sights too: whilst we didn’t see anyone carrying a rubber doll like we had on Snowdon there was one guy carrying a giant bear up, the only slightly depressing thing was that we passed him during his ascent but he overtook us again before we reached the bottom. The last half of the descent was over the same boulder-strewn morale-sapping path that had nearly caused me to give it all up on the way up. But we made it to the Ben Nevis Inn for that pint and I doubt if a beer could ever taste better.

So the three peaks are completed, our time 17 weeks. Ah well, 20 years ago I might have been able to complete them in 24 hours but not now.

We finished the evening off with a curry and a few drinks at the bunk house, and I am now writing this on the train with aching legs and shoulders on my way back home.

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