Ben Nevis - High Point of the U.K. - May 7, 2022

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Rhody Seth

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Dec 18, 2015
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Charlestown, RI
Towards the end of our Scotland trip we stayed in Fort William, a town that is a hub for hikers as several thru-hikes begin/end there. It is also only a mile away from the trailhead of Ben Nevis, tallest mountain in the U.K. How could I not climb it?

I got started at 5:30 AM in 50 degree temps. It was already bright out and I saw a large group of 20 or so already heading up. They were having a powwow a few hundred yards down the trail and after passing them I was alone for the ascent, save for two super early hikers I met on their way down. They were attempting the Three Peaks challenge which involves hiking the tallest peaks in Scotland, Wales and England in 24 hours. The lower half of Ben Nevis consists of dirt path and well maintained stone steps. Plenty of sheep about. About halfway up it becomes large loose rock and then smaller loose rock. The trail was evident the entire way until the last half mile when lingering rotten snow required using cairns to navigate.

At 4400 feet, Ben Nevis wouldn't stand out among the Whites however because the trailhead is essentially at sea level it makes for strenuous climb and you climb all 4400 feet of it. As with all these Scotland mountains there is an absence of trees which means the views start immediately upon climbing. Hell the views start before you being the hike. About halfway up the clouds rolled in but as I continued to climb the skies opened up and afforded splendid views of Fort William, the loch and the many peaks beyond. As I arrived at the summit I had a few quick views before the clouds rolled in and enclosed the summit. Two Frenchmen reached the summit not longer after me but they did not linger before heading back down. I spent a few minutes exploring the summit but it was around 32°F so soon it was time for me to head down as well.

The descent was a lot of fun, slushing through the snow, then rockhopping and then running down the stone steps and dirt paths. I passed the members of that large initial group, now spread out and hiking to promote suicide prevention. Soon after I passed the last from that group, I began to encounter more hikers in earnest. In fact, I probably passed at least 200 people making their way up. As you can imagine, the gear and outfits of people ran the gamut - this mountain attracts the same throngs as Mt. Lafayette. My hat's off to anyone who made it to the top because it looked like lots of folks were treated to splendid views. The summit appeared to be free of clouds by midday as had been predicted. Still I was happy to get up there early.

All in all a great hike/run and I was glad to make it to the top of the U.K. Happy there was still some snow up there for me. No views at the summit but cracker views on the ascent/descent. Definitely a Mt. Lafayette situation where you want to get an early, early start to avoid the masses but I'm very pleased that I was able to get in one real mountain ascent during the time in Scotland. I do hope I get to return someday as there are many more remote and craggy places I'd love to explore.


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