The sun hadn’t risen yet but the sky was clear. The surroundings were lit up by a particularly powerful moonbeam. The frosty grass was crackling under my feet as I walked to the Giubhsachan river. The place was intensely quiet. I looked up at the mountains. The Ben Nevis wasn’t in sight, hidden by the Meall Cumhann hill. Today was going to be a long day.
While the others were still sleeping, I thought about what we had done these last two days. Everything we had done, we’d done on impulse. But now, we were talking about climbing up the highest mountain of the United Kingdom, the legendary Ben Nevis! And we wouldn’t just climb it following a good old official path – there wasn’t any from our location – . We would actually make our own way from the bottom of this cold valley all the way to the top of this big rock.
When the others woke up, we discussed our plan. The weather was perfect: blue sky, no wind, not too cold. But I had often heard about people being rescued on Ben Nevis, and I knew we would have to be cautious because the weather can change very quickly in Scotland, and we didn’t know what the forecast was for the day. Even though we weren’t very confident, we agreed to do this exciting challenge!
We left our campsite when the sun was rising. It was the weirdest sunrise I had ever experienced. The first rays of sunlight spread a bright redish color all over the place, creating a surreal atmosphere in the valley. For a moment, I wondered if I had gone color-blind during the night!
We started walking in this colorful landscape following a stream. After a while, we ended up in the valley of Allt Coire Giubhsachan, south east of Ben Nevis. In front of us stood the famous Carn Mor Dearg Arete. The top of Ben Nevis was still hidden. The place was very strange. The bottom of the valley was wide and completely flat, when we were already around 400 meters high. I really liked that walk in the valley.
The sun was high when we saw the summit of Ben Nevis for the first time. It looked so far away, as if to discourage us. The face of the CMD arete was definitely too steep to climb with our backpacks, so we decided to climb the ridge south of Ben Nevis straight to its top. It took us a while. The grass was slippery but was at the same time our only hold to move forward on the slope.
When I finally reached the top, the beauty of the area struck me. I spent some time admiring the mountains in a peaceful silence. The atmosphere brought strong uplifting feelings inside of me, feelings that I don’t think I had ever felt before.
The summit of Ben Nevis was now clearly in sight but was still so far. I kept considering that menacing clouds could appear all of a sudden from behind the mountain. We spent the last hour and a half making our way through a field of rocks. It was extremely exhausting and seemed endless, but I knew we would be on the top within a few minutes.
And finally, here I was immensely happy, on the top of the highest mountain of the UK!
The shortest way to Fort William from the top was probably the Pony Track (tourist track) that we followed for what seemed to be… days. It wasn’t a very interesting path but at least it was safe and there was no way we could get lost.
After a stop near lake Meall, we finally reached Fort William, and celebrated our achievement in an old local pub. The craziest trek you’ve ever done needs some serious celebration and, I remember now, we had an awesome flat-party that night in Glasgow!
This is the third day of a three days trek.