The Ben Nevis Chronicles : The Aftermath

It’s been a while since I wrote about BN, I feel out of the habit of it and hadn’t jumped back into it for a while. So it’s about damn time!

At the end of the last post I had fallen down the mountain and been rescued by Hux bravely catching me and playing  roll down the hill. I mean mountain. After that exciting event, we continued back down the mountain. Our progress was good, of you take into account we were all exhausted and two of us were limping (Me on my ankle, and Hux on his knee). We eventually reached the snowy ridge again, and I was practically having a panic attack about having to walk on snow again, with risk of death by falling. More of the snow had melted, so there was now 2 huge holes exposing the side of the mountain, which were definitely big enough to fall through. Enter deep breathing relaxation techniques... made it across and felt the after effects of the stress for sure.

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At this point all I wanted was to be back in the cabin snuggled up in my pj’s. Unfortunately I still had several hours of walking ahead of me. I was a absolute grump on the way down, though the closer down we got, the happier I felt. Despite my thighs of thunder screaming in protest every time I needed to bend them more than normal. For example to step down a step/rock. Of which there were alot. All the time.

When we reached the bench, I was in much higher spirits and we had made friends with some rams who were populating the mountain.

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I could see the cabin, I knew we weren’t far away now. As we drew closer to the bottom, it became more of a race. Hux and Kay had been racing more or less the whole time, while Andrew stayed back with me because I’m slow. Such a gent. Though, as the path was tapering off to flat ground, Andrew got his stride on and caught up to them both. And overtook. Which, of course, ended up in a race to the bridge between him and Kayleigh. Kayleigh won. Woo girl power! Instead of going to the top of the fence climb over thing (it was like a sty but with two platforms rather than bits of wood) Kay climbed over on the lower platform, while andrew was on the upper, and got ahead of him. It was briliant! Hux and I followed after at a much slower pace, enjoying the flat road as much as possible. After we had finally got to the cabin, I promptly resolved to never go up a mountain ever again.

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Never again!

Over the next few days we all discussed it, and decided we would come back next year-when there’s less snow-and try to reach the top. I agreed, the horror of the mountain fading quickly in light of the exhultation at having gone up it. Though I did tell myself that next time, I’ll be ready.

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The Ben Nevis Chronicles : Falling Down A Mountain, as told by K & H

As promised, here’s the remaining descriptions from K & H. Both of these make me giggle! So please enjoy.

As told by Miss K:

Recently, me, Hux, Becky and Rainsbury took on the beast that is Ben Nevis… It was an amazing adventure with many great memories! One of the more memorable events happened shortly after lunch when we hit what felt like a wall of snow! The incline was pretty harsh, any semblance of a path had disappeared completely and we were definitely not suitably equipped for what we decided to do next, which was climb the bleeding thing! We had been going for some time and were tired and I think in our heads we had crampons and pick axes but in reality we were dealing with walking poles (which actually served us pretty well but were nevertheless not enough for winter climbing) and grips which never wanted to stay on!

Slowly but surely however, we made our way up. We got just under half way up and had actually reached quite a height –  it was at that point though that we decided it would be best to turn around and begin the long descent back to camp – we were running out of daylight and, as much as we may have wanted to continue, it was too dangerous and bodies were aching!!!

We now had to get back down the snow slide that we had just climbed…Hux started to descend slowly and suddenly decided it would fun to slide down to where the snow had mostly disappeared and the path we had climbed up previously could be seen again – it looked like so much fun but I wasn’t going to try it, plus Andrew (Hux) shouted not to. Luckily, Hux managed to stop himself near the bottom by slamming his poles into the snow and gradually coming to a halt. I did slip at one point and started sliding but somehow managed to stop myself before gaining too much momentum! Realising how slippery it was I took it very, very slowly from then on…
What happened next was pretty darn funny albeit a bit (VERY) dangerous! Ha :/
Above me, Becky was starting to descend as well – at that point I was roughly halfway between Becky (at the top) and Hux (at the bottom) when I saw Becky start sliding. She quickly recovered, me and Hux sighed with relief but, almost immediately, she started sliding again and this time she was not stopping!!
Me and Hux were watching her waiting to see if she would be able to get up again. As she got closer I realised she was not going to stop and was heading right for me, I started to scramble as quickly as I could to move out of the way otherwise there would then be two of us sliding down the mountain. As she passed me, at what felt like 60mph, Becky was now going backwards butt-first and I could see Hux preparing (somewhat anxiously) to stop her sliding and flying off the face of the mountain never to be seen again. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that on the other side of the path was a huge drop down the side of the mountain!!

The next part reminds me of one of those fight scenes where all you can see is dust and the odd limb appear here and there! Becky knocked Hux clean off his feet and they started rolling, I couldn’t keep track of who rolled over who! Then, one of Hux’s walking poles flew high up into the air and slid down the snow. It all happened so fast – mine and Rainbury’s view was priceless and we couldn’t help but giggle initially. We all immediately shouted up to Rainsbury to tell him not to attempt it and all soon realised how lucky they had been not to disappear of the mountain side…any further to the right and the rocks would not have been there to stop them! What were we thinking!? But what a ride, just like a movie scene 🙂

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As told by Mr H:

Hey, I’m Andrew. As a reader of Becky’s blog you may already know me as H as that is my surname. In this brief description I will be writing about Becky’s attempt to race us to the bottom of the mountain on her arse, and my attempt to stop her from winning!

What started as a casual decent down the mountain ended up with the two of us sitting rather uncomfortably on some rocks but I shall get to that later. When we had reached the furthest point we could reasonably achieve that day, we began to slowly descend the mountain face. With my naturally competitive nature I had to go first because you gotta win, right? I past the others and was about 10 metres away from where the ground phased between snow to rock. At this time of year this was a very common pattern on the mountain as it’s only just the beginning of the season and there is a mega tonne of snow up there.

As I slowly approached the next clump of rocks I slipped and ended on my arse, no damage done. I thought “Hey, why don’t I just slide to the next rock pile. Where is the harm in that?” . So I proceeded to slide my way to the rocks picking up speed. I placed my hands on the ground to no avail, so I jammed my walking sticks between my legs into the snow to slow myself almost castrating myself in the process.  With the combination of the walking sticks and the first group of friendly rocks stopping my decent, I ripped part of the thigh in my trousers.  Minor scratches, nothing to write home about.
I then stood up, dusted myself off and looked back at the others slowly climbing down. I tried yelling up the mountain to warn the others, “as much as it looks fun to slide, it’s almost impossible to stop yourself once you get going!”  I was lucky as it was only a short distance so I didn’t do much damage to myself.  On this snowy face of the mountain there was Becky and her other half at the top of the slope, and my other half, half way down towards me. I thought, I better wait for the others to keep together. Power in numbers and all that!

As they slowly descended Becky slipped and ended up on her arse, but no big deal. I stood there looking over the mountain waiting for them to move along and then I looked back up to them. Becky was struggling to get back up on the slippery surface. I stood watching thinking “Don’t rush, you’re going to slip,”. As I just finished that thought, Becky started sliding down the mountain, not by choice.  I crossed my fingers in hope that she would stop as she was bearing down on my girlfriend and then we would have two people sliding down the mountain! My other half managed to scramble out of the way and stood on helplessly.  At this point Becky was spinning and I looked over my shoulder to see the two options Becky had to stop. Either hit the rocks at speed or disappear over the snowy verge to the right of the rocks never to be seen again.  Neither seemed particularly appealing.

As I didn’t want Becky to get hurt or disappear over the ridge and get eaten by the mountain, I thought I better do something to stop her or at least slow her down. I turned and faced her head on, walking sticks in hand, in a low crouched position bracing for the impact to come. The last thing I remember just before the impact was me sighing in anticipation, thinking this is going to hurt.

The next thing I know is, I’m face down in some rocks and my knee feeling like it’s on fire. I turned myself over, blinking a couple of times to get my eyes back in focus. I find Becky in a heap not far from me looking in a generally ok condition. I called over regardless to see if she was alright, she nodded and asked the same. I looked down at my knees which were caught between two sets of rocks in what looked like a praying position.  I straightened myself out, and being a typical boy, started picking at the new shallow hole in my leg, picking out the dirt and pulling off the little chunk of skin still flapping about in the wind.  In the tumble I managed to lose one of my sticks which I jammed in the ground before Becky’s impact. It had ended up further down the mountain so I needed to retrieve it. The descent down the mountain was slow and painful, but thankfully no serious injuries.  Nothing retelling the story in a heroic way wouldn’t fix! Maybe I should have a cape in my next draft.

I cant help but titter away to myself when reading through these!

There you have it. The story told from 4 perspectives, now it’s like you were there! Hope you all enjoyed reading these as much as I did! More BN posts are still to come, but all a little less on the extreme side!

A huge thank you to Andrew, Andrew H, and Kayleigh for contributing!

The Ben Nevis Chronicles : That Time I Fell Down a Mountain

After the gruelling climb up the snow and many, many tears; we decided to call it a day. It was dangerous and we didn’t want to risk coming down in the dark – particularly when going back across the snowy ridge.

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Veiw from the highest point we reached

The descent back down the snow was not something I was looking forward to. I tried walking down with baby steps but slipped into my butt. Then tried shuffling, and started to slide-losing one of my sticks in the process. I didn’t slide too far, stopped and thought Ok, if I carefully shuffle-slide down it will be fine. So I shuffle again, start sliding… and speed up. I lose control, rolling over in the process, but manage to right myself again and stop. I’m feeling a little less safe now, but I stopped myself so if it happens again I’ll be able to again, right? Wrong.

The third slide brought nothing but fear and pain. I was sliding uncontrollably and was trying desperately to not hit miss K on my way down-luckily we managed to avoid this-and I was headed to a raised rocky section where H was standing to one side. After some more tumbling, I ended up sliding down on my side, backwards. I was facing up the mountain. I braced myself for a rocky impact. I hit, ended up flying upwards and realised I was rolling over H, who had tried to catch me. There was more rolling, then, finally, it stopped. Looking back now and writing this, I find myself chuckling while sat on a train. I think this is definitely one of those laugh or cry situations. I choose laughter! 

I asked my companions to write a bit about what happened so you get the full scope of what this was like. Here’s Andrews rendition:

“This is my third attempt to write what happened. I don’t know whether to take the angle that it was funny or scary. Honestly, it’s both.

The image of my girlfriend and best friend in mid-air, walking sticks rocketing off and limbs in different directions is still hilarious. However, the worst case scenarios keep popping up in my mind. It’s not just me, we all talked back at the lodge about how things could’ve gone very differently.
In one of my previous attempts at writing this I gave a long detailed explanation to my mindset at the time, building a case like a lawyer for why I laughed so hard. Of course, if I just had a photo of it, no case would be needed. It was like watching human bowling crossed with human curling.
I’m pretty sure I just invented two sports.

Though humorous it was, I feel like I should mention the reality of how dangerous it all was. A man died on Ben Nevis the day before we walked up. I could be dramatising for the sake of interest, but it’s worryingly easy to imagine how things could’ve gone that way. I don’t want to though.
She could’ve missed my friend and hit the rocks. She could’ve missed the rocks and kept going, with no idea when she’d stop. These sort of thoughts kept circling around my head that night. It’s probably most likely that were she to miss my friend and the rocks, she’d stop some ten feet further down with a scraped knee. But when it’s someone you care about it’s easy to have worry take over for a bit.

Still, that image tickles me a little now knowing that she’s safe.
It was both a funny and scary moment seeing my girlfriend fall down a mountain.”

It made me chuckle reading it. This post is getting hella long, so hang in there for the remaining descriptions! I’ll post them separately!

EDIT: apologies for the gap in Ben Nevis posts, the four of us have all been busy so it’s hard to get stories from everyone!

The Ben Nevis Chronicles : When Nature Calls

Luncheon was finished, and we had all wrapped up warm as we were feeling the chill after staying still for a while.

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We continued onwards and upwards towards the snowy ridge. When we finally got there, I was feeling pretty apprehensive. H went first, we held back to get a couple of pics.

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I decided to pluck up my courage and go across next. I was worried I would chicken out if I left it too long…Not going to lie, it was a bit scary going across. The worst part was the hole in the snow half way along. I could see the side of the mountain and the path… Which was 3 foot below me.

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This stick is Mr A’s. It was set for his giant 6″3 height, and went that far into the snow.

Queasy? You bet. I was very glad to get across and make my way to the non snowy part of the path and rest for a few mins. Phew. This must be the most extreme outdoorsy thing I have ever done. I will tell you now, I was wrong.

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The path continued along and up Ben, with intermittent snowy sections. Looking back across the valley was amazing. We were so high up now!  I remember thinking that it would look even more amazing from the peak.

Now, as the title of this post suggests, nature did in fact, make a call…While up a mountain there are very limited options to deal with a situation like this…so…that happened.

Moving swiftly on, we got to the end of a zig zag, and the path disappeared under snow. Everywhere. We knew really vaugly where the path should be, but not well enough to risk traversing the snow along the cliff edge. On our left there was a steep sheet of snow up to the upper part of Ben Nevis. I would say peak, but once you get up there you still have an hour or so walk to get to the actual peak…

By this point I had had enough. I was tired, uncomfortable in so many layers, and my body was screaming in protest at the notion of moving. Then came the million dollar suggestion that we go up the sheer snowy side of the mountain…um, what?! yepp. So that happened.

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The snow was slippy, icy, and scary as hell. Sliding down a mountain is not something I had ever planned to do in my life, and with every single step I struggled to stay balanced and stop myself from sliding down. I was exhausted, and collapsed half way up. Full on face plant in the snow, with ugly crying. Again. Andrew, bless him, was amazing. He stayed with me the whole time and got me to get up and carry on. I love this guy. When I finally made it to the rocky part where the others were already waiting, I sat and had a sob. And sobbed some more when I realised we would have to get back down.

Worst. Idea. Ever.

The Ben Nevis Chronicles: The Ascent

After the mad scramble mentioned in my last post, we set off to the steep shortcut path directly opposite our cottage. Instead of the more gradual path from the visitors centre…

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Approximation of the path we took up the mountain

The path starts out as a really easy rocky path, then very rapidly becomes a very steep ascent up the side of the mountain next to Ben. To get to Ben you first have to make your way up the adjacent peak, then across to Ben. I knew pretty much instantly that I was not fit enough to go up a mountain. I was slow, had to stop a lot, and was really feeling the strain on my legs. Despite this, I pushed on and made my way up the steep zig zags.

About halfway up, I inexplicably ended up in tears. I had forgotten a little quirk in my personality… extreme physical exertion makes me emotional. Ups and downs like you wouldn’t believe. ugh. After my little crying jaunt I got up and carried on. And on. And on. It was much easier to concentrate on the ground making sure I didn’t trip over a rock/stone/myself than look ahead at how far I still had to go…I did look at how far we had come however.  It was astonishing how far we had got in a short space of time. I was in no way going quickly, the terrain was just that steep.

Eventually I caught up to the others at a wooden bench near to the top of the shortcut path, where we all had a bit of a rest while looking down at our little cottage and the surrounding landscape.

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Once we were suitably refreshed, we began or journey again. 5 minutes later it came to an abrupt halt when I realised my waterproof jacket was no longer attached to my backpack. I was more than a little horrified as it had my digital camera and a few other bits in the pockets…I was being brave and almost shrugging it off, but inside I was devastated that I would have to either 1: go back down to try and find it, hoping that it hasn’t blown away; or 2: carry on without it and lose all the images I haven’t got around to backing up. Which is a lot of pics. Both felt like impossible options.

Lucky for me, Mr MandyMoo (often referred to as A in previous posts) came to the rescue by running down the mountain to look for it. He ran back up the mountain, and the rest of us were straining to see if he was carrying anything. He came fully into veiw on the path below us, clutching something purple in his fist. My jacket!! My hero! he had met two guys who were coming up the path behind us who had very kindly picked up my jacket for me. Thank you strangers!

We finally joined the main path, and were endlessly climbing upwards above beatific, deadly scenery, in strong winds. I found myself having to repeatedly stop and regain my balance after particularly strong gusts of wind. And being that high up wasn’t scary enough?! We finally made our way all the way around the side of the mountain, and were going along above the valley between Ben Nevis and the mountain we were walking on. I think it was at this point that I really began to appreciate the veiws, especially the waterfall going down to the stream below us, which runs down to the river that runs alongside the road. We eventually made or way to the top of that path, and decided to stop on the grassy verge to have lunch. After playing in the first bit of snow we saw...

Across the valley from where we were sat we could see a snowy ridge, with a distinctive path across it. This ridge is actually a waterfall, so beneath the snowyness it was a drop to water and the sheer side of a mountain. It was at this point I became a little obsessed with asking the people we saw coming down if they had made it to the top. All of them said no because they didn’t have the right equipment for the snow… This bodes well for us… Not…

 

The Ben Nevis Chronicles: Before Ben

First of all I need to explain a little situation that arose. We were planning to climb up Ben Nevis Monday 31st, Monday was one of the better forecasted days weather-wise. Plus if any unexpected conditions stopped us from going up we would still have the rest of the week to give it another go. This was all well and good until on Sunday-during the walk to lower falls-A suddenly noticed the heels of his walking boots were completely destroyed…I have no idea how this wasn’t noticed before going on a walking holiday but there we go, these things happen…We had to readjust our plans of climbing Ben so A could grab some new boots, then climb on Tuesday. We decided to go to the visitors centre first thing Monday morning to find out about the conditions, hit town for boots and food supplies, then head out to Inverness. This didn’t exactly go to plan.

After speaking to a lovely-and very helpful-lady at the visitors centre, it became very clear that the best day to go up Ben was that day. Monday. As Tues and Weds had only 30-40% visibility towards the peak, and Monday was 80%, as well as good weather. It also became clear that we would need walking sticks if we wanted to traverse the snowier parts of BN. Yes, snow! Apprehensive? You could say that… After grabbing a map and compass, we shot off into town to find Mountain Warehouse. I was-to be frank-pooing my pants. My ankle-I twisted it last week, may have mentioned this in one of my posts-was still a little bit dodgy, so I was worrying about this on top of going up a mountain with not much training.

We were very lucky to find good boots for A, as well as sticks on sale, and gaitors that actually fit around my ginormous calves! Then it was a mad scramble to tescos, and back to the cottage to get ready for the unexpected climb.

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Yupp. Not at all worried…

The Ben Nevis Chronicles: A Leisurely Stroll…

After much settling in and picture taking, we decided to go for a walk up the road to see the waterfalls. This was also after we had all phoned the mothership to wish said Mothers a happy Mothers day. The walk was in theory a 2 hour round trip.

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After setting off we passed several sheep, who would freeze when they saw us, then run away if we moved or made any noise. Quite amusing really…

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Othery local wildlife we encountered was the Highland Coo. Big furry cows with ginormous horns. I don’t think I have ever been so close to a cow as I was on this walk!

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Coooos!

After walking for what felt like forever, We finally made it to lower falls.

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The boys of course wanted to pee off the precipice into the water…so that happened. I was in no way jealous of the ease which they peed… Being a girl is hard sometimes. Luckily, I had a She Wee. For those who are not familiar with this, it is basically a little funnel with a tube to enable ladies to wee on the go. Weirdest. Thing. Everrr. After the pee-scapades, we headed upriver to some rocks along side the riverbank and had a whale of a time climbing on them and taking some snappy snaps!

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After getting our feet wet on the damp riverbank we headed back…trudging along the road with wet feet. B-e-a-utiful. After being out all day 2 hours they said… We were all shattered by the time we got back! But, we figured it was like a practise walk before going up Ben…