Today is the day for a challenge. We are going up Ben Nevis. We decided to rise really early and set off walking just as it became light enough to say “Good Morning” to strangers. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake I had when doing this walk with Angus. We were sticking to the paths and the direct route. No off piste wandering this time. I even parked in the official visitor carpark to avoid the ridiculously steep first/last section of an alternative path that had practically killed my knees last time.
There isn’t much to say about a long uphill walk, other than it was long and uphill. What I did but also didn’t remember was the amount of rock steps on the path. Because it’s a very popular route and mountain to climb, the whole path has been laid with gravel and rocks to prevent erosion. This is great as it protects the mountain and makes an easier surface to walk on, but on the steeper sections (of which the entire mountain is fabricated) the rocks have been carefully arranged into steps. These are of varying size and, as is the nature of rocks, irregular shape. This means that going up or down the path, you have to tackle thousands of uneven and varying height steps. This is not good news for my knees.
Thanks to Dads wisdom, I can walk up hills with no troubles at all. Just take lots of really small steps when it gets steep, get into a rhythm and keep going till you reach the top – it takes persistence, but that’s it. Each step is no more difficult than walking to the corner shops, you just lessen or lengthen the stride depending on the steepness of the terrain. Well that advise is useless on a fabricated path of steps. You cant make your strides any shorter than the smallest step and if that is quite a big one, then man up and get on with it. You are just going to have to put in the effort.
By the time we got to the “Obvious Flat Rock” – as Angus called it – Kayto was starting to slow down. He had walked nearly half way up the mountain, but was running out of steam. There was no way I was going to take him down again so I stuffed him into my backpack. Aimi was not convinced he was going to allow it, but I think he knew the alternative was to walk the rest of the way, so he behaved himself. He got a lot of attention on my back from walkers going the other way. Everytime a knot of girls spotted him, there would be a high pitched squeal of excited Awww-ing and a few of them even took photos. He is such a prince.
Reaching the top, the sky was almost completely clear giving amazing views. Just a few clouds dotted the skyline giving some atmosphere and framing the grandeur of the scene. We admired the view, but were completely distracted by how freaking cold the wind was whipping across the summit. We nabbed some photos, visited the Trig Point and started the walk back down. For a moment, kayto had been the highest dog in the UK, but was now on his paws again for the descent… lazy little sod.
Since our walk in the rain, Aimi’s boots had been wet and still not dried. She was convinced that they had let water in so thought it time for a new pair. That was fair enough, but it was not a good idea walking Ben Nevis in a brand new pair of leather boots. They had done zero miles and not broken in at all, so unsurprisingly she was complaining of blisters. Luckily for her, someone overheard her anguish and donated some blister plasters. Mollified but not enjoying any great improvement in comfort, she carried on. By the time she reached the van again she was in a foul mood and would have been stomping around like a toddler if that wouldn’t have hurt so much. Once home, showered and changed, she was much improved.
That night we had hearty beef and vegetable stew and watched an engaging documentary about mankind’s 10 day struggle to survive a previously unknown threat. Unsurprisingly we triumphed due to the lucky alliance between us Humans and the Autobots to overcome a common enemy called the Decepticons.