OMG my knees, my terrible knees!
When we got back to base camp, they both ached fairly evenly. It was quite surprising seeing as one of them had been through 2 major surgeries in the last 3 years and the other was completely unmolested.
Our route up Ben Nevis could never have been the “normal” one, we are proud graduates of the SUMC! We had brought all our climbing gear along and scoped out a good looking climb. Well within our climbing ability technically, but stamina-ly, far beyond us it turned out. Not because we attempted and failed it, we did not even attempt. The weather looked soggy in the morning and from our experience on welsh rock, we could reasonably expect the climb to be “seepy”. Not an enduring quality on a 450m long climb and by the end of the day, knew we had made the right choice.
We decided instead to follow the path around to the CIC hut, which included a wobbly river crossing. From there we set our own straight line up a hill to a ridge. This proved to be a soul sapping experience as there were no interesting features or rocks or terrain to negotiate… at all. It was just straight up a grassy slope for an indeterminate length of time. It was BORING. Made worse by not being able to see the summit as we were climbing in cloud and the top kept getting further away.
We kept up our spirits by imagining the wonderful view we would get from the top and sure enough, when we arrived, there was only more cloud to be seen. After a quick moral boosting choccy, we carried on. Now on top of the ridge, there was less vertical climbing to be done, but the terrain was bouldery and needed good balance and sure feet with some hands on rock at times. Eventually the weather broke and we were treated to the most beautiful view we could have hoped for. The wispy clouds wafted across the sky playing shapes across the grassy scrubland. Opening and closing as they wanted, we always had a new window opening to the valley below where we had been, or along the ridge we had travelled or to the remote streams on the other hills around us. We sat in silence for 5 mins just taking it all in and revelling in the accomplishment we had achieved. The revere was broken sharply by a surprise fart, and we moved on.
The route from here finished the ridge and then started climbing steeply across boulders up to Bens summit. The boulders and all the climbing had started to really take their toll on our stamina and we were moving quite slowly now. The clouds had closed back in and it was drizzly and cold if you stopped for too long. We were looking for some posts marked on the map that denoted the start of the trail to the summit but we seemed to be climbing for ages without any showing up. Reading the contours of the land and approximating our distance we thought we should have come across them by now so were a little worried, our humour failing us as we got more tired. Eventually we found them and the top arrived… We think the map was out of date and the posts had been moved, or we just didn’t find the right ones. We were very thankful to be at the top. Those posts were the limit of my endurance for sure. I mean, there was no option but to keep going but I could feel my body failing me.
After a few hard to execute photos because of cold hands and popping in to the refuge hut to have a look, we started on our way back down. Blissful down hill. Well blissful for a while as it was a change from climbing up hill. But now we had a new challenge; make it home without injuring ourselves. I had started recording my track on Strava from the top (because the useless nobbing app hadn’t started from the campsite like I had asked it to!) and you could see on the time per km that we got very slow towards the end.
When we finally sat down in the pub for a well deserved pint, we had covered 16.2km and 21,000 steps. Burnt 4200 calories and been walking for 9 hours 20 mins. We hobbled like old men back to the van, grabbed our wash kits and had the longest, hottest shower of our lives. After this, Angus threw our food on the floor, we ate, finished our beers and went to bed, completely exhausted.