So a Mountain eh? For some reason when I saw the team including Chris Moyles and Cheryl Cole doing Kilimanjaro a few years ago for charity I’ve been a little distracted by it. It burned away slowly in my brain that it was something I would like to do someday, some how.
It came from nowhere really, I never wanted to be Bear Grylls when I was growing up, adventure stuff didn’t really appeal to me. But I watched a few episodes of that show and something in me was inspired, it may pass, I’m pretty fickle!
So where do you start, when you want to climb one of the biggest mountains?
Maybe you start by climbing the biggest in the UK!
So that’s why I found myself up at 5.30am on a saturday, ( I think it’s worth noting it was a Saturday, as it means I gave up a Friday night on the razz, and a Saturday morning lounging in bed, it means more I think).
Anyway, there were three of us doing it, and we made our way to Fort William and chatter happily all the way. We arrived at the car park and donned our ‘ mountain climbing gear’. The other two were well prepared, they had special socks, sticks, shoes and fleeces, my prep had included pondering a cowboy hat for the photos that would evidently be taken, applying fake tan, an emergency lunch time coffee on Friday to peruse my friends kit list, and a panic rush to the shops to stock up on Lucozade and Jelly babies.
I was a little bit skeptical that I could do it and being the kind of person who at least tries and is not too hard on herself if she doesn’t succeed, I really had nothing to lose, did I? But I surprised myself with the kit I managed to assemble from my wardrobe, turns out I had good walking shoes, Merrells, no less, and a fleece!
So we gear up, do the loo stops and head off. The thing about Ben Nevis is that when you are driving to it, you can’t really see it, or if you could I had no idea what I was looking at. I said (aloud) that is must not be so big as we cannot see it. Where on earth was it?? It was only as we were walking toward it and turned the corner that I got a good look at it. Or I think I did, I could be wrong, there were a few mountain type looking mountains about, it was hard to tell.
So we begin the ascent, (ooh get me using mountain terms,) and we’re all pretty plucky and chatty and it stays that way for a while and I climb on. A few minutes into it I realise my friends have turned quiet and I turn around to speak and realise I’ve left them behind. I stop for a minute and think of waiting but my pace is going well, my legs don’t want to stop, almost as a reflex they carry on regardless. I’m on my own.
Pretty soon one catches up to me and we continue the climb, sometimes chatting, sometimes drinking Lucozade, munching Lucozade tablets (no this isn’t an advert for Lucozade) and stopping to rest every so often. We do well, I don’t want to know how well but another thing about Ben Nevis is that it’s a busy place. There are people everywhere.
Some on charity challenges with guides and it’s hard not to hear their conversations. And, so, inadvertently I find out that just around the next corner we’re half way. It’s almost awful as the corner seems to take forever to appear! Argh! (Mental note to self to take iPod and play it loudly next time or stick fingers in ears and say lalalalalala loudly until they pass, trade off looking like a mentalist for satisfaction of not knowing how far half way is.)
The path starts off rocky and as you clamour over these you wish for flat ground, there was one bit that was flat and it was like walking on air, unfortunately it only lasted about ten paces but boy were they heavenly! Then after a relatively flat but steep bit, you’re back to the rocky track that wobbles a bit. Our climb was in great weather conditions, not sunny but bright, no rain, a slight breeze and the path was dry. Apparently it can get very slippy and wet so be warned and check your weather before you attempt it. Right near the top there was snow and this was probably the hardest bit to climb as it was so slippy. It was also pretty misty at the top and I felt like I was up a real mountain, which of course I was, but I think you know what I mean.
We reached the top after roughly 3hrs of climbing including stoppages and with people passing saying for the last hour, ‘you’re only half and hour away’ and smiling – these are clearly people who have no sense of time, I’m blaming altitude sickness. Then before I knew it I was there, on top of the highest Mountain in the UK……………and immediately I just wanted to head back down!! Some people were having nips of whisky and coffee and group hugging and I took some video and photo’s but I was pretty keen just to get back down again. I think my sense of achievement would come later, when I was back down.
Going back down was the worse bit as the path seemed more apt for going up. I slipped a few times coming back down once actually just staying there styling it out as if I’d meant to.
Everyone coming down as I was going up said, ‘It’s really hard on your knees’ and it was, there were a few lies told by climbers on Ben Nevis, mainly ‘you’re halfway’ or ‘just one more corner’ and the infamous ‘You’re half an hour away,’ but this one, this ‘it’s harder on your knees on the way down,’ is true, believe these people. In fact these are the people I should have asked how far etc Argh!!
Coming down the camaraderie was awesome, you could take more time to chat to people and I met a great young guy who was doing it for the charity Headway, he’d been in a coma for 6 weeks after being attacked on a night out and they helped him recover. There were a group of people our other friend walked with who had just done the West Highland Way and were doing Ben Nevis as a finishing touch! It was awesome to me as everyone had a different reason to be there, I even met a girl called Carly who came from near where I was brought up in London.
Moments like this in life cannot help but inspire you, elevate you from the ordinary and transport you to a different, courageous place. I’m massively inspired by the climb and the people I met up and down along the way. I’m planning to do something for charity and who knows maybe next year you’ll be reading my blog about my Kilimanjaro climb, or perhaps Everest, or maybe Arthurs Seat 😀