Ben Nevis and Steall Gorge

Days 13 & 14

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles, standing 1344 meters above sea level and I climbed it on Saturday (Day 13) in 7 hours 🙂 The trek in total takes 8 miles and the record for making it to the top is just under an hour and a half… looks like I got some work to do! The mountain is famous because of it’s height as well as a few other things:

  • In 1911 a group of people drove a Model T Ford up the mountain and in 2011 another group of 60 took a replica of the vehicle apart, climbed up with the pieces and put it back together at the summit.
  • An observatory was built at the peak in 1883 but is now in ruins due to a lack of funding. You can still see the ruins at the summit, sadly the visibility was poor when we went up so there was no point in taking photos.
  • The Mountain is part of The Three Peaks Challenge which is this huge race to see if people can climb the three highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales in under 24 hours! You can tell when climbing up which people are doing the challenge because they look really stressed, trying to make it up and down Ben Nevis as fast as possible.

My experience climbing the mountain was great. Our tour guide Andie from Walk About Scotland did a great job making sure we were all having “fun” and wouldn’t let us quite. The weather was good for the most part, cloud covered half of the mountain but we managed to climb with no rain, unfortunately the viability for the second part of the trek was poor. About 2/3 of the way up I thought I fell behind so in an attempt to catch up with the group I climbed as fast as I could. When I got to the top I realized the group was behind me … opps!

The path it self was well maintained but kept you on your toes the whole time. We climbed over lots of rocks, boulders, pebbles, gravel and snow! The path was for the most part windy and at some points fairly steep. I’m really scared of heights so it was good that half the trip was in fog. Apparently part of the path that was covered in fog bordered a cliff! We were able to see a sliding water fall and a Loch (lake) in the valley of the mountain. Too bad it wasn’t hot out or else it would have been lovely to jump in for a dip.

After the descent, the seven of us (Louraine, Luke, Jerome, Martin, Anna and Tom) and Andie all went out for dinner and a night at the pub. We tried to get into a pub but ended up going out for Chinese. Yes they have Chinese in Fort William where we were staying. Haha. At least the pub after had a lot of atmosphere and a classic cozy British vibe.

Oh yes, my hotel…. Well I like to call it the Old Age Inn because everyone there was about 50 years my senior. I remember walking into the breakfast hall this morning and everyone turned and stared at me as if I were an alien. Hey, it may have been cheap but there was a bed and a hot shower to come back to and that’s all you really care about after hiking for 7 hours! It’s funny how different a 22 year old’s expectations are compared to 30 and 40 year old’s. I for one was happy my hotel bath room didn’t have mold, anything above that was a bonus! Guess that’s what happens when you live with 4 females and have one washroom for 3 years in university, lol.

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Today, Sunday (Day 14), I woke up to rain… lots of rain. I knew it was coming, it had to come. To be honest the whole group was kind of happy the weather turned out to be crummy, we were all sore from yesterdays trek and could barley climb into the car, let alone another mountain.

The plan initially was to climb Buachaille Etive Mor (aka “The Buckle”) which would have been shorter then yesterday’s hike but far steeper, but after seeing the weather, our tour guide Sophie decided it would be best to climb up the Steall Gorge and check out the water fall at the top. The trek up was much gentler then Ben Nevis but still entertained us with enough of a climb.

To get to the waterfall you have to cross a cable bridge which was super cool and a little frightening. When the wind picks up and your on that thing, your balance can be compromised quite quickly. I instantaneously felt an adrenaline rush and at one point wanted to turn around but you cant really turn around once you get on one of those bridges.

The climb across was well worth the spectacular view of Steall Waterfall, the second highest waterfall in Scotland. As part of the hike we also went down to the gorge. It was quite beautiful and had a lovely view of Ben Nevis.

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Yes the hiking boots! So for those who did not read my last post, I bought brand new hiking boots on Friday, the day before we climbed Ben Nevis. Well they are really good boots I must say! No blisters and they are water proof! Towards the end of the hike today I was jumping in mud and plowing through streams like a big kid… again. Man I like to act that way a lot these days.

We drove back to Edinburgh through the highlands. The landscape was truly breathtaking and unique.There is something about the moss covered ridges and subtle rolling monros (mountains) that make the highlands a place of their own. I remember this one point on the way back when the song “The Times Are A-Changing” by Bob Dylan came on and I thought, this is what life is all about, seeing the world, meeting people and being completely at peace. This weekend was amazing and I can’t be more proud to say I climbed my first mountain peak in Scotland!

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