Climbing Ben Nevis

The view from the top of Ben Nevis

O noooo, wind force 8 predicted…and I am in a kayak on Cape Wrath!!! We must escape before the storm hits the coast! Early in the morning we get in the boats and sneak off to Durness just before the storm.

With still a week of holiday left, we travel down to Fort William to visit a friend. When I have more time to think and dream the most terrible ideas pop into my head. So I thought it a good idea to climb Ben Nevis. I have this urge to climb the Munro even though it goes against my better judgement. I know I am the worst ever hillwalker ever. But sometimes you got to break through your own restricting thoughts and JUST DO IT.

Alexander thought I had gone completely bonkers but supported the idea. As a matter of fact, he relished at the idea and he’s a really good hillwalker.

My Scottish friend encouraged me by saying: ‘Charlotte, you’re so fit after kayaking for 5 weeks. Ben Nevis will be a piece of cake for you! The path is very clear; there is just no chance of getting lost’. He estimated it would only take 3 hours to go up and 3 to come down again. He promised to cook a good dinner.

I was completely convinced, I’m going to walk up like it is a beach stroll. No doubt about that.

The next day we left early to start the climb. We had some good weather, not too hot or too cold. It was perfect.

The path was very clear. A giant Stairmaster with irregular steps lay ahead of me. A challenge for every fitness freak. With an optimistic spirit, I started my climb. We were not the only people walking up. Families and people of all ages walked up. Some on very insensible shoes and clothes.

After half an hour I seriously questioned my sanity, why did I think this was a good idea? I am out of breath and my legs are protesting against the exercise.

Charlotte Gannet climbing the stairs up Ben Nevis

After an hour I wanted to go back because I was really tired, the sweat is dripping from my face and I blame Alex for having this stupid idea of climbing Ben Nevis. But Alexander talked me out of that and I struggled on.

“Walk at your own pace”, Alex encouraged me while he skipped from stone to stone like a mountain goat without any effort.

After 2 hours I found a rhythm. I pushed through. On 2/3rd of the climb, the Stairmaster goes over in a flat zigzag path going up to the top. I do not have to lift my legs high up; the walk up became relatively easier. I ignore all the sign my body gives, trying to convince me to stop. My calves are burning. A stubborn will to reach the top pushes me on. I am going to push through the pain, mind over matter!! You go girl!!

And there I was, on the top of that damned hill. I had fucking done it. Ha, the world’s worst hillwalker is standing on top of Ben Nevis!

I am high on dopamine from the exercise on the highest Munro of Scotland.

And the view was……misty and murky.  I thought being with your head is a cloud would be a different view. Bright and clear. But between the fog patches, I see some of the views from the top.

It is considerably colder on the top.We put on some warmer clothes, have some food and looked around. There are some structures of an old weather station on the top. Imagine walking up Ben Nevis every day to go to work….

It took us four hours to walk up the hill. Now we were thinking of descending. Surely that would go faster than walking up.

Wrong, it took 4 hours to walk down. And I dare say much harder. When walking down your body weight is behind every step and gravity pushes me down even more.

The realization of not escaping the 4-hour walk is a tough one. There is no one to pick me up by car/bike/wheelbarrow. I have to make every step on my own, one foot in front of the other. And there is the Stairmaster!! My knees are shaking with each step. I don’t want to sit down to rest a bit in case I cannot stand up again.

Charlotte Gannet decending Ben Nevis

It is around 4 o’clock when I am struggling down when I see lunatics running up the hill, running, they must be mad. This zombie is happy when she reaches the car without collapsing halfway. I have this disconnected feeling that my head is not in contact anymore with my body. This mantra going on in my head like ‘ the car, the car, the car’

And there it was! Our lovely blue car where I can sit in so my body doesn’t have to carry itself, and moves without me doing anything…..lovely!! Just a few meters more, two, OMG this is heaven!

I was not able to enjoy my home cooked dinner. Was a lousy dinner guest. Sleeping was not comfortable. I could not walk for three days. We went kayaking but after 3 kilometres Alexander had to tow me back. Walking Ben Nevis was quite a shock to the system. I think it is confirmed; I am more a seagull that a mountain goat.

Charlotte Gannet