Last year, my dad nagged me for weeks to pick a date for all the family to travel to Scotland, so he and I could finally take on Ben Nevis.
Way back in 2008, my dad and I went on our first country walk together to Pen Y Ghent (Yorkshire). It was the first time I had properly ventured into the Great British outdoors and I absolutely LOVED it. Since then, anytime we wanted quality time together, a walk was always our meeting place.
So, for my 30th birthday, choosing the highest peak in the United Kingdom seemed the obvious choice.
Unfortunately, bad weather conditions meant only 3 out of our group of 7 climbers made it to the top (my dad sadly had to turn around). Having been on numerous climbs in England, I was quite disillusioned as to how tough this one would be. Lots of my friends have done it, and all had said it was achievable with no training – I agree to an extent but I thought I should share a few things we learnt from our experience. Here are my top Ben Nevis tips:
Train on an incline
The whole walk itself is only 10km so that should give you an idea on how tough the incline is. The week before I had completed the 10km Great Manchester Run which was hard enough, but doing that up a steep rocky path really pushes those thigh muscles (and if you have weak knees like I do you MUST take a walking stick, it’ll save you a world of pain)
Check the weather
We set off early and there was only a bit of drizzle. So we assumed it would all be fine. For the first half of the walk, the worst we came across was the occasional drizzle and slippy rocks. However the weather changed dramatically in the last third and we were faced with a mini snow storm and very low visibility. The visitor centre at the bottom of Ben Nevis has a camera situated at the top to show the conditions, had we checked this before hand we would have seen how bad it was. Turns out the snow we were walking on was compacted, but it was still actually two metres deep! Thankfully we all had thermal layers on.
Carry the right equipment
We passed people with lots of professional gear and some with none whatsoever. If you want to climb safely I would always recommend packing the right equipment for a walk like this, especially if you’re venturing out in bad weather conditions. A few items we made sure to take: plenty of water (given), first aid kit, safety whistle in case of trouble, snacks for along the way, walking stick and a spare pair of gloves and socks (I will fully discuss our kit on a separate post).
Last but not least…
Keep a pack of sweets handy
Sounds silly I know, before setting off my dad gave me a pack of Haribo to keep in my pocket. I thought he was a bit mad. But when we were pushing ourselves to keep going and we were exhausted and we couldn’t stop in case we couldn’t get going again these sweets were lifesavers. Sugar hit is the perfect way to kick start energy levels and having something small in my pocket that couldn’t melt or get crushed was genius thinking on my dads part (but don’t tell him I said that).
One more thing to note: don’t use all your energy going up… you are totally going to need some of that to get you down!
It was physically one of the hardest things I’ve done, but I loved every second! Now that I know what to expect, I can’t wait to go again. This time with a bit of training up my sleeve – if only to push my dad so he makes it to the top.
Can anyone offer any other tips for (non-professional) mountain climbing??