PEAK 20: Great Britain – Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis, similarly to Carrauntoohil in Ireland, is a mountain with exceptionally bad weather. Ben Nevis is covered by clouds and fog for 70% of the year and even if you are lucky with clear sky the weather can change any minute. I was very lucky with the weather at the top but unfortunately I can’t share any picture from my summit day. After the successful summit  I had a car accident during which I lost my camera, luckily only the camera…

Date of summit: 30th July 2018 21:15 
Traveling mode: Hiking
Height of the peak: 1345m 
Hiking distance: 7,77 km 
Time to ascend : 2h 25 min 
Map of my hiking journey to Ben Nevis: Movescount 
Personal rating of the mountain: *** (6 stars maximum) 
Beer on the peak: Crabbies ***** (6 stars maximum) 

DISCLAIMER: Due to the accident (described at the end of this article) I don’t have any up-to-date pictures from my climb to Ben Nevis. Most of the pictures used in this article were taken during my visit of Scotland in 2012.

Scotland is simply a beautiful country which I always gladly visit again. It is actually the country where I found my passion for hiking 7 years ago. My friends and I climbed Ben Nevis that time and I realized that it is exactly what I want to do in the future – climbing mountains. I finally lost my fear for mountains there which I got when hiking with my parents in the Slovakian Tatras when I was a kid. That time, we did a demanding hike on an exposed mountain ridge called Tri Kopy – Baníkov and I got a panic attack due to fear of heights and storms there. That experience kept me away from mountains for over ten years. I am very glad I went to the mountains again in Scotland and I am thankful that Ben Nevis rekindled my love for the mountains!

Ben Nevis reached for the first time in 2012

Scotland has a lot to offer. Most people visit only the capital city Edinburgh which is a beautiful old city. However, I think the most exciting part of the country is further in the north where the mountains are getting higher. During my first visit, we made a long round trip across the north of Scotland and it was simply amazing. Unfortunately, it would take hours to describe everything you can see on your trip to Scotland, so I am picking one picture from our trip to best describe the Scottish atmosphere. Look at the Harry Potter train crossing the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct during the most typical Scottish weather. Isn’t it beautiful?

Glenfinnan Viaduct

I started my trip this time with four friends from my home country the Czech Republic and since we had a one week window for climbing Ben Nevis, we also visited one of the nicest islands I have ever been to – Isle of Skye. It is simply an amazing place where tough weather created a picturesque landscape with wild beaches, high mountains and sharp cliffs. In addition to the wonderful nature you can come across some charming villages and several whiskey distilleries. A perfect warm up before the climb to Ben Nevis.

One of the Scottish distilleries on our way

After exploring the island, we headed straight to Fort William, a seaside village and especially the starting point for Ben Nevis. Along the way we encountered the major disadvantage of traveling in Scotland. At about 90km/h speed, a car with Asian tourists showed up in the opposite direction just in front of us. Fortunately, good visibility and good brakes prevented a disaster. You can see that one easily forgets that you are in the UK and that you drive on the left. We were lucky this time.

The beginning of the hike, just after leaving Glen Nevis

The weather forecast, like in Ireland, looked positive for the evening, so we decided to go to the top for sunset. And we were lucky this time, unlike in Ireland. It was a pleasant 20 °C and especially, the peak was cloudless. The trail rises continuously from sea level to the top and the climb is never difficult. Along the way you will meet no obstacles, only a lot of curious sheep. Since the weather was great we could also enjoy the views over the bay of Loch Eil.

The bay of Loch Eil

The motivation to reach the summit before the sunset was so strong that we managed to summit the peak just in 2 hours and 25 minutes. Indeed, the mountain remained free from the clouds so we enjoyed a beautiful sunset. We caught one of the lucky days when Ben Nevis offers good visibility! Such a pity I can’t share any picture from this wonderful evening.

This is a more likely visibility when you reach Ben Nevis

After enjoying the view over Scottish mountains for a while, it became cold so we headed back to our car. We had to get down as soon as possible, so we would not end up descending in darkness. Luckily, it went very quickly and smoothly so we were soon back at the parking lot.

We changed our sweaty clothes, took a quick dinner and started to drive towards Wales. Our goal was actually not to climb only the highest point of United Kingdom but also the highest point of England and Wales during one day. This Three peaks challenge is very popular in the UK and many people undertake it every year. We were tempted as well.

Unfortunately, the car drive was not very long though. Everything happened very quickly. Our car suddenly went off the road and it hit a stone in the field. Luckily, nobody in the car was hurt but everyone was in shock. Our reaction was quick. We all jumped out of the car and ran away. When we all had left the car we spotted a starting fire. Being scared that the car could explode we ran even further. Then, we just stood a few hundred meters away, watching all our belongings disappear in fire and smoke.

It was cold and dark. We wore only a few pieces of clothes and most of us didn’t even have shoes. Everything was left in the car. Luckily, one friend found a phone in his pocket. That old Nokia with the famous game Snake we made fun of before. It saved us by calling help. Since we were in the middle of nowhere it took police over an hour to arrive. What a luck nobody was hurt. This long waiting time could be crucial.

Picture of our car after the accident. Terrible experience

Yes, it was terrible. It was the worst experience in my life. I still sometimes imagine someone of my friends getting hurt in the car accident. How thankful I am everybody survived the accident without any injury. I would not wish it on anyone to experience anything similar.

The problem is that car accidents do happen every day. Over 25,000 people die on roads in the EU every year. Please, be careful when driving, especially at night on roads you don’t know. From my experience of my expedition in the mountains, I can assure you that driving is still much more dangerous than any mountain I climbed.

The expedition was for me finished at that point. My and my friends’ thoughts were just to get safely back home. We were cold, without clothes, without money, without passports, without phones. Only thanks to friends, family and modern technologies we managed to get home to the Czech Republic in just 48 hours. Everything is possible in today’s world when you have amazing people around.

Imagine losing everything in a minute. This is all we had before our flight back home

To end on a positive note, I would like to point out that Ben Nevis is an exceptional mountain really worth visiting. Accidents can happen every time and anywhere and they should not put you off from our passion. We should just always do our best to avoid them. This was the biggest lesson in my life and I can assure you that I will always do my best not to put my life in danger again.

My tips for the mountain Ben Nevis:

  • Be careful when driving in Scotland. Keep left.
  • If you plan to climb Ben Nevis, try to plan a longer visit of Scotland so there is a bigger chance to summit the mountain during good weather.
  • If you have extra time, don’t hesitate to visit the Isle of Skye, one of the most beautiful islands in Europe.
  • In case of bad weather, remember: it doesn’t rain in bars and distilleries in Scotland.
  • Consider doing the famous Three Peaks Challenge. However, I recommend to do it with a company or take the train instead of a car.
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