Sunday, 18 May 2014

Ben Nevis

We have just returned from two great weeks in the Highlands of Scotland, one of our adventures was to summit Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain.

Blue is no novice to mountains, having successfully summited numerous fells and mountains in the lake district, Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Blencathera to name but a few.

Blue is now six years old, and is very comfortable walking for long durations, last week we did 8 3/4 hours in the Torridon mountains.

Ben Nevis sits in the Nevis range overshadowing Fort William, approximatly 120 miles from our holiday cottage in Annat.

Shortly after 7.00am Blue got him self comfy in the back of the car for the 2-3 hour drive, and at 10.00am we were all parked up ready to go, commencing from the car park serving Achintee House.

The weather was dry, but the tops of the mountains were obscured by low cloud.

With his halti attached we set off for the anticipated 10 mile round trip which would take us to the summit 1343m above sea level.

We selected the "Tourist Route" because there are no real technical climbing skills required, Blue would follow where we navigated, though more often than not he would lead.

Even where a path becomes less obvious, Blue often follows the scent trail left by others, as he has proved invaluable on previous occasions. Now having said that, he has no sense of height, there are times where he would happily roll over on the grass, oblivious there may be a drop of hundreds of feet, a roll away.

We know today there will be many others taking this route, and the need to have close control over Blue is paramount for the safety of him and others. Blue owns the mountain, everyone else are seen as visitors.

Well we had only been walking ten minutes and we came to our first obstacle, a timber ladder style. Approached with much gesturing and trepidation, Blue managed to overcome this hurdle.

The path to ascend is unmistakable, no need to navigate, Blue was into his stride and coping with some of the larger steps. Courteous exchanges were had with fellow walkers encounter en-route, the majority of us heading in the same direction.

 Our calculation was that we would make the summit around 3.00 pm at our current pace.

Just over two hours into the walk we were at what is affectionately known as the half way loch an.

Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe is not actually half way in height, the true half way point was known as "Red Burn" which could be seen further up the track, just below the cloud and snow line.

So we stopped for a breather and a quick drink, and as we sat pondering the next part, the Lochan just disappeared.


Now was a time for honesty, do we go any further?
Without fear or favour, the call is down to me, and given what lay ahead, three more hours of climbing into cloud, mist and rain on snowy covered peak, I decided today was not going to be the day Blue conquered Ben Nevis, that would be for another day.
On reflection Blue had handled the climb very well, only where we rested to have a breather and cuppa, did he actually halt advancing admirers getting too close to his herd.
I do believe that we will return one day and complete this journey, so the call to descend was taken and we began our return. Only now realising that at no point had we seen more than half way up the mountain, even glancing back on our return.

Descending gave an opportunity to take a few pictures, funny how things clear up once you have made your mind up to return.

But the one telling picture was this one, the conditions at just over 600m were still the same

There are two tiny figures just left of centre, they are walkers just above Red Burn.

We returned to our car 4 1/2 hours after setting off, safe well and enjoyed the trip, Blue was the only dog we see on the mountain today, wonder why?

With a brief stop at the Ben Nevis Distillery to buy a gift, we set off back to our holiday let.

From our journey home we stopped at a near by view point to capture this picture of the Nevis range

We arrived back at the cottage a little after 7.00pm which meant we had been out for twelve hours, on that basis if we would have gone to the summit, we would not have been back until after midnight.

Soon after his dinner, there was only one place Blue was going to;

 Asleep !

Well done our little hero !