Well hello there Folks! That’s me just finished editing the batch of photographs I took from a successful but early retreat ❓ (more on that later) from our Ben Nevis trip last weekend.
Here, below, I’ve tried to capture the highlights of that weekend away to share with you. It’s always difficult for me to choose which photographs to show you, because I take so many! But, with the help of Lynne, I hope we selected those that would tell the story as visually best as possible.
So, it’s time to grab your cuppa, sit back and enjoy, and let me be your guide as I take you through our climb up Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, last Saturday and then a short tour of the Lochaber area on Sunday, including Achnacarry, the home of the Cameron Clan, which is my mothers side of our family.
Right, so, let’s start with setting up camp shall we? 🙂
We started the weekend by pitching our tent at the Glen Nevis Campsite, last Friday and just in time too, as the rain came on just after we pitched! And so, that’s the first and last photograph from Friday!
Ben Nevis Saturday 22nd August
The day started dry and bright and we met Liam at 7am at the visitors centre car park. This map shows our starting point and our route for the day. Liam and Catherine had also travelled up to Fort William on the Friday, but opted (sensibly) for hotel accommodation for the weekend, with some retail therapy for Catherine in Fort William itself, as she was not to be joining us on the climb.
It’s not all climbing around this area. There’s plenty of forest walks and the Riverside walk which you start out on, before joining the Ben Path, is an example of one such easier lower level walk. It’s also the start of the most popular route up Ben Nevis.
As you know, we’ve had A LOT of rain in Scotland this year. Fortunately this part is passable as we start our upward journey. Just pointing out how saturated the ground is at this lower level now, to explain more our hasty retreat later!
The morning sky at this point is rather beautiful, but it isn’t quite telling us, weather wise, what it’s going to do today. The mountains in the centre of this picture are the Mamores and form the Ring of Steall. You can reach the starting point for them further up Glen Nevis. This whole area is rich in walking as well as being the start / end of the 96 mile walk between Fort William and Glasgow known as The West Highland Way.
Time check at this point 7.30am. Hearty bowls of breakfast porridge at 6am providing us with that “striding forth” energy.
Turning round from the previous picture and looking back to the Glen Nevis Inn and Bunkhouse, which, unfortunately on this occasion, on our return from the summit, was just too busy for us to get into for a celebration drink. 🙁
It’s a path, a long one, and there’s not much more to say other than that!
Turning and looking down to our right you can see the Glen Nevis Campsite, where our tent is pitched. At this point our height is only about 150m out of the 1344m we need to climb. Can you see our tent? 😉
Passing here the last access point where you can get back down (safely) to the Youth Hostel and the glen floor.
It’s really warm and sheltered here just climbing up the side of the mountain. As you can see from the photographs, we’re slowly beginning to shed layers of clothing.
Although it’s a long slog at this point (the whole distance covered from bottom to top is 16km) you’re so busy watching where your feet are going, and stopping occasionally to admire the view that, on the way down I can guarantee you’ll not remember the distance or any of the path covered here.
The Glen provides some fertile land for the grazing of cattle, mainly of the famous highland type, but not much else in the way of agricultural land. Most of the Glen is actually laid over for forestry which is far easier to grow than crops. There’s plenty of sheep roaming the mountain sides though, but they were “baa-d” 😆 and ran away whilst I was trying to photograph them!
Turning round and looking back down into Glen Nevis, the campsite and our dry shelter are getting further and further away.
Parts of the climb are like this, where you just have to climb over boulders, and watch your footing. And obviously staying well clear of the edge too, especially even more so with the wet conditions underfoot.
We cross this bridge and then we turn the corner…….
……and the scenery is completely changed. The summit of Ben Nevis being completely hidden in the clouds. Will this be my 6th ascent and still no view off the top? Well, one of the gaelic translations of the meaning of “Ben Nevis” is, after all “the mountain with its head in the clouds”.
So, Liam and I pause for a quick photograph here, which is at about 5oom high. And, further on, we’ll be crossing over that burn (stream) that you can see near the top right of this photograph at about 800m.
Over 250,000 people are said to trek this path each year. It takes a band of volunteers spending their spare time repairing and maintaining this path many hours to keep it as good as it is here. For as long as the path is good, and walkable, this prevents walkers from straying off the path and damaging, or creating, further unnecessary paths and “scarring” the mountain side.
I mentioned earlier that we would be crossing over this burn (stream) that you saw coming down the mountainside earlier.
Looking up at the waterfalls, I remember the last time I was here when this whole area, including the waterfalls were frozen solid!
Turning with my back to the waterfalls and looking across and down to the centre left, where Liam and I had our photo taken, the zigzag path that we’re following, is slowly weaving its way upwards.
Quite a bit of the path requires you to hop from boulder to boulder. You need good sturdy boots to support your ankles on this sort of terrain. That probably explains why this tourist needed rescuing after attempting to climb one of the sister mountains of Ben Nevis in flip flops!
Fort William, the town situated at the end of Glen Nevis, is largely obscured behind the mountain in the centre of the photograph. Beyond that is the village of Corpach, which used to be isolated but has now largely become part of the Fort William spreading township.
Looking down on a rare glimpse of sunlight moving through the Glen, the River Nevis snakes its way from the Mamores, hidden to the left of this photograph and will eventually end up in Loch Linnhe. You can just make out Loch Linnhe at the top right.
Loch Linnhe can be seen more clearly in this photograph and the mountains over to the far right form the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The Ardnamurchan peninsula is an extremely remote, relatively inaccessible part of the mainland with only one single track road round it allowing the wildlife, particularly the nesting Golden Eagles, to live there in peace.
Anyone for a snowball fight? As we approach the summit and enter the clouds, patches of all year round snow like this one can be found. You’ll see the change in temperate too from what we’re now wearing in the next couple of photographs, compared to what we were wearing earlier.
And at this point you’ll be wanting to reach for those no-bake almond oat bars. Yep, there’s nothing like bribing your climbing friends into shamelessly promoting your recipes by suddenly producing free food. Oh and Talisker whisky to drink too. I’d basically had nothing to eat since I snacked on Liams lunch pork pies earlier! 😀
Obligatory selfie on Ben Nevis Summit. 10.30am.
And that’s it. We have arrived. It’s 10.30am, and we are here at 1344m or 4409ft on the summit of Ben Nevis. Three hours is pretty good timing. We had good overall dry conditions throughout so were able to keep going to a good pace.
This trigonometry point situated on the stone cairn was the old fashioned way of measuring the heights of these mountains using angles and maths. Nowadays, of course, we’ve GPS and satellites for things like that.
There is a man-made emergency shelter structure, built just to the right of this trigonometry point, which is higher than this cairn. There were too many people around to take a photo of that, and not much to see due to the cloud cover anyway. Head on over to this site to see those images and other structures located on the summit without cloud, should you want to.
We manage to make it back down to the bottom by about 2.30pm. So, overall we did it in about 7 hours. The guides recommend allowing 7 – 9 hours for the whole round trip. I put the camera away to concentrate on getting back down in one piece. You don’t need me to tell you, as you probably already know, but most accidents occur coming down mountains, so I like to keep both hands free.
Lynne and I headed to The Glen Nevis Restaurant and Lounge Bar to celebrate where she enjoyed a well deserved pint of cider and myself a pint of locally produced ale.
That evening we met up with Liam and Catherine for a fabulous dinner in the Alexandra Hotel in Fort William. It wasn’t a late night, as you can imagine we were pretty tired out. We slept well in the tent that night, only awoken once during the night by a torrential downpour!
Touring around Lochaber and Achnacarry Sunday 23rd August
As the weather forecast looked good for Sunday, we had decided to have a bit of a drive. Fort William is situated in the area of Lochaber which has stunning scenery. There’s plenty to see and do, not to mention the rich history of the area. I’d also wanted to visit the ancestral home, Achnacarry, of my family clan Cameron for many years now, so today was that ideal opportunity.
Travelling to Achnacarry you have to stop and pay your respects at the Commando Memorial. During the 2nd World War, Achnacarry was their base, and this whole area trained 25,000 Commandos during that time. The Commandos went through such intense training here to qualify for that accolade. Many didn’t make it. But, many did and went on to be one of the most affective and feared fighting forces in the world. This memorial is a tribute to those feats of the past, the also the continuing bravery and lives lost by British servicemen today.
Above, the gates to Achnacarry estate and castle, are emblazoned with the Cameron motto “Aonaibh Ri Chéile,” which roughly translated means “Unite” or “Let Us Unite“.
Situated in the grounds of the Achnacarry estate, and built in a renovated and previously derelict old post office, the Clan Cameron Museum, tells the history of the clan from the 14th century to the present day. The Camerons were instrumental in joining and supporting bonnie Prince Charlie and taking part in the Jacobite uprising in 1745. The museum is a wealth of historical facts and information as well as having many historical artifacts and memorabilia to see.
Lady Lynne surveys her estate here. Lol 😛
Achnacarry castle. Seen here, through the trees. Where the current 27th chief, Donald Angus Cameron, known to the Camerons, simply as “Locheil” lives with his wife and family. Naturally, this is a private residence, and this is as close as we could get. But, actually we did see him, when he drew up at the museum to drop someone off. One of those moments where you really don’t know what to do. I think I stared. How rude. Should I not have bowed? 😮
So, the weather forecast was good, as I mentioned earlier. Beautiful, warm and sunny. But windy. In fact extremely windy with gusts enough to make you have to hold your ground. The white crests on the waves here in Loch Lochy demonstrating that fact.
I took this picture driving back to the camp site. Ben Nevis is actually the third peak from the left. You could possibly have seen off the top today. But the conditions up there would have been pretty dangerous and likely you would have been blown off and ended up in Norway!
So, here is where I explain about the reasons for our early retreat. Does the state of the tent say enough? 😐
We returned to the camp site for what we had planned and hoped, to be a chilled out Sunday afternoon. Snacking on olives and bread, a glass of wine in the sunshine and a reading of our books. We’d even bought in steak and salad for our dinner too!
Unfortunately, relaxing in the sun, just wasn’t to be. No matter how many times we replaced and hammered the tent pegs back into the ground, they just would not hold in the wet saturated ground. The fierce gusts of wind instantly whipping the pegs right back out of the ground again.
And so, reluctantly, we packed up. A day earlier than planned, and we headed home, on what should have been a 3 hour drive back to Glasgow. Unfortunately a series of accidents on our usual route home, and indeed what would have been the alternative choice route home, meant we had to take the third option, a very long 100 mile coastal detour. A five hour journey instead of three!
Still, looking on the bright side there was some pretty stunning scenery on that route home. And, at least the weekend wasn’t in any way challenging with the rain, like Loch Brandy! We did what we came to do, and enjoyed every minute of it. 😀
If you enjoyed this have you checked out my other hillwalking posts?
Oh, and you still have time to enter the TioTina Cookware Oven Gauntlets Giveaway. Make sure you do soon as the winner will be announced next Tuesday, when I’ll have a brand new recipe then too.
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