Tue 1st September 2015
29th August 2015
Who would have thought that the last weekend in August was anything other than a sure bet that youíd get decent weather for a trip up Ben Nevis?
The jet stream, unfortunately, had other ideas. Itís position over the Atlantic was holding a continental high pressure system further east than usual. The balmy days of late summer were instead held in the grip of an Atlantic low pressure system sitting over western Scotland.
Ben Nevis, being the highest mountain in the UK, was shrouded in swirling mist, prolonged rain and strong winds. According to the weather forecast at the visitorsí centre in Glen Nevis the summit conditions were akin to – 13 Celsius!
Despite this a small group set off up the regular mountain path. Within minutes we were soaked but as the wind was behind us we got some assistance as we made our way up the rocky route. Eventually we reached the half way point and the mist. A quick conversation within the group led us to the conclusion that today was not the day for going for the summit. These decisions are always difficult because of the effort taken just to get to the start of a route but the mountain will be there in the future.
At this point the real adventure began when we decided not to return down the path we had come up but followed on into the northern corries of the Ben and descend along the Allt a Mhuilinn. The north face of Ben Nevis is a world famous mountaineering area and is home to one of a very few alpine style mountaineering huts and some of the most daring climbing in the world. The soaring rock faces and ridges were stunning in the swirling mist and even though we were not tackling them they held an air of intimidation. Our concern was crossing the stream to get to the descent path on the other side. This is an easy task as in the high summer itís usually a trickle – today it was a torrent. However by following it higher up the valley we found a place where a crossing seemed possible. With three of the party anchored mid stream we set up a safe passage and the excitement and drama of the situation meant that wet feet were of little concern.
Once on the other side the path surface improved and we made an easy descent back to Fort William having walked over 13 miles and made 2000 feet of ascent to get there.
You could say that Ben Nevis was one that got away this weekend but there is always adventure waiting around a corner.
Thanks for the support from the Shepherds Walks staff and to the group who remained positive in the face of some severe weather.