Big Ben II...
Hiking day for Hans as Ben Nevis, the highest mountain (ehh.. hill) in Britain called for conquering.
Di had also read a bit and decided this was not her type of fun hike so made other plans in Fort William to fill the day, basically a long hairdresser appointment, some wandering and lunch.
We started out early as Arrochar Hotel was 90 minutes drive away and the Mountain Trail up Ben Nevis has been quoted as taking somewhere between 5 and 9 hours, depending on where you read and who you believe.
By 8.15am Hans was prepped for his hike from Glen Nevis Visitors Centre just outside Fort William, ready to set off with boots, beanie, gloves and of course his new LL Bean jacket for a first roadtest in a "serious" climate. A before photo...
We agreed that it would probably take Hans 6 hours and that Di therefore will return at 2pm. A kiss goodbye and we go our separate ways.
Di went to Fort William to find parking is at a premium - it all is pay and display - and her hair appointment was not for 10.30am. She decided to pass some time at Maccas, where you can park for free and coffee and hash brown is ok. But damn Wifi! It needed a code sent to a mobile phone number so that wasn't going to work with Hans carrying our phone. Oh well, she filled an hour or so with drafting emails, some solitaire and blogging.
Fort William, like many British towns has shops on a High Street. It was ok but nothing special. The attractions here are all the outdoor activities.
Not many photos for Di but we do have "before and after" hair appointment photos to show the improvement.
Then Cullen Skink for lunch.
Di was back at Glen Nevis visitors centre to meet Hans at 2pm.
Meanwhile, on the hills outside Fort William... This is how it all ended up.
The mandatory "kick off" sign...
The experience certainly didn't start well. Look at the photo below to see what Hans had just in front of him. Bloody Pitt Street...
Well, Hans soon overtook the groups as the "lowest common denominator" always rule and there is always one or three... It continued to be busy on the track but not as bad as above and the further Hans hiked, the less people he saw.
The track soon started to go up, up, up, up, up... You get the picture. It was relentless and really no break from the ascending at all, as the hike climbs more than 1,000m.
A couple of track pics...
Self portrait. Yep, it got colder and windier the further up Hans hiked.
Sort of a third up or so, there is a loch next to the trail. Not much around it though, but it looked nice.
And we continue up...
Ben Nevis is up there and behind somewhere.
The green soon gave way to rocks... And more rocks... And...
A view between the frequent clouds when it very temporarily cleared towards Fort William down there to the left somewhere.
And more rocks...
Parts of the Ben Nevis track had been made up nicely, but what you see below was an exception.
This was more the norm. The higher up Hans hiked, the more misty and cloudy it became. The next two photos are taken from the same spot and shows the track in both directions. One way...
... And the other...
Cairns started to appear... Even though it was cloudy this day, Hans was certain that it could get a lot lot worse. The cairns must be needed and are probably very well received by hikers.
After little more than 3 hours, Hans arrived at the Ben Nevis plateau, the end of the line. Hans found it all a bit disappointing, more rocks, ruined buildings and the only marker was the one that Hans is next to below.
Well, this is apparently the tallest point in Great Britain. 1344 metres high.
And this is how it looked around there... There were even a few flakes of snow dancing around in the air (and today was the last day of summer).
The "view" from the top... Ehhh...?
Unexpected at the top of Ben Nevis was this storm shelter. Hans went up to have a look inside and it seemed that it fitted at least 4 people. Wonder how often it is used...
This appeared to be a memorial for UN peacekeepers and was dated 1965. Why here...?
Not only hikers found their way to the top of Ben Nevis. Three bikers were there as well when Hans arrived. The guys stayed a bit longer than Hans' 20 minutes there so later the bikers bypassed him.
Gotta admire the guys. This is seriously tough terrain for biking.
The hike to the top seemed to attract a very diverse number of people. This lady hiked in what looked like a set of pyjamas or maybe she just wanted to be sure that she would be found if the got lost.
One guy was hiking without a shirt and another hiker looked like a skinhead with black pants, black singlet and shaved head. Sorry, no pictures of either of them.
After a while coming down and coming underneath the clouds, it got warmer (well, a little less nippy) and cleared up. Good views.
Coming down was easy and fast apart from paying attention to where Hans put his feet on the rocks. It took around 2 hours and 15 minutes including breaks. He arrived back at the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre's parking lot at 2pm almost on the dot. Di was already there and after a short break, we were on our way.
A couple of additional final notes:
- There were quite a few Muslims on the trail. Mostly youngish people, blokes with bushy beards and girls covered up in traditional gear. Hans didn't know why hiking Ben Nevis would appeal to so many of them.
- Hans got rained on 3 times, perhaps 15-30 minutes each time. Mostly light rain so manageable
- Hans clothes worked fine for the hike and its varying temperatures and conditions. Surprisingly, what didn't work so well was the gloves which attracted moisture and made the fingers and hands very cold indeed and red. Also the face and the nose took a beating from the strong winds up there.
On our way home we saw this sign in Fort William and read it as anybody who climbed Ben Nevis will get a certificate. So we stopped and got into the shop, but the certificate it turned out was for people who had completed West Highland Way which goes from Glasgow to Fort William. Hmmm... That was a bit unclear to us.
After a break in the room, we went for dinner at Village Inn down the road. We had booked a table for 7pm.
It all started well enough. Very nice setting at the Village Inn, good service, nice wine...
Hans ordered red snapper, but that was overcooked and chewy and very disappointing.
Di ordered the potato skins, the 3rd Special dish on the menu above and it was all served in a small bowl, sort of mixed together, meaning that the potato skins were soggy. When we spoke to the waitress about it, she said it was Mexican style. Now, what's wrong with that? Well, the word Mexican was not on the menu, and anyway, potatoes are not a big staple food in Mexico, rice and corn are. We didn't have to pay for it though so that was good. And given that Di only had a salad, due to not eating the potato skins, they brought her 2 complimentary shortbread. Not quite the same but nice anyway.
We left the restaurant after an hour, went back to base and chilled for the rest of the evening. Good night.