Thursday 9th August 2007
Weather/Conditions: Cool in the morning, while under shadow of the mountain. Stayed fairly constant until about 4000 feet where the wind picked up a bit on the summit plateau. Last few hundred feet were cloudy and (just a little!) miserable. Coming down, it was warm again below 4000 feet and the sun was out with cumulus in the sky. Below 2000 feet until off the mountain is was a little unpleasantly hot and humid, especially in the final half hour or so where the summer sun was high in the sky, making it very hot.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 14km / 1320m / 6h 40m
Accompanying: Alex Williams
On the 8th of August, just before midday, Alex and I were dropped off at Queen Street Train Station. We stood outside with sleeping mats and jackets everywhere, trying to work out how to get it all onto our backs. After a little improvisation and problem solving, we managed to carry everything on the rucksacks, which I was doubtful of at first. We walked into Queen Street, and got our tickets. (£19.10 - child open return, I was still 15 at the time)
We didn’t wait around much before getting on the train, which was at the last platform. We got on the 1238 train and before long it was leaving. I did have a small concern that I wasn't sure if the carriage we were on would go to Fort William - two carriages went to Oban, two to Fort William and two to Mallaig, splitting apart at Crianlarich (We could have ended up in Oban! Oops....). It was all fine though.
We began moving, and the train didn’t seem to take long to get out past Dumbarton, Garelochhead and Arrochar, and we had great, clear views of the Arrochar Alps; The Cobbler in particular, which we’d climbed weeks previously. Ben Dorain was also a great and familiar sight. Passing over Rannoch Moor was also interesting, but after a while it seemed Alex was growing a little tired and as he slept, (or attempted to) I sat looking out the window most of the time, as we trundled up past Loch Treig. Rannoch Moor is a remote place, yet quite amazing all the same.
About an hour after reaching Rannoch Moor, we arrived in Fort William at around 4.30pm. We instantly went to the supermarket which was beside the train station to get our food supply for the coming days. We didn't buy a lot either, but it was easily sufficient to keep us going. After that, we began finding our way into Glen Nevis.
After a couple of miles of walking, we passed the campsite and soon after, we came to the Youth Hostel. I had tried to book a night in there beforehand, but it was already full by the time I checked for availability. We crossed the bridge at the Youth Hostel and walked on a small path by the river before cutting up onto a field. Much of the field was boggy, but we found a patch sheltered under no more than four or so trees. Once we had pitched the tent (which was surprisingly easy to do with two people) we had a hell of a lot of land, along with incredible views to ourselves, or so it felt like. We spent the rest of the night organising things and going out into the “field” (Which was more rough ground then a field). We entertained ourselves for the evening with games of 'get-back-to-the-tent-with-camos-going-unnoticed'.
We only stopped when the sun went down and it became colder, retreating to the tent for the night. I clambered out once or twice more, but we primarily stayed inside after that. When it was finally time to sleep, we ended up shitting ourselves, because with every noise outside you wonder if it’s a person outside your tent... We must have done that for about an hour before I finally fell asleep at about midnight.
I think it was my watch alarm that finally woke me up at 5.30am the next morning. However I didn’t get up until about 6am or 6.30am. The first time I put my head out of the tent it was foggy, although it appeared to the ground fog, as the sky appeared to be turquoise beyond. We sat organising gear and packing stuff for the day, getting “breakfast”, (nothing more than an apple and some Haribo or the likes) and generally being grouchy with each other. I put that down to tiredness.
We finally left the tent at 7.20am. I wanted to put the tent behind some bushes though: I found some sheep wool on in the grasses the night before, suggesting its grazing land, and my gut feeling was not a good one. We tried moving it but with the sleeping bags and extra gear all inside, it was too hard to move, and after Alex reassured me that his gut feeling was telling him it would be fine, I apprehensively left it where it was, and we set off.
It was 7.30am by the time we started walking on the path, and we crossed the fence, where a woman was huddled up in clothing with a mug of what looked like tea, reading a book. Oh it must be fun to sit there huddled up with a hot mug of tea, reading! That was much nicer anyway, because I felt half dead, with half-asleep legs... In fact, I felt pretty horrid for the first while. Maybe two Dextrose tablets will get me going? They might have done. We briefly read the notice boards at the bottom, I took a quick note of where the path was (getting to the summit basically meant keep to the right, but don't worry, we had maps) and we headed off. It initially wasn’t the best fun we could have had, but we slowly climbed above the mist and an incredible view opened up. (1st picture below)
In the valley, the ghostly white mist slowly flowed through, and the sky was cloudless and was still a little dark. To the south the peaks were lit by sunlight. If there was any moment that was magical, that was it.
We continued upwards though, and after following the steep path from the youth hostel we joined with the older path and went right. We charged on, before encountering people that had started even earlier. We went upwards and into the small valley where the river flowed through coming around the left side. Above us, we could only just see the lifeless granite hump of Nevis. We just worked on and on, and i have to say I quite enjoyed myself. The path zigzagged once, where we passed more people, and by this point, 9am, we had already reached 2000 feet.
I could hardly believe it! I felt like we had just started out, and we were already approaching the last section of the Cobbler, by equivalent height! As we continued on further, the lochan came into view and we went to the right again. I wouldn’t have minded visiting the hut under the north face by going to the left - that would have been enjoyable. But I will someday. The path started to zigzag up the steep slope. By 10am we had slowed the pace slightly and reached 3000 feet. We were getting great views, and all the massive peaks from the valley were all suddenly so small, and before long we could see over to Mull.
There were some thicker clouds coming our way, but nothing too major, otherwise the sun was just inching its way over the slope and gently striking us. The temperate was lovely - but we were shattered! I know what people mean by enduring a boring trek up the pony-track, but I don't view it as low as that. Still, the path just went on and on, upwards and upwards! Even still, we moved quickly (possibly because the mountain flattens out?), and approaching 4000 feet which by that time we were walking on a barren wasteland of granite. The north top of Carn Dearg was not far off, but I didn't consider going there, I suppose I had an overwhelming urge to get to the summit. After another short while the cloud set in and we found ourselves walking through mist. Wind picked up and it got a little colder. I still had a t-shirt on until the top though, but my hands became very cold because I had a GPS and camera in hand the whole way up, which I guess slowly cooled my fingers until I was struggling to get heat back into them.
The last part felt quick as the ground flattened and soon, we saw the buildings at the summit. On top of this, in one of the gully’s we found some snow. I suppose it never melts, because it was August and this lump was far more than ten feet across. We carried on to the last bit and at 10.50am, we reached the top! I put on gloves and a fleece, ate most of a roll and took some pictures. It was misty and cliffs were right beside us, they really weren't far away at all. They're massive cliffs, but it didn't feel terribly significant. I tried phoning home but couldn’t get through. Never mind though. There were no views, but everything still felt really good. Although only 11am there were a fair number of people arriving on the summit, but I suppose we were lucky, because the mountain was quiet, absent of great crowds. There weren't several hundred all piled onto the summit and all the better for it.
We'd had a good ascent because of the lack of crowds, but the way down was a completely different story. We left at 11.30am and got underneath the cloud again. Then the sun came out once more. And crowds of people swarmed up the path in a long snake, as we came down. The mountain just lost its atmosphere. It wasn’t overly bad, just not as exciting and wild, and it got hotter as we went down. Maybe it was a mixture of the crowds and heat but I didn't enjoy it as much as the ascent. The amount of people going up was crazy; I've never seen so many people on a hill before.
By 1.10pm we were back at 2000 feet and we took a small detour to the lochan, and refreshed a little, with a dip in the water for me and some sun cream for both of us. Leaving that, I felt a little better, although the walk was beginning to ware on me a bit. However, I went on steadily, better to get the bad parts behind you than to complain about it and have it in front of you! But the sun just got hotter, and by the time we got off the mountain at 2.15pm, it was sweltering and humid.
We got back to the tent (thank god it was still there) and collapsed inside, drinking the last of the water. We also decided that we’d got off the hill so early we may as well get a train home, as Alex seemed to be getting a bit homesick, and as I found out that also meant grumpy. So we packed our stuff and left about 3pm. It was a nice hike into Fort William, having had a rest already, and the next train to Glasgow was at 5.40pm, so we waited in Fort William for about an hour, before finally getting the train and heading home! I think we were shattered, and the journey back was quiet. I suppose we did find a great beetle that we'd carried from Glen Nevis. An old woman opposite us eventually stamped on it after it scurried around on the floor, and I had some games of FreeCell. The train back was nice, I enjoyed it, and we eventually got off at Dalmuir at about 10pm or so, got another train to Westerton where mum picked us up, we dropped off Alex at his house and got home not far off midnight!