Yesterday was our 3rd wedding anniversary….here enjoy some photos from my favorite day of life:
Last year for our anniversary we had decided on a weekend getaway to the west coast to do our first proper hike. We did the Pap of Glencoe. Which wasn’t even a munro (a mountain over 3K feet in Scotland), but it was hard. Maybe it was because it was the first real hike, or maybe I was really out of shape, or who knows but it was hella hard. But we love the west coast (as does Stella girl) and really wanted to continue the anniversary tradition and head out there. We also know we might not be here next October (although, I am hoping we are) so we’re starting to think about our Scotland to-do and to-see list and getting things checked off. So we decided to head back on over to the west coast and take on Ben Nevis, which is the biggest mountain in the UK standing 4,409 feet.
From last year’s trip and the Cairn Gorm climb where we (either Stella or us) almost died, it would seem I’m a glutton for pain. But hiking is pretty rewarding, there is a clear start and end, and the views and scenery are amazing. And Stella loves it. Like LOOOOOOVES hiking. And it’s Scotland! This is what you do in Scotland. Had I ever really hiked in America? Nope. But I’m not in America. And if you’re signing up for expat life you have to embrace what your new home offers. And it’s hiking here! I got waterproofs and hiking boots and a head torch and rucksacks all since I moved here, and I aim to use them.
We did decide it wasn’t really necessary to take off any extra days. We headed to Fort William on Friday afternoon (its about a 3 ½ hour drive) and checked into the Lime Tree Hotel- a small place (about 10 rooms) with a good restaurant, breakfast included, and they are dog friendly. Bonus: it’s right in the center of Fort William and about 10 mins from the starting point of Ben Nevis.
Friday night we dealt with another 30 min drive from the hotel to the Clachaig Inn for dinner. Both trips we tried to stay here but they’re always booked! It’s alright because they were a little far from Ben Nevis, but definitely worth the trip for dinner. And of course, they’re dog friendly. Even the restaurant. E and I both had the Smoky Pork & Chorizo Chili and it was really, really good. I know a lot of people who have stayed and recommended it, and while I can’t say I have, if you’re traveling with a pup it’s a great dinner option at the very least.
Saturday morning we had breakfast at the Lime tree and made our lunches, packed our bags and headed out to the hike. As I said it was about a 10 min drive, so easy peasy. There is a big parking lot (£3 for parking all day), the actual center that we didn’t go in, and restrooms- PH33 6PF. Definitely go potty there because the problem is not only are there tons of people on the hike, but also there is nowhere to hide to loo it up. Even for the guys…just too many people.
Okay so before we left for the weekend, but after we decided to do this and book the hotel and all, I really started freaking out about if I could make the hike or not. I mean it seemed pretty intense. They said it would take between 7-9 hours and the weather could change and be awful, and the top is really cold. I read about all these lists of things you should bring (compass and head torch and lighter and extra shoelaces) and really started freaking out because we’re really amateur hikers and kinda hacks. We packed the best we could…forgot the head torch, but had a lighter and a compass (not that we knew what to do with it), loads of layers, gloves, hats, LOADS of food and water for us and Stella, waterproofs…no extra laces but ya know.
I had also wanted to start hiking at 8 am since daylight is decreasing and I had visions of it taking 15 hours and getting lost and who knows. But brekkie didn’t start until 8am and I am not missing free breakfast. So we ended up getting the visitor center around 9ish and set off the journey. It seems 9 am is a very popular time to start, though there were some people who must have gotten there at 7 or 8 am, and then bewilderingly we saw some people starting off at about 5. And they didn’t strike me as epic hiking kings or anything. I hope they were prepared or didn’t attempt to do the whole thing.
So we started at about 9:15am and were done right at 5. But E’s little Garmin told us we only were active walking for 5 hours, 25 minutes, and 10 seconds. We had taken a couple breaks on the way up to give Stella water and/or eat a banana, but then we spent quite awhile at the top eating a full lunch, having hot tea (definitely bring a thermos of hot water up there!), exploring, and taking it all in. But yeah, we really kind of hauled ass uphill I think (thanks to my big booty) and definitely took much longer going down. Oh my old aching knees.
We lucked out with great weather on the hike. Although it was freezing at the top. Freezing. We thought it was a cold so I started with a dri-fit tee, dri-fit long sleeve, and my waterproof jacket…but within a quarter mile took off the extra long sleeve. I kept the water proof jacket on because it was misting for the first bit and I didn’t want to get wet, but it stopping misting pretty soon and I rolled up the sleeves. At the top though…woah it was cold. I immediately took off my sweat soaked tee shirt and put on two long sleeve dri-fit tops, a Patagonia fleece and my waterproof jacket, a hat and gloves. But I still couldn’t get my fingers warm! I wanted to pour the hot tea on them. I also had a scarf that I didn’t end up using but what if I needed a homemade splint or something?! 🙂
I also used walked sticks for the first time on this hike! Maybe that’s why I thought it was an easier time up? And even though I still hated the journey down and my knees hurt…maybe they did help them to hurt less and make it easier? Who knows, but I think I would take them again.
The path is EXTREMELY well marked. You can’t miss it (assuming it’s not covered in snow). And we were there in the off-season and there were so many people…we rarely were on a spot where we couldn’t see others. I heard in the prime “summer” months its basically one long line trudging along (because there are parts where the path is slim). You do not need a guide if there isn’t snow on the ground. If there is snow…well hell if I know because I’m not hiking with snow. I do think you should make sure to have lots of layers and water and food, and of course proper attire and shoes. But I didn’t think it was that bad of a hike actually…and I’m really not a hiker. Nor am I in very good shape at the moment. So if you’re thinking about doing it….DO IT! Because then you’ll get to say you hiked to the summit of the UK’s highest mountain! #braggingrightsI hope next October we’re still living in Scotland and will be taking another weekend trip to the west coast to concur a new munro. Until then, I’m really looking forward to some friends coming in the early summer and heading to the Isle of Skye with them for hopefully great weather and gorgeous hikes. Get training Tracy and Brian!