Posted by: suzannetakesyouup | July 28, 2010

Ben Nevis, highest peak in Scotland (1344m)

I took the overnight sleeper train to Fort William on Friday and was at the start of the “tourist path” at 11.30 Saturday morning. They call it the tourist path because it is well-defined the whole way up and no specialist climbing equipment is required. But it is absolutely not for your average tourist! It’s a tough climb – big rocky steps on many sections that work your legs hard. The path zig zags up steep stony slopes and, as you approach the top, several false summits appear – it seems like you’re about to reach the peak but as you continue you see a still higher summit ahead.

It was an exhilarating climb, though, and the views were absolutely fantastic until I reached the top third of the mountain, when mist obscured everything beyond 20 metres or so.

There were a fair number of climbers raising money for charities – I was wearing my green NSPCC Team Go T-shirt and passed a woman wearing the same and we high-fived each other! I also saw a fundraiser with a plastic kangaroo on his back (see picture below) and an extreme ironer.

Ben Nevis, or the ‘The Ben’ as locals call it, seems to be the mountain of choice for dogs; I saw tens of them lead their owners up and down – several with dog boots on to help them cope with the terrain.

I didn’t have a music player with me, so I sang every song I could think of with the word “mountain” in it (getting pretty carried away with the song Wild Mountain Thyme). I noticed once again the “mountain effect”: my thoughts were very positive and I felt free of worries and hang ups.

It was a shame that there was quite a bit of rain and that the mist obscured the view towards the top. But I didn’t mind much and still felt elated at the summit – for a short while I was the highest person in Britain!

Coming down was tough. The ground was slippery in the rain and my by now tired legs struggled with the steep steps. I saw one man fall over the edge of a path, which was upsetting. He slid rather than rolled and so he was able to stop and climb back up, which was such a relief. My legs have been stiff and only now feeling back to normal – I obviously need to get fitter and stronger if I’m to climb higher mountains. It’s coming down after a big climb, I find, that tests your stamina more than the going up!

“Why does a man climb mountains?” asked Wainwright. Different reasons for different people, no doubt, but surely for everyone the sense of succeeding in a challenge is always rewarding and uplifting. And, combined with amazing views, the contrast to everyday tasks and surroundings, the interaction with friendly people and the natural high that comes from exercising, it is a very life affirming experience.  If you’ve never tried it and are able to, I recommend you do!



  1. Well done!

    Nice views of the path. So, where to next?

    • Thanks Graham. My next planned mountain climb is Carrauntoohil (Ireland’s highest!) in August.

  2. Sounds like a beautiful hike. In the Columbia River Gorge many of our hikes top out around 4 – 5,000 ft. There are a few hikes that also have the false summits you speak of. They usually always offer great views, but are frustrating as you still haven’t made it!

    Great post – On a positive note, at least the rain is able to keep the grass so lush and green!

  3. Great climb Suzanne! what an accomplishment to summit these beautiful peaks – and your photos are so lovely. Thank you for taking us up!

  4. Wonderful pictures–they make me want to rush right over. It looks so lush from here in California, where summers are dry and brown, though it sounds like the rain and mist made it a particularly challenging hike, especially on the return. I just got one of those walking sticks you can adjust to different heights, great for downhill.
    Extreme ironing?? What a hoot! I’d never heard of it. Love Wild Mountain Thyme–thanks for reminding me of it. It sounds like a splendid day.

  5. Hi Sue!
    Well done on climbing Nevis, having done it myself last year I know its no push over! If you make it up to Yorkshire you might want to consider doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks. The route consists of the Pen-y-ghent (691m), Whernside (728m), and Ingleborough (723m) peaks and might make good practice for your attack on the highest peaks of Great Britain! 🙂 .
    Anyway, hope all is well with you and the family – let me know about your mountain-based activities and if you ever want company let me know!
    All the best, Jake 🙂

    N.B To anyone from the online community who reads this Sue is my aunt so don’t get worried by my familiarity! haha!

  6. Congrats on the climb! Amazing pics! And thank you so much for introducing me to both extreme ironing and dog boots (never heard of either til now)! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done! I love reading about your adventures and find myself checking your blog frequently anticipating your next hike. Keep up the great work! 🙂

  7. That’s a great climb, Suzanne – 4,409 feet by my reckoning. Plenty steep and “up there”! We have never invested in dog boots but we seriously need to – we’ve had dogs wear their pads off on hikes in the high desert of Oregon (seriously bloody paws). We lean toward the leather ones, but I have seen Gore-tex marketed, too.
    Anyway: the scenery is beautiful, the wildflowers… breathtaking!
    And, yes, the DOWNHILL is sometimes harder (esp. on the knees) than the uphill. Do you carry a walking stick or two? The metal ones they sell in stores dig in and help steady you considerably.

    I can’t wait for your next installment. You make me feel like such a “whinging sook”. 😉 And you inspire me!

  8. Well done! I especially like the last photo. Shame that the weather wasn’t too good.
    I have been there but only to look up at the top, and nowadays a definite non-starter for me. xx

  9. Oh, I definitely agree that downhill is much harder on the legs than uphill. Love the pics, especially the harebell and the hiker with a blow-up kangaroo. What was *his* story?!

  10. Great post, Suzanne. Please keep these posts coming. I so look forward to them! Grand photos. Love the sheep one. 🙂

  11. Funny that it’s harder going down, most wouldn’t think it was that way. It looks a bit rocky, hope the guy that slid didn’t get chewed up. Between reading your posts and my niece’s blog, she lives in Thetford, I really need to get to England soon! Nice pics!

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