Monday, 26 September 2011

The Ben

I am reliably informed that true climbers refer to this mountain not as Ben Nevis, but "The Ben". I do not think that I really can lay claim to being a true climber - not at all in fact - but I gave it a go.
It was my 40th birthday on Saturday and to celebrate I, with my best friend, caught the Caledonian Sleeper from Euston station late on Friday night, arriving in Fort William on Saturday lunchtime. Sunday morning, in fairly clear weather, we set off to attempt the Ledge Ridge on the North Face. There is a route, the Tourist Track, which, while not as easy as its name suggests, is a straightforward walk, but I wanted to do something scary for my birthday so we chose to attempt a Grade II scramble. The owners of the Bed and Breakfast where we stayed were impressed that we were attempting the North Face, which confirmed my idea that we were indeed doing something scary.
The weather was against us: it was windy and wet and slippery. We made good headway along the paths and gained a good 600m but the steep and rocky scramble was dangerous and, after a good try, we decided that it was not sensible to keep going and turned back. We were now a considerable way up a boggy, slimy, rocky mountainside and it was certainly in the scary zone just getting back down. We considered the option of skirting the mountain to meet the Tourist Track but, with a train to catch, thought we didn't have have enough time. I was very disappointed not to reach the summit.
And yet I have been inspired by a quote in the Scramble Guide Book which we were using: The best mountaineer is the one having the most fun. I am certain that we qualified on that score! I am also learning to see the achievement in the attempt. We gained useful experience of difficult conditions, tried out new kit, practised our navigation skills and learned the lie of the land and the start of the route. As we sat in the supermarket cafe waiting for our train home we set ourselves the goal of achieving all six scrambling routes on Ben Nevis. We looked at what we would need to do to be skilled enough to attempt a route graded as Severe and drew up a timetable. It will take a few years but I think then we will have earned the right to call this mountain "The Ben" and this is just the kind of thing I want to fill my Forties with!

No comments: