Hiking Ben Nevis for the first time
Updated: Mar 15
Ben Nevis - the tallest mountain in the UK.
Standing at 1300 meters with various paths rated in various difficulties proudly overlooking the town of Fort William.
I am no hiker. Steffan, well he has calf muscles and that's a start isn't it for hill walking.. the relevant muscles required will always help.
I was raised in the flatlands and had barely walked a hill in years so on reflection, hiking Ben Nevis was a pretty ridiculous idea but all the same, we did it.
If you have read my account of hiking Ben Nevis you will appreciate a lot of lessons were learnt. And they were indeed learnt the hard way.
So let me share them with you!
The Midges are on the mountain too
For the love of God please do not forget your midge spray! Apply it and pack it.
We knew how bad they were. We had been fighting these blighters for three weeks straight with no rest. Yet, in the excitement and confusion of preparing to climb the Ben we not only forgot to apply Midge spray, we also forgot to pack it.
We were swarmed so badly just 45 minutes in my life flashed before my eyes. Well okay not quite, but I at least considered quitting. Steffan looked at me and said (and I quote)
'You have so many dead midges on your face you look like a bread and butter pudding'
Wear and take the right gear
Pretty basic tip but honestly guys it is so important. This is one thing we managed to get right or I swear I would have had to honestly call for the rescue services. The one thing I would at least say was I was wearing the right clothing.
At the very least you need a decent pair of walking shoes or boots. The terrain is not easy even on the 'easiest' paths and you will find yourself more often than not climbing boulders and scrambling on scree than you will on any type of path.
Walking poles were my saviour as my knees were not great but we shared and used one each which was actually pretty helpful.
Take layers for the top! Apparently, it gets cold.... I say apparently as we just happened to hike Ben Nevis during a heatwave... but even so, we had them just in case.
Its not a Sunday stroll despite what the masses may say, TRAIN FOR IT
Sure go and give it a go without training, I am sure you will manage it. But I can promise you it will be far more enjoyable if you do put in some hours beforehand.
I am no hiker. I love a good walk. But generally, I am found on the flatlands. Wandering aimlessly looking at trees and flowers. Not huffing and puffing and dying as I climb higher grounds to see the potential view that may or may not be there. I did start to get a little more acclimatised to hilly walks and hikes during lockdowns and we did hit one mountain (the worst day of my life to date) but it honestly was not enough.
My legs could not take it. My body struggled. The last 300 meters were HELL and I was needing to sit down every SIX steps. It was bad. The days afterwards were no better and required painkillers, bed rest and water. Even my mountain goat of a husband struggled to walk.
I wish it upon nobody and so I say to you if you are not used to mountain hikes, train.
Our bodies need water
Take water and ideally refillable water bottles with filters so you can fill them up at the waterfall around halfway up, we used the Waterwell bottles and took four in total. Yes, it was a hot day but even so, you don't want to be caught out with no water halfway up a mountain and no there is no coffee shop at the top. I know. We were disappointed too.
On the subject of rehydration, we both strongly recommend rehydration tablets that you can add to your water. I am 100% sure that had I not been using these I would not have made it. The mountain I mean, not still be here. I am not a human that regulates my own temperature very well for some unknown reason and when I am hot I seem to sweat more than anyone thinks possible and still remain hot. I often had heatstroke as a child. So when these were recommended to us I had them ordered on amazon quicker than you could say dehydrated.
Our bodies need Food in many shapes and forms
Okay so if there was one thing we did well it was food. No surprise there. We had sandwiches, cereal and protein bars, nuts and plenty of bags of sugary sweets. The last 300 meters I think I may have polished off almost two entire bags all to myself in the hope it would somehow revive my lifeless legs. No such luck.
Just pack up as much as you can take. As per the previous point, there is no coffee shop at the top. There is however a pointy and uncomfortable rock you can sit on whilst you smugly eat your sandwich overlooking a view that leaves you totally vertigo ridden.
The view is not bad at all although it is surprisingly high up
We were lucky with the weather, or so we were told. My tomato face, soaking wet clothes from constant and relentless perspiration and symptoms of heat stroke said otherwise. But the view was not bad and that I have to admit. We could see for miles. It was crystal clear in most directions with just the odd cloud floating by waving as it went.
Steff was in heaven, clicking away at every viewpoint which quite honestly left me nauseous... it was beautiful but it was high up. Not my smartest moment observing this as I stood at the highest point in the UK but even so, the point is, take a camera of some sorts. You will at the very least want proof of what you have accomplished.
Do not get sunburnt - it is no fun
Okay, so this may not be a common issue when in Scotland. We were told that the heatwave was very unusual but even so save yourself the pain of sunburn and pack suncream even if you don't think you will need it. Our sunburn hurt for days and that amongst the leg pain and midge bites just was a little too much to bear. Just pack it just in case.
We hope that these obvious yet helpful tips help you in your own Scottish adventures, had we adhered to our own advice we would have been able to do much more the following five days than just lay in bed complaining. But you live and you learn right? And without this experience, we would not have had much of a blog to write so every Scottish cloud has a silver lining.
To read my dramatic but very real experience of climbing the Ben stay tuned......