At the end of April I got a phone call asking if I'd guide a small charity group up Ben Nevis. They wanted to raise funds for the local kids and needed someone to guide them up as despite one being a sergeant in the army he had little experience of mountains. They said it was an all expenses paid 2 days, apart from food. I initially agreed, but when they mentioned the date 28th May 2011 my heart sank. That was my Richmond 5 Dales 100 mile cycle run. So I had to reluctantly back down.
A few days later, Peter called again and said what about the following Saturday? We all agreed on that date of Saturday 4th June 2011.....it took a few moments to realise that that would have been my mother's 86th birthday - co-incidence?!
If we had of went on the 28th May, I think we would have failed to climb Ben Nevis as gale force winds were racing across the UK that weekend. I know for one as I had to cycle 50 miles into a headwind and abandon the long route of the Richmond 5 Dales for the shorter 80 mile 4 Dales. At Hawes, lots of riders decided to do the same and bail out of the long route. So I can only imagine the winds high up at 4000 feet on Nevis.
Pick up came on Mum's birthday at a very early 05:30am and we arrived (eventually after much fuffing, faffing and slow driving) at the Glen Nevis car park, which I was moderately surprised to find had lots of car parking spaces. The weather forecast was looking grim with rain and thunder predicted, but there was still very bright sunshine in the glen and it was extremely warm as we set off.
I had 2 routes planned and at the halfway stop we could change from the tourist trail to the Choire Leis headwall route. But, at the said halfway point, all expressed the desire for the easy route! Many were very hot and despite taking up lots of bottles of water, had drunk most of it!
Just past the halfway it stated to get cooler and that give Peter especially a second wind. There was no difficulties to the top apart from a short 50 feet of snow climbing which seemed to amuse all the walkers. We soon arrived at the top in 3hours 50minutes - very good for complete mountain novices.
The top was the usual cloudy summit. I've never been on it's top in clear weather. I think the statistics are 300 days out of 365 are in cloud despite the fact every other mountain around the area might be in sunshine.
After much fuffing, faffing and picture taking ensued on the summit, the descent went extremely well and no injuries apart from Lee getting a blister from his army boots! Stunning views kept teasing us through the broken clouds of Fort William in bright sunshine. All was amazed at the views and height. The weather forecast had been totally wrong.
The overnight stay was at Glen Coe Youth Hostel and despite my "advice" to eat first and shower later, I was overruled and we had our showers and clean fresh clothes on to go to the Clachaig inn pub, and guess what? Despite the fact I told everyone the food would probably close at 9pm, when we arrived at 9:30pm they were surprised to hear there was no food available! Like the typical bunch of Geordies on tour, they then voted to return to Fort William for a chip shop a 30 mile round trip at 10pm at night.
The following morning was a slow drive back home. Everyone was pleased, most had sore legs and knees, most loved climbing Ben Nevis; some even loved the youth hostel.
Our tally time climbing Ben Nevis was 7 hours 47 minutes. I praised them as I honestly thought it was going to take close or over 10 hours. The praise was short lived however. The manageress of the youth hostel mentioned she did the trip a few days earlier in 3 hours 30 minutes!
I still cannot believe how things turned out. I really think Mum was looking out for us and helped in the planning and weather. Yes, I know it's daft, but I can't explain why everything fell into place perfectly.
Dedicated to what would have been my mum's 86th birthday.