After a hectic weekend on Carrauntoohil, the highest mountain in Ireland, I went on with Ryan Air from Dublin to Glasgow. Here my plan was to climb UK's highest mountain, Ben Nevis (1344) in Scotland. Ryan Air's Prestwick Airport is quite far outside of Glasgow, but because the train was out of operation, buses went all the way to Glasgow Central Station free of charge. From there it was just a few blocks to walk to the Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow, where I almost immidiately jumped on a Citylink bus to Fort William (3 hours).
In Fort William it was raining, so I sought shelter in the large mall next door which also has a cheap restaurant. After a meal of Fish & Chips, the weather seemed to improve a bit. I started to walk toward the hostel Ben Nevis Inn, where I had reserved a bed (15 GBP per night). I mistakenly thought this was just a 5 minute walk from downtown, but it turned out that the hostel was some 3 km away. At the end of the walk it started to rain heavily, thus I was soaking wet when I checked in at the hostel. They showed me down in the bunkhouse (dormitory) located in the basement, which has a capacity of 36 people. Because this was outside of high season and not in the weekend, there was just a young woman from South Korea staying there. I spent hours talking with this artist (painter), who had sought refuge from the hectic city life in London, partly to relax and partly to paint for 4 days.
The rain continued throughout the evening, and therefore I was not keen to walk into the city center again, even though I lacked food. So instead of using the common kitchen, I had to go up in the restaurant one floor above in order to get me some food. The prices were high, but not outrageous. I got myself a lovely hamburger meal, while I caught a glimpse of Scottish culture, music and dance on the small stage. Then I retreated to the dormitory, in order to get a much-needed sleep before the upcoming hike to Ben Nevis.
Next day I woke up early, and to my surprise, it was not raining. Breakfast I had to skip, because the restaurant did not open before noon. Thus I had to do Ben Nevis on an empty stomach, but I got at least some water from the tap in the kitchen. The trail starts at the parking lot next to The Ben Nevis Inn at approx 40 meters above sea level. There was a sign with some information about Ben Nevis, and it said it would take 4 hours to the summit. I started the hike into the valley, the trail gained elevation gradually up the hillside to the left and then turned into a high valley. There was surprisingly few people on the trail, later I found out that this was because I started relatively early compared to the huge masses of hikers.
I eventually came to a mountain lake, where the trail went in the opposite direction up the rocky mountainside. The trail was built like a staircase of rocks and it was at least two meters wide. As I came up in the fog, the stairs also disappeared. It was obvious that they had brought stones up by helicopter, and that they have plans to build stairs to the very top of Ben Nevis. Although there was dense fog, the trail was easy to follow, and it must be virtually impossible to get lost here. The icy cold wind increased, and eventually it started to rain, sleet and snow. After almost 2 hours on foot I reached the top of Ben Nevis (1344m). There I was entirely alone in the dense fog, which limited the view to 10-20 meters ahead. I had no desire to hang out there for a long time because of the nasty conditions, so after the mandatory summit photos were taken, I went straight down again. I met a horde of hikers, and I must have said "Hi" nearly 100 times before I finally arrived back at Ben Nevis Inn. After a quick shower and change of clothes, I walked down to the center of Fort William to get me some much-needed food. The weather improved again during the afternoon, even the sun peeped out for a while. Thus I spent the whole afternoon and part of the evening in Fort William, before I finally went back the 3 km to Ben Nevis Inn for sleeping.
Next morning I woke up to dark clouds and rainy weather, but fortunately I got down to the bus station in Fort William without getting too soaked. From there I headed straight to Glasgow and some sightseeing in downtown. In the evening I caught a cheap flight (EasyJet) to London Gatwick and then an Emirates flight to Dubai, where I would meet Lars Holme on our "4 country high points in 4 days"-tour in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.
Ben Nevis at EveryTrail