|Ben Nevis TACC KiltWalk 2010|
How does the song go? "I will walk 500 miles & I will walk 500 more...." For all of us that took part in the West Highland Way & Ben Nevis walk on Saturday 17th April, it felt like we'd done just that.
Not content with walking from Hampden to Loch Lomond, a few of the dafter elements of the Tartan Army & friends who wanted to do something in the wilds of Scotland for charity, decided to walk from Glen Coe over the Devil's Staircase & down & up & down & up & ...well you get the picture, all the way to Ben Nevis, then up & down that too. 29 miles in all.
Everybody set off on the Friday from all around Scotland (including Dumfries, Glasgow, Fife, Edinburgh & Inverness), filled with a mixture of excitement & dread. Following a quick stop at the Kingshouse Hotel & thanks to Jon Haber from Walkabout Scotland Adventures and Angus MacLellan from Hopscotch for driving their minibuses in the night, we got everybody to the start at Altnafeadh, Glen Coe for a 1.30am, yes "AM" start. This was to make full use of daylight on the Ben, with an 18 hour walk ahead for some.
After the long car/bus journey, the 24 walkers were keen to get started, so, kitted out with head torches, waterproofs (& kilts for some), we all headed off up "The Way" through the light rain at a fairly rapid pace.
Coming down the trail to Kinlochleven in the dark, 6 miles into the walk, most of the group were still feeling good but given the cold, were ready for a hot cup of tea at our first rest-stop. Dave & Speedy (our support team) had sensibly set up shop out of the wind. Unfortunately for the rest of us, this was out of sight of the trail so after a minor deviation, we found them & had a much needed rest & warmed up with tea & coffee for the walk ahead.
After a short walk through the village, we reconnected with the trail & headed up steeply through the woods, passing a mad cyclist carrying his bike down the hill in the dark. This 2nd push uphill stretched out the walkers into separate groups & with dawn breaking as we came into Lairigmor (the great pass), we got our first taste of the big hills on both sides of the way. 12 miles in, on the long descent down to the Nevis Forest, the strain was starting to tell. Many of us wondered if the #*#^!X* forest would ever end!
Finally, we came out into the Glen & the welcome sight of the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre below eased the aches & pains for about 2 seconds before looking up & seeing the massive Ben Nevis looming overhead.
After 19 miles of hard slog, the groups coming in collapsed in heaps at the centre, ate "breakfast", pierced blisters, strapped up feet & got changed into dry clothes. Dave & Speedy did the honours with hot drinks & biscuits again, the sensible ones among us decided enough was enough & the lunatics then set off up the Ben.
As we plodded steadily up the hill, we got great views of the Glen, the Mamores & across to Loch Eil which we appreciated for short breaks in between grimly placing one foot in front of the other. The half-way lochan came as a welcome flat stretch before heading up the zig-zags again towards the summit.
Following our worst winter in 30 years, there was still plenty of snow above 3000 feet & as the weather closed in, the conditions became pretty testing. Getting to the top in near-whiteout conditions & navigating back down was a massive achievement for those who made it, but more importantly, all the walkers used excellent judgement (definitely not a standard Tartan Army trait) in deciding when to come back down the Ben, not taking any risks. Everyone made it back, shuffling along & feeling 90 years old but almost in one piece.
Few of us have felt more grateful at seeing a pub than when arriving at the Ben Nevis Inn at the foot of the Ben (home for some of the group). Some folk were just too "done in" to make it back out for food & pints afterwards & even the thirstier walkers amongst us were grateful for their beds when last orders were called.
So next time we're at Hampden singing "I'll walk a million miles for one of your goals......" some of us will be thinking about the stretch we put in that day.
Chris and the guys who did the Ben Nevis Kiltwalk raised nearly £12,000.TACC in turn donated £6,000 to their other chosen children's charity - Hopscotch.