Lochan Meall an t'-Suidhe, known to most as the Halfway Lochan on Ben Nevis. (Phot: Mike Marshall)
In the summer of 2002, in the adolescent twilight between A-Levels ending and university beginning, four friends and I travelled north from the West Country and walked the West Highland and Great Glen Ways from Glasgow to Inverness. We stayed in Fort William for a halfway break and on my 18th birthday made the pilgimage to the top of Ben Nevis. Those three weeks were the first time that I was really unleashed on the Scottish hills and a spell was cast over me that's still working it's magic today. Before long I took up residence as a student in Edinburgh and started making attempts to break out and walk in the hills on weekends: train journeys to Bridge of Orchy, drives to the Cairngorms. As my confidence grew, the thrill of rocky scrambling and winter walking began to appeal as ways to reach bigger and better personal peaks. Then, one day I had a go at the next logical step, rock climbing, and everything changed. I joined Edinburgh Uni Mountaineering Club, blew my loan on mountains of shiny hardware, and spent evenings falling off lumps of plastic at the indoor wall. All of a sudden weekends were taken up charging round the Highlands looking for dry crags and walking was demoted to a simple means of access, rather than an activity in it's own right. The poor walking boots never stood a chance and but for the odd foray have been gathering dust for the last five years.
So it was a really refreshing change to put the boots back on and to enjoy a day's walking this weekend. I had invited my Dad and brother up from Somerset and Glasgow respectively to take them up Ben Nevis. Neither of them are really outdoorsy types and havn't spent much time in the hills, so this was a chance to show off Scotlands jewels. Wanting to give a good impression we went up via Carn Mor Dearg and CMD Arete, only having to jostle with the crowds on the tourist path on the first half of the descent. It's a really nice route up the Ben, with stunning views of the mighty north face, a bit of air beneath you on the exposed CMD Arete, two Munros for the price of one, a decent amount honest slogging to earn the evening's beers and hardly anyone else around. All went to plan, and Mike and Dad bagged the Ben with ease and were all smiles, despite the clouds hiding the view for much of the day. Maybe the mighty Ben will have cast it's spell on two more unsuspecting people....
Mike, me and Dad, happy trekkers on the Ben (Photo: Jon Marshall)
Managed a quick run on Sunday evening to see how things were shaping up on the slab. Personal best of 50 minutes from car to crag, but think this could be trimmed down substantially.
Run-in tunes: Son of Red Mixtape by Stevious.
Good news: The top snow patch and almost all of the bottom one has disappeared. Bad news: The route is dry; no more excuses. Except, this one: as soon as I got on the route it started to rain. Using my GCSE physics I deduced:
holdless granite slab + water = low friction
Abbed the line to check the cam slot: it takes a Wild Country Zero 4. Going to have to weigh up the psycological advantage of knowing I've got some gear to go for, even if I've done all the hard climbing by then, against the faff of trailing a redundant rope for the very thin first 12 metres. However, there's a long way to go before I need to worry about that.....
Run-out tunes: None, my ipod battery is crap.