Climbing Ben Nevis at night had been the challenge I had been looking forward to most. Probably the most unique and arguably one of the toughest challenges of the year. The other reason I was looking forward to it is Gill and I would be completing it together.
The team also included Kirsty, Mike and David.
We all travelled up on Friday to Glasgow. A relaxing evening of some food and a few beers before the big day arrived.
The pain was we had to wait until 17.00 for our coach to Fort William. I can now probably tell you the location of every coffee shop in Glasgow.
As we made the 3 hour journey through the gorgeous Highlands the rain started.
When we arrived, the marquee was a little small for the 160 people doing the walk. This freaked me out a little, couldn’t get my little corner of quiet I like before starting an event!
We had tea and a safety briefing about how dangerous it was and not to fall off the edge of the top. It was clear not everyone in the tent would make this challenge!
Around 10.00 we started. We waited to cross the small bridge out of the visitor centre onto the path to the top. The first mile was flat and it was still light and then we started to climb and it slowly started to get dark. We split into two groups at this stage David and Mike going ahead and Kirsty Gill and I sticking together.
As you climb the weaving path the terrain was getting more uneven under foot and it was getting darker. The route was lit at the major turns along the route but you had to rely on the light of your torch to see where you were going.
As you climbed you could see the trail of lights snaking up the mountain.
We passed through the first checkpoint in good time and then the weather and the terrain started to get a lot tougher.
The rain started to come down and the fog reduced visibility. As the walkers spreaded out it reduced visibility, we took it in turns to lead the way. It was really disorientating at times you couldn’t see anything ahead or behind and no idea where you were heading.
We then hit the toughest part of the climb. There are nine switch backs to get to the route to the summit and they do feel like they go on forever. This part of the route was as mentally challenging as a marathon. Never ending and not knowing when you would be at the top. We all struggled a bit at this point but persevered and did the last turn.
It was still another 40 minutes to the top but the terrain was better. However the wind increased and the temperature dropped. On we went!
Suddenly we hit snow and ice on the floor and clambered over that.
We then saw red glow sticks, these were at the summit to let you know where the edge was. It just was a dark abyss nothing else. Keep away and follow the green glow sticks.
Then we had made it to half way the summit. A quick stop for some pictures and then it was time to turn around and head back to the start. After four hours of walking we were all tired but we were only half way in to the challenge!
I actually found coming down tougher the strain on your legs was harder and as dawn started to break your decision making on where to put your feet was harder and actually slowed us down. In torch light you could only see a few paces in front of you.
As morning broke we could see how big the drops were on the sides of the paths and the amazing views through the rain. The magnificent waterfall we had crossed and heard on the way up powering from the top of the mountain all the way down into the valley.
We all wanted to be back now. Past what was the first checkpoint and only another hour and half of walking to go!
The tiredness was starting to kick in now, no sleep taking its toll. Kept tricking my mind telling it that it was the middle of the day to keep going.
Other walkers were starting their ascents full of energy and smiles and we summoned every last ounce of energy we had left to get back down.
Finally after eight hours of walking we saw the footbridge and headed back in to the marquee to round of applause and collected our medals. David and Mike completed the walk in just over six hours and were some of the first people back.
We slept on the bus, grabbed a burger and a pint at the train station before heading home after an amazing experience.
It was tougher than I expected, but such an amazing thing to do. I would love to go back and climb Ben Nevis again in daylight and see some views from the top.
Big thank you to Gill, Kirsty, David and Mike for joining me to climb Ben Nevis at night.
Kirsty has raised over £1000 on her just giving page and the support to David and Mike has pushed us within touching distance of £5000 for Sixteen in 16 so far.
You can sponsor me at www.justgiving.co.uk/sixteenin16