Not too many weeks ago, I climbed (hiked) Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK (though lower in elevation than my home in Kigali). Today it has been cold and rainy, which somehow seems an appropriate time to write about the climb. This was a big climb for me – my longest ever. You go from sea level to 4,400 feet and back in about 9.5 miles. For all the other outdoor things I love, you might wonder why this is the longest hike (in terms of elevation change) I have done. I have bad knees, and honestly did not know how they would do, but figured it was worth finding out.
I tried to put everything in my favor including buying walk poles. In America, it seems walking pools are for the old or the trendy. In Scotland, however, they were a normal part of hiking attire and at least one third of the hikers (of all shapes and sizes and ages) had them. Given that Scotland is a land of walking, hiking, and climbing, I decided to learn from their wisdom. I am thankful that I did learn and plan on taking the sideways glances of Americans with a smile on my face every time I use them in the future. They are grand.
Back to the mountain. Actually, first to the glen. Our first day at Fort William, we decided to hike Glen Nevis, the valley below Ben Nevis. I didn’t think about the kilometers to miles conversion much, and we ended up doing a 12 mile walk. I can fairly confidently say that Matt & Lauren (brother & sister-in-law) would have been thrilled to turn back early and cut the walk in half (or less). But, they humored me as I urged them on, and we stopped for many pictures along the way.
The next day was Ben Nevis. We were prepared with food, drinks, all appropriate layers and a compass in case the top became totally clouded in. The nice guy at the shop described it as a “long, hard plod.” But it was already sunny (miracle) and the weather forecast was good (another miracle). And so we began the plod up the mountain. At this point, I was reminded that my legs are used to walking flat ground for miles at end, but going up is not their favorite. Matt, who bikes all the hills of Edinburgh, smiled and urged me on. Ever the brother, he loved the role reversal.
Matt and I did make it to the top where we the clouds again cleared and granted us some amazing views. I need to mention here that Lauren, though not feeling great, made it half way up the mountain. This, from a woman who bought her first pair of hiking shoes less than two years ago. Check out her comments about the mountain here. And that is how I climbed a mountain, saw some grand views, and fell in love with walking poles.