This is not a definitive account of the event, just my view of it.
It's a funny ol' thing... life. You know... how one small, seemingly innocent thing like a forum posting can be directly responsible for me falling down the stairs at my father's house some six weeks later. "What's this guy waffling on about?" I can hear you ask. Well... I can't, actually, but it's a fair bet that you are.
It was Firth of Forth's posting on the geocaching.com forum in 2004, asking if there was any interest in a Scottish geocachers day out; 160 odd replies on 4 pages with over 7,000 hits testifies that there was. I'd been up to both of the Scottish annual 'bashes' and the thought of another trip to the highlands was not altogether an unpleasant one. After some forum discussion, Haggis Hunter said that he and TartanT were going to climb Ben Nevis and anyone who wanted to go along was welcome. That very definitely got me interested. I'd climbed The Ben some 40 years ago as a teenager and the chance to prove to myself that I could still do it was irresistible.
To cut a long story just a little shorter, I 'signed on' for Option One, booked a couple of nights at the Glen Nevis camp site, one night at a camp site in Cumbria, where I broke my outward journey and the following week off work to recuperate.
I started out at 14:00 on Friday and headed up the M1, A50 & M6. The traffic was horrendous; it took me 5 hours to cover the first 200 miles. I had a break for a meal and finally reached the campsite at Cove, just to the west of Penrith, at 20:30.
"It's a bit wet," says the lady as she shows me onto the field "We've had a lot of rain recently." She wasn't kidding either. The ground squelched underfoot and water bubbled up over my trainers. Ho hum... At least it didn't rain overnight and by 08:00 on Saturday morning I'd broken camp, had breakfast (coffee and a cereal bar) and was ready for the day. There was a cache, Aira Force, just a couple of miles away so I headed out to collect it before resuming my trek northward. A bad move, as it happened. As usual, I just followed the 'arrow' on my GPSr instead of the path and had to negotiate a barbed wire topped fence. I decided to go over rather than round. That was the bad move. I slipped and ended up with a deep, 4" long gash in my left calf. Not bad enough to require stitching but it took a bit of cleaning up before I could continue. It's a good job my tetanus jab was up to date. So... one cache bagged and an uneventful drive north found me on the campsite at Glen Nevis with my tent pitched by about 15:30. The 'South West' contingent, Mike (Molinnis Crew), Stuart (Stuey), Doug (Douglouse) & Trevor (Woodworm) arrived shortly afterwards having cached their way north from Cornwall. Introductions made, I was invited to join them on the hunt for their final cache of the day, Waterfall and Ruin. We met Bill (Ullium) and his wife, Angela, in the car park at the end of the road and we all made our way into the glen, following the Waters of Nevis to the ruin where the cache was hidden. A beautiful place and worth every step of the 5 Km (seemed like 5 mile) round trip. The midges were a real annoyance but I'd come prepared and covered all my exposed skin with Expedition 100. I got away without being bitten once. Back at the campsite we found, Dave (Haggis Hunter), Rob (Roolku), Wullie (TartanT) and Sally (Firth of Forth) had arrived and made camp close to our tents. A few beers and an amiable chat followed until the midges became almost unbearable and we called it 'a night'.
Saturday dawned bright, dry and sunny but the mountain tops were still obscured by clouds. Wullie was already up and about when I emerged and shortly afterwards he set off on his own. I guess he wanted to be first to the top.
The cut on my leg was sore and my leg felt a bit stiff but it eased somewhat after I'd walked about for a bit. I hitched a lift to the Visitor's Centre car park with Dave & Rob, while Sally took her own car. There was a little 'confusion' about which car park we were supposed to meet at as the co-ordinates Dave had posted pointed to a smaller carpark across the river. The four of us crossed the suspension bridge and waited at the start of the Ben Nevis Path. Paul (Pyoung1s) joined us a short while later and at about 08:45 we mutually agreed to start our way up the mountain.
It didn't seem too bad at first, the path was a bit 'rugged' but no worse than I'd expected. Some 40 minutes into the trek, Dave and Rob took off at a faster pace and left Paul, Sally and me to follow on. Not long after, Paul also left us. I had intended to take some photographs on the way up but I was starting to feel the strain a bit. By the time we'd reached 2,000 feet I was soaked with sweat, my legs were hurting and I had serious doubts about my ability to reach the top. If Sally hadn't waited for me, I might just have given up. We reached the cloud layer at some point and had to put on our waterproofs but just where we were on the mountain at that point I don't remember. It was about halfway up the 'zig-zags' that I hit 'the wall'. I actually felt physically sick and sat on a rock at the side of the path until the feeling wore off. Sally (bless her) was waiting for me a little way up the path so I pushed on. We met Wullie as he was coming down and him telling us that we'd only got about a half hours climb left was very welcome indeed.
Sally out on the boulder field with the geocache.
Three and a half hours after starting out we reached the ruined hut on the wet and very misty summit to meet up with Dave and Rob. Paul was up there too but typically, he was out on the boulder field looking for the cache. After a few minutes rest and chat, Sally and I went off in search of the cache as well. We spotted Paul in the lee of a small cairn. He'd got the ammo can open and we signed the log. There was a camera in the box apparently but I never looked and consequently, this momentous occasion went un-recorded... Bummer.
Rob, Sally, Me & Dave at the ruin on the summit.
Back at the ruin, I changed into some dry clothes, signed the 'Event Log Book' and after 'logging' the trig point, the five of us started back down the mountain. Just below the summit, we met up with the 'South West Contingent' accompanied now by Highland Nick and Andrew (Pooter). Introductions were made, greetings exchanged and a photograph or two taken. After all had signed the log book, they carried on up to the summit while we made our way back down the mountain.
We meet up with the "South West Contigent" before continuing on our way down the mountain.
It was almost as tough coming down as it was going up but at least I wasn't gasping for breath and I did remember to take a few photographs, once we'd descended to below the cloud. Dave and Rob again forged ahead leaving Paul, Sally and me to make a somewhat slower descent. It took us two and a half hours to reach the bottom and by then I think we were all totally 'bolloxed'. I know I was. The sight of some guys sitting outside the Ben Nevis Inn drinking beer was just too much and my suggestion that we also stop for one met with approval. A few minutes later we were sitting at a table in the Inn's garden with a cold beer. As we sat and recuperated, a window above us opened and Highland Nick stuck his head out, doing a fair impression of a grinning gargoyle. He and Pooter had cut 30 minutes off our descent time and joined us at the table in the garden.
Rob, Sally & Me enjoying a well earned pint at the pub.
So... That was just about it. Sally gave me a lift back to the camp site where I collapsed in a heap outside the tent. Mike, Stuey, Doug and Trevor arrived a bit later and Paul also turned up. After a shower and a change of clothes, the six of us went into town for a meal and a couple more beers before returning to the campsite for some well deserved sleep.
Back at the campsite before we all went into town for a meal.
It rained most of the night and was still raining when I emerged the next morning. I had wondered about staying in the area for another day or two but the weather put me off that idea. I packed up my stuff and headed back south. Sitting in the car for most of the day had done nothing to ease the ache and stiffness in my legs and I must have looked half drunk as I staggered across the service station car park to pay for the petrol I'd just poured into the car's tank. I arrived home at 20:45.
So what has this got to do with falling down stairs...? I'll tell you... I'd borrowed some camping stuff from my dad and took it back to him the next morning. Carrying a gas cylinder up the stairs to the spare bedroom where he kept the stuff, my left leg gave way and I ended up at the bottom with the gas cylinder in my lap!!! It's all your fault, Sally......
The highest War Memorial in the UK
Sometimes it seems like you have to go up to go down.
The lochan that you pass on the way up (or down).
Not far to go and the path is good.
Almost back in the Glen.