I was up Ben Nevis today for Abacus Mountaineering guiding James and Kevin who had aspirations to get to the top. We set off with many other people with a dry start and low winds but that wasn’t to last for long. After a few hours we were half way up and James conceded that he wasn’t fit enough and made his way down, maybe next time. Myself and Kevin continued on, now in the cloud, snow under foot and strong winds blowing.
I should have been surprised to see many other people making their way up as well in ‘summer kit’: approach shoes, leggings, fleeces and not much else, but unfortunately that seamed to be the norm today. At roughly 1000m most people were turning round when the snow cover became uniform and the footprints disappeared, which was eventually the right decision for them. With various people trying to make decisions as to whether to carry on or not based on varying degrees of knowledge we put our crampons on and walked passed.
At about 1100m Kevin conceded as well that it was time for him to turn round in order to make it back to the car. So in full on winter conditions with sideways snow and 50mph winds we turned round and soon came across the unofficial summit huddle of people back at about 1000m. With a range of technology on show from Ipads, GPS, map without a compass, just a compass and dead reckoning we walked around and down the path.
Kevin was glad to get to the height that we got to but realised that the summit was out of reach for today.
It’s on days like these when I get reminded that a lot more people get up and down Ben Nevis more through luck than design and there is a reason why Lochaber Mountain rescue team are the busiest in the country.