Wednesday 24 March 2021

A Memorable Camp On Ben Nevis


Last year I was asked, along with several others, to write a short piece for The Great Outdoors on my most memorable camp. Now that's impossible to decide as I've had many wonderful camps over the years. So, as I do when asked to make similar impossible decisions, I went with the first that came to mind. And that was a camp on Ben Nevis thirteen years ago. As soon as I thought of it the memory of that special night came back. I've written about it before and no doubt will again. I'm never tired of remembering it. Here's what I wrote for the Great Outdoors.

The idea of camping on Ben Nevis came as I was sweating my way east on the TGO Challenge in blazing sunshine towards its cool and alluring snowy white dome. Usually I wouldn’t consider camping on the Ben as the summit is a waterless boulder field. But snow meant water and comfort. After lingering in Fort William until the evening to avoid climbing in the heat I set off. Dozens of walkers descending passed me at first but long before I reached the summit plateau I was alone. 

Unusually there was no wind. I pitched my tent not far from the trig point and the emergency shelter – the latter dark and dirty but a potential refuge if the weather changed. A snow bunting sang by the summit cairn. A raven wheeled overhead. After supper I wandered round the plateau, staring down the huge cliffs of the north face of the mountain. Away to the west Loch Eil was a golden ribbon of light leading to an orange sky above the silhouettes of the Western Highlands. Crossing the plateau and looking south the Mamores fronted a mass of peaks fading into the distance.

The night was silent. I woke a few times to stare out at a half moon and bright stars. The air was chilly. Dawn came with mist and a gusty wind. The tent was damp, the world grey. The splendour wasn’t over yet though. A pale sun appeared, shining softly through the clouds, then a patch of blue sky that grew and grew as the mists sank into the glens. In bright sunshine I wandered round the plateau again. The Mamores rose above the clouds, sharp and clear. When I finally left, I’d had the summit to myself for fourteen glorious hours.


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