Ben Nevis, I BEAT you!
It's the 12th of June 2018 Tuesday afternoon whilst I sit and type this after my return from Scotland just last night from climbing and conquering Ben Nevis, or 'The Ben' as it's more affectionately known.
On my initial meeting with Scotland I can't say I was overly 'in love', not like I was in Wales last month after my climb up and down Snowdon. As beautiful as some parts are, it had a feeling of 'hardness' that I can't quite explain and took a while for me to warm up to it. Never the less, I was surrounded by Nature and journeying to Scotland was something I had always wanted to do, and knowing I was only another day away from attempting to climb the great Ben Nevis made it even more exciting.
On our first day I woke up feeling happy and ready to travel to Loch Ness...
Now THIS was a beautiful sight and words can't explain just how big the loch actually is. Although I didn't see Nessy, whilst gazing into the beautiful waters I was definitely touched with a magical-ness that something incredible was moving deep in the waters...my childhood dream was met!
On the way back to the car I even found a bracelet just laying upon the waters edge...as silly as it may seem I felt it was a little gift from the great 'Loch' herself.
Sunday 10th June 2018, I awoke feeling unsure...but still ready, focused, and determined about my climb up Ben Nevis, alongside my husband. Wearing my loch bracelet, back pack, and sticks in hand, we began the climb...
Now, I have heard and read about The Ben and how it's very rocky, VERY steep, seems to go on forever, has dangerous twists and turns, and even has masses of snow at the top....but NOTHING prepared me or my husband for just how big a challenge the Ben truly is. A challenge that beat the crap out of both of my knees and took us 8 hours to complete.
Now, unlike Snowdon I haven't got many pictures this time...firstly, I felt the views weren't as colourful, secondly, there were huge amounts of fog, thirdly, I was in great, great pain.
From the moment you begin the climb you are scrambling over many rocks, then it settles now and then, making you believe for a moment 'oh, this isn't that bad'...but not for long.
1345 meters the Ben stands at, and there are many times on the ascent you feel you're nearly there...but your not...not even close.
After hours of already climbing and scrambling up, with sticks to help ease what may cause knee troubles, we felt we were doing ok. No real complaints, just ongoing, never ending, steep climbs, but we were doing it.
Over half way up the path seemed to ease a little, we began joking, laughing, and even had enough breath to have a conversation! Then we came across a beautiful natural waterfall which we had to cross to carry on going. I couldn't believe we were actually standing in a waterfall 1000's of feet up from the ground! It was the most beautiful moment...a moment I now believe is gifted to you before you truly experience what the ben is all about...
After this, the paths become rockier, steeper, more dangerous...I can't overly remember as I could feel my left knee beginning to go, and all I could think was 'please, just get me to the top'.
Although still difficult, with the steepness of The Ben and my knee know buggered, we could see the top getting closer and closer...well, we had an idea, but the fog was blocking our view. Then we got the snow...i'm not talking of little patches, I'm talking of a great blanket of snow up a steep climb we had to cross. This was when the jumpers, jackets and hats came out, and even though I was in pain due to my knee, I was buzzing from nearly reaching the top and how beautiful it was to be so high up a mountain in summer time that there was snow all around us!...it was like we had just journeyed into another country.
We did it! We finally reached the very top of Ben Nevis, and it was FREEZING!
We ate our sandwiches which were probably the best tasting sandwiches we had ever had, drank, went toilet (yes girls, you will just have to squat behind the many big rocks), then began our victory decent. I was feeling very pleased with myself, even with my painful knee, I knew I would be ok as I have my other one working fine...or so I thought...
Only a few minutes into the decent I felt my other knee begin to twinge. I kept praying 'PLEASE don't go, don't go, because if you BOTH go then I'm 'f**ked and will have to be rescued'.
Now remember, this isn't a flat sloping path, this is an extremely rocky, jagged, dangerous path which requires you to bend BOTH knees on every step. Knees that I just didn't have anymore.
I can't explain to you just how much pain I was in. With every movement, every bend, even with the sticks, I was in utter agony. If you have ever had a knee injury you will understand. But thank god I did have my sticks, sticks that I had only got for this climb which in all honesty were my two little friends, alongside the support of my husband who got yelled at many times!
Many people were over taking us. At points I would just stop, weeping and crying out in pain that I can't go on. My mind would tell me to stop, but my heart would whisper 'you can do this, not long now, you'll be ok'. Prayers to mother earth were flowing continuously, begging to carry me and to give me the courage to continue.
'Not long now, not long now'...this mantra kept going over and over in my head, but 'not long now' seemed to go on FORVER! Every time I believed I was almost there, I would turn a corner only to realise how wrong I was...But I didn't give up. I couldn't understand that why a woman like me who is always walking, out with nature, dances, and likes to keep active, could be in so much pain with her knees. I now understand it's not a matter of fitness, it's just a matter of the muscles I was using were very different than the ones that I use the majority of the time. Sadly I did see many others struggling with their knees on the way up and down...I just pray they made it.
There were moments through the pain that a less steep path would appear and I would be off! Sticks in hand, legs as straight as the sticks cos every time I bent them they would seem to collapse! God knows what people thought! Just thinking of how I must have looked at times makes me chuckle as I write this! There was one kind man who offered me tea and sat with us for a while. I felt this was another little sign to keep going...so I did.
Then, just like that, after a total of about 8 hours, I did it! I was at the bottom of the 1345 metre Mountain! Sitting back at the car I was feeling utterly broken, crying my eyes out, yet not defeated! Through the tears, the pain, and the emotional exhaustion of having to push myself harder than ever before, I knew deep down I had beaten The Ben!!
That evening the pain got worse...much worse! I was shivering from the shock and exhaustion. Even my husband had to lift me up and sit me back down as my knees had totally given up. At one point he tried to help move one of my legs, only to hear me yelp out in pain, screaming, crying, and shouting out 'what have I done!'
Pain killers definitely helped, so did rest, ice cubes, and a nice warm dinner my husband got for us both. I'm so grateful for the love and support of my husband on this climb and after. Even through he's own challenges and pains he tended to me. Through the night, for whatever reason, the pain began to ease, and I could very slowly pick myself up and sit myself down again.
it's pretty amazing what the human body is capable of, and even more amazing what the human spirit and courage within a determined heart can acheieve.
Do I regret it? Definitely not! Although my knees may see it differently! But, they are already healing, having physio tomorrow, and will back to their normal selves very soon, and most likely the muscles around them will be that little bit tougher than before.
Mr Nevis, you have shown me the true power of Mountains, you pushed me emotionally and physically further than I've ever been pushed in my life, but my spirit was strong, my heart was courageous, and I had Mother Earth beside me every step of the way, and although I have the upmost respect for you, it feels good to now say - Ben Nevis, I BEAT you!