Ben Nevis

Well, it’s that time of year again….or was.

My annual pilgrimage to the World Cup at Fort William & a chance to stretch my legs on the Ben. I won’t lie, although I was looking forward to the challenge, in reality, my motivation was low.

High temperatures, humidity, hay fever and a serious lack of sleep due to the above combination, meant I was sleep deprived & feeling the effects. Rather than having a spring in my step, I was lethargic, constantly yawning and questioned the viability of an attack on the tallest landmass in Britain.

Travelling with work bring its own stresses; longer working days, less private down time (if any) and meals that last an age. But before this sounds like a moaning splurge, I wouldn’t change it. Events, especially the Fort William World Cup are really important in my line of work and a genuine highlight of the year.

The only rule with mountain endeavours, make sure you are at the stand on time. No special dispensation.

Alt-J Breezeblocks rings out at 4am. I’m not amused. I look out the window. Cloud is above summit level, but the weather doesn’t look awe-inspiring. Procrastination.

We’ve been expecting storms the last couple of days and they haven’t hit the area. Could this be the last chance of a safe attempt? Is it too late to run?

Oh……. gear up! I spring into action, put on my kit, that’s been laid out the night previously, so as not to wake Peter, who’s sharing a room with me for the week.

Gently close the door. Gone. Normally I drive to the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre, but this time it’s not an option. An extra 5ish miles to add to the run.

I set off, feel ok but aware I’m already hungry. All I have with me is one Eat Natural bar and 600ml of water. Jocko Podcast in my ears, Fenix 3 tracking my every move, I meander through Fort William’s quiet streets, will complete clarity at 4.20AM.

I find the bridge beside the visitor centre…. it’s new & moved, pass the Ben Nevis Inn and start my ascent. Rather then run up hard, I pace myself over the rocky path. A lot of additional rocks have been laid in the 12 months since I last placed a foot on the terrain and things have changed. Where I can run, I run, where it’s more efficient to hike, I do so. Constantly moving, feet light.

Meeting the lake of the mid wayish plateau, the terrain changed. Grass gave way to rock, mud to fine particles. The movement was slower, the consequences higher. Despite being so early in the day, the heat and humidity was high. My top was saturated, sweat levels copious.

Catching groups of 3 Peaks walkers, I pushed on, summit in mind.

Reaching snow near the final blind summit, it was much smaller and slushier, despite having the first real winter in 5 years. A consequence of 3 weeks of wall to wall sunshine.

Spirits lifting as I consumed half my available resources, the final ridge line fell into sight and the sun began to rear its head, from beneath the mountain.Finding the summit empty, roughly at 6AM it was time for a #teampyllon moment and go ‘Taps off.’ Debbie was on her Bob Graham Round and any motivation, however random would sure be of benefit.Zero wind, mid teens in temperature & peaceful, there wasn’t much time to enjoy the views, I had to make it back to hotel and ultimately the race.

Picking up speed, I ran as fast as I dared over each rock garden. Sliding down the partiality melted snow, doing my best not to twist ankles or trip.

Walkers moved out of the way to let me through, my dry throat preventing me from thanking them with anything more than a muted croak.

The temperature was rising as I descended, numbers of walkers multiplied and my budgeted time rapidly was running away.

Hitting the road back to Fort William, I frantically messaged a few colleagues as I was behind time. Please wait for me!! Moments later, 3 work vans drove past me headed for the Nevis Range. Bugger!!

I pushed on. Getting back to the hotel, only one van was left and my room was empty. 3 minutes later, after a shower, change of clothes, bag packing and teeth brushed, I was in the restaurant looking for a face I recognised. Such was my panic, I missed my lifeline, only for Rus to find me later.

I would make it to the World Cup in time.

You can have adventures, serious training sessions and fun, even with big commitments. All it requires is utilising your available time and rolling the dice when opportunities present themselves. More over, create.

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