Ben Nevis

At the age of 12 I had set myself three goals in life in order to help overcome my fear of heights.

The first was to climb Ben Nevis before the age of 16.

The second was to climb Mont Blanc before the age of 30.

The third was to climb Everest before the age of 50.

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland and the United Kingdom. It rises to 1344 metres above sea level. As my country’s high point it posed a significant logistical and physical challenge for a young teenager with, at that stage in life, little hillwalking or mountaineering experience.

However, an opportunity was presented by the Marr College Hillwalking Club, which I had become a member of at Secondary School, to attempt an ascent of Ben Nevis via the Carn Mor Dearg arête on the 6th June 1992. I had only ascended four Munros by this stage in my life so to attempt two big Munros in the same day and get Scotland’s highest mountain done was a huge personal challenge for me at age 14.

The ascent was not easy and it happened on one of those rare baking hot clear sky days that we get in Scotland. I am pleased to say that we had an amazing day. At the time I remember thinking that we just keep going up and up and up and there is yet more uphill to do. It was very impressive seeing the 600m high cliffs of Ben Nevis so close by and the Carn More Dearg arête was helping me focus on overcoming my fear of heights.

I reached the summit of Ben Nevis in still glorious sunshine with superb panoramic views of Scotland in all directions. I remember that when I reached the summit, I had drunk all of my cold water/juice (which had been refilled at a stream below earlier in the day) and all I had left was a litre of hot coffee in a thermos flask! In temperatures exceeding 20°C at the summit the last thing that you want to drink was hot coffee. I had some, but descended dehydrated and craving some good old Scottish Irn-Bru.

When I reached the bottom of Ben Nevis, having headed down the tourist track, I felt completely exhausted and really proud at having achieved the first of my three life goals 🙂

I was also sun burnt, dehydrated and had blisters. Perhaps this was a lesson to be learnt for the future? After recovering from Ben Nevis, at age 14, now with 2 life goals left to achieve, how do you go about achieving them? I didn’t know how or if I could ever be in a position to do so but my second goal was to be achieved by age 30 so I had 16 years to worry about the next one 🙂

For most people, ascending Ben Nevis once in their life, is probably once more than a lot of other people and is a big challenge. However, in May 2012 I was talked into leading a small group from the Society for Radiological Protection on a three peaks challenge to raise money for their Benevolent Fund. The peaks challenge is an ascent of Ben Nevis (Scotland), Scafell Pike (England) and Snowdon (Wales) in as quick a time as possible.

It ended up being a very small team. Darryl Campling joined myself at the end of August 2012 to attempt the three peaks challenge. Another individual was going to join us but due to unforeseen circumstances he had to pull out. We completed the challenge in a little over 24 hours.  This could not have been done safely without our wonderful support driver Sarah Smith (whom I am now engaged to). 🙂

I had not been back up Ben Nevis since June 1992, so an ascent some 20 years later on the 31st August 2012 brought back some memories of achieving my first life goal. However, this time the day could not have been more of a contrast. We summited Ben Nevis in the cloud, in early evening, it was chilly and damp, and there were no views. However, lessons had been learnt, I was not sun burnt, I was not dehydrated and when I got to the bottom of Ben Nevis I was not exhausted – I still had two more mountains to ascend after that. It is always good to push yourself and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Ben Nevis.

If you ever set yourself life goals, then write them down or tell others about them, then you will help get yourself into the right mindset to do them.

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