According to those in the know, life begins at 50. Very useful if, like mine, over the years there was a dodgy kick-off, several false starts and a couple of non-runners.
Eventually though, Father Time has propelled me to my half century. I still can’t believe I am 50. Yes, I’m in denial. Wanderlust has a white knuckle grip on me and time is running out.
So, being a balding, ‘slightly’ overweight, middle-aged adventurer, I decided to spend the eve of my birthday (12th April, 2012 and yes the next day was Friday 13th) wild camping on the summit of Beinn Nibheis – that’s Ben Nevis, Scotland to my fellow Sassenach countrymen.
Unfortunately, heavy snow wiped out my plans of wild camping amongst the rocks which put Plan B in operation – a night in the emergency shelter.
The following ramble is my account of sleeping in Britain’s highest urinal.
Seems like a nice day…
The morning of the 12th heralds a sunny commencement to my night under the stars. Bright sunshine and marbling of white and blue. The guide book timed the ascent at four hours for most hikers and with dusk at 8.30pm, I had plenty of time to fuel up with a pre-walk lunch.
Over a beer and chicken panini, I talk of my excitement while my partner, Lynn, has that ‘look’ upon her face. A distant stare, unseeing or hearing, with the occasional nod to let me know she’s not comatose.
It’s 1pm as we reach the Glen Nevis visitor centre. With boots and sack pulled on, farewells said, over the River Nevis footbridge I go. Mixed feelings of adventure, intrepidation and the fact I’m 50 tomorrow slow my pace.
Things are on the way up
The sky had taken on the gray of a elephant’s hide as I slowly ascend the mountain path. There’s no rush. I mentally thank the Friends of Nevis (www.friendsofnevis.co.uk) for their marvellous path maintenance as I step my way higher. I just hope it doesn’t fool people into thinking it’s an easy day out.
It’s not cold as I climb but small flakes spiral down as I take in the wooded slopes of Glen Nevis. Stoats, weasels, pine martins and even a badger have been sighted on the Ben, but I have to make do with a crow and grubby, off-white lawn mowers.
A little history – constructed in 1883 by James MacLean for the princely sum of £793.6s.3d, the path’s original purpose was to transport provisions by pony to the summit weather observatory. The track, much wider and better than today, was good enough for an early Ford to ‘bag’ the summit.
Next – Summit fever