Celebrations on Ben Nevis
Ice and stale urine
11pm. Woken by an exposed, frosted nose, I regret not bringing spare socks and wrap my feet in a Paramo top. Toasty. The howling wind brings unseen snow. During the night the gale drops and true silence rules. Spooky. But in no time, the fan is switched back on and the wind roars on. Sleeping face up, I try to avoid rolling off the wooden platform, while the mat froze fast in the ice and stale urine.
Highest person in Britain
2am. Squashing my phone illuminates my sleeping bag, so I check the time. Happy birthday I wish myself then drift away again. I wake soon after. Something’s wrong. Fumbling for my head torch, I notice I’ve half slid off the mat onto the metal floor. My body heat has melted the snow and soaked my bag. Like a slug dancing in salt, I slither back into position.
5am. Shafts of daylight illuminate my cell. I now know why I could never go to prison or become a monk. No sun yet so my attention turns to brekkie. The night has turned my water to icy slush. Amazing really. It was buried in my sack and the pipe is insulated. But the milk, in a knackered metal water bottle, is fine. Minutes later, the pan is steaming with hot porridge, chocolate powder and sprinkled with brown sugar. But it is my 50th birthday.
It's cold, very cold
While I'm having my oats, it occurs to me that during the night I was the highest person on the British Isles – my small claim to fame.
7am. Time to go. No need to dress. I’m wearing five layers just to stay warm. Packed, I venture out to be greeted by a snow bunting chorus and a mountain sunrise. Perfect. The distant snow capped hills remind me of the Nepalese Himalaya. But before shooting can commence I have a pressing engagement. Not easy when you’re a human onion.