'Happy birthday to you'
The scything wind forces on my last line of defence, waterproofs. I’ve never been this cold, even at 5,500 metres. Light yellow forces through the patchy white while an ominous, eerie cloud rolls towards me like the blades of a rotary mower. With the camera shutter clicking faster than a fiddlers’ elbow, I stand, grinning manically. The view towards Sgurr a’Mhaim, Stob Ban and their close relatives is simply magical.
Foolishly, to work my Panasonic Lumix TZ10, I remove my gloves and leave them atop my rucksack. Finally, after every conceivable angle has been covered, I take some more. Wishing I could measure the wind chill, gloves and hands are reunited to a symphony of painful gasps.
Mother Nature has been very kind to me. Her birthday present of a beautiful dawn is one that I shall never forget. But the excruciating cold gently ushers me through the snow.
Handshakes & greetings on Ben Nevis
8am. Standing by the summit cairn, one last 360 degree contemplate completes half the journey. It’s a shame that the mind cannot recall that special moment and replay it, emotions and all. Think how happy we all would be. I bid farewell to the 1,344 metres (4,418 feet) of lava which began formation some 420 million years ago. And I have the top all to myself. Totally wonderful.
Stumbling through the night deepened snow, even before I locate the last summit cairn, hikers appear. Staring at their feet they pass in silence. Blinding sleet has again descended, spoiling the view for these early birds. Turning for one last gaze, the top is consumed in whitish grey. I hit the iced-over zig-zag path like a young gazelle, slip, arms and legs waving like a 80’s disco dancer, then proceed cautiously, like an old stag.