'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Are We Being Heroic Enough Yet?

It is remarkable that, for every hundred walkers who stagger up the tourist path from Achintee to the summit of Ben Nevis, barely one person will turn off at the halfway cairn and walk round into the valley of the Allt a'Mhuillin to traverse the Carn Mor Dearg arete on the north side of the mountain. This is a shame, as the arete is one of the finest walkers' routes in Britain, gives stunning views of the Ben's northern buttresses, and is eminently within the capabilites of 90% of those who endure the hebetudinous plod of the tourist route.
So when on Saturday morning Franklin & I turned off into the Allt a'Mhullin we weren't surprised that none of the tourists - not even the three hyperactive youths sporting rucksacks crammed with cans of Special Brew - followed us. The north side of Ben Nevis is a place both sublimely grandiose and ethereally beautiful - especially on a day of mist and low cloud, when the buttresses and rock faces vanish into the heavens, and the arete appears as a distant half-glimpsed barrier hanging in the middle air of the upper corrie. By the time we forded the stream just below the haunted Charles Inglis Clark Hut - once almost blown up by my friend the Lexicographer - the rain had set in for the day. But we had the mountain to ourselves - or so we thought, for a fleet of helicopters roared up delivering supplies to the hut, and a group of Geordies soon overtook us on the shoulder of Carn Mor Dearg. (A long, steep ascent from which Franklin frequently broke off to discourse brilliantly on the prose-style of this blog). The arete itself is a glorious switchback of a scramble, a mile and half of rocky ridge joining the two mountains: on Saturday its rocks loomed out of the mist like sentinels, giving no hint of the massive forms beyond the next pillar until finally the bulk of the Ben was upon us. One member of the party chose this moment, the first at which proper orientation is possible, to get lost. Luckily, in what is essentially a two-dimensional space - forwards and backwards are the ony feasible directions - this is less of a problem than might be imagined. We were by now thoroughly soaked, cold, tired and utterly exhilirated. The final thrust up to the summit rewarded us with the looks of wild surmise on the faces of those who had ascended the other side of the mountain.
The descent of the tourist path was accomplished as quickly as possible - we reflected upon the grinding tedium of the route and, not far above Achintee, its undoubted perils, when we came upon the Fort William Mountain Rescue team stetchering off an unfortunate who had broken his leg somewhere on the path. Then we drove back to Glencoe, showered and hit the Clachaig for supper, where Franklin impressively embellished the day's adventures, to the wide-eyed astonishment of his admiring female audience.

5 Comments:

Blogger Irene Adler said...

Wow, that is super-heroic. Reading your post, I too was wide-eyed with astonishment. Such feats, such rugged manliness. Pity us poor females, for whom the ascent of a long flight of stairs seems an adventure

23/9/05 4:49 pm  
Blogger Nick said...

Irene, steady on . . .

23/9/05 7:34 pm  
Blogger Irene Adler said...

!

23/9/05 8:40 pm  
Blogger Nick said...

Irene - Franklin's a sensitive & retiring sort of chap: he'll be embarrassed by such lavish praise . . .

24/9/05 8:45 am  
Anonymous Eleanor said...

Actually, the reasons I did not make the climb are that:
1. Nick is a lying sack of s--- when it comes to describing routes, saying really helpful planning hints such as "it's a bit of a go" and
2. There was no "mist" as he quaintly described the day. I, as a woman without massive amounts of testosterone coursing through my veins, was using the "big head" to make a decision and did funny little girly things like checing the weather reports. They called for wind gusts to 70 mph, no visibility, driving rain and below freezing temperatures. What can I say? I ate soup.

24/9/05 4:57 pm  

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