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Ben Nevis road trip (Part 2)

After four hours of uphill climbing fuelled by energy bars and water alone, we were ready for those bacon sandwiches!

We'd not been sat down for long before the cold began to hit us - whilst we'd been walking we were relatively warm and had been walking in t-shirts for the most part but up here we had to get all our layers on as well as hats and gloves. For the first time that day there was a small amount of could too, drifting over us from the direction of the summit.

Once we'd eaten, we packed away and set off again for the summit.

Ben Nevis summit plateau

With every cairn we saw, I was convinced we were almost there. But the path, such as it was, continually vanished over the next rise each time. I checked Apple Maps repeatedly to see our position on the mountain and reassure Jade we were almost there - she was worried more and more that the pain in her leg would hinder our descent afterwards.

Ben Nevis summit plateau

And finally, it was in sight...

Ben Nevis summit plateau

And the cloud held off on the south east, meaning there was still a good view in the other directions - apparently 70% of the time there is cloud at the summit and no view whatsoever!

Gardyloo Gully

The view down Gardyloo Gully - doesn't do the size of the drop justice!

Ben Nevis summit and observatory

The summit was extremely busy! I'd wanted a little look around the ruins of the observatory but I didn't have the energy to fight through the crowds, let alone scramble over more rocks!

Whist the view from the top was good, I found it actually a little disappointing compared to the views we'd be treated to on our ascent looking west.

Ben Nevis summit

Ben Nevis summit

Ben Nevis summit

Ben Nevis summit

But we'd done it! 1345m or 4411 feet. Feeling injured and weary we began the descent; which is where the real pain started to set in.

Ben Nevis descent

The weather was still on our side at least, despite it changing form one minute to the next.

Ben Nevis descent
Ben Nevis descent

We'd been lucky early on in our climb as at that time of day the number of other people walking was still light, however at this stage some parts of the narrow path became dangerous, trying to avoid people and/or let people past/overtake them - especially on the steeper rocky sections.

The descent was unbelievably hard on the knees. Going up had been tough but as it had taken a lot our of us, going down was even worse. Tempers and emotions were fraught!

But still, we had the view to look at, which, as I said, is so much better than the view from the summit.

Meall An t-Suidhe

As we crossed Red Burn again and were halfway back down I took one of my favourite shots from the trip:

Lochan Meall An t-Suidhe

This was one of my favourite parts of the walk; the terrain is easy to walk, combined with incredible views.

Once we'd skirted the edge of the Lochan the toughest part of the descent was the switchbacks parallel to Red Burn. Probably the toughest part of the day all together. The walk had really taken its toll on us and my knees were incredibly sore. Jade was struggling to move her bad leg at all and her good leg wasn't much better from taking the strain.

The lower slopes where we'd seen the incredible cloud inversion that morning seemed never-ending and at every corner we were sure we were almost off the mountain only to be confronted with more and more path meandering away into the distance.

Finally, after 9 hours, we were finished. Barely able to walk, we practically fell into the car and sat for a long time trying to recuperate.

Next stop was Fort William for much needed alcohol and pizza! After refuelling we set off back along the A82 south with the intention of getting as far as we could before sleeping in the car again. It was great to see the scenery at Glencoe during daylight - the sun was just setting as we approached. Just as it was getting dark we pulled over in to a lay-by on Rannoch Moor and pretty quickly fell asleep.

We awoke early - it's never comfortable sleeping in your car! We were once again cold and shrouded in mist. We quickly set off again with the intention of eventually getting breakfast in Glasgow, however we hadn't gone too far when I spotted another photo opportunity.

A82 Scotland, cloud inversion over Loch Tulla

Car on A82 near Loch Tulla, Scotland

The sun was still coming up and the light was amazing. There was a light mist on the hills and in the distance over Loch Tulla we could see a huge cloud inversion.

On the lower slopes of The Ben we'd heard deer calling and I'd hoped we'd see another after the dozens we'd seen in the dark the night before, but unfortunately we didn't. However, coming around a bend in the road we spotted a lone buck by the roadside.

deer by the road, A82, Loch Tulla

You might just be able to see him standing to the left of the road, next to the fence, in the shot above.

Red deer, Loch Tulla, Scotland

This was as close as I could get to him before he ran off and jumped over the fence. I'm really happy that I got the shot though.

And then we got to Loch Tulla and were blown away by how beautiful it was in the sunlight. The light was just incredible, the water was as smooth and still as glass and the cloud inversion in the distance just made it for me.

Loch Tulla and Black Mount reflection

Loch Tulla and Black Mount reflection

These are some of my favourite shots from the trip and I'm really glad we were lucky enough to be driving past at that time of day while the light was the way it was.

The rest of the journey home was uneventful apart from trying to find somewhere in Glasgow to get breakfast while The Great Scottish Run was taking place!

We arrived home tired and extremely sore but ultimately proud of what we'd achieved over the last two days.

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Craig Skinner Photography | Astrolandscape photography, nightscape photography and astrophotography.

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