Day 3’s 7.4km route with 43 mtrs ascent and 658 mtrs descent. (Click for larger version)
Day 3 was a spare day and one borne out of necessity due to the infrequent trains to the area.
My main concern was getting to the railway station on time. I had only one shot at this. If I was late, I would have to find a B&B or Hotel and stay an additional night in Fort William – not something that I wanted to be doing.
The day as it would turn out was quite uneventful, though it did reinforce the usefulness of hiking poles on a descent, even if it was reinforced in a slightly unconventional manner…
Anways, on with the photo blog:
Once again the midges are out in force which necessitates eating within a closed-up tent.
As with all my other walks I leave my camp spot exactly as I found it.
The first task of the day is to intercept the Pony Trail so that I can continue the descent down off of the mountain.
I soon pick up the trail. As an experiment I have decided not to use hiking poles for this part of the descent. I wanted to compare today’s unassisted descent, with yesterday’s assisted descent.
The trail starts to become uneven with a much steeper slope. This requires extra effort and care on the descent. My thoughts keep drifting back to the hiking poles attached to the side of my rucksack….
The trail soon swings toward the waterfall that I had rehydrated from the previous day.
At the bottom of this section I notice that the more direct and steeper part of the trail has been closed off for conservation purposes.
I soon ‘break’ and decide to get the hiking poles out. I am finding that without them, my knees are hurting and I don’t feel as assured with my footing, which significantly impedes my forward progress. However, I accidentally over-extend one of the poles that meant I had to reassemble it. Once reassembled, the pole is so tight that I cannot rotate it to unlock it. After much fiddling around I give up and stow the poles. I’m quite disappointed to be without their support.
The Pony Trail does get rocky in places. In many ways it was a lot harder going than I thought it would be.
The views on the way down are pretty good, which does distract somewhat from the business of the descent. What these photos don’t show is that this trail is actually quite busy, even at this time of the morning on a Monday! Though in this case everyone that I ran into was going the other way.
I soon come across one of many small bridges in this area.
Once again more rockiness. I’m quite surprised at how rocky this trail is given that it was originally designed for ponies servicing the Meteorological Observatory on the top of the mountain.
This is the view Eastward back up the valley.
Down below on the left I can see the trail leading off to the road. This is the trail I will need!
This photo is pretty representative of the lower part of the trail. This part of the trail is harder than the trail further up the mountain!
Up ahead I can see a thoughtfully placed bench to allow weary walkers to rest their knees!
Another small bridge. To the left is the edge of a small wood. I know from the map that my turn off follows the boundary of that wood, so I would have to keep a look out for it.
And here it is! Most people would stay to the right and head toward the Ben Nevis Mountain Centre. But I was keen to get on to the road as soon as possible so that I could pick up the pace to get me to the train station on time.
I’m now on the turn off that handrails the small wood. The steepness and unevenness of the rocky ground once again had me wishing that I was using the walking poles at this point.
There’s the exit onto the road. I now know that the descent is finally coming to the end!
Flat ground!!!! It’s hard to describe, but after a long descent, getting to flat ground brings on a great feeling of elation, one that is quite similar to the feeling that one gets when reaching the top!
There was a collection box at the bottom of the Mountain to receive money for track maintenance. A pretty good idea in my opinion.
Toward the end of the track is a sign to brief visitors about the Pony Trail and Ben Nevis itself.
I just need to cross this bridge over the River Nevis to get onto the road. Once there it is a simple speed hike all the way to the railway station.
Here is the River Nevis in all its glory from the bridge!
I’m now on the road. I can now turn up the walking speed without fear of tripping over. Looking at the GPS readout my speed was approaching 7kph at this point, quite a difference from the slow and methodical pacing of the mountain descent.
On the way to Fort William I spot this rock across the road. It’s hard to see in the picture, but it has been sliced in half to a mirror like finish. I should have popped across the road to take a look, but I was a man on a mission to get to the train station!
After a fair walk, I start enter the urban boundary of Fort William. Not long to go now!
It isn’t long before I reach the roundabout and the bridge that I had crossed on the evening of day 1. I now know precisely where I am and how much further there is to go.
It is now just a short blast down this road. The railway station should soon reveal itself on the right hand side.
And there it is! Fort William Railway station. In the end I make it with plenty of time to spare. I use that additional spare time to visit the station Cafe to get a light meal of Egg, Sausages and Chips with some coffee. It’s a nice to change of pace to have a meal that wasn’t freeze dried!
One thing that does surprise me about this station is that it has locker and showering facilities. Had I known, I would have taken spare clothes and paid to leave them in a locker. That way I could shower and get changed for the return journey. I will have to remember this for next time!
The train journey back to Bristol ran smoothly, but it was a very long one. After my experience with a similar journey back from the Cairngorms, I took the liberty of downloading many episodes of ’24’ from iTunes onto the iPod. This helped to break up the monotony somewhat.
I knew that I would be getting home around midnight, hence my decision to drive to the railway station and leave the car in the long stay car park. This really helped to make the return journey to the flat a very smooth one and saved having to faff about with public transport.
So that’s the end of the Ben Nevis trip. I was very happy with the way it turned out and can quite definitely say that it was worth both the cost and the time to get there.
Now that I have climbed the highest mountain in the UK it should also help to prevent me from making further rash decisions to push on in circumstances where perhaps, I should have turned around.
I had made one of these ‘bad’ decisions on Day 2 of the last Cairngorms walk. It was that incident that got me to decide on Ben Nevis as the next walk. The idea being that I could get the elevation record thing out of my system!
That’s it until next time.