‘Have you been to Ben Nevis?’ Most of my friends have kept asking me this question since I came over to Scotland. An identical one, but regarding Poland’s highest mountain, had been raised many times when I used to climb the Polish Tatra Mountains. Probably I’m odd, but I somehow lack this sort of drive to climb the highest mountains just because they are the highest. I decided to bury the question about bagging Ben Nevis in the same way I’d done with Rysy in the Tatra: by climbing it.
Honestly speaking it wasn’t my initial plan for the day. I changed my plans on arriving in Fort William. The weather looked better than I’d expected, it was before 7am and the car park was practically empty; the latter bit was particularly promising. Unknowingly I parked my car practically at the beginning of the official path. I set out a few minutes later, accompanied only by my dog.
The path led all the way to the summit, so the only challenge was battling gravity and therefore the walk was rather dull. Reaching the summit took me about 3 hours and 45 minutes; there I had my sandwiches with excellent hot tea from my flask, followed by a couple Snickers bars, and 20 minutes later I headed back. Very soon I started congratulating myself for the early start. It also reminded me why I had grown in dislike of walking in the Polish Tatra Mountains. There were masses of people going up – but that was part of the problem. Too many of them were under- or ill-equipped. I understand that making the mountains accessible to all give everyone a chance to become a keen hillwalker. Sadly my experience tells a different story. Accessibility gives many people a false sense of security and doesn’t require any skills. This particular route is the most littered I’ve seen in Scotland (and I’ve already bagged almost a hundred Munros). I’m not against accessibility (though personally I love the solitude and relative wildness of the Scottish Hills) but it showed me there is a lot more to do with educating potential hillwalkers to respect nature and take care of their own safety. Don’t get me wrong; those I met were very nice and polite people. But someone had brought and left behind all the litter.