Ben Nevis March 2004

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Thursday 4th March
Well the weekend started early for me because I'd taken Friday off work. I had my German class straight after work, but I headed straight back home after that, because Scary and Ian Collins were staying at my place before heading off for a week on a live-aboard in the Red Sea. I got back at about 10:30, by which time the boys had eaten their curry (saving some for me), and persuaded Bird to go for a couple of drinks. I had some serious catching up to do. When it got to closing time, they'd run out of Wife Beater, so I moved on to Guinness. Scary was a very naughty Guvna, as he slapped the arse of one of the barmaids as he went to the loo.

A few more Stellas when we got back to my place (not too many for Scary because he was driving early in the morning - again). The boys took a liking to Bird's yellow duck that was in the bathroom, so took him diving with them. While we were emptying the fridge of Stella, Bird started hanging out her washing. Scary's face when she started hanging up her undies was a picture!

Friday 5th March
6 o'clock rise for the boys (I went back to bed in disgust, after Scary had stunk out the whole house).

Instead of going to the Red Sea, I had other plans. I was going on a Winter Mountaincraft course with Outward Bound on Ben Nevis. After a bit of tidying and yesterday's curry for breakfast, I headed off to Heathrow to catch a plane to Glasgow to meet Darren. No Stella for me at the airport, because we were driving from Glasgow to Loch Eil (near Fort William). Both flights were on-time, and we headed off to EasyRentACar ("empty to empty, clean to clean"). Lots of gimmering, but we eventually set off towards Ben Nevis (looking at his phone, Darren said "Excellent, I've got a full signal......why doesn't it work? Oh, that's the battery!"). After getting stuck behind loads of gimmers, and speeding past the centre at ###mph, we arrived in time for dinner and were met by our instructor for the weekend (Steve).

A quick bite to eat, some messing around with equipment, and a quick lecture about snow, mountains, and avalanches. All interesting, but sobering, stuff. We then set off to walk to the nearest pub, but Steve offered to drive us all. Top man. No Stella for me, but I managed quite a few pints of Guinness. There were four other people on our course: Sue, Nik, Mathew and Gerard. They all seemed like nice people. I noticed that on Saturday night, we would have the delights of Jeff and his guitar for entertainment. Chance in a Million

Saturday 6th March
Me lagging behindA 7 o'clock start, ready for breakfast at 07:15. I was a little concerned about the lack of black pudding, but everything else seemed OK. We hadn't drunk that much on Friday, so everybody was there on time. I was getting quite nervous about the idea of what we were about to do, and was quite excited. We met our other instructor (Mike), and then headed off to the mountains. We had a fairly long walk until we got to some snow (as expected, I was the slowest one in the group, thanks to Mike and Darren for staying with me and looking after me). When we got to the snow, we learnt lots of new skills, and had an excellent time.

It's enormous!We learnt how to walk up and down hill, and how to use an ice axe for support. Then, we got on to the scary bit. We learnt how to stop ourselves from sliding down a slope using our ice axes. We went feet first on our bums and feet first on our backs. That seemed OK, and then we went on to head first! We all seemed to do OK, but some of us (including me) kept forgetting to keep our feet out of the snow (with crampons on, not keeping one's feet up could lead to broken legs). We also tried cutting out an avalanche block to see whether an avalanche was likely, and then building a snow hole. We split into two groups. Our group (Sue, Mathew, and me) built separate snow holes, but the other group built one big one. We went across to see theirs - I'll never forget Sue's comment. She sat down next to Darren in the hole, and said, "It's enormous!". We then headed back down the mountain (with me, again, lagging behind).

After a quick shower, and a bite to eat, we got a taxi into Fort William (we decided that we couldn't keep up with the pace of Jeff and his guitar). We tried three of Fort William's pubs, and quite liked all three. The first one had music videos playing. This is one of Darren's pet hates (almost as much as me and bad apostrophe usage), although he didn't complain too much when Somebody to Love by the Boogie Pimps was shown. Boogie Pimps

BEER!A few pints in a pub that served Seaweed Stout, and Gerrard fell asleep in his beer during the "Four Nuns Joke", before we headed to the town's main pub. We found a quiz machine, won about seven quid, fed it back in, drank more beer (some went on to whiskey), and then headed back fairly early, because we had a big day in front of us on Sunday. TottyCam made an appearance in the last pub.

My favourite quote of the evening was Nik, who, sounding rather shocked, said, "Did you just call him Scrote?" (thank-you to Mrs Hipwell for correcting my spelling).

Sunday 7th March
Onwards and upwards!Another full breakfast set us up for the day, and we headed off to catch the Gondola up to where there was some snow. We still had to walk some way to find some snow, but we got there eventually (guess who was last!). Once there, we practised digging steps with our ice axes, before trying out the crampons. It was all very confusing, there was a French method, an American method, and then there were the various methods that we tried.

I did enjoy it!After we'd practised for a while (including dancing round in a circle), we were ready to push for the top. I was really nervous, but I wasn't going to let something like the tallest mountain in Britain make a fool of me (I can do that myself!). Yet again, I was slowest, but I don't think that people minded because it meant that they got nice rests at various points up the slope. As we got further up, the slope got steeper and steeper and I got more and more scared. Amazingly, I managed to keep it together, even when we were on what felt like a vertical slope, with about an inch or two of loose snow. This definitely wasn't time to look down. Slowly, but very, very surely, we made our way to the top. It wasn't physical exercise that drained me, it was more the trying to keep on top of things, and not lose the plot (I even managed to smile for the camera). Once I got to the top, I just collapsed, trying to stop the tears from pouring out of my eyes. We'd made it!

No more!After that, we had to get down, but we went down the easier way, including a nice long slide on our bums. We then headed back to the centre, to get cleaned up, have a bite to eat, and learn some map skills. Darren and I had flights to catch, so left before the others, giving Mathew a lift. He really didn't know what he'd let himself in for (being shut in a car with Darren and me for 2 hours). Darren had to queue to check in for his EasyJet flight, so I dropped the car off with EasyCar. I won't be using EasyCar again. The bloke reckoned that the car was dirty inside and out ("clean to clean" he proudly said), and said he'd clean it for a fiver. I didn't have time to argue with him, so paid him the fiver.

SteveUnfortunately, Darren's flight was delayed by about three hours, but I had time for a quick Stella with him before I headed off to catch my flight. My flight ended up being delayed by about 20 minutes, so I had time for a quick pint and a look at the porno magazines that the kids at the next table had bought.

On the plane(thanks to Jon Hyde for correcting my spelling), I had to sit next to some pokey little kid, but I just tried to ignore it. Once I'd eaten my dinner, I stopped to think about the weekend. I just couldn't believe what I'd actually done, and tears started welling up in my eyes. I didn't stop until we'd landed back at Heathrow. What a big girl's blouse! Bird was asleep when I got in, so I didn't get any sympathy at home. Still, there was a can of Stella in the fridge.

Thanks everybody for making it a brilliant weekend. All Darren's pictures are on my Picture Albums page.


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Created on: 08 Mar 2004. Modified on: 08 Mar 2004.
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