"Survivor UK"

Trip Start Sep 22, 2012
Trip End Oct 19, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ian had one mission in Scotland and one mission only... to climb Ben Nevis.

It is the highest peak in the UK, measuring 1,344 metres (4,409 ft) above sea level. Tens of thousands make the ascent every year, taking something like 5 hours on average for the return trip up the easiest path. There is an annual race for 'professional' hill racers - the record for the men's race, which begins in Fort William is just under 1.5 hours!

Despite this, many are rescued every year and there are regular fatalities in an environment where the climate can change rapidly. So l am apprehensive about Ian's venture...

By himself.
With minimal mountain gear.
And only Mars bars packed!

It goes against everything we teach Scouts about hiking!

But this morning is another blue sky day, despite the car's thermometer registering 2C. We drop him at the base car park, check phone connections, ask for any final requests and send him off with a wave...

For our entertainment, we girls have found a much easier way to see panoramic views. Two mountains across is Aonach Mr, the eighth highest peak at 1,221 m (4,006 ft) and serviced by a year-round gondola. We pay our 10 and ride for 15 minutes with stunning 180 views of the lochs, forests and Fort William below.

At the top, there is a gift shop and large cafe usually built to be filled with skiers. Today there is just a handful of tourists like ourselves. Hilary and l pick our way up the rocky path to the actual summit, then back for a hot chocolate.

We receive a text from Ian to say he is sitting on the summit enjoying the sun!...

Safely surviving 'our' ascent and return to the bottom, we drive back into Fort William in time for a cruise up and down Loch Linnhe. The ads promise seals, porpoises, deer and various birds but the staff say that the aquatic wildlife has been devoid of late. We make the 9 mile round trip and see just 2 seals pop their heads up.

But the views from water level are just as good as from 1220m up. We pass a salmon farm with the fish jumping around in netted pens off the shore. We also see a mussel farm... Nothing more than rope hung from lengths of more ropes between buoys. They are set in place, left alone and pulled up two years later to reveal hundreds of kilograms of shellfish.

Around 4pm, Ian texts that he is half an hour from 'base camp' at the Visitor Information Centre. We kill time in the main drag of Fort William then drive out to collect The Survivor... Tired, aching but victorious!

Warm showers and rests all round before dinner and a repeat night with Paula on keyboard. And this time, Hilary twirls and waltzes with the dancer that everyone agrees is the best in the room, much to the audiences delight!
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