Boy, thanks for all of your fun comments about our UK trip. I promise, this will be the last of it, and then we’ll try and get back to some regular posts around here. (Although, the weather is changing around here, and when that happens, I go more into planning mode than actual doing mode, so not much exciting is happening around here.)
As I mentioned before, we had one day that didn’t exactly go as planned. One thing I really wanted to do on a visit to Scotland, was hike Ben Nevis — after all, 100,00 people a year can’t be wrong, can they? It’s the highest mountain in the UK and I thought it would be fun to make the hike and check out the gorgeous views. The hike was planned for our last day in Scotland and it’s estimated to take 8 – 9 hours, so I knew we needed to get an early start. At the end of the hike, we had to drive 3 hours to be able to spend the night near the airport to fly out the next day. The afternoon before our hike, we went to the visitors center so that we would know where we needed to be the next morning. I asked the people at the desk what the forecast was for the next day. She said not as rainy but the winds were predicted to be pretty high. I thought Great! and made some stupid comment about “What’s a little wind — as long as it’s not rainy.” They were probably laughing hysterically as we left and thinking poor, dumb American tourists.
Anyway, we hit the trail, bright and early the next morning. Awww, look at SweetiePie — doesn’t she look happy? We’d been hiking for about 45 minutes and the drizzly rain had stopped. We took that as a good sign. It was a little breezy though (it’s hard to tell, but the wisps of SweetiePie’s hair give it away.)
At this point, we’re getting a little higher. I commented to SweetiePie, “Look how quickly and easily we can gain some altitude.” Ha.
Onward and upward. Those rocks are fun on the way up. Not so much on the way down.
Shortly after that little break in the drizzle, it started to pour. And the wind came with it. Oh that sweet little wind that I thought would be no problem. Fighting the wind made the climb seem twice as hard. After about 2 1/2 hours, we passed a couple coming back down. I asked them if they’d been to the top already and they said no, they decided to turn around. Hmmm, that’s kind of sad, I’m thinking. Then about 30 minutes later (and a LOT more wind and rain) the family of five that had been behind us split up. The mother and the youngest little boy turned around, the father and the two older boys (only about 8 and 10) continued on. I knew that they had been on this hike before, the fact that they turned around should probably have been a clue. We hiked on. The thing about Scottish weather is, that it changes every 15 minutes. Shortly after the family split up, the sun came out. And then, I saw sheep on the mountain. Sheepies! NOW we’re talking. We’re soaking wet, the wind is howling, and the temperature is dropping, but there are sheepies. It MUST be worth continuing, right??? (You can see the trail where we’d already been in the picture below.)
So, higher, we go. Notice, the sheep are gone. And so is the sun. At this point, I’m managing to stay a little ahead of SweetiePie. And while we’re on this little sun-just-went-in break, lets take a minute to talk about our attire. We had layers of shirts and jackets and then we each had a big poncho thingy to keep us dry. And jeans. Funny thing, the sign at the visitor center recommended no jeans. I just chuckled and said, but we’re tourists and jeans is all we have. We were SO unprepared. Those “tarps” were worthless in the wind. Therefore we both ended up mostly wet. Soaking wet jeans are No. Fun. But hey — the view is getting pretty good up here — when the clouds part. See SweetiePie back there with her plastic poncho? And uncovered head?
That didn’t last very much longer, as the temps were dropping. Luckily, we had both bought souvenir hats and mittens the day before, so we busted them out. At this point, we passed a couple who had been to the top and asked them how much longer. They said about 45 minutes and it was really cold at the top. They sort of eyed our attire and hopefully said, “Be Careful!”. We talked about turning around, but thought, it really couldn’t get any worse, could it? The wind and rain were awful, but couldn’t we stand 45 more minutes of this? WE are continuing on! That little comment about things getting worse, probably shouldn’t have been uttered by either of us. As they say, all hell broke loose and it started sleeting, and WIND-ING and visibility dropped. (Please notice the fine hikers below. They were properly dressed, had a walking stick, and were clearly not clueless like us.)
Moving right along, we kept climbing. About 30 minutes later we passed another couple and asked “how much farther”. “About 30 minutes, depending on your pace”. I also asked them if there was a shelter on top — I envisioned a little place where we could hide from the wind, have a little snack and catch our breath. No shelter — just a wall from some ruins and a lot of sleet and ice. We hiked on a little longer, but by now, my pace resembled that of a snail. My legs were so wet and cold they were barely working. SweetiePie asked me again if I wanted to turn around. “I” didn’t want to be the one to say “yes”, so she finally put me out of my misery and said it. Only 30 minutes from the top and we threw in the white flag. But, before we turned around, we had to take a few pictures. See? We were higher than the other mountains.
We’d just barely started back down and that blasted sun came back out! Arrrgggghhhh. This is a forced smile, I’ll have you know. And notice the billowing poncho — the wind had let up at this point, but it was still blowing.
At least it cleared up enough to take a few pictures. We thought it might stay this way, but we were Oh. So. Wrong. Winds and sleet, just as bad as before, all the way down.
And Ha! Look at SweetiePie. She can’t get out of here fast enough LOL.
Sadly, she’d hurt her knee on the way up, so it wasn’t easy getting back down. It took another 3 1/2 hours to make it back to the car. Notice that plastic poncho is gone — we finally gave up fighting them in the wind. Wool mittens and hats aren’t very exciting when they’re wet. And they’re smelly. Ewww.
Finally, almost at the end. You can’t really tell it, but it’s still raining.
When we got back to the car, we went back to the visitor center to change out of our wet clothes. I asked the people at the desk if they’d been laughing at me the day before. She said the winds had been 70 mph in the valley, so they estimated that they were 80 – 90 mph up on the mountain. No Kidding! F1 tornadoes are 90 mph. We both got knocked over by the wind at least twice up there. We were probably lucky we didn’t get blown of the mountain. If there hadn’t been so many other stupid people up there, we seriously would have feared for our safety.
And really, I’m probably just lucky SweetiePie didn’t push me over a cliff for getting her into that mess. She definitely deserves some sort of reward for putting up with my little folly. After it was all over, I started analyzing what we’d done wrong. “But, SweetiePie, if we’d just ….” implying that we should try again sometime. She made some disparaging remarks as to my sanity. But, you know what? It’s just like childbirth. You forget how awful it was. By the time I get back over there, I’ll probably be too old to attempt it again, but for SweetiePie? You never know! (Although, at the height of our misery, we both agreed that TheFirstChild would not be likely to make that hike, so she’s going to have to find some other adventurous soul!)
Whew! Sorry to ramble on. It was a grand adventure — someday when she’s a grandma, she can tell her grandchildren about that crazy thing she did with their great-grandma. Thanks for sticking with all my travel posts. How ’bout a giveaway? A little British bunny pincushion, perhaps?
You know the drill — leave a comment and we’ll do the RandomManoftheHouse generator in a week — Sunday, September 30 (wow, the end of the month already!)