The tumbling waters of the River Nevis are a long way removed from the exposed mountain tops that surround it. The walk from the road end hugs the edge of a narrow gorge for a time with the rocks along the river shaped by the years of rushing water. A little way up and the valley opens out, broad and verdant, the home in some pre-clearance era to people making a living from these summer pastures. Our route took us left from the river up a small stream into a higher, more boggy, valley above. The plants on these high hills are limited but heath spotted orchids and the occasional marsh violet provided a bit of colour. The meandering burn contained a sweep of horsetails alongside other water plants, so different from the hurrying waters further down the valley.
Our climb took us on to a higher col through a shower of icy crystals, a reminder that we were climbing into another world. The destination was Carn Mor Dearg, a distinctly red mountain next to the grey of Ben Nevis and its other neighbours. The arête from here is a glacier carved knife edge separating two former spurs of ice and a final climb gave us access to the summit of Ben Nevis itself. Another world awaited as the steep boulder strewn slope gave way to the plateaux with its field of snow still surrounding the pillar marking Britain’s highest point. It was another world too in the number of people swarming over the summit. It was hard to know whether to be impressed that so many, obvious non-walkers had made it here or to be worried about the blatant lack of suitable clothing and footwear. The day was fine and mild but it could so easily have changed to something a little more challenging. What most conquerors of the peak seem to forget is that they still have a long walk back to the safety of the valley below.