By Simon Ball, Jun 16 2017 03:31PM
So, you've trained hard, you're looking great in that new jacket and you're ready to climb Ben Nevis. What could possibly go wrong?
Over the years we have guided hundreds of people on Ben Nevis as they raised vital funds for Autism Northern Ireland. Training, careful preparation and determination were all key to their success.
However, we have also seen a few pit-falls, easy mistakes to make, which have either stopped people in their tracks or made the experience less pleasant than it should have been! This is why I'm sharing my Top 5 Things Not To Do on Ben Nevis.....
1. Don't Make Lunch For The Office
If your job doesn't involve a lot of physical activity then you probably survive on pretty meagre rations during your day. Climbing Ben Nevis is physically demanding and you are burning MANY more calories than usual. So, you will need to pack much more food than usual and make sure that you eat it during rest breaks on the mountain. Trust me, the eating bit is harder than you think when just want to press on, but you have to do it.
When we call at the supermarket the day before, buy convenient food like twice as many sandwiches than you would normally have, along with fruit, nuts and some sugary treats for a quick boost when you need it. You need to be self-sufficient from after the continental breakfast (provided in the hostel) to the evening meal, which is around 8pm. Keep the small stuff handy in your pockets and pack your lunch in a waterproof bag.
2. Don't Dehydrate
Dehydration isn't just unpleasant, it's dangerous. Respiration and perspiration are both higher on the mountain so hikers use up much more water, particularly in hot weather. You are more likely to sip water regularly if you have a drinking tube and bladder, which is more convenient than removing your rucksack. Water requirements vary from person to person, but I personally take 3 litres on an average day, and more if it's hot.
3. Don't Dress For The Gym
No matter how attached you have become to your trainers over the past few months, resist the temptation to wear them on the mountain. With no ankle support, you are more likely to have a sprain or a strain. On a wet day they will soak through and you are also more likely to slip over (you really don't want to do that!) Regardless of the weather, with trainers you are also more likely to get blisters. Be kind to your feet! :) Leave the leggings at home too, they're not great protection against the wind and rain, though we are hoping to avoid that.....
4. Don't Expose Yourself
In wet and cold weather, it can feel like winter as you climb higher on Ben Nevis. Your extremities need protection so take waterproof gloves, a hat that covers your ears and a scarf or buff for your lower face. Hopefully they will stay in your rucksack, but if you need them, you will be glad you have them!
5. Don't Pack For The Park
The summit of Ben Nevis can feel like another world if you're not used to the high mountains. You can't nip back to the car for that extra layer and there are no shops handy on the day of the climb. So, check and double check that you have everything on the kit list before you fly to Scotland.
As soon as you get to your hostel on Friday, pack your rucksack for the climb. If you do this early enough there may be time to get anything that you forgot in Fort William. Don't overload yourself with unnecessary stuff that you probably won't use.....you will have to carry it all day!
This isn't a common pitfall, but it's worth a mention.
Ben Nevis is a challenge for a reason - it's a significant achievement to summit and you will feel pretty epic on Saturday night. But don't panic about it! It's achievable by any fit walker and you will have a team of experienced leaders to support you every step of the way. Don't hesitate to say hi and ask for advice or let us know if anything is worrying you, whether in the airport, on the minibus or in the hostels. We will be glad to help! :)
Good luck with the rest of your training and preparation, eat well and don't do too much in the last days before the climb.
Here's to success in Scotland! :)
Simon Ball is a qualified Mountain Leader who has a lot of experience of making mistakes in the mountains