A Mountainous Task

Published: Thursday 9th Aug 2012

Written by: Julia Latham

I love holidays with a challenge I always had it in my head I wanted to walk up Kilimanjaro, but my friend Diane wisely said "Why don't you try Ben Nevis first, it's a little less distance" (loving the understatement of the century there). So while I was still on a high after my last expedition of a weekend at Mount Snowdon, I booked a weekend away to the lovely town of Fort William.

Early Saturday morning, I jetted off to Fort William with my partner in crime. We spent Saturday resting and planned to do the walk on Sunday. Sunday arrived in true Scottish fashion - wet. We took a walk to the base of the mountain, it took 30minutes and by the time we arrived, I discovered that my walking boots weren't waterproof after all. Then disappointingly sacked the walk and headed back into town to buy waterproofer.

By Monday the heavens were on our side. We set off at 8am and got to the base at 8.30am. As soon as we stepped foot over the bridge to start the walk we could joke that we'd already gone further than the previous day! The initial walk wasn't as bad as Snowdon - there was no ridiculously steep base. The terrain however, was very different. A lot more stones to step up onto, as opposed to just steep hills. I thus re-named the mountain "Ben Nevis - Britain's Largest Neverending Stairmaster". After an hour we stopped for a break.

I was actually really exhausted! I confessed to my walking partner that I didn't expect to get all the way to the top (I didn't expect her to get there either, as she's a smoker) but that I'd go as far as I could. The problem with Nevis is, it's hard to stop with all the midgies around. Naomi was getting eaten alive by them so everytime I wanted to stop, I felt guilty because she was surrounded by them. Thus I didn't stop as much as I wanted to/should have. We battled on for another hour. At the two hour mark, we were over halfway up. I was convinced we'd be up by the three-hour mark and that thought kept me going. By the time we got to three hours I'd lost the will to live. My right knee was throbbing and my feet were burning. I was worried about making it back down again. I said I'd get to Five Finger Gully, near the peak, and assess from there.

Getting to there should've been a relief, but when we spotted some guys from our hostel on their way back down and asked them how far it was, they indicated half an hour but warned us it was the toughest part of the walk. I literally got about 5-minutes further and lost my will completely. I told Naomi I'd be happy to wait for her to finish the walk and come back down to where I was, but she wouldn't go it alone so I got annoyed and carried on walking. I wouldn't let her miss her experience because I couldn't hack it! So I limped up, slowly, in silence. After an hour…

So will I now go on to achieve my dream of walking up Mount Kilimanjaro? Well as Ben Nevis is 1,344m high, and Kilimanjaro is approximately 5,892m - in a word? NEVER!

Julia Latham
Julia Latham


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