Climbing Ben Nevis – Conquering More Than A Mountain

Stepping out of the car, the butterflies in my stomach were dancing the quickstep. Rolling and pitching, producing a feeling of half excitement, half terror. Nervous laughter went round the four of us as we looked up and saw the sign, Welcome to Ben Nevis. This was it. It was happening. We were attempting to hike to the top of the UK’s biggest mountain, we were climbing Ben Nevis. Nik had just finished chemo, I was at the un-fittest I had ever been. How hard could it be…..

If you saw my previous post on this quest, when it was still in the far away, all-seems-like-a-laugh planning stages, you would know that this challenge came about in an off the cuff phone call between me and my sister in law. That post, Challenging Myself – Mountain climbing is where its at seems so far away now! The then was now. Having travelled up to Glasgow on the train from London two days before, here we were. Standing at the base of the mountain, the top not visible because of the mist, willing it to be a few thousand feet shorter……

Climbing Ben Nevis

After an early breakfast at our hotel, The ben Nevis Hotel and leisure Club in Fort William, we made the short car journey to the base of the mountain. It was a glorious morning, and I was excited to see that the famous Scottish mist was on full display for us. Standing at the start of the Ben Nevis track, the low lying mist was blanketing the valley below. Tiny chimney pots, the tallest of the trees, just peeping above, the rest of the buildings hidden, unseen below. It was just beautiful, and silent, almost other worldly, and just the perfect ceremony for our introduction and welcome to ole Ben.

Climbing Ben Nevis
The beautiful scottish mist

It felt pretty chilly as we set out. We had been told to prepare for all weathers, so although there was no rain forecast, anyone that knows Scotland’s weather would know that it can be changeable, and those changes can happen in a heart beat! We had base layers on, then a light middle layer, then rain proof coats. In our bags were the added supplies of waterproof trousers and changes of socks, warm hats, gloves and scarves. We were ready for all weathers!

The start of the track is a nice walk, and you soon warm up!. It has a gradual incline, but the trail is fairly even terrain, and other than a few rocks to step up or small waterfalls cutting across the path to jump over, it was just like walking up a hill. One of the things I was looking forward to doing on this hike was tasting the fresh mountain water. Steadily climbing the path we saw many water falls, cascading down the mountain, cutting their way through the rocks and tumbling through any openings it had made.

climbing ben nevis

We came across a section of the path where the water fall crossed, and pooled slightly, before continuing its thousands of years old route down the mountain. We stopped to take our chance to drink. Leaning at the side of the pool, I scooped up the crystal clear water and drank. It was literally like a life elixir! The pureness, the freshness, just tasted wonderful. I scooped up more and washed my face with it, cooling myself down and cleansing my face. It was like some primitive need to baptise myself in this most natural water. It was revitalising and energising, and just felt so bloody good!

climbing ben nevis
If I could have climbed down and bathed in it, I would have

As you go higher up the track, the terrain changes dramatically. You suddenly go from a fairly even ground, to boulders and rocks, that form a never ending, upward winding staircase. When I say never ending, it WAS NEVER ENDING. We found that we were now stepping up various heights and sized rocks, at times having to grab things to try to pull ourselves up by. Thigh muscles began to burn, the lungs began to work harder, our happy smiling faces were now set in concentration and effort.

climbing ben nevis
the ever winding staircase

We had been climbing for about 3 hours when I started to really struggle. My legs were heavy and my lungs were burning. It was relentless. By now, the sun had burn off the mist, so we were being heated up by the gorgeous sun. Off came our coats, but then, when you stopped for a water break, or a little energy snack, the height we were up the mountain meant that it was cold. Within minutes you were cold and the coat went back on. Many people were turning back. People happy that they had got even half way up the mountain were turning back, ready to start the climb back down. I knew how much it meant to Nik to get to the top of the mountain, he needed to do it, so we pushed on. My sister in law was the same as me. She too was finding it incredibly hard going. We joked that despite our training walks and preparation we had done, we suddenly realised that Essex was actually the flattest county in England! What we thought were good hills to practise on, were mere ant mounds in comparison to Ben.

climbing ben nevis

We pushed on, and after another hour and a half of climbing, I knew that I was coming to my limit. My legs were now at the stage that they were struggling to push up the steps, so I was getting wobbly. The air was thinner as we were 3000 feet up the mountain. I was honestly exhausted and I knew I had to climb back down again. We rounded a bend on the mountain, and my sister in law, who was just in front with her husband, was walking towards us. She too was done. Had nothing left in the tank. We were also incredibly aware that we had about a 3 hour trek back down. I felt tearful, but knew it was my time too. We had reached just over 3/4 of the way, but would climb no further.

climbing ben nevis

Turning to my husband, I knew as soon as I looked at him that he was going to climb on. His determination was in his eyes. I worried, I knew he was struggling too, but I also knew that he had to do what he had to do. Cancer had taken so many choices away from Nik, he needed to take back some of the control it had robbed from him. Kristian, Mandi’s husband had continued to climb on when Mandi turned back, so we said our goodbyes to Nik, and we watched him slowly make his way onwards up the mountain. I was so scared that he was on his own. We worried watching him go. Mandi called Kristian to tell him that Nik was following slowly on behind him. Kristian, who is super fit and cycles hundreds of miles a week, told us not to worry, he would find him. Watching Nik become a little ant, moving up the mountain in the ever increasing distance, we turned to make the slow trek back down.

It took us a further 2.5 hours to get back down the mountain. Coming down was as hard, but in a different way. You were suddenly aware of how high you were, as you were looking down the mountain, not up! It was also tough on your knees. We stopped a few times for an apple, or to just sit and marvel at the beauty of the mountain. It really was spectacular up there. The air, the views. the quiet. Everything

climbing ben nevis
a beautiful place for a stop

A fair while after we set off back down, we got a call. Kristian had found Nik, and he was still climbing! Mandi and I both burst into tears. We were both so aware of the need he had to do this. I cannot tell you how proud I felt. My husband amazed me with his whole attitude to the bastard that is cancer, now look at him, almost at the top of blooming Ben Nevis, 4 months after finishing 8 months of daily chemo. We cried like babies. Gawd only knows what people thought as they passed us on the trail. But, we didn’t care. Hugging each other, our aching limbs suddenly forgotten, we carried on making our way down the mountain.

climbing ben nevis
we were happy!

Reaching the bottom, we felt victorious. How could we feel even an ounce of disappointment that we didn’t get the last 800 feet under our belt. Suddenly, we had conquered that mountain. Ben Nevis had provided us all with what we needed. Mandi and I knew that we had pushed ourselves to our absolute limit, and got 3/4’s of the way. Nik and Kristian had got to the top. Kristian even went right up to the monuments that are on the flat summit. It was a victory.  Nik had conquered his own mental challenge, which I know was the biggest victory. He had conquered so much more than that mountain!

climbing ben nevis
The moonraker summit

It took Nik and Kristian a total of 8 hours to get up and down the mountain. To be fair, Kristian probably could have done it in an hour (lol) but he stayed with Nik the entire time, willing him on, encouraging him all the way. It felt incredibly emotional seeing them come down, Nik using is sticks like crutches, inching his way down. We all felt immensely proud of ourselves, incredibly lucky, raised thousands fro MacMillan Cancer and know that we shared a beautiful experience. Id love to say that the broken way we felt for the following week taught us a valuable lesson, but it would seem not…. We have agreed to do Snowdon in march. Pass me the gin………..

So, what can I tell you about climbing Ben Nevis

  • Have the right boots. They must be suitable for mountain hiking. Its the ankle protection and supportive sole you need.
  • Make sure you prepare for all weathers
  • Layer up. those clothes will be on and off
  • take energy rich snacks with you
  • have plenty of water with you
  • TRAIN – Do not underestimate this mountain. It is an incredibly tough climb for the moderately fit
  • Keep an eye on the weather. We gave ourselves an option of three days and watched the weather.
  • Make sure you book a hotel with a bath. You will be so grateful of a soak after!
  • Book a hotel near by. We stayed in the Ben Nevis Hotel and Leisure Club, just a few minutes drive away.

If you would like to read more on our Scottish adventures, I have more! Road Trip with a Difference, and Seeing Scotland Like a Local.

So there we have it. It was one of the hardest, but most rewarding things I have ever done. What do you think? What about you, have you done anything that has challenged you? Do you feel the need to adventure still? Anything that has felt like a huge achievement to you? Tell me everything, you know I love to know! 



  1. Louise
    September 13, 2018 / 6:01 pm

    Oh wow Kerry! This is my favourite post of yours so far. What an amazing experience! You’ve certainly inspired me – thanks for sharing this xx

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 13, 2018 / 9:00 pm

      Oh thank you so much! Im thrilled that it has inspired you. sometimes thats all we need isnt it, a little bit of inspo. Thank you so much for reading, and I really appreciate your comment xxx

  2. Jean
    September 13, 2018 / 6:47 pm

    Huge congratulations to you all, absolutely brilliant achievement

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 13, 2018 / 9:03 pm

      Thank you so much, the inability to walk for 5 days was worth it haha. Thank you for reading x

  3. September 14, 2018 / 8:20 am

    It sounds really tough! But my, you must be so proud to be able to say you did it! I applaud you Kerry xx

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 14, 2018 / 10:13 am

      Thank you so much. I do feel proud, it was a wonderful experience. xxx

  4. Janis
    September 14, 2018 / 11:10 am

    Oh Kerry what an accomplishment for you and Nik, both physically and emotionally, so very well done. I confess to being tearful reading this post. Congratulations to all of you.

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 14, 2018 / 4:26 pm

      Ahh Janis, sorry to make you teary. It was a fantastic experience for us all, and a well needed boost. Thank you xx

  5. September 14, 2018 / 1:40 pm

    What a memory & one to stay with you always! Fantastic achievement Kerry – and well done to Nik for ploughing on – he’s got spirit hasn’t he?! xxx

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 14, 2018 / 4:27 pm

      Lauretta he has amazed me how he has dealt with everything. He was determined to get up that blooming mountain, however long it took! Thanks for popping across lovely xx

      • September 14, 2018 / 5:56 pm

        He has certainly set the bar high & I can imagine how elated he felt after getting up there. And now on to the next one! 💪🏼

        • kerrylifeandloves
          September 14, 2018 / 8:39 pm

          Indeed. I seem to not learn a lesson haha

  6. September 14, 2018 / 2:53 pm

    A heartwarming and inspiring post Kerry – just loved it! I’m so pleased that you all had an amazing experience and I wish you all the very best for Snowdon! (Should be easy after this though right? ;-)) x

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 14, 2018 / 4:28 pm

      Haha Alex, Im thinking that, Snowdon will be a walk in the park! Thank you so much. As much as we suffered afterwards, it was an experience I will treasure. xxx Thanks for reading x

  7. September 14, 2018 / 8:03 pm

    Kerry, you are absolutely amazing and such an inspirational lady. This is such an amazing achievement and all of the photos here are so beautiful. You must feel so proud, 3/4 the way is amazing. Good on Nik as well, conquering the mountain must have been so special. I would have definitely balled my eyes out too!xx

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 14, 2018 / 8:43 pm

      Ahhh Grace, thank you so much! I do feel proud, I think that getting up that mountain it gave us so more than a sense of achievement. I am such a baby I tell you, I cry over everything. Thank you so much for your kind words, I really appreciate you reading xxx

  8. September 15, 2018 / 7:45 am

    Congratulations Kerry – climbing a mountain certainly isn’t all about the summit, it’s about conquering whatever drove you there in the first place! And well done to Nik, his drive and determination are clearly the things that have helped him conquer both physical and metaphorical mountains x

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 15, 2018 / 8:10 pm

      Thank you so much for this comment, I agree with you 100% It felt like such a huge achievement. I feel so lucky to have done it, especially after whats gone on the last 12 months! Thank you for reading xx

  9. The Laura Jessica
    September 15, 2018 / 12:46 pm

    TEARS IN MY EYES AS I READ THAT!! How amazing are you lot? I knew this meant a lot to you and Nik. I’m ever so proud of you both. You’ve motivated me!!! xxx

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 15, 2018 / 8:12 pm

      Ohhhh Laura, thank you so much! You have made my day saying it motivated you. Iv always wanted my blog to make people feel and explore. I really appreciate your support, and lovely words xxxx

      • The Laura Jessica
        September 15, 2018 / 11:42 pm

        I mean it. I was so emotional reading it. Just goes to show what you can achieve when you don’t let life get in the way. Your blog is very uplifting and the most positive thing I’ve read all week Xxxx

        • kerrylifeandloves
          September 16, 2018 / 9:58 am

          Well you have made this old girl very happy! Hahaha. Thank you very much, Im actually blushing x

  10. September 15, 2018 / 10:09 pm

    Well done on a great achievement! You should be so proud of yourselves 😊

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 15, 2018 / 11:06 pm

      Oh thank you so much, we do feel like we accomplished something. The effect that it has had on our minds has been just as beneficial. Thank you so much for popping over and reading, i appreciate it xx

  11. Susanne
    September 16, 2018 / 10:43 am

    Wow Kerry, what an adventure! And I’m glad that you’re not disappointed that you didn’t make it to the top – after all pushing yourself to the limit is definitely good enough, I feel the pain in your knees just reading this post. Those views must have been spectacular!
    Yesterday I saw a photo on Twitter that made me decide that I will have to hike the Dublin mountains in September. Not high but so beautiful!
    I’d say that my biggest challenge so far is awaiting me – now packing down a house and keep my sanity (I’m extremely vulnerable to stress and to live in an untidy space) – and then move to Ireland without having an exact plan for jobs. But I’m ok with it! If I survive this autumn I can do anything.:)

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 16, 2018 / 3:01 pm

      Ohh Susanne the views were something else. I felt like I was looking down on the whole world! You will love the hike up the Dublin mountains, what a great challenge that would be. Ohhhh Im not sure you will be able to keep your sanity packing up a house haha! That is one challenge that I found so hard! I think you are about to embark on a beautiful adventure. I wish you all the best xxx

  12. September 16, 2018 / 12:33 pm

    This sounds incredible, I think you’re both absolutely nuts for willingly doing it but I’m so glad that Nik pushed himself and got to the top. What an amazing feeling that must have been, knowing how much it meant to the both of you. I shall be turning to you for mountain climbing advice if I ever decide to do something like this! xx

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 16, 2018 / 3:03 pm

      He really did amaze me. The man has a spirit for sure! My mountain advice is simple,……… dont do it hahahahaha! Only joking, it was the best thing ever. Thank you for reading xxx

  13. September 16, 2018 / 1:43 pm

    This was so empowering and inspiring to read! All of you achieved so much climbing. Nik reaching the top is like the icing on the cake – a huge dose of icing! I can imagine how refreshing the water must have tasted. I would love to take on a challenge like this one day. I would climbing hills but have never stepped foot on a mountain. x

    • kerrylifeandloves
      September 16, 2018 / 3:11 pm

      Thank you so much for popping across laura. That water was just amazing. I know that sounds crazy for water, but it truly was. It was an emotional moment when we got the call from the boys up the mountain, for sure. Even now it makes me feel emotional xx You would love the challenge I am sure. Its very grounding and special xxx Do it!

  14. October 7, 2018 / 6:08 pm

    I wasn’t even there or involved, but reading that made me cry too! I’m so happy that your husband got to do this thing that was so important to him and that you were part of it too. You must be mad for doing another one, but good on you! I’ve only done one small mountain in Wales, and coming down was definitely harder than going up. XX

    • kerrylifeandloves
      October 7, 2018 / 8:32 pm

      Ahhhhh Kirsty bless your heart, thank you so much. It really was a fantastic and emotional day. I think I have quite got into the old mountain walking now! Until it gets nearer………haha! Thank you so much for reading and your lovely comment xxx

  15. August 28, 2019 / 7:53 am

    That’s a fabulous achievement! The pride you all felt must be immense. My husband and I walked up Ben Lomond about 20 years ago when we were at our fittest and I know how hard that was!

    • kerrylifeandloves
      August 28, 2019 / 8:11 am

      Thank you so much. It was such an emotional day and I felt immensely proud of my husband. His will to fight and push on just keeps astounding me. Ben Lomond is an achievement too! You must have been thrilled to get to the top. The views are always the reward arn’t they. Just stunning from u a mountain! Well done to you two also xx

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