It’s late September 2020. I’m in Scotland and I’m about to climb my first Munro – a Scottish mountain over 3,000 feet (914.4m), of which there are 282.
It also happens to be a volcano and the UK’s highest mountain.
Ben Nevis stands at a glorious 4,411 feet (1,345m) and is beautifully imposing. It is the remains of an ancient volcano that collapsed in on itself more than 400 million years ago, which was then moulded by the elements.
While not the hardest Munro to climb, it is the highest and for a first Munro it sets the standard.
The popular trail up the west flank is uphill all the way, with practically no flat or undulating sections. It’s a varied trail of gravelly rock path, rough scree and giant hunks of rock that some kind soul has seemingly put in as steps.
The climb begins just outside the town of Fort William and ascends through a valley of bracken before coming out onto more open land. A tarn sparkles in the sunlight and the view extends down into the valley where the slim slash of the River Nevis is visible.
Then the trail zig zags up the mountain until the final last uphill push to the summit.
It’s a long slog to the top but we were rewarded with views in between the puffs of grey cloud. Other mountains folded into the landscape around us, while Loch Eil glinted silver blue in the Western valley. By all accounts you can see Northern Ireland on a good day.
But what goes up must come down. And down was long and hard. Thigh muscles screamed; knees braced for the impact of the descent. Before long, my legs turned to jelly and I feared they wouldn’t carry me down to the bottom.
But we got back to the car in one piece and I can say I’ve climbed another – albeit ancient – volcano and bagged my first Munro.