Time and time again

Ben Nevis! Goodness me…. It was 1983 and we were walking up this well-trodden track in a blizzard. A stream of people trekking up this mountain at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Highland region of Lochaber in Scotland (1,345m). One bearded young bloke carrying a huge camera on a tripod. Visibility: very little. We never saw the view from the top, heard no bagpipes either. The young Scot had set up his camera and was busy talking to the lens, frantically waving his arms and saying hello to whoever.

Fast forward to 2023 and there was my chance to climb a vastly different and slightly higher Ben Nevis at 1,619m. Hopefully get a view this time!

Six of us set of from Richmond in two cars. The drive takes about 40 minutes through Wakefield, up Pig Valley Rd, Wairoa Gorge Rd and numerous forestry roads to eventually end following orange markers. It certainly is a very pretty area to drive through, very isolated and steep country. 4WD vehicles are a must, especially towards the end where the rain has formed deep ruts in the road.

Arriving at our destination, Maaike and Graeme parked their cars on a generous skid site by a gate opening up to a steep track on a recently logged and unsightly slope. So it was straight up for us without time to warm up the legs! Luckily we had the benefit of an already elevated car park, at 740m. “It saves the legs” Graeme kept saying!

Once you climb above the plantation of a curious blend of Douglas Fir and beech trees, you slowly access a rocky ridge line leading all the way up the mountain. It was a well-marked track.

Needless to say, a few stops for catching your breath as well as admiring the generous views of the steep bush clad Richmond Ranges on the left and the Waimea Plains towards the sea on the right.

Ben Nevis was half obscured by clouds but the weather was still sunny with a stiff chilly NW. A further layer of clothing was added.



After half a lunch Maaike and John decided to stay in the shelter of the bush while Brian and Era were already heading towards the top. Some girls with a chocolate brown Labrador came down the rather steep track towards us. Half an hour to the Top! Graeme and Annette, now with wind proof gear on ventured up the last very steep and rugged slope. Could I feel the thin air or was it just???????

Era and Brian were already on their way down from the trig station but the latter decided for some more exercise and joined us for the climb back to the top. The views were stunning! The highest point was a bit further along the ridge line but this one just had to satisfy the need for climbing summits. Graeme checked his watch and it was time to head back.


The well-rested Maaike and John as well as Era, started to head back while the three of us scoffed the second bit of our lunch enjoying the shelter of the tree line.

Halfway down the hill Graeme wanted to check his watch once again and discovered it wasn’t there.. oh heck! His 15-year-old Swiss watch, recently overhauled wasn’t in the ‘normal place’ in his pack! It could be lying anywhere on the track, so a half-hearted attempt to find it was abandoned. I must admit I had the idea of a ‘man look’ ……..


Two and a half hours walking from the top to the cars, Brian figured. Rather impressive, dare I say. The legs did feel the effects of the pull of gravity and the dry, steep and slippery clay bottom part of the track. And guess what?! Where was the Swiss watch? NOT in his pack but on Graeme’s wrist, where it was (and really should be?) all that time! He was one happy chap :)

A lovely day up and about. Thank you Maaike for your organisation, Graeme for the idea of venturing up Ben Nevis and entertainment, Era, John and Brian for your good company. Alas, no bag pipes here either. And……. video cameras HAVE shrunk over the years!       From Annette without stiff legs.

Stats: 10 km return; 930 m elevation gain. 3.5 hours ascent; 2.5 hr descent. A good workout!