Updated: Aug 31, 2019
No one could have prepared me for this final climb. To provide you with an overview, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. The monster stands at 1,345 meters, or 4,413 feet above sea level. It stands at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands. It is very close to the beautiful town of Fort William. As we learned, Ben Nevis is a popular destination which according to Google, it attracts an estimated 100,000 ascents a year, around three-quarters of which use the "Pony Track" (most frequent climbing path), from Glen Nevis. In our investigation of Ben Nevis, we discovered that the summit of the behemoth is the collapsed dome of an ancient volcano. Nestled at the top of this monster is the remains of an observatory, which (as per online reporting) was continuously staffed between 1883 and 1904.
After completing two previous climbs (Scafell Pike in England, and Snowdon in Wales), this monster was the last on our list. We began our mission on August 5, 2019. The drive from Bournemouth, England was an endeavor in itself. Following a short stay in Lancaster, England, we were back on the road. While driving with Daniel Heath, I thought back to our previous climbs and wondered if I would conquer Ben Nevis. Was I ready? Would I fail? What was going to happen? I was more than preoccupied, I was sincerely concerned. Nonetheless, we traveled onward and as we got closer, my preoccupation transformed into fear.
Daniel Heath drove the entire ten-hour drive to our destination until we arrived at the Blackwater Hostel in Kinlochleven, Scotland. We wish to thank the staff at Blackwater Hostel for such a nice and welcoming stay. The Blackwater Hostel was just the right place to rest and enjoy the beautiful scenery in the area. We took August 6th to rest and planned as best as we could, knowing that the monster was awaiting us on the morning of August 7th.
August 7, 2019
It was time to climb Ben Nevis - it was time! The drive to the base of the monster was roughly forty-five minutes. I voiced my "concerns" and "worries" to Daniel as we approached our destination. You would indeed have to know Daniel Heath to understand how he responded.
Simply and always - "Let's go!"
We soon arrived at the Ben Nevis Visitor Center, and prepped our rucksacks and changed into our climbing gear.
Watch our Ben Nevis climb. My article continues below.
Mission Accomplished! Over 35,000 Steps!
I want to first thank you for watching our Ben Nevis climb. Unlike the last two climbs, I decided not to narrate. The bottom line - Ben Nevis was grueling and unlike the other two mountains. Without my walking poles, I would never have made it. The poles were a lifesaver which helped me at times when my gait was unsteady. There's a rough-cut edit of the climb which I have decided to keep under "lock-and-key" due to some expected, graphic, and colorful language. This version also includes the many instances of my "huffing-and-puffing" and out-cries to quit. Daniel Heath wasn't having any of it and continued to help push me upward to our goal.
Why do I climb?
I debated as to whether or not I would include this within my article, but I must. It's not just for the sake of my own humanity, but for the thousands of my peers in the Huntington's disease and Juvenile Huntington's disease community who struggle on a daily basis. Prior to (literally days and hours) of this very climb, I received Facebook messages from my peers within the Huntington's community.
"Why are you climbing mountains if you have Huntington's disease?"
"How can you climb if you have Huntington's disease?"
"You look great for someone with Huntington's disease."
These were among the messages I had to read as I prepared for the most physical and mental task of my life. Those people know who they are, and their messages went unreplied. However, I am deeply grateful to the thousands of positive and uplifting texts, messages, and Facebook posts from those who truly understand - why?
I am blessed to have family and friends who although were apprehensive about my decisions to climb, they remained by my side and championed me along the way. They understand I have a terminal brain disease, but they continue to treat me with love and respect. I know they will be there again when I move on to the next challenge in life!
Learn more about Huntington's disease!