The mountain was Ben Nevis (an anglicisation of the Gaelic 'Beinn Nibheis', which means either 'venomous mountain' or 'mountain with its head in the clouds'). I'd wanted to climb it for a very long time. At 4409 ft it's the UK's highest peak. There are only 7 other mountains over 4000 ft in the British Isles - all of them in Scotland, and 3 of them (Carn Mor Dearg, Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag) almost within a hammer's throw of the Ben itself. The other 4 (Ben Macdui, Braeriach, Cairn Toul and Cairngorm) lie 40 or 50 miles to the north-east in the Cairngorm range. (I've previously climbed Ben Macdui and Cairngorm, but would love to climb Braeriach and Cairn Toul. The Cairngorms is a special, unique place - its vast, bare, windswept plateau like nowhere else in Britain, resembling more an Arctic tundra landscape.)
Anyway, here I was, now nearly half-way up the Ben, at the Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, nearly at the point where the Pony Track I'd been following begins the interminable zig-zags which take you lung-burstingly to the top. I'd deliberately chosen this easier and popular 'Tourist Route' up the mountain. Quite honestly, my present level of fitness would have been tested quite severely - possibly catastrophically - on any of the more strenuous and scrambly routes. As it was, I was still rather shocked when everyone from young kids with something-to-prove to skinny grannies with lethal trekking poles and state-of-the-art walking gear all seemed to race past me. (Hey! I'll have you know, this is no hill virgin, no rookie randonneur, this is a twice-baptised Camino veteran you're elbowing out of the way here! Respect!)
Near the top the steepness lessened. I crossed the corner of a small snowfield. A couple of high gullies were also filled with snow. On the broad summit, ghostly in cloud, stood a cairn, a war memorial and the stone ruins of an old meteorological observatory which had been built in 1883. (The Pony Track had been laid at the same time - so that ponies could bring up supplies.) A snow bunting (these rare birds are almost tame on some of Scotland's highest peaks - I'd seen them before on Ben Macdui) pecked at crumbs from walkers' packed lunches. A Dutchman offered me a celebratory swig of 50 year old malt whisky. Then it was down, down, down - back to Achintee in Glen Nevis where I'd started all those hours ago. (It took me 4 and a quarter hours to reach the top, and 2 and a quarter hours to return. I stayed at the summit three quarters of an hour. It was really cold up there.)
Here's a view of sublime Glen Nevis in the clear, rinsed light of late afternoon.