Given it sits among comparatively flat landscape (by Highlands standards), it doesn’t take much for Inverness to be towered over. That’s why Ben Wyvis, over half an hour’s drive away, is a dominant feature in Inverness, especially in the popular views across town to the north from the castle.
There, seemingly just at the mouth of the River Ness, Ben Wyvis stands over nine hundred metres tall, defining the city’s northern skyline. Even in the dry and clear weather so common to Inverness, Ben Wyvis can stand out because of its long, frequently snow-capped plateau of a peak.
I’ve been ashamed that in all my years here I’ve never climbed it. I suppose I’ve been a little put off – despite it’s apparent closeness it’s a deceptively long drive from Inverness and then a long climb to the base.
I’ve also heard many people describe it as a somewhat boring climb, with a long slog up uninteresting terrain and then a long walk along the plateau from the first peak to the summit proper. While the views are apparently great, I had been told that on a cloudy day it can make for a most unsatisfying climb if you get up there to find there are no views to be had.
The excuse of the company of friends and a desire to do something about our frequent talk of trying to climb it, led Nicole and I to finally get up Ben Wyvis yesterday. And, reinforcing my view that minimal expectation is the best foundation for travel, exploration or adventure, my lack of excitement about the climb paid off in spades.
The approach to Ben Wyvis, reached after a lovely drive northwards, is a stunning one. Framed by wide blue skies, gushing water and thick green trees, you could at times imagine the scene being somewhere in Canada.
Soon, the long walk to the base leads to more typical moorland and heather, though the popularity of the hill has led to a good path in place, meaning that progress can be swift.
The ascent itself was right up my street, so to speak: challenging, but not too much so. There was plenty snow on the ground, melting slightly in the spring sunshine and well-trodden by the large numbers of folk going up that day, so it was a bit tricky in some places to keep a secure foot but the views emerging westwards as we ascended were lovely.
Once above the snow line and at the first peak, we entered an almost surreal landscape, where the white of the snow because almost indistinguishable from the clouds that were rolling in around us. The change in weather was enough to make it freezing cold and not a peak to hang around on too long, but not too bad to prevent there being good views all around – north west to the Ullapool road, west to the mountains towards Skye, and south east to Inverness, just peeping out from behind Ord Hill.
I could imagine it being unpleasantly windy up here, but even in the relatively calm conditions of Saturday it was still blisteringly cold at the summit.
We headed down again almost as soon as we’d made it to the very top, and soon the warmth returned.
Looking back to the mountain as we left it, I was glad to declare it an immensely satisfying climb, and much nicer than it had often been described to me.
You can see the photos I took here.