Their story, in their words ……..
“One day the Mark Evison Foundation (MEF) came into our school assembly to tell us about the award programme the MEF offers to school children. The three of us decided this was definitely something we wanted to do, not only because we love a good challenge, but also because we wanted to do something for a truly great cause.
The first challenge was to decide what our challenge should be. We deliberated on what to do, and we eventually all decided that we wanted to climb Ben Nevis. But we didn’t see this as a big enough challenge and so, building on previous ideas of a hiking trip, decided we wanted to hike to Ben Nevis, which we would then climb. We agreed we would start our hike in Fort Augustus, at the bottom of Loch Ness. After pitching the idea to the MEF, and being given the go ahead, the planning begun. We organised our route, equipment, camping sites and everything that we would need for our journey.
The next part was fundraising. We all decided we wanted to fundraise for the MEF because it is a truly great cause that gives school kids the opportunity to do something incredible. We also decided we wanted to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, as this was another charity that gives amazing help to children. We set up a fundraising page and asked friends and family to donate to either (or both) of these amazing charities. As of writing this report, we have already raised over £900 in total, about £600 of which has been for the MEF.
Our journey, and challenge, truly began when we arrived at Inverness Airport, because strangely, it is cheaper to fly to Scotland than to take the train. The real reason we would be hiking is because Uber doesn’t have much of a presence in the Scottish Highlands, but also because we wanted to challenge ourselves further obviously. We first took a bus from the airport to Inverness city centre where we rushed around to buy the rest of our food and some camping equipment that was not allowed on the plane. After rushing back to the bus station to get our bus from Inverness to Fort Augustus, we queued up to get on. To our dismay, a Scottish man sent us to the back of the queue despite the fact we had been queuing for longer, but we didn’t want to try our luck with a Scottish Highlander, so off we went to the back. But then disaster! By the time we got on, there was no room on the bus so off we got. The next bus was 2 hours away and cost £3.60 more per ticket. Now at this point some people might panic because they were going to be late. Not us. In the face of true adversity, we went shopping; Craig and I went to buy some cookies, and Isaac went and bought a fleece because he hadn’t realised the Scottish Highlands, and the top of Ben Nevis, get quite cold. After the time passed, our bus arrived and we boarded it, and off we went. Our first glimpse of Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands was incredible. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the Loch Ness monster in her home; maybe she was actually the angry Scottish man from before. We eventually arrived in Fort Augustus, made our way to the campsite, pitched our tent, and went off to explore the area. We each came to the same conclusion; Scotland is beautiful. Though we soon added “but the weather is awful” when the rain started at 1 in the morning.
Eventually we woke up, packed up and Craig and I went out to try and find a better compass; under the recommendation of a British army medic we had met in the campsite. Eventually we discovered where a shop was that was selling them and went back to fetch Isaac, who looked unconscious. He was not. We woke him up and off we went with our heavy bags. Then the rain started. We eventually made it to the shop where we got a compass, some bin liners and a box of matches; we don’t really do party planning as you can tell. Then the challenge really begun. We started our hike down the Great Glen Way. Travelling down the Lochs of Scotland and taking in the beautiful sights, whilst getting soaked in the pouring rain and feeling as though we were being cryogenically frozen.
All in all, it took us 3 days to reach our hostel in Fort Augustus at the base of Ben Nevis. The going had been rough. We had aches and pains, and had been swarmed by the infamous and unforgiving midges, but the journey was a lot of fun. Craig and I made a 3km detour to get ice cream in the Clan Cameron Museum in Achnacarry (we would highly recommend; great museum and great ice cream) on our second day of hiking. We even got to spend a night wild camping in a forest on the shores of Loch Lochy; a truly memorable experience. We met some great people along the way and although we were hurting whilst sitting in the McDonalds at the end, we didn’t regret it one bit. What made the end of the hike even better was we were greeted by two drunk Scottish men in kilts and bow ties. But of course, the end of our travels from Fort Augustus to Fort William was by no means the end of our challenge. We did still have a mountain to climb. With this in mind we got some rest.
We woke up early to ensure we’d miss a thunderstorm that was expected in the Ben Nevis area. Although, this storm never made an appearance but oh well. We began our ascent, taking many stops along the way to take photos of the beautiful scenery. With the breaks included, our ascent took a total of 3 hours. At the top the views were even better, and it was at this point we realised we were actually at the highest point in the UK, and were feeling very pleased with ourselves. But then the fog rolled in. Visibility was reduced to only a few metres. Some people may have been scared by this fog and would have left, but we were unfazed and wanted to enjoy our time on the freezing summit of Ben Nevis. Eventually the view of clouds got boring and so with limited visibility and only our common sense and place markers to guide us, we began the descent. Having to run down at some points along the way as you build up momentum, we eventually made it below the clouds and were once again met with an incredible view. We continued running down, taking breaks once again to take photos, and eventually made it to the bottom in just 2 hours. Even though we could barely walk, and the backs of my feet looked as if they had been through a cheese grater, we had scaled and descended Ben Nevis faster than the average time; an achievement we are all proud of. Isaac collapsed on the bed, and Craig and I got some more ice cream, albeit this one did not require a 3km detour. We reflected on the journey we had just embarked on, the challenges we had faced and overcome, and we were all agreed that despite the hardship, this was an experience we did not regret. We felt that in all stages of this challenge, we had been pushed not just physically, but mentally as well and we have taken a great deal from this experience. We are immensely grateful to the MEF for allowing us to go on this unforgettable journey.”