The team set off early Sunday morning in their underpowered speed restricted minibus, full of excitement at the challenge ahead. Sophie's brother Jem was behind the wheel ably navigated by tour chief organiser Bridget. How many speeding tickets would Jem get as we bombed North, heading for Ben Nevis? (Answer none, this bus was slow!)
Eight hours later, after a few crispy creme and latte breaks, not to mention some dodgy overtaking manoeuvres we arrived safely at the bunkhouse. Basic but functional we would be sharing a dormitory with communal bathroom and loos, crucial part of the team bonding if we were going to get through the next 24 hours in one piece.
Fortunately, the pub grub (eight homemade burgers with all the trimmings was our order for the first night) plus shandies set us up for an early night, with barely any disturbance from the snoring whisky drinking boys!?
Early start, porridge and bananas were the order of the day before we met up with Max our guide who quickly assessed the Sophie Allport team before him. He was well impressed by our Mountain Warehouse purchases, and estimated we would achieve our climb and descent in under eight hours, which would be slightly better than average!
The Ben Nevis weather was looking dreich (Scottish for dreary; bleak!) and waterproofs were closely inspected, the wind was Max's biggest concern - but we passed the checks and off we set. Up to the stile, past Heart Attack Hill and along Ankle Alley without incident. Halfway was the waterfall where we had a brief stop to refuel and Max was impressed with our purchases of scotch egg, pork pies, babybel, flapjacks and chocolate - he even sampled some Lincolnshire Haslet which went down a storm.
Then onwards and upwards into the clouds we headed, couldn't see more than a few metres in any direction so views were somewhat limited!
Round corner zero (even though we'd been going for 3 hours!?) to corner nine, each straight getting shorter yet steeper, we were getting close to the summit where it was surprisingly flat and less windy. We were guided past the cairns, ruins of the old hotel, gullies which were still full of snow, the old Victorian observatory and the emergency shelter which has saved many lives ..... and finally the summit of Ben Nevis!
The Sophie Allport team had made it to the highest point in the whole of the UK. A great sense of achievement, and we'd smashed our fundraising target for Alzheimer's to boot! We trotted back down with a spring in our step, before our muscles started to seize up, even the cloud broke for a brief second so we could see the long and winding route we'd come, Ben Nevis in all its glory and a beautiful loch that we'd passed, oblivious in the fog during our ascent.
Over the stile and a charge for the line, we made it in just under eight hours, exhausted but exhilarated we were better than average! Straight to the bar in the bunkhouse for some well-earned refreshments - we were not going to have any trouble sleeping tonight, despite their snoring!
A very big thank you to everyone that sponsored us and helped raise an amazing amount for The Alzheimer's Society.