Ben Nevis 2020 Dec

The last time I climbed Ben Nevis, it was in June (2013), and my report was pretty negative, as the memory of all the prickles we had to fight to get there dominated my thinking.

Olearia lirata Ben Nevis. This was one of three varieties of Olearia we saw this day. Down near where we parked, the tall, tree form, Olearia argophylla, filled the moist valleys. Up in the alpine zone, we encountered Olearia ledifolia. All have white daisies.

This year, my feelings are entirely different. It was December, and an abundance of colourful wildflowers decked our way: reds and yellows and creams and whites. The bush was a mass of waving colour. The temperature was quite possibly the same as in that June, as there had been snow down to 800 ms overnight, and the wind was strong and felt like it was straight off the snow. I had already seen a lovely photo of white Mt Wellington that morning.

Pultenaea juniperina. The lower, drier section of the walk was a mass of yellow and white, the yellow being provided by this plant here.

However, although the wind was strong, we managed to find sheltered spots for a snack and then lunch, and enjoyed the views.

Olearia ledifolia Ben Nevis. This is the species of Olearia we encountered once we entered the alpine zone. It’s not even half the height of of the lirata.
Euphrasia gibbsiae Ben Lomond. One web source I consulted said this is threatened. I am pleased to report we saw six or so bushes, just beside the track.
Westringia rubiifolia Ben Lomond. This was also in the alpine zone.

The plants are just as prickly as they were seven years ago, but they are a tad taller and this makes them more comfortable to negotiate. In addition, kind people have thinned them somewhat. Even so, I would not take a small child up this pleasant mountain, as I fear the prickles would be at a child’s face level. For us, they were often chest high. In 2013, they hassled our thighs. The prickly offenders were mostly Pultenaea juniperina and Leptocophylla juniperina, with a few specimens of Hakea lissosperma and even fewer Richea scoparia along the track. One forgives them for being prickly when they are colourful.

Olearia ledifolia enjoys the summit views
Lichen Ben Nevis
Hakea lissosperma Ben Nevis. Luckily, the prickly mountain Hakea did not protrude over the track, so its needles stayed where they belonged and didn’t attack us.
Ben Nevis gpx route

The walking (as opposed to talking ) time of our ascent was a bit over an hour. This included a few photos where I forgot to stop my watch. My gps says we spent a lot less than that moving, but the gps is always quite insulting, accusing you of not moving when you are. Possibly more to the point is that the exercise, which included stopping for drinks, lunch on the summit and the odd bit of track clearing, took us 3 hrs 46 minutes. The day was thus still young, so I went off and bagged a waterfall on the way home, the Cornwall Falls. (Hm. Rather a circuitous way home, but the countryside was very beautiful.)

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