A Height to Soar For

Press and Photographs by
Nikki Scott-Taylor

Quentin Henderson who first climbed Nevis Peak (3,232 ft) October 1987 and many times since, taking hikers to the top of the peak and back, has set himself another challenge which will raise money (in excess of 5000 US$, £3,500) for the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society. This week, within three days of each other, he is to climb both Nevis Peak, in the center of the island of Nevis in the West Indies in the Caribbean (on the morning of Wednesday, 6th May) and Ben Nevis, in Scotland ( on Friday, 8th May). Quentin who says his profession as a Bee-keeper in Nevis keeps him fit, plans to fly overnight from Nevis to London on the 6th May, then travel by train from Gatwick to Fort William on the 7th May to make his ascent of the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis (4,409 ft), located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands.

The inspiration for climbing the two mountains of almost the same name and timing the climbs as close together as possible came from the 2014 summer Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when the baton came to Nevis. “The idea is to raise money and publicity for the Federation of Nevis and St Kitts by climbing Ben Nevis with the mud of Nevis Peak on the calves of my legs and planting a Nevisian flag on the Scottish mountain so it appears like a seamless climb,” he explains. He estimates it will take him a combined time of 11 hours, 5 hours to climb the Nevis Peak and 6 hours to climb Ben Nevis.

Preparation for this feat has meant rigorous training for 62 year old Quentin. Having been raised on a farm, he has always led an active outdoor life and made walking his lifestyle. To get in better shape during the summers of 2012-14 he hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, one of the longest footpaths in the world, (2,175 miles) from Georgia to Maine, USA. For Quentin the weather will be a challenge and mean adapting to different temperatures from Nevisian heat of 28° C to the colder climes of 10.50° C in Ben Nevis.

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Both mountains are volcanoes; the Nevis Peak a potentially active volcano, the summit of Ben Nevis; a collapsed dome of an ancient volcano. Ben Nevis attracts an estimated 225,000 climbers, walkers and mountaineers a year to scale its well managed pathways, scrambles and rock climbs at all levels of difficulty.
The steeper parts of Nevis Peak too have challenging sections. Hikers need to be physically fit to complete the route, and for safety’s sake, it is necessary to go with a qualified guide. On days when the peak is completely free of clouds, there are remarkable views from the top of the mountain out over the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the many surrounding islands of the Leeward Island chain including the volcanically active island of Montserrat, Redonda, Antigua, St Kitts, Sint Eustatius and Saba.
According to Mr Gersenkirth, an experienced hiker from Rome compared to his previous hardest climb (the Ben Lomond) Mount Nevis is twice as difficult and a less friendly environment.
“Since the mobile phone signal is not very good throughout the climb and there is usually nobody else on the trail but you and a guide, you can not count on others to give assistance.”

On a point of interest: The current name “Nevis” is derived from a Spanish name Nuestra Señora de las Nieves. This Spanish name means ‘Our Lady of the Snows’. Presumably the white clouds which usually wreathe the top of Nevis Peak reminded someone of the story of a miraculous snowfall in a hot climate. So maybe the two climbs may not feel so different after all.


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