Located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains of Scotland, looming up into the clouds over the grey landscape of the Scottish Highlands towers the majestic mountain called Ben Nevis, or Beinn Nibheis in Scottish Gaelic. Soaring up 1,345 meters (4,411 ft.) above sea level, it is the tallest mountain in all of the British Isles, an imposing figure and its perpetual wreath of clouds swirling about it have contribute to its name, which translates to “mountain with its head in the clouds.” Indeed, 355 days of the year see this land of fog, ice, rocky peaks, and jagged cliffs immersed in an impenetrable cloak of clouds and mist, making it a dangerous proposition for the many hikers and mountaineers who come here, finding their way through the haze through manmade rocks pile trail markers called cairns. It all has a rather ethereal, dreamlike quality to it, and although it is a beautiful, haunting landscape of craggy mist-shrouded peaks, icy fields, and sweeping cliffs, there have been reports over the years of very strange encounters out there in the freezing fog and ice.
One of the odder accounts I have come across, and the one which prompted me to look into reports of strange experiences here to write this article in the first place, was one relayed to me personally in the wake of my recent article of the mystery of a supernatural apparition seen on another Scottish mountain called Ben Macdui, known as the Big Grey Man of Scotland. Although this contact had never seen the Big Grey Man, he had had a rather similarly unnerving encounter while hiking out on Ben Nevis, when he encountered a group of what seem to have been very mysterious entities indeed wandering through the fog. He would tell me:
Not Ben Macdui, but I had a pretty strange experience that might be related as I was hiking up another Scottish mountain called Ben Nevis. I was hiking a trail with a friend there near the high cliffs of the north face, and on this day the fog was real thick, like a soup hanging in the air, and we had to be very careful because there was some difficult terrain there, good for scrambling but not ideal for taking a leisurely hike when visibility was so low. We were the only ones out there at the time and there was a very eerie vibe to it all, the only sounds our own voices as we made our way along the rough footing.
At one point we came up past a cairn and saw something moving through the fog ahead. It appeared to be three figures, and these individuals were tall, probably at least 7 feet if not more. It was disconcerting to see, and as they drew nearer we could see that they seemed to be decked out in some sort of robes which looked to be an off-white color but it was hard to tell because of the fog. They were just so tall and weird looking that my friend and I were taken aback, and what made it even stranger was that they were just sort of gliding along, moving incredibly smoothly over rock piles and loose footing that would have even a professional struggling to work over it. But these guys, they were just having no problem at all, moving far more fluidly and quickly than they had any business doing. It was unsettling and spooky to say the least.
These massive robed figures just sort of swiftly moved past us through the mist, totally silent and completely ignoring us, before disappearing out of sight into the fog and rocks. I have no idea what to make of what we saw that day, but it is definitely one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen and I’ve always wondered about who or what those figures were.
What were these strange wraiths? Were they ghosts? Illusions? Something else? This would not be the only time mysterious shadowy figures have materialized from the fogs of Ben Nevis. A report for Deadline News Agency tells the strange tale of brothers James and Alex Robbie, who in August of 2015 were at Ben Nevis to camp out there for a week in order to raise money for the children’s charity The Archie Foundation. They made a camp near the ruins of an old abandoned observatory that sits at the peak of the mountain and was once used from between the years of 1883 and 1904. One day, a mysterious stranger suddenly stumbled out of the mist blanketing the area and held out what appeared to be a stone graver marker bearing the cryptic inscription “Wilson 1810,” before disappearing back into the gloom as suddenly and inexplicably as he had appeared. Robbie described what happened:
We only had about two days left on our trip. This guy came up quite early, about 10 or 11am. He described the observatory and he said “I’ll show you something.” and he went to look for the stone. We could tell he knew where it was but could see he was playing for time. He actively used the word “gravestone.” There was this amazing inscription on it. He let us take a couple of photographs and then he disappeared into the mist, down the hill. Quite disturbing stuff, and I spent the final two nights wondering if some reprobate would come forth from his tomb, dressed in the garments of the grave, and visit us in our hut.
It is hard to say what could possibly be going on here. Was this a hoax or some sort of prank, or is there something more mysterious going on? It’s a rather unsettling encounter whatever the case may be. Interestingly, there have been quite a few sporadic reports from people seeing mysterious figures lurking in the fog of the mountain, which are often said to emanate a heavy sense of unease, fear, and even abject panic, usually vanishing into thin air when approached. Are these ghosts, spirits, or just the mind playing tricks?
A decidedly even scarier account of an unidentified entity was reported by British Bigfoot Sightings Reports, and concerns some sort of shambling beast on Ben Nevis. The witness claims that he and a friend had gone to Ben Nevis to do some camping and hiking, and that on the second evening he had heard something very large and ominous prowling about in there in the dark just past the thin veil of the tent. The witness explains:
Sleeping in a damp cold bivvy is not at all pleasant. I did finally drop off to sleep but I woke up for some unknown reason in the middle of the night. As I lay awake I could hear footsteps walking round us. At first I was quite interested in this, as I thought an animal of some description had paid us a visit. But as time went on I began to realise this was definitely a two legged creature, with quite purposeful steps. The footsteps, by now, were really close – only a couple of feet away, and I started to get the chills and had a massive fear come over me from nowhere, I was on high alert instantly. Writing this I still get the chills about who, or what, it may have been.
It would later become apparent that the others had heard the very same sound, none of them were able to explain it, and it was frightening enough that none of them was in a hurry to ever camp at Ben Nevis again. Considering that noone in this case ever saw the actual source of the sounds it is hard to know what to think of this one, but there have strangely been Bigfoot sightings on the mountain in the past, so is that what this was? Or was it a ghost or just someone messing around with them? Who knows?
One phenomenon that could be indicative of mysterious creatures or spectral entities roaming the mountain are the occasional reports of unearthly howls, screams, or wails echoing out from out in the foggy wilderness, which serve to baffle just as much as they do to terrify. One such account was brought forward by a witness named Christopher Sleight, a producer for BBC Radio Scotland’s outdoorsman program Out of Doors. Sleight gave his own account of his spooky encounter with this mystery on BBC News, and claims that he was out ice climbing with a friend at a place called Comb Gully in February of 2015 when they were alarmed by a very bizarre and disturbing noise. Sleight says of the bizarre experience:
I was placing an ice screw when I heard the first scream. It started indistinctly, slightly muffled, but quickly became sharp into focus. It pierced through the mist – the most visceral, awful sound. People talk about blood curdling screaming and for the first time I understood what they meant. That noise sent a stream of cold blood around my veins and chilled the back of my neck. My first thought was simple but terrible: I was listening to someone who had just watched a loved one – not simply a climbing partner, but a loved one – fall to their death. There was so much pain and loss in that dreadful noise. At that moment I just wanted to be gone – off the climb, off the mountain.
The first impression that he and his companions had was that there had been a climbing accident, either from the victim or more likely someone who had seen the victim fall. They did an inspection of the area and could see no sign of anything amiss, yet due to this suspicion they kept an eye out for any sort of rescue activity or accidents on their way down the mountain after their climb, and along the way they met other climbers who reported having heard the same ear-piercing wail. However, it became obvious that there was no sign of any rescue efforts, no trace of any accident despite several other climbers having gone off to investigate the mystery scream as well, and it also turned out that no one had even been reported missing at all. Sleight would later say:
A brief search close to where we finished our climb revealed nothing. We headed down to Fort William. I later spoke to another climber I knew who had been on a route in the same corrie. He had abseiled off his route and gone to investigate the screams he heard, but he also found nothing. Other climbers have done the same. Nobody could find evidence of an accident and the police said no-one had been reported missing. So we don’t know who was screaming. We don’t know what happened to them. We probably never will. But I’ll never forget how a horrible scream coming out of the mist reminded me so vividly, so awfully, of the dangers of this beautiful game that we play. Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team was asked to investigate the reports of screaming, but later stood down after no trace of a casualty could be found. Screams and howls are still heard on the mountain by climbers to this day.
That last line there is rather ominous, implying that these sorts of screams are a continuous phenomenon, and indeed they have been reported in the area from time to time. Are they related? What is going on here? Although Sleight does little to speculate on what the origin of the mystery scream could have been, there is something rather enigmatic and ominous about the whole thing. Why would there be no sign of any accident or people in distress if a climber had just perished? Why was there no trace of activity related to a search or rescue, and indeed why wasn’t there any person reported missing on the mountain that day? More eerily, why have such mysterious screams continuously been reported over the years on Ben Nevis, all without any news of an accident or disappearance? Are these really the anguished howls of doomed climbers? Are they from some sort of nefarious creature, or even something more mysterious still? No one really knows.
Here we have looked at just a few of the strange mysteries of this isolated misty mountain, a selection of the truly bizarre from this fog shrouded locale. It is hard to know what could be behind any of these odd occurrences and encounters, whether it be supernatural forces, unexplained mysterious phenomena, or something more mundane. These cases are anomalies that deft any real clear explanation and serve to stir the imagination. Whatever may be going on, the imposing Ben Nevis with its crown of clouds sitting king over all it surveys can certainly be said to be a place of great magnificence, as well as one of great mysteries hiding within its mists.