Fort William, Scotland: He knocked the bugger off

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Fort William, Scotland: He knocked the bugger off

Henry Alexander wasn't a heroic adventurer in the manner of the great mountaineers, but he did pull off one remarkable feat: he went to the top of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Britain.

Yes, a lot of people before and after him achieved that but Alexander did it in a unique manner.

He drove to the top and back, through the valleys and cervices, across the open spaces and over ragged rocks.

You can't drive there today but, if you could, doubtless a four-wheel drive all-terrain vehicle would make it pretty easily in an afternoon or so.

However Alexander did it in 1911 in a Model-T Ford.

henry2It took him nine days over seven miles of boulders, marshes, morasses and snow drifts.

As a caption to a photo of the heroic feat in the West Highland Museum at Fort William, at the foot of the 4406 ft high mountain says, “over a pony track that consists of blocks of loose stones and so narrow that a false turn of the steering wheel meant a fall which would have caused total destruction to the car and death to the driver”.

His vehicle was repeatedly bogged down in the marshes and had to be pulled out three times and at the summit there was 10 feet of snow.

The descent only took two and half hours but was just as dangerous.

And Alexander really pulled a crowd.

henry3People came from as far away as London, Edinburgh and Glasgow to witness the well-publicised event, Fort William declared a holiday for the day of his arrival and he was escorted into the town by the Territorial Pipers.

Every night he would leave the car where it was and come down to a hotel in the town and a banquet was held in honour on his final triumphant return.

Outside the West Highland Museum is a bronze replica of a Model-T with Henry behind the wheel.

When asked why they climbed dangerous places some mountaineers will say, “because it was there”.

henry1But Henry Alexander – while heroic in his own way – had a very different motive.

He was the son of a car dealer in Edinburgh who wanted to proof the superiority of American cars over the British.

Or that the father challenged his son to do or else he'd cut off his allowance!

Either way, not so much a mountaineering adventure but an advertising stunt?

But a heroic one, nonetheless.


For other travels stories at Elsewhere start here.

Some are serious, some far from it.

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