The Piano on Top of the Mountain

The Piano on Top of the Mountain

You would expect to find pianos in concert halls, musical conservatories or even in someone’s lounge. One place you don’t expect to find pianos, though, is on top of a mountain. But that is exactly what happened back in 2006 in the UK when a volunteer trust was performing a cleanup operation on Ben Nevis. Their goal was to reduce the number of cairns in the area and they were stunned to find an entire piano (minus the keyboard) buried underneath one of these cairns. This wasn’t anywhere easily accessible, either. At a height of 4,409 ft (1,344 m), Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles and this piano was found right at the summit.

The entire event quickly turned into a mystery. The reason for the piano being there in the first place was most likely charity. People have frequently carried various items to the top of the mountain as performance feats for charity or in order to promote various products. One time in 1911, Henry Ford even brought a Model T up the mountain in order to advertise it (not alone, obviously). Still, the question remained: who carried the piano? There were very little clues to follow. At the site near the piano a food wrapper dated to 1986 was found, but that’s about it.

Ben Nevis Cairn

People often leave their rubbish in cairns…and sometimes their pianos, too. Photo Credit: John Fielding via Geograph

Climbing Ben Nevis is an arduous and exhausting feat of endurance, but you do not have to be an experienced mountain climber to do it. Even though it has its steep ridges, gullies and buttresses, these are mainly located on its north side. The opposite side is more akin to a steep hill and, as long as you are in good physical shape, you can walk right up to the summit. It even has a path made in 1883 called the Pony Track which is popular with tourists who want to ascend (or at least try) the highest mountain in the UK. It has actually become a popular hill running race which takes place every year. The first person to do a hill run of Ben Nevis did so in 1895 and it took him 2 hours and 41 minutes to run up to the summit and back again.

If just one person did, in fact, manage to carry this piano, it would have been very impressive. Abandoned items are found all the time on the mountain by volunteer cleanup crews but the piano was definitely the heaviest and largest item even recovered. In fact, the group that found the piano had to chop it up into smaller bits in order to be able to get it down the mountain.

The trust made an appeal to the public to find the identity of the person or persons who took the piano to the summit of Ben Nevis and it didn’t take long for someone to come forward. Kenny Campbell, former Highland Games athlete, claimed to have taken an organ up there back in 1971 for charity.

However, the item in question was definitely a piano, not an organ so someone else was the culprit. It turned out to be a group of people from Dundee who, like Kenny, did it for charity in 1986. When they finally got it up the summit, the plan was to break it off into pieces and bring it back down. However, they couldn’t smash the cast iron frame so they just took the keyboard, broke it into pieces and gave one as a souvenir to each person involved and the rest of the piano remained there for 20 years.

Bonus Fact: Even though Kenny wasn’t the one who carried the piano, he has carried a ton of other stuff there like a beer barrel and a plough. Here he is in 2011, well into his 60s, carrying a boat on top of Ben Nevis in order to support cancer research.

TL;DR Version

  • In 2006, a piano was found on top of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK
  • Ben Nevis is a popular tourist attraction which can be climbed on foot provided you have enough stamina
  • Kenny Campbell admitted to carrying an organ up there in 1971 as a charity stunt, but the item found was definitely a piano
  • Eventually, it turned out a group of people from Dundee carried the piano up there, also as a charity stunt in 1986.
  • It was too cold and the piano too strong and they couldn’t smash it up into pieces and bring it back down so they just took the keyboard and left the rest buried under a cairn.