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2 Munros and the West Highland Way from Bridge of Orchy

2 Munros and the West Highland Way from Bridge of Orchy

Postby gefftoine » Fri May 12, 2023 12:04 pm

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 02/05/2023

Time taken: 4 days

Distance: 83 km

Ascent: 3571m

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After a stay in Scotland last year as a French exchange student, I wanted to come back to the great outdoors to bag my first Munros. I made an attempt on Ben Nevis in March 2022, but the weather was extremely poor, so it was preferable to stay safe.
Moreover, friends used to describe the WHW as a spectacular route (which is). Wanting to go back to the outdoors, I booked tickets to Scotland and planned my way. Nevertheless, I didn't want to go on my own as I am not experienced with solo long walks. I talked about my plan to one of my cousins and he was in.
The initial plan was within 5 days, to climb Beinn Dorain, maybe Beinn an Dòthaidh, then tackle the WHW from Bridge of Orchy and hopefully finish it with the Ben Nevis (which I was determined to climb after my last year's attempt ended up in a failure).
After an amazing route from Glasgow to Bridge of Orchy, we arrived at the train station while seeing our objective for the day: Beinn Dorain.

With our bags packed for what was planned as a 5 days walk we started the climbing. It was rough. The few pints grabbed the night before in Glasgow made it even harder! But we dealt with it and arrived at the bealach in the fog.

This one trapped us a couple of times as we could not see at 15 meters and there were cairns during the path to Beinn Dorain. Eventually, we made it in the total fog.

The weather got better during the descent and we could enjoy the wonderful Loch Tulla and Loch Lyon, even though it was a bit more foggy.

We decided not to tackle Beinn an Dòthaidh as we had still a long way to go until Fort William. So, after a careful descent, we head towards the West Highland Way until the Inveroran Hotel, where we found a place to pitch nearby. We approximately slept at 7 pm and woke up at 5 to observe the wildlife around Loch Tulla.

At 6 we left and the sun broke through the clouds which gave us a wonderful Loch Tulla.

The walk from the place where we pitched our tent to Kingshouse went fast. Indeed, the landscapes were amazing and we went through Rannoch Moor, which is my favorite part of the Southern Highlands.
A wee break at the Kingshouse Hotel, and we were ready to tackle the devil's staircase that some described as the most difficult part of the WHW.

Our bags made it a bit tough but it was not a huge thing compared to what we climbed the day before.

As we walked past the descent of the staircase, we turned left a few afterward and would see the Kinochleven Valley with some stunning views. Fully enthusiastic, we made a break and said to ourselves that Kinochleven is not that far now.
That was a mistake as a matter of fact, the descent to Kinochleven was the hardest part of the day. Our feet also started to burn quite a lot because we had walked from Inveroran Hotel.

Eventually, we arrived at Kinochleven and tried to find a place to camp just a few yards across the WHW. After we found a first place, I didn't feel as tired as my cousin so told him that we can climb a few meters and we might have a place with a view through the Loch Leven. He would not see it with as much excitement as me but told me that we could do that. So, after 200 meters, he stopped and one of his blisters went off. I felt responsible for this and retained that it is still better to listen to your walking partner. We eventually went back to the first place to pitch the tent at around 6:00 pm. During that day we walked approximately 9 hours and we were both naturally exhausted, so we slept at 7 pm.
Woke up at 5 am and even if my feet were still burning, I was ready to go to Fort William, but after half an hour try to persuade my cousin to go, we slept again until... 9:45 am. At around 10:45 we head towards Fort William, the whole plateau after the ascent from Kinochleven went in a single part and we felt amazing after a good few 11-12 hours of sleep.

In the forest, just up the Glen Nevis campsite we would see the Ben Nevis, and, again we underestimated the descent. My cousin struggled for the next hour and a half, and it was a very very long descent to the Glen Nevis visitor center, where we decided not to go directly to Fort William, but to camp closeby to the Ben Nevis Inn to maximize our chances tomorrow for the Ben Nevis with all our camping gear. Indeed, the weather for the 6th of May for Ben was not amazing, and talking with people at the Ben Nevis Inn, they told us that it was quite windy and snowy at the top. We pitched the tent just under the Glen Nevis and analyzed the forecast through the Met Office website, considering our gear, it was better to make it safe. The Met Office website suggested us a good weather window just after noon.
Not in a rush we had a good sleep and took our time to prepare ourselves for the ascent of the Ben Nevis with our gear.
The way up to the halfway loch was windy that day, we would see people descending and not looking happy, so it was a bit worrying. We kept going anyway as none of us was having a hard time. We made the first real break at the halfway loch and we were feeling great. We went straight up to the fog at around 950 meters and the wind was picking up only in the most exposed parts which was okay.

While going up, we met some people that turned back because of the wind just below the plateau. Others were making a few jokes about our camping gear, and the wee bottle of Buckfast taken for the folklore. These two examples are showing how nice people were to each other in this common effort. That is quite different from French people generally speaking, who would have told us that we were irresponsible and could not make it.
As the wind was picking up and I started to feel coldness in my legs, I made a stop to put my overtrousers in and told my cousin to keep on as we could not make long breaks with our backpacks. Just around 1200m high, the snow was getting heavier, as well as the wind because we were getting closer to the plateau. My cousin waited for me and we would see nothing but snow and the wind was turning into a heavy one. I started to be afraid because we did not have crampons. Indeed, the French Alps during May are sunny and not that snowy, but never underestimate the Scottish weather! My cousin used to live in a snowy and windy terrain. He told me that we must go straight to the top even if I wanted to make breaks every 2 minutes. The plateau was snowy but people made it to the top that day, we just followed the footprints and the cairns. I was just focusing on the footprints at that point.
screenshot 2023-05-12 124205.jpg


Seeing stars in my eyes, this guy that I talked to at the visitor center told me that we were a minute and a half away from the summit. Relieved, we made it to the top a minute and a half later in less than 3 hours. The wind was so strong but we ignored it, ate our sandwiches, and started the descent as it was -7°C feeling.

During the descent, the fog went off for a wee bit and we could take a few pictures of the landscape which was incredible.

Then we went to Fort William for a Ben Nevis whisky, while doing the whole Ben Nevis through the Mountain path in less than 5 hours 30.
Our objectives were done... in 4 days instead of 5. And we got back to Glasgow by bus, passing by the Three Sisters, and Rannoch Moor (again)!
Those 4 days were amazing, and we pushed each other's limits. This experience was great and I cannot wait to be back in Scotland for a few Munros!
Our distance and the ascent are made relative to the walk pages from Walkhighlands, so quite unsure about the real data.

userroute(4).gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Posts: 1
Joined: Apr 7, 2022

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