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West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

West Highland Way for the Easter Hols


Postby Dunfie » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:16 pm

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 31/03/2012

Time taken: 5

Distance: 150 km

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The West Highland way - brought to you in association with Compeed (ouch).

Our walk was partly inspired by reading Walkscot's report from last year that he did with his 11 year old son Ciaran. Cameron, who is 12, and I did a lot of hill walks last year but having read Walkscot's report I thought I would offer the same challenge. The challenge was enthusiastically accepted so I spent January doing some research and booking accomodation.

We picked the first week of the easter holidays which meant we would be walking from the 31st March. I thought this was a perhaps taking a bit of risk as the weather, especially as we moved north, could still be quite wintery. However the dates were best for us and we also felt that the week prior to Easter would be quieter than the next week.

I had read quite a lot before we headed off and the message was that the WHW was more a challenge on your feet than a fitness issue. This certainly proved to be the case as we both struggled with blisters and aches for most of the walk.

Cameron especially struggled through day 3 and 4 with blisters on his toes but with the liberal use of compeed he managed to brave on and get through the days (I am sure it has been said before but you cannot take too much compeed - I kept having to top up on supplies on the route).

Day 1 - Milngavie to Balmaha
The weather was really looking good for the first couple of days but was perhaps going to go downhill from there. We got to Milngavie for around 8:30, dropped off the bags with Travel Lite and were off for 8:45.

Start of Walk from Milngavie
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First Views of Dumgoyne at Craigallian
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View of Conic Hill on walk up from Drymen
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View up Loch Lomond
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The Cobbler in the distance
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Cameron surveying Loch Lomond from top of Conic Hill
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We stayed at Balmaha Bunkhouse which was perfect for a first night. It is run by Bob and Debbie and they couldn't have been more helpful. We got them to provide us with a packed lunch which turned out to be the best value lunch that we had all week. After dinner Cameron just stayed in the Bunkhouse reading a book but I made a mug of tea and sat at the bench watching the sun set.

Balmaha Bunkhouse
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Is that a duck in the trees? I thought this was an interesting shape.
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We were early to bed as we had the infamous walk to Inverarnan to do in the morning.

Day 2 - Balmaha to Inverarnan

We were up early and on our way for 7:30 for what ended up being a fairly long day. Although everything I had read had said that the walk along the loch was tough I don't think I really appreciated how hard it would be. We were both struggling along in the last couple of miles before Inversnaid and then, after a break at the hotel, the last few miles to Inverarnan seem to take forever. We had booked one of the wigwams at Beinglass Campsite so were looking forward to the variety.

Cameron at the Bay at Balmaha.
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The morning was beautiful, if a wee bit chilly, but the views across the loch were fantastic.
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Getting to Rowardennan took a bit longer that we expected but we stopped at the Ben Lomond carpark for a snack before heading off to Inversnaid.
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We had heard about the smelly goats but what was this?
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Towards the end of the day we climbed up and got a final view of Loch Lomond.
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Finally we got to Beinglass and our bed for the night. The wigwam is basically just a floor to sleep on but you do get a basic matress and a heater so it is a bit more confortable that a tent.
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Beinglass is a great campsite. The shop is well stocked with food, camping and also first aid equipment. The food in the restaurant was also very good.

Day 3 - Inverarnan to Bridge of Orchy

Another early start for what should be a relatively easy day. However this was a bad foot day which made the trek from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy a bit slow. The climb up from Inverarnan is quite easy and then there is a lovely walk through the forest between Crainlarich and Tyndrum. We stopped for lunch at the end of the forest path and then made for Tyndrum.

The Campsite with the wigwams at Strathfillan
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Second lunch at the Real Food Cafe
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Beinn Dorain between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy
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This was a great site for sore feet. The bunkhouse is fairly basic but as we were using the hotel for dinner it was a
perfect place to stop fo the night.
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The buzz around the hotel was the snow was forecast overnight. This along with the pain Cameron was feeling in his feet meant that there was a real possibility that would have to get a bus along to Kinlochleven in the morning. We would just have to see in the morning.

Day 4 - Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven

We woke up to this!
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The good news was that Cameron's feet weren't too bad and after breakfast we had heard that others had headed off so we just got ready to set off. The snow was falling hard by this point but the path was clear so we just headed off up through the woods.
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It took just under an hour to get to Inverornan. There wwas a lot of people looking cold and wet trying to get their tents down. It was a bit of a miserable scene.

View down to Inverornan
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We then moved on to Rannoch Moor - the wind was stiff and cold but the snow was starting to clear so it was actually quite an enjoyable stretch.

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Gladly the climbing was done and as we turned the corner we got sight of Buachaille Etive Mor looking quite stunning (as it always does).
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We then popped into Kinghouse for a bowl of soup and a hot drink.
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After our lunch (well it was actually our second lunch as we had our first lunch at Ba Bridge) we set off to the bottom of the Devils Staircase.
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The staircase isn't actually that hard - no more difficult than any other hill path we were up in good time.

Cameron at the highest part of the walk
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The views of the Grey Corries were just magnificent.
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When we got to the top of the Devil's staircase we mentally switched off. We felt that we just had to get down the hill into Kinlochleven and the day was over. What we weren't prepared for was how long it would take as it was almost 2 hours from the top before we hobbled up, exhausted, to Blackwater Hostel. We had booked a microlodge hobbit for the night so quickly got booked in and warmed up. This really was a hard day but the chip shop was open so the pains were soothed by a couple of fish suppers.
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Day 5 - Kinlochleven to Fort William
Our feet were really sore in the morning but with only 15 miles to go we just had to get on with it. The climb out of Kinlochleven really gets the blood pumping but the views down towards the Pap are very nice.
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From here we just got our head down and trudged along the glen for a few miles until finally Ben Nevis came into view.
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When we got onto the forrestry track we were both suffering with our feet, blister under blister and general aches and pains. But it was worth it to get the photo's at the end.

First Finish
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Second Finish
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We had a meal in the Grog and Gruel and a night at the Cruachan hotel and then travelled back down on Thursday. What a fantastic week, we were lucky with the weather as we avoided the rain and the day of snow added something to the adventure rather than being a negative. I was so proud of Cameron as he soldiered on when his feet were sore and didn't complain the whole way. He has now also seen some of the great hills that we have so wants to make plans to get up some of them this year.

Its also a fantastic experience as the camaraderie you get from the other walkers is really uplifting. After the first day you quickly realise who is on the same schedule as you and the banter begins to flow. There are parts of the walk that are not quite as inspiring but when you take the sum of the parts it adds up to a more than just a long walk.
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Dunfie
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Re: West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

Postby westcoasthiker » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:08 pm

Well done :D We are walking the WHW in mid-May so hopefully we don't encounter snow but as you said it does make for an interesting variation in the weather, not to mention good photos. Thanks for the report and photos.
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Re: West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

Postby steven65 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:18 pm

Well done there Dunfie & Cameron , a great achievement for a young guy !
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Re: West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

Postby walk aboot » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:01 pm

Well done Cameron for doing the WHW in the week of sunshine then snow 8)
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Re: West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

Postby morag1 » Sun Apr 08, 2012 7:46 pm

Well done Cameron :thumbup: hope your feet have healed up now
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Re: West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

Postby mrssanta » Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:29 pm

Think Compeed is a brilliant invention. :lol: :lol:
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Re: West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

Postby DarrenJeffrey » Mon Apr 09, 2012 12:54 pm

Fantastic report. Really enjoyed reading this one. Well done :thumbup:
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Re: West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

Postby Dunfie » Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:59 am

Thanks for all the replies. Cameron has really enjoyed your words of encouragement.

Now I just need to get him up some hills again. :)
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Dunfie
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Re: West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

Postby KeithS » Tue Apr 10, 2012 9:18 pm

Well done to both of you. A truly magnificent achievement.

I did the WHW with my eldest lad when he was 11yrs old (he is now 23), and I was so proud of him. It is very much a cliche about it being a 'bonding exercise', but I did really find it a wonderful week which we both gained so much from, and, as a bonus, instilled a love of the Highlands in him. I also walked from Inverness to Laide with my youngest when he was 11yrs (now 19) and have since walked the Great Glen Way with him. He is still keenly bagging and should be getting to no 60 after the next trip which we are now planning.

Keep it up both of you

Keith
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Re: West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

Postby brodiedillon303 » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:03 pm

hi dunfie.Good report i liked it. that snow must have been an extra challege for you both. You are right about the blisters on the feet. I had a couple of blood blisters under the nails of my big toes. i think it was caused by the little boulders and big gravel that gets in your way on those old roads. I found it particularly sore when descending and my feet were then pushing into the front of the boot.........................ouch I can still recall. I wondered what to do about them but when i got cleaned up in fort william i split them with a scalpel and dressed them then the pain went. The cameraderie is another thing that is notable. as you mention you tended to bump into the same characters on your trip and found them at different stages of their enthusiasm :wink: I think it will be a great memory to have taken your son on such a trip something you will both be able to treasure forever. Well done again. :)
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Re: West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

Postby Dunfie » Wed Jun 06, 2012 4:31 pm

brodiedillon303 wrote:hi dunfie.Good report i liked it. that snow must have been an extra challege for you both.


The snow turned out to be a bonus - although it was bad as we climbed over the hill to Inverornan we had a good day and the views were amazing.

I don't think the damage that your feet take can be stressed enough. The old military road is hard going and you do feel every pebble through your soles.

Cameron and I were on the Tarmachan Ridge on Saturday and he was asking when we could do the WHW again. It just goes to show that time is a healer (especially when it comes to feet).
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Re: West Highland Way for the Easter Hols

Postby dizzydebs » Wed Jun 13, 2012 8:13 pm

A big massive well done what an incredible acheivment, we done it may this year during the heatwave and found it so tough in that kind of heat,had to carry extra fluid every day which put so much more pressure on our feet and the blisters were just breeding such awful pain but your right about forgetting the pain.When we finished i cried with relief and said never again and now 3 weeks later and thinking about doing it again lol but well done both of you !!!!
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