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Winter West Highland Way 3 Days

Winter West Highland Way 3 Days

Postby AlexFrood » Sat Mar 30, 2013 9:39 pm

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 23/03/2013

Time taken: 3 days

Distance: 155 km

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I have been using the website for sometime for looking at routes in Scotland and thought a would finally post. Here is a write up of my latest trip.

Start Time: 23/03/13 5:29am
Finish Time: 26/03/13 2:38am

Total Time: 2 Days, 21 Hours, 9 Minutes

First off I wasn’t able to complete my original challenge of completing both the West Highland Way and the great Glen Way in seven days. However I did complete my primary objective of completing the West Highland Way three days. Not only did I complete the West Highland Way in three days, which is an achievement by itself, I completed the three days in winter conditions. It was hard work but the reason I couldn’t complete the Great Glen Way was because of problems with my feet by the end of the West Highland Way. I was happy that it was not only winter conditions visually but also physically different underfoot, places on the second and third day had two foot deep snow and drifts of even more. The weather was different with most days being nearly always below zero. Day one I had significant winds and the wind chill factor at the start, day two was overcast with snow showers all day and day three started off overcast but then later on opened up to sunshine and brilliant blue skies and a clear night.

Day 1

I left the somewhat condensed comfort of my bivi bag and made my way a mile back into Milngave. I starting walking the West Highland way at 5:30am, with a can of self heating coffee in one hand and malt loaf in the other, after finishing them, both of which became my staple diet and snacks the next few days, I got out my walking poles and then the real walking started. I walked almost non-stop to Balmaha where I had my first break and lunch in the Oak Tree Inn for the day, I had reached here by 11:30am way ahead of my schedule, this was unfortunately due to the Conic Hill path being shut for an upgrade. Although I felt slightly annoyed by the fact that it was shut and that I was cheating a little bit by not going over it. But it was shut so I played buy the rules and took the diversion. Conditions over this stretch were pretty windy and very cold from the wind chill in the open areas but with my buff pulled up across the face I could hardly feel it.

Next up was the walk to the Inversnaid hotel. The path to the Inversnaid hotel was pretty easy going and I covered it pretty easily. Getting there just before night fall at 6:30pm. I sat down and had a nice meal in the hotel before getting moving again by 7:30pm. Next up was the bit I wasn’t looking forward to, the four or so mile walk to the Doune Bothy. Even though its only 4 miles it’s very rocky and required scrambling at the Lochside in the dark, but I soldiered on and it felt faster and easier than the first time I did it in daylight. I made the Bothy by 9pm. After I got to the bothy I tried the door, the latch moved but the door didn’t, I then tried moving the door a little harder which moved it slightly, on my third try I moved the latch up and gave it a good shoulder barge with all my weight, the door finally swung open with the most horrendously loud noise due to the metal base of the door scraping against concrete, in the same moment I came though the door I gave two young gentleman who were fast asleep a rude awakening, never have I seen two sleeping people in sleeping bags go bolt upright so fast. I quickly apologized and they yet back to sleep, after a pretty miserable attempt at starting a fire as every bit of wood is under a couple inches of snow I also went to bed with another 5am alarm set on my watch.

Day 2

After waking up terrified at 2:47am thinking it was already 5 AM and finding out it wasn’t I went back to sleep, eventually 5am did turn up. So I packed up, drank another can of self heating coffee and ate some more malt loaf. After a slow 2.5 miles a made it Inveraman/Beinglas Farm Campsite and waited for them to open for some breakfast, realizing the time I had finished breakfast was 8:30am I had already wasted a lot of time. So a brisk move on to my next quick break at the forest above Crianlarich was required. This is where I first encountered deep snow, there wasn’t much trail breaking to be done so it didn’t hinder me too much, however the few miles in the forest above Crianlarch did. I felt it was the hardest section over the trip with its continuous ups and downs in the snow. I eventually found a way to make up time by running the down hill sections of the forest track. Eventually I was out and well on my way to Tyndrum for lunch in the Green Welly Boot, surprisingly this section took far longer than I thought. After lunch I set off to the Bridge of Orchy, nothing much interesting happened in this section as it’s just open easy track. I reached Bridge of Orchy just after sun set, this is where the first change of plan to my trip schedule had to take place. The original plan was to walk over Rannoch Moor to the Kingshouse by end of day two, but since it was dark by now I elected not to and managed to get a room pretty cheaply in the Bridge of Orchy for the night. I was pretty glad to have a nice bed and shower.

Day 3

After waking up stiff as a board and packing up I hobbled down to breakfast, finishing that I was out on the move again by 8:30am. I was rather glad I got to do a snowy Rannoch Moor in the light and see its baron and lonely but beautiful appearance. Next stop was the Kingshouse. The 2 or 3 miles just before the Kingshouse coming down off Rannoch Moor are slightly downhill and here is were I realized the pain in my feet. When I was going downhill I managed to separate the toenails on both my big toes, I discovered this on the previous night and guessed what I had done by the black/purple appearance, my own fault as I hadn't trimmed them before I left and my boots never done this to me before. This was the lowest point for me on the trip with the continuous pain and just how much I still had to go. After a bit of a internal monologue with myself about how I could do this I sort of forgot about the pain, gripped my walking poles a bit harder and focused on my target of the Kingshouse. I had a hours break for lunch in the Kinghouse with my boots off to give my feet a rest, after that I set off for the the Devil’s Staircase. I couldn't wait to get there as one of the reasons being it is uphill so my toes didn't hurt and because after that it’s Kinlochleven which is my last major stop before Fort William. After reaching the Devil’s Staircase I started up it, as I went up the snow got deeper and deeper until finally reaching the top and being presented with a beautiful view of Buachaille Etive Mor in its winter coat and the rest of the surrounding area. The next couple of miles were downhill to Kinlochleven and they were in deep snow. I had forgotten how long this section actually was and the deep snow just made it slower, it was to the top of my poles at some points, luckily for me there was a mostly filled in broken trail for me to follow, this makes it a lot easier than me breaking a new one. For the rest of the daylight hours I had glorious sunshine until Kinlochleven. I got to the Macdonald Hotel and Cabins in Kinlochleven for dinner by 6:30pm. I had a nice chat with the staff as they remembered me from the week before because I am Chairman of Teesside Uni Climbing Club and had run a Club Trip there and used their Cabins. The owner was quite surprised to find out I wanted make Fort William tonight and so she offered to fill my drink flask, unfortunately I didn’t have one. I set off at 7:30pm for the last 16 miles in the dark to Fort William. After climbing from Kinlochleven I made it into Lairigmor, I found it such a clear night and bright moon I turned my head torch off for the next 10 miles. I only fell on my ass once on ice, after learning what ice looked like in moon light I was fine. Only having to turn my head torch in the final forestry section. What I wasn’t expecting was a large amount of trees down in the final forestry section, great pines had fallen directly down and across the path and at one point a large group of massive trees had fallen all over the place making quite a detour through the surrounding forestry area, luckily the path wasn’t too hard to find again. By this time it was well pass midnight and I still had the last downhill section to go, this is where my pace really slowed because of the pain from my feet. But before I knew it I was a couple hundred meters from the finish in Fort William high-street. With a mere few minutes to go, before I could finally sit down at the finish and rest having completed my 3 Day challenge, a police car pulls up beside me and stops me for questioning. After quickly deciding I wasn’t up to no good, they asked what I was up to, congratulated me on my achievement, took my details and sent me on my tired way. Finally finishing at 2:38am a total of 2 days, 21 hours and 9 minutes from the start. After a quick phone call to my girlfriend and parents who had be following me live via my GPS beacon I turned and walked 15 feet to the Travel Lodge at the Finish of the West Highland Way and checked in.

Overall I really enjoyed last three days, even though it felt like I was walking for far longer. Over the 3 days I think I saw less then 10 other people walking the West Highland Way.


For more photo have a look on the link below,
Last edited by AlexFrood on Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Winter West Highland Way 3 Days

Postby monty » Sun Mar 31, 2013 4:52 pm

Just superb Alex. Top effort in the conditions. :clap:

Re: Winter West Highland Way 3 Days

Postby UncleSimes » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:01 pm

Great achievement, surely a trip you'll always remember, thanks for posting.
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Re: Winter West Highland Way 3 Days

Postby frickletonh » Sat May 04, 2013 10:43 pm

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Re: Winter West Highland Way 3 Days

Postby mrssanta » Sun May 05, 2013 8:38 am

Well done indeed, how are your toes now?
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Re: Winter West Highland Way 3 Days

Postby GillC » Wed May 08, 2013 10:06 pm

Totally epic trek there. Well done you :clap:
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Re: Winter West Highland Way 3 Days

Postby AlexFrood » Fri May 10, 2013 10:49 pm

Thanks for the comments it was a fun adventure, as for my toes I'm missing both my big toe nails now, but it still worth the effort.
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Re: Winter West Highland Way 3 Days

Postby scotsmist » Sat May 20, 2017 9:27 pm

What a tremendous effort. I did this over 6 days in February and feel your pain, but your's is in a different league. Would love to cross Rannoch Moor in the dark

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