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West Highland Way 4 Days in Nov 2015
by scotland606 » Mon Jan 18, 2016 12:56 pm
Route description: West Highland Way
Date walked: 04/11/2015
Time taken: 4 days
Distance: 150 km7 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
I had done most of the WHW in previous years, albeit not in one go. I had some holidays remaining and a incline to do the whole thing. My trusty cousin Alan was also free and after doing the National 3 Peaks in the summer, set ourselves the challenge of completing it in 4 days, beginning on 4th November 2015. Everything was arranged relatively last minute in September, but due to the low season accommodation was cheap and readily available
I had been dying to get back into the hills as where I currently stay (Berkshire) the nearest decent hike is a 3 hour drive to Wales.
Day 1 Milngavie – Rowardennan (Rowardennan Hotel) 27 miles
I flew up on the Tuesday afternoon and got the train into Glasgow Central from Ayr where I meet Alan just before 7.00am. The train took us to Milngavie, and after visiting Tesco for last minute bits, off we went into the dark sky and showers.
We kept a good pace and were aiming to reach Balmaha around 1.00pm where we would have our first rest. As the darkness lifted so did the rain and with the temperature a mild 12C we were in good spirits and looking forward to the challenge ahead.
At around 2 hours out of Milngavie we came across a group of cows blocking the path. Being well aware that cows are one of the most deadliest animals in the UK causing around 5 deaths per year and preferring not to test that statistic we decided to venture around rather then forcing our way through. What we didn't anticipate was our feet sinking into the marsh surrounding the path leaving our feet thoroughly soaked. Cows 1, Alan & Chris 0.
MOOOVE. We had to negotiate these cows a couple of times along the Way
We didn't let that sullen our mood however and proceeded onwards towards Gartness which is a lovely hamlet and took several photographs at the bridge. There was a fridge with an honesty box but the fridge was empty which was probably no surprise being so late in the season. I must mention at this point at how quiet the route was, we had been walking for 3 hours and all we had seen is one guy walking his dog.
Making good time we pass Drymen and follow the logging road towards Conic Hill which we knew would be the toughest part of today's walk
Conic Hill- you can't miss it
Conic Hill was the first climb we’d done in a few months which took it out of us a bit – its not that bad if your prepared but it is in stark contrast to the gentle walk we've had thus far on The Way. It's a nice experience once you begin to descend towards Balmaha seeing Loch Lomond in all it's glory and the promise of a rest in the pub.
The view of Loch Lomond from Conic Hill
We reached The Oak Tree Inn around 1.30pm. Alan necked 2 pints and didn’t have a bite to eat. Proper bloke. I had a pint of Diet Coke and some soup.
Off again at 2.30pm along the shore of Loch Lomond – the rain had stopped and there wasn’t a breath of wind. For the last hour we had to put our head torches on, but as we were in the forest, there wasn’t much scenery to miss. Trudging along in the dark we reached our destination around 5.30pm.
Pleasant walk along the shore of Loch Lomond
The fire of the Rowardennan Hotel was a welcome site and we had a couple of drinks before tucking into a great steak & ale pie. We were both pretty worn out in which had been an 11 hour day. We got an early night and agreed to get on our way straight after breakfast.
Day 2 Rowardennan – Tyndrum (Tyndrum Inn) 26 miles
Quick breakfast and off just after 8.00am – if only we knew what was in store.
After 15 minutes I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to reach Beinglas Farm, never mind arriving at Tyndrum. My right leg was killing me – I’d self diagnosed myself as having some sort of sciatic nerve issue. The going was painful but miracolousy after some ibuprofen and a good hours walking, I was fine again.
Nice spot overlooking the loch just past Ptarmigan Lodge. Stopped to here to take in the view and load up on painkillers
I have to be honest and say my pain threshold is terribly low. Even if Alan was struggling he’d keep it together much better!
At 11.00am we reached Inversaid which was closed for renovations so didn't stop for long. Bumped into a couple that were on a day-trip. That would be the only people we'd encounter the entire day.
The Doune Bothy at the northern end of Loch Lomond. Nobody home but there was evidence of someone staying quite recently
We agreed that we’d stop at Beinglas to warm up and re stock. Our mood darkened somewhat when we arrived at 3.00pm and both the shop and restaurant were closed. Always remember – check ahead! Especially in winter! We were at least able to refill our water bottles and crack on.
There is a lot of construction work going on just beyond Beinglas which doesn’t make for a pretty picture. There wasn’t much of a diversion in place and the rain had started so this was probably the most depressing part of today's walk.
This part of the route closely follows the A82 towards Crianlarich and darkness set in very quickly so we donned head torches once more. We came to the realisation that we weren't making as much progress as expected and felt that we might not reach our destination till after 7.00pm.
After passing Crainlarich we crossed the A82 and between the main road and some houses, there was some helpful signage telling us what mountain was what – but again a bit too dark to make out many shapes. This was the only section I regretted doing in the dark, but at least it was a short one. Shortly thereafter we proceeded up a hill for 10-15 mins and came to a level crossing. We considered it odd that the route would make us cross a train track and surely enough we checked the map and realised we had taken a wrong turn. I lost it a bit and scrunched up the map and shoved it back into my bag, much to Alan’s amusement. This fit of rage actually lifted spirits again.This is one of the perils of being in the dark but it was to be the only mistake we made and fortunately only added 20 or so minutes on the journey.
At this point we could see fireworks in the distance (being 5th November) and we assumed that they must be coming from Tyndrum and therefore we were not far from our destination. How wrong we were.
After scrambling about in the dark desperately trying not to get lost we arrived at the Tyndrum Inn at 8.45pm after almost 13 hours of walking. We were exhausted but so glad to have made it and luckily we were just in time to order dinner as the kitchen closed at 9.00pm. We dropped our stuff in the room, went down to the pub, stuffed our faces, had a few pints, then got to bed just after 11.00pm.
Day 3 Tyndrum - Kinghouse (Kinghouse Hotel) 19 miles
After yet another full scottish breakfast in us we were away by 7.45am after a quick visit to The Green Welly Stop. Again the first 30 minutes were not pleasant but we got a good pace going and enjoyed this section around Beinn Odhar and Beinn Dorain despite the rain.
The famous Green Welly Stop. Good for stocking up on painkillers and Compeed
Arrived at Bridge of Orchy at 10.45am and had a 10 minute break. After our long break at Balmaha we decided just to take mini breaks so we didn’t sieze up. Stuffed some more nuts & chocolate in my gob and off up the steep slope that would lead us to a cairn giving us a nice view of Loch Tulla and the vast stretch of moorland ahead.
The cairn overlooking Loch Tulla
The pace was good for a time then the weather took a turn for the worse. Couple of idiots doing this in November sprung to my mind on more than one occasion. Alan was suffering with a pain in his left hip and he had also accumulated numerous blisters so he began to slow. We passed the Inveroran Hotel (closed) and we knew we had a good 10 miles before our next rest-stop (Kings House). Going over Rannoch Moor the weather worsened with high winds and sideways rain. At this point the only other WHW walker that we saw during the entire trip passed us. Can't remember his name but he was German and was walking it over a 8 day period. He had started at Tyndrum this morning and was planning on stopping at Inveroran until finding it closed. He was making a good pace, determined to get to Kings House before dark.
Our original plan was to stop at Kings House for a bite then continue to Kinlochleven up the devil's staircase in the late afternoon. Because of our slowing pace and the dreadful weather we wouldn't reach Kings House till after 4.00pm and it would be another 5 or so hours to Kinlochleven so we considered stopping at Kings House for the night and making up the distance the following day.
After what seemed like an endless trek across the moor we spotted the A82 ahead which meant that the Kings House Hotel wouldn't be far
As we walked down to King House, soaked to the bone and noticing that another weather front looked to be moving in over the devils staircase – not somewhere you want to really be in the dark, we decided on seeking shelter at the Kings House.
The hotel was fairly quiet and had plenty of rooms to spare, so we had another tasty meal, some more pints of course, chatted to the German bloke then called it a night just after 9.00pm. As we climbed into our beds the thought didn't escape us that if we hadn't stopped here for the night we'd probably still be walking towards Kinlochleven.
Day 4 Kinghouse – Fort William (Bank Street Lodge) 25 miles
We were on our way at 7.15am and there was just enough light not to need head torches. We missed breakfast as the hotel didn't start serving until 8.00am and we wanted to get an early start as possible to make up the lost distance yesterday. I had barely been going 10 minutes and seriously thought about going back to the hotel – all my joints ached. However after 30 minutes I had stopped moaning and we were at the bottom of the devils staircase within an hour. Only another 30 mins to get up this bit (as most people mention it isn’t that bad and the nice thing is that you can't see the end of each path!)
The road down to Kinlochleven was torture on my knees and found this the toughest part of the route due to the pain. Alan found this section fine so he pressed ahead.
The walk down to Kinlochleven. Probably the longest downhill stretch of the entire Way
We arrived in KInlochleven shortly after 12.00pm. We stopped for a snack/ibuprofen at the Co-Op and I was hoping for a 15 minute sit down, but then the heavens opened so off we went.
Micracurolously I then found my stride again and was off part jogging up the hill - within 15-20 minutes we were at the top of the hill overlooking the town and it was at this point I knew we would complete it as I knew from a few years previous that this section was relatively flat.This had to be the most enjoyable part - mainly clear skies, no rain and it was relatively warm with the valley to ourselves.
The mood and the weather lifted as we entered the valley past Kinlochleven
After passing the ruined cottage at Lairigmor and turning north we kept a keen look out for Ben Nevis knowing this would spur us on because the end was in sight.
I think this is one of the best pictures I’ve taken (around 1.5hrs from the finish)
Hello old friend
I forgot how up and down the last section through the forest was – the bridges across the various streams (or is it the same one) were very slippy and with shattered limbs there were a few slips.
I took a great sigh of relief when we finally finished this section and came out on to the logging road. On with the head torches again. It was a slow hour back down to the bottom and our headtorches were on again. We could make walkers out on Ben Nevis with their head torches– descending as well as ascending.
Following the logging road towards Fort William
The last hour or so was very painful but we persevered (no point quitting now!) and we arrived at the 'original' finish at 6.30pm with a huge sense of relief and satisfaction. We headed straight to the Bank Street Lodge, quick lie down, shower and change then out for a curry. We walked past the 'new' finish in the high street and planned to take photographs in the daylight the next day, but when we ventured out the hotel the following morning we knew we wouldn't be able to make it there due to the amount of pain we were suffering.
The End - and not surprisingly, happy to be there
That evening though we had a fantastic meal, more beers and also a bottle of red. We originally planned to stay up late but with our energy sapped we headed to bed just after 11.00pm.
So sitting in the office several month later I do look back and wince at the pain we put ourselves through, but also the pride in completing it. In retrospect, if you are looking for a challenge, then attempting the route in 4 days is definitely that.
If however you would rather enjoy it and not be in total pain by the end, take 5 days minimum. We didn’t miss too much scenery in the dark but obviously would of preferred it all to be in the light – that’s the risk of winter walking I guess! I’d love to go back in the spring/summer and do it across 5 days using the baggage service so we could get a good pace going.
We both wore Salomon walking trainers and with the help of preventative compeed, I was fortunate enough to have no blisters – Alan’s feet weren’t as pretty and he lost a toenail or two and didn't leave his bed for a week afterwards. I hate to think think what my feet would have been like had I worn boots.
We carried everything but tried to keep things to a minimum. I think our packs weighed around 20kg each. We felt the weight the first day or so but after a while our shoulders got used to it. We booked all the hotels in advance (except Kings House) which worked out about £40pppn which was extremely good value, though I expect the high season to be considerably more.
Next up? Not sure – quite fancy the Yorkshire 3 Peaks but also want to do some “home” peaks such as Goatfell. Our next big adventure we are considering is The John Muir Trail in California, twice the length of the WHY and 100% more bears so that should be interesting.
That reminds me, I’ve not spoken to Alan since we departed at the airport – I’ll give him a buzz tonight and will get some plans in for 2016!
You can view all our pics here https://www.flickr.com/photos/138649288@N02/albums/72157661308767113
by Guinessman » Mon Jan 18, 2016 4:54 pm
by Mancunian » Tue Jan 19, 2016 9:40 am
by Buggiba » Fri Jan 22, 2016 1:43 am
- Posts: 53
- Joined: Aug 4, 2012
by scotland606 » Sun Jan 24, 2016 10:10 pm
Buggiba wrote:I really enjoyed reading your report, particularly as we had walked Tyndrum to Fort William over 3 days one October and recalled how early it gets dark at that time of year. I have also arranged to take on the WHW over 7 days in April this year and all of my accommodation is booked and arranged. Your time at the Kingshouse Hotel is pertinent as we shall be staying there and it is still only £40 pppn including breakfast. I hope we shall not require head torches but expect much use of waterproofs and compeed. Already into my training programme and really looking forward to taking it on for the third time. I don't envy you your 4-day stint but applaud your tenacity.
Thanks for your comment - you'll enjoy the 7 day stretch as it'll allow for a later start some mornings. You shouldn't need a head torch at that time of year but if your using a baggage service it's probably worth chucking in.
by Noreaster » Mon Oct 15, 2018 4:52 pm
- Possible snow cover
- Short daylight that time of year -- about 8.5 hours a day
- Terrain -- how treacherous is it?
- Lack of other people on the trail at that time of year
(And thank you for the post! It's the first search result that comes up on the entire internet for "West Highland Way November"!)
- Posts: 1
- Joined: Oct 15, 2018
by Scottk » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:18 pm
The terrain is ok. The path down into Kinlochleven is probably the worst bit. I did the section from Glencoe mountain resort to the end in a day and it was pretty easy but the weather was decent.
Hopefully you get this before you set off.
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