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West Highland Way Failed Attempt

West Highland Way Failed Attempt


Postby jdsummerton1991 » Thu Apr 13, 2017 10:28 am

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 03/04/2017

Time taken: 3.5

Distance: 74 km

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Massively underestimated the West Highland Way, this combined with poor planning meant that I had to drop out of this epic walk at Crianlarich much to my disappointment!

I guess it wasn't to be. On day one I lost my phone which was when things started going sour. No idea how this happened considering it was in my coat front pocket! But if anyone has found an iPhone 6 on the way, look me up! Aside from that the fact I was carrying 20kg on my back didn't help things and even after the first stage from Milngavie to Drymen my feet were forming blisters. On the bight side we found a perfect wee camp spot outside Drymen sheltered among the trees from the drizzle. At night we played cards, drank whisky and listened to folk music! A good end to the day.

Day two was tough. With an already cumbersome pack I loaded the extra weight of the tent which I was sharing with my pal. The Vango Banshee 200 was an extra 2kg of weight which really took its toll on my feet over the next stage between Drymen and Rowardennan. Again this was poor planning, I had massively underestimated how much the weight would effect my feet and body! I packed my new Karrimor 65 rucksack with so much extra stuff I didn't need including three days of food, two bottles of meths, two bottles of whisky and a 2 litre bottle of water. To top this off I had my Dads old Trangia which was heavy enough itself. Don't get me wrong, I love the Trangia but with all its extra bits (extra pot, skillet, wind break) it was just extra weight. In total there six of us were walking and unfortunately we didn't communicate properly beforehand: we had four stoves between us which was just crazy. This simple mistake meant extra weight! By the end of Day Two I was exhausted and a massive gold ball sized blister was forming on the arch of my foot. This would ultimately be the reason I had to finish early. Also due to Loch Lomond camping bylaws we had to hike partly up Ben Lomond to get out of the permit zone which added to our tiredness woes. Nice little spot in the end though.

Day three I could barely walk on my left foot. The blister was agony and every step was pain! Took two Nurofen and my friend who was a nurse fed me an extra two Paracetamol for the pain. This stage was tough, lots of rocky scrambles up and down the banks of Loch Lomond. I tried to stay positive but my foot was so painful even with the medication. Maybe it was the fact I hadn't broken in my new Salomon Quest boots or maybe it was the Smart Soles I had installed that caused the blister, I have very flat feet and the arch of my left foot particularly sticks out on the right side and my thinking is that this part of my foot was slowly being jagged by the Smart Soles plastic housing. It was a beautiful walk but unfortunately I couldn't enjoy it, the pain was too great and the pure endurance took over all enjoyment! By the time we reached Beinglas I had started to consider pulling out. This was a great wee campsite which I would highly recommend for great facilities and a nice pub! Also managed to catch up with some other people we met during the Way, which I would like to point out had a great community spirit and we found ourselves bumping into people every couple of stops, meeting people from Germany, America and England all enjoying the great Scottish scenery.

Day four I decided to pull out, my foot was beginning to show signs of infection so I hobbled to Crianlarich where I got the bus home. Will definitely continue the West Highland Way on a later date but until then i'm resting my infected, swollen foot and with the help of some strong antibiotics I hope to be out walking again soon! In the future I will aim to carry at least half of the weight with me.
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Re: West Highland Way Failed Attempt

Postby willsdad » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:23 pm

:clap: Hold your head high mate!
I also had an epic fail on my first attempt at the CWT. Same mistakes as you. Far too much weight. The soles of my heels were pretty much complete blister. I managed 3 days. About 2 days after, I started losing all the skin off the pads of feet.....not pretty.

Now do what I did, start accumulating better lighter gear. Took me 2 years to get together what I needed. Once you've done that, go back and nail that trail :D
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Re: West Highland Way Failed Attempt

Postby Lunco » Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:59 am

Checkout r/Ultralight on Reddit, you can get great advice on starting to carry a lighter load!

Sorry to hear you had to drop out due to blisters. I really recommend putting Leukotape on the problematic areas before you start your day, it works really great for me.
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Re: West Highland Way Failed Attempt

Postby walkingpoles » Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:50 pm

You learnt a lot during those days that will be helpful later. Reaching the limits is a rich experience.

Don't get discouraged and enjoy!
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Re: West Highland Way Failed Attempt

Postby basscadet » Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:10 pm

Still sounded like you had fun for a lot of it so that was success in my book :)

Why you carried a stove for a brew when you had whisky will eternally be a mystery. Why 2 bottles? Did you think the rest of the country was dry and you wouldn't be able to find more :lol: Brilliant tale, which I'm sure you will be telling for years to come :clap:
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Re: West Highland Way Failed Attempt

Postby Mal Grey » Fri Apr 21, 2017 11:44 am

Sounds like fun even if you didn't finish, which means its not a failure in my books. Enjoyed your description, the enthusiasm showed through the pain!


Getting the weight down will help, obviously, but it sounds as if blister avoidance would be more important. Getting the right socks and boots(or good approach type shoes if that's your preference) sorted WELL before the trip will make a huge difference. I prefer a thick sock over a thin liner sock in a boot, so any movement is between sock and sock not sock and flesh. However, there shouldn't really BE any movement, footwear should fit well enough to avoid this and its worth spending lots of time making sure of this. It does sound as if your insole/support was the cause, if that were both a pressure point and rubbing, you were always going to struggle. This is something to find out during training walks, not on the trip itself.
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Re: West Highland Way Failed Attempt

Postby Buggiba » Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:54 pm

Education is a wonderful thing and you're never too old to learn. I failed on my first attempt on the WHW, attempting to complete it in 5 days, at 20 miles a day. Not a good idea. Since then I have always gone for the 7-day option and taken advantage of a bag-carrying service, just having a little food, water and waterproofs for the day. I also use walking poles to take the pressure off my ankles and knees. I have completed the WHW three times since with no ill effects. Unlike you, I prefer bunkhouses and B & B's to camping, finding a comfortable bed and a good night's sleep great preparation for a long-day's walk.
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Re: West Highland Way Failed Attempt

Postby basscadet » Wed Apr 26, 2017 2:34 pm

Buggiba wrote:Education is a wonderful thing and you're never too old to learn. I failed on my first attempt on the WHW, attempting to complete it in 5 days, at 20 miles a day. Not a good idea. Since then I have always gone for the 7-day option and taken advantage of a bag-carrying service, just having a little food, water and waterproofs for the day. I also use walking poles to take the pressure off my ankles and knees. I have completed the WHW three times since with no ill effects. Unlike you, I prefer bunkhouses and B & B's to camping, finding a comfortable bed and a good night's sleep great preparation for a long-day's walk.


I find it a lot easier to sleep in my tent than a strange hotel or B&B - can easily do 12 hours without stirring, although it is my 2nd home, so maybe used to it more than most. The thought of going anywhere where they tuck the sheet around the bed so you feel like you are strapped in ismy worst nightmare :lol:
If you are staying in B&B, surely all you need is a couple of clean pairs of pants anyway, what exactly did you get the bag carrying service to carry?
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Re: West Highland Way Failed Attempt

Postby weaselmaster » Wed Apr 26, 2017 10:22 pm

Enjoyed reading that. As others have said, no such thing as failure, just lessons which you can learn and it sounds like you've already reflected on a number of things you'd do differently when you set out next time.

Quite a timely report for me, as I'm planning to set off on the Way tomorrow. I'll keep an eye out for your phone (though suspect quite a few folk have passed by wherever you dropped it in the last 3 weeks :lol: )
I'll only be taking a quarter bottle of whisky, so that's going to be a challenge in itself :shock:
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Re: West Highland Way Failed Attempt

Postby tomsnowball » Thu Apr 27, 2017 12:24 am

there's no shame in using one of the baggage transfer services! only costs about £40 for the whole journey.

May as well enjoy the walk!
:wink:
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Re: West Highland Way Failed Attempt

Postby Buggiba » Fri Apr 28, 2017 1:27 pm

basscadet wrote:
Buggiba wrote:Education is a wonderful thing and you're never too old to learn. I failed on my first attempt on the WHW, attempting to complete it in 5 days, at 20 miles a day. Not a good idea. Since then I have always gone for the 7-day option and taken advantage of a bag-carrying service, just having a little food, water and waterproofs for the day. I also use walking poles to take the pressure off my ankles and knees. I have completed the WHW three times since with no ill effects. Unlike you, I prefer bunkhouses and B & B's to camping, finding a comfortable bed and a good night's sleep great preparation for a long-day's walk.


I find it a lot easier to sleep in my tent than a strange hotel or B&B - can easily do 12 hours without stirring, although it is my 2nd home, so maybe used to it more than most. The thought of going anywhere where they tuck the sheet around the bed so you feel like you are strapped in ismy worst nightmare :lol:
If you are staying in B&B, surely all you need is a couple of clean pairs of pants anyway, what exactly did you get the bag carrying service to carry?



The clue was in the bunkhouses. A lot of these provide a bunk but you need to utilise your own sleeping bag. Much better to have it there at the end of the day than have it taking up space on your back. Also I need toiletries and a change of clothing and footwear, as well as some food and drink provision for days further down the line.
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Re: West Highland Way Failed Attempt

Postby Beachbunny » Wed May 03, 2017 10:13 am

Very much enjoyed reading your report and brought back memories. The first time i tried the WHW was June 2015 when I was over for a month long vacation visiting family in Stirling and made it to Beinglas Farm before I to had to drop out because of a bad blister on the back of my heel. My foot had swelled to three times it's size and i knew i had to drop out when I tried putting some antiseptic on it and did not feel the sting. Knew then it had sealed up and was going to get worse unless I got off it and cared for it properly. I also was trying to carry all my own gear. Wanted to do it the way it should be done. I'm female and was 48 at the time. When got back to Stirling, it took 5 days for the swelling to go down and to be able to wear a shoe again. Fast forward to June of 2016, when I came back for another month long vacation and I once again was determined to do the WHW… This time I succeeded…. I had learned from my mistakes.

Bag-service….BEST THING EVER!!!!! So funny, the first time I tried WHW, I was the only one carrying my own gear, everyone else was using a bag service, second time, I was the only one using the bag service while everyone else was carrying their own gear…. but eventually a lot of people joined onto the bag service system along the way….

Went with trail runners this time instead of my hiking boots… Although I do do hiking, I'm not used to wearing my hiking boots for such long stretches, and since I live in Hawaii, I'm not used to wearing actual shoes and live in Flip Flops (or slippers as we call them here) most of the time and I've always been prone to blisters on my heels.

Taped my feet every day. Know where my problem spots are on my feet so made sure I taped my heels and some of my toes everyday to help stop the blisters and stop the toe nails from digging into the other toes.

Walking sticks… Don't know how I made it so far the first time without them, especially carrying a full load along the shores of Loch Lomond. Made life so much easier the second time… didn't always need them, but were very handy and helpful when I did.

Did it over 6 nights/7 days. Camped for 3 of the nights and found accommodation for the other nights. Also did it as a solo female walker… so any females reading this who think they would like to do it but are afraid of doing it alone… take the chance and try it. There were actually a few women doing it by themselves, I wasn't the only one. The camaraderie among the people you meet along the way are second to none. Some people you meet once and never see again and some you keep bumping into every day so it's easy to meet people and enjoy yourself, even if your doing it alone. I prefer walking alone because everyone walks at a different pace. I also enjoy camping and staying at hostels and B&B's because it's easier to meet people.

So hang in there, give yourself time to recover, and try again….. learning from your mistakes.
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