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West Highland Way April 2017

West Highland Way April 2017


Postby nick70 » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:56 pm

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 15/04/2017

Time taken: 7 days

Distance: 150 km

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WEST HIGHLAND WAY APRIL 2017

The original plan was to complete the journey in 6 days, camping out for the duration. I was intending to take the route of Head for the Hills Scotland (you’re a legend in your own lifetime sir). Taking the trip with me were my stepson and his fiancée (more on them later). Before I start out I should point out a couple of things, this was my first long trek, so obviously a few rookie mistakes were made (more on them later also) but lessons were learnt and the same mistakes won’t be made again. Also I have a condition in my left heel, plantar faschitis, which at its best can be described as inflammation of the heel and a burning pain/sensation through the heel, and at its worst can be described as, imagine a stone or pebble in your shoe/boot and every time you step down your heel is stepping on said stone or pebble.

The first (and possibly the most important part of a trip) is the planning and the sorting out of the logistics of it all. The plan, therefore, was to start trip at Easter weekend, so only need a few days off work and hopefully the weather would be slightly milder.

Day 1: Sunday 16 April.

After getting the train we arrive at Milngavie (and after taking the obligatory selfies at starting point) we are ready to start out at 10am. The weather at this point is most unpleasant, constant incessant rain. We make our way out Mugdock Park and already my 2 companions are struggling (yes, at this point). I must admit also to being struggling with my own pack and my own weight I am carrying (first of the rookie mistakes, packed way too much unnecessary gear and food). I’m trying to set a reasonable pace, wary of the fact that I am not 100% sure of where we are pitching for the night (Garadbhan Forest was the destination). At approximately the 5-mile mark my 2 companions are again really struggling and lagging quite a bit behind me. We stop at the Beech Tree Inn and go inside for a bit of a heat, a coffee and something to eat. The time taken to get here is not good. We continue on our way and after passing Gartness my 2 companions are really struggling (again) with the inclines and roads. By the time we have come off the A811 just after Drymen and heading into High Wood, they are really, really struggling with my stepsons fiancée in considerable pain and in tears. At this point I am pleading with them to quit, to head into Drymen and take a taxi home. They are adamant that they want to continue despite my protestations that it would only get harder and that they may not have such a suitable chance to make their way home further down the line. In spite of my protestations they decided they wanted to carry on. At this point then I decided that the best plan would be for me to boost ahead, hopefully find a suitable place to pitch our tents (hopefully relatively quickly), head back, get their tent, boost forward again, pitch tent, then hopefully by this point they would have made their way (or pretty much thereabouts) to me. I left them my map, I explained to follow the trail that they couldn’t go wrong, but as I said I left map with them as means of insurance. As I was making my way through the forest I was really beginning to panic, I hadn’t found anywhere suitable. I phoned my stepsons mum and asked her to phone him and tell them to make their way home but she said I was being bad and that they would be fine. I tried to impact on her the physical state that they were in but she was having none of it. I finally found a suitable location, right at the edge of the forest at about 7pm. I got my gear off and pitched my tent and after stowing gear away in tent it was now about 7.30pm. I was now about to make my way back to them (thinking that they would have been making their way along trail) and get their tent to bring to the location when I received a call from my partner to say she had received a call from them to say that they hadn’t moved from where I left them and they were expecting me to return to them and pitch their tent for them. To say I was apoplectic with rage would be an understatement. After numerous phone calls made back and forth between all parties they finally decided to get a taxi and return home.

I was absolutely livid with the pair of them. I had given them approximately 8-9 months notice of doing this walk and I think that the only preparation they done in this time was one 6 mile walk. I had bought them each their rucksacks and walking boots in January and in the interim period they had never went out with their rucksacks, never tried it with any weight in it. I offered them books to read which they they refused. I sent them hyperlinks of YouTube videos to watch, which they didn’t. Basically their preparation was absolutely zero, zilch, nada, a big fat nothing. They were disrespectful to me; they were disrespectful to the walk. They failed to realize that things had to be done to a schedule. I told them that not only did they put themselves at risk, they put me at risk, and had they continued they would potentially have put others at risk. I have never known in the whole history of people doing the West Highland Way such a miserable, pathetic, feeble attempt at it. I feel like it was like having a couple of children with me. The amount of emotional energy of my own that was spent wasted on the pair was unbelievable. They really did bring me down and I was having many a moment of doubt myself. From hereon in I shall refer to them as the idiots.

The camp that night wasn’t pleasant, as I said; too much emotional energy had been wasted on said idiots. I didn’t sleep well and it was unbelievably cold through the night, something that I thought wouldn’t have concerned me (being a macho man and all that).

Day 2: Monday 17 April

Todays plan was only to do a few miles, get to roughly about a mile or two shy of Rowchoish Bothy and wild camp again. My intention was to avoid Conic Hill. I was finding my pack incredibly heavy and I must admit to struggling with it. I set off shortly after 10am. After a while it soon became apparent to me that I must have missed the sign for the alternative route round Conic Hill and that I was in fact going over it. I was really, really struggling at this point. The load on my back was way too heavy and I was finding myself having to stop numerous times and rehydrate often. I struggled to the top of Conic Hill, and even managed it to the peak, minus my pack though as it is quite a narrow ledge making your way to the summit. The views however were stunning and this lifted my spirits a bit. The descent down into Balmaha car park was tricky, a lot of steps. I have to give a big thanks to the kind gentleman who helped lift my rucksack over the fence as the stile at the bottom wasn’t big enough for me to fit through (not that I’m a porker, there just wasn’t room for me to swing myself round with rucksack fitted on my back). I made my way across to The Oak Tree Inn and treated myself to a steak pie for lunch and a Guinness. After coming out of Oak Tree I was still really struggling with my rucksack again and decided on a change of plans, Cashel campsite would now be my destination for the day. Once there I had a shower and I was able to ditch a few non-essential items (like the 30 or so Alpen bars I was carrying). Again a very cold night and following morning although I did sleep a bit better this time.


Day 3: Tuesday 18 April

Todays plan was to make it as far as Beinglas Farm Campsite at Inverarnan. I set off reasonably early this morning at about 9am. I was making steady progress up to Rowardennan, my rucksack had lessened weight slightly but I was still finding it difficult and really sore on the back. The stretch from Rowardennan to Inversnaid had some hairy moments along the banks of Loch Lomond.

I stopped off at Inversnaid Hotel for a coffee and a juice and then continued again. The stretch north of Inversnaid was absolutely brutal, and yet perversely I found this one of my most enjoyable stretches. Every single step was a concentration in effort and all your focus was so intent on picking the right step and making the right movement. I think due to this I found myself thinking less of the load that I was carrying on my back. It was still however a brutal stretch of the walk, but the camaraderie that you have with your fellow walkers at this time was a joy. If ever “Ninja Warrior UK’ ever want to do an outside broadcast then get your team up here.

Once you leave Loch Lomond behind it was back to the mundaneness and the drudgery again of “normal” walking. I was again finding myself really, really struggling with the physicality of it all. I just wanted to get to the campsite and turn in for the night. The last 2-3 miles seemed to go on forever and seemed to last forever. I eventually reach the campsite about 7.30pm. My body was absolutely spent and I made a bit of a pigs ear in putting tent up, it wasn’t taut enough and there was rain through the night which left me with patches of the inner section wet the following morning. All in all it was an extremely demanding day but very, very rewarding. Approximately 18.5 miles done in the day. I had a steak pie at the campsite restaurant and a pint of Tennents. I even ate the cauliflower with my steak pie.


Day 4: Wednesday 19 April

Todays plan was to make it to Bridge of Orchy and wild camp again. However this was to end up being my most challenging day. I am still really, really struggling with the weight of my rucksack and I am not making a good pace at all. Some of the terrain coming out of Beinglas Farm was also extremely challenging. There were huge stretches where you were just walking through mud and you would have to be very careful of your footing. Some bits you would stand on and you would just sink into it. There was a later stretch (again quite a long stretch) where it was literally just cow s**t you were walking through. At this point I’m thinking just give it up, what is the point. Whilst trying to pick a path through the cow s**t I had a slip and fell into it, not literally face down, but a slip and my left boot went right into it right up to the ankle, thankfully with my boots there was no ingress. I thought this is taking the s**t now and I literally almost was taking the s**t. I dare say they heard my cursing and expletives all the way back to Beinglas Farm.

At Crianlarich crossroads it’s becoming more and more apparent how much I am struggling with the weight again. My legs can handle the walking, it was just my back, neck and shoulders were really struggling with the carrying. I know now that I am going to struggle to make it to Bridge of Orchy now so I revise my plan and Tyndrum has now become my destination for the day. I am now thinking of chucking it, my spirits are quite low, the traipsing through cow s**t hasn’t helped me and I know that Tyndrum has a station for train back to Glasgow. I have to say a big thanks to all the fellow walkers who gave me words of encouragement and suggestions here. Some were telling me to ditch the rucksack, have the couriers send it on, others were telling me to get a room for the night and get a good sleep and tackle it again refreshed in the morning. On entering Tyndrum I note that there is a post office. I book into Tyndrum Inn for the night and decide to weed out more non-essential stuff that I can send home. It was staggering the amount of crap that I was carrying. Amongst others, a bottle of whisky, my Bear Grylls knife (what was I thinking?? Maybe I was preparing for a zombie apocalypse), either stab them to death or have a party with them and feed them my whisky, multi tool, Ipod, speakers, batteries, clothes and copious other bits and bobs that were of no use to man, beast or zombie. I had a steak pie and a pint of ale (Edinburgh Castle, quite tasty actually) that evening had a shower and felt a bit better about following morning.


Day 5: Thursday 20 April

Todays plan was there was no plan. First off carried my garbage to post office got it packed up and sent away. Jesus H Christ, that was a heavy package. Got my proverbial **** together in the inn and made my way just after 10am. Straight away I can feel the difference. There is a spring in my step and I am gayly skipping along the trail like Dorothy about to see the wizard. I pass a guy doing it North to South. I stop and have a blether with him, he gives me a heads up on what’s to come, he tells me I should reach Bridge of Orchy for about 1.30pm. I get to Bridge of Orchy for 12.35pm, a victory, at last. I am feeling like Ben Johnson on steroids. I begin to wonder what they gave me for my breakfast at Tyndrum Inn. Was my poached eggs laced with amphetamines??? Who knows, at last a victory of sorts? I lunch in Bridge of Orchy Inn (ham and cheese Panini, no steak pie this time) and it was lovely jubbly. I even give myself time to read the newspaper. I read the Lions squad that has been announced, shame on you Warren Gatland, only 2 Scots????

I leave Bridge of Orchy at 1.30pm and I am mad with delirium. What is the plan now, could I make Kinlochleven? I am beasting this now; I have no map and not much sense of what is coming up. I decide what the hell; let’s try for Kinlochleven (bad mistake). Whilst cutting across the ridge to Glencoe Mountain Centre the weather goes mental with wind and rain just cutting right across you. My left arm is numb with the cold, but who needs left arms anyway. Carry on I must. I eventually make my way to Kingshouse Hotel for about 6pm. There is a forest behind the hotel (which is currently closed) where I wild camp for night. The weather is still wild though. I have a burger and potato salad for dinner (no chips, fryer wasn’t working ☹) and 2 pints tonight. To hell with it I’m living life on the edge now.


Day 6: Friday 21 April

Todays plan was just to make it into Kinlochleven. I now obviously realize that I am not going to do it in my original 6 days and that I will need to allow myself 7. Ah well what the hell, I’m enjoying the scenery and I have nowhere else I need to be. No rush to get home and plus the idiots are back there. Don’t think I could trust myself not to tear strips of them or to knock 2 shades of s**t out of them. Todays route incorporated the Devils Staircase (anything with devil in the title cant be good). The weather again today is not good, more rain and wind that really cuts right through you. I am really struggling again today. It was particularly bad night weather wise with the rain and wind and I have packed up a soaking wet tent. Didn’t get much sleep due to the aforementioned wind and rain. The Devils Staircase wasn’t too bad actually, now I’m carrying a decent weight. My plantar faschitis by this point is really playing up now though and I am finding myself limping quite a bit. Once atop Devils Staircase you then begin your descent into Kinlochleven, this is a particularly difficult stretch. As I said my heel is now quite bad and I am finding myself limping quite a bit, which is then putting further strain on my right leg and my right knee is now suffering and swelling quite a bit, the joys eh. I finally make it into KInlochleven, feeling a bit scunnered. The tent is wet and sodden from last night. I can’t really be arsed finding a campsite so decide to book into the Tailrace Inn. Steak pie and a pint of Belhavens tonight.


Day 7: Saturday 22 April

Left Tailrace Inn early in the morning, about 8.45am. Need to allow myself plenty of time to make it into Fort William for train back home at 5.37pm. Bit of a tough day, my heel is really playing up now and I am limping on it really quite badly now. There was a group of guys from Paisley doing the walk along with me. I think they were auditioning for roles as extras in a Cheech and Chong movie. Every time I could smell weed I knew I was catching them up. Ah well, whatever gets them through. In spite of the heel I made relatively good going, this particular section wasn’t too demanding and I made it into Fort William just before 4pm. Into the Great Glen for a steak pie (nah only jesting), ham eggs and chips this time. Time to let loose now. 2 pints of Tennents and a double Oban. I decide to treat myself to an expensive bottle from the Whisky Shop. The kind gent throws in a freebie of a 10cl bottle. I pick myself up 4 cans of Tennents from Tescos. Im going to rock this train journey home. Get into Glasgow Queen Street for about 9.30pm (above mentioned whisky and Tennents found a suitable home in my stomach). I pick up a taxi and I am home for about 10.15pm. My odyssey complete.

To all the walkers who I met and chatted with along the way, I would like to offer my sincere and genuine thanks. For all those who offered me advice and encouragement a big debt of gratitude goes out to you all. To the person who gave me a wave from the passing train, a big thank you. Such random acts really do go a long way to lifting your spirits.

Would I do it all again??? Hell yes, and without the rookie mistakes that I have made. Particular highlights for me were the herd of deer outside the café bar on the 6th morning at Kingshouse Hotel and seeing a squadron of RAF Tornados on maneuvers making their way on the descent into Kinlochleven, such an awesome sight.

What advice would I give to any first time walkers?

Read as much as you can, read peoples blogs. Watch peoples videos, prepare as much as you can. Insure you are physically fit enough. If you are camping consider what time of year you go and ensure you pack right and you don’t take any unnecessary garbage with you like I did. Ensure all of your group are fit enough and leave any idiots at home.

Finally, if you have managed to read all of this without falling asleep, congratulations. I will try and make any future blogs less of a War and Peace epic.
Last edited by nick70 on Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:28 pm

Well done on completing - I just hope you've managed to repair your relations with your stepson :) . Not sure I could ever sustain 7 days, even without plantar fasciitis!

I think it can be quite an issue if your pace/fitness or personal "take" on how to do a walk doesn't match that of your companion(s); which is why I walk solo generally, or with my brother (being together is more important than the walk).
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby Mal Grey » Tue Apr 25, 2017 4:08 pm

I started reading this, not sure how to react to the first day's people problems, but quickly became gripped by the tale of torture! Well done on capturing the feel of your trip, an excellent report.

Difficult when you have companions who don't try top get even slightly ready for the trip. Perhaps the key is to insist on some training together?
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby nick70 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:52 pm

Alteknacker wrote:Well done on completing - I just hope you've managed to repair your relations with your stepson :) . Not sure I could ever sustain 7 days, even without plantar fasciitis!

I think it can be quite an issue if your pace/fitness or personal "take" on how to do a walk doesn't match that of your companion(s); which is why I walk solo generally, or with my brother (being together is more important than the walk).


Hi there. Relations are fine. They came over from Belfast, which makes it a bit more disappointing that they made all the effort to come across, but didn't put in same effort to tackle walk.

Yes i agree, i think it will be solo walking for me also. Thank you for your comments.
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby nick70 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 8:12 pm

Mal Grey wrote:I started reading this, not sure how to react to the first day's people problems, but quickly became gripped by the tale of torture! Well done on capturing the feel of your trip, an excellent report.

Difficult when you have companions who don't try top get even slightly ready for the trip. Perhaps the key is to insist on some training together?

Hi Mal, thank you for your comments. Im glad you liked the report. The training together is a moot point as they came over from Belfast, which is also why i was so disappointed. Such effort made to get here but absolutely none in preparation for walk.

Thanks again for your kind comments.
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby BEANSTER21 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 9:28 pm

Mnaaa,
I wouldn've went but I lost weight
Mnaaa
:shock:
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby Sunset tripper » Wed Apr 26, 2017 8:29 am

A great account of your adventures and some achievement though the bit about folk from Paisley taking drugs was a bit far fetched. :D
It's great to go out walking in good company I do it often as I can, but also like Alteknacker I like being out solo and do that often too.
All the best. :D
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby nick70 » Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:19 pm

Sunset tripper wrote:A great account of your adventures and some achievement though the bit about folk from Paisley taking drugs was a bit far fetched. :D
It's great to go out walking in good company I do it often as I can, but also like Alteknacker I like being out solo and do that often too.
All the best. :D

LOL, you obviously know Paisley folk well :lol:
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby Buggiba » Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:35 pm

Hi Nick70, I found your account of your recent WHW experience most entertaining. Having taken this on four times, the last time in April 2016, I can empathise with some of your situations. You don't say how old you are and your reasons for wild camping or carrying your own gear. I have some observations for you. I am approaching my 65th birthday. Firstly, I would always recommend a bag-carrying service for the WHW, just carrying a daysack is a vast improvement. There are several excellent providers and the (reasonable) cost far outweighs the discomfort of carrying a home on your back. I had a little chuckle to myself imagining you struggling through the sheep-creeps under the railway between Beinglas Farm and Crianlarich, toting a huge and heavy rucksack. Secondly, and this is personal choice, I always use walking poles. These take so much pressure off feet, ankles and knees the difference is amazing. Proper preparation is vital, as is the right equipment. Best of luck with your next adventure. I was thinking of taking on the WHW again next year but there are so many different walks to consider.
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby nick70 » Fri Apr 28, 2017 12:42 pm

Buggiba wrote:Hi Nick70, I found your account of your recent WHW experience most entertaining. Having taken this on four times, the last time in April 2016, I can empathise with some of your situations. You don't say how old you are and your reasons for wild camping or carrying your own gear. I have some observations for you. I am approaching my 65th birthday. Firstly, I would always recommend a bag-carrying service for the WHW, just carrying a daysack is a vast improvement. There are several excellent providers and the (reasonable) cost far outweighs the discomfort of carrying a home on your back. I had a little chuckle to myself imagining you struggling through the sheep-creeps under the railway between Beinglas Farm and Crianlarich, toting a huge and heavy rucksack. Secondly, and this is personal choice, I always use walking poles. These take so much pressure off feet, ankles and knees the difference is amazing. Proper preparation is vital, as is the right equipment. Best of luck with your next adventure. I was thinking of taking on the WHW again next year but there are so many different walks to consider.


Hi Buggiba. Thanks for your comments and also glad you liked the report. I guess I've always wanted to do it 'old school', so to speak, with rucksack. I find the walking ok (apart from obvious problem with heel), it is more the weight that is my challenge (carrying it). I will be 47 later this year, so hopefully a few miles left in me yet. As I said I think I made a few rookie mistakes with carrying too much weight, so hopefully next time these won't be made again and I should find my load a lot more comfortable.
I think I recall the bit you mention, yes it was very low under the railway line at that point, and I'm also 6 ft 2 so I literally felt like I was on all fours.
I am thinking of doing Great Glen Way next month, on the second Bank Holiday week end.

Thanks once again for your positive comments and good luck in your next walk, whatever that may be :D
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby Buggiba » Fri Apr 28, 2017 1:15 pm

Hi Nick70, Fair play to you for carrying, or attempting to carry, so much stuff. I have already walked the Great Glen Way. Not as scenic, or as long, as the WHW but still pleasant, except we walked it in four days. Sadly I also missed out on my review my biggest recommendation. I always set out early. Normally this would be first light or 6am but gives you a 3-hour head start over the bed & breakfast brigade. Also means earlier finishes so time to recover, relax and prepare for the next day. I am walking the South Downs Way in July 2017. Nowhere near as challenging but a pleasant and undulating stroll over 7 days. Enjoy your future walks. You do have a few years on me :wink: .
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby Alanmack1 » Mon May 15, 2017 9:20 pm

Very helpful post :) I'll definitely come next time, and since you've done it before, I'll hopefully not find it as much of a struggle as you did first time around.
You forgot to mention to your fans that there's a You Tube video of your journey, although it should probably be rated '18' for swearing content...Parents be advised:)
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby scotsmist » Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:26 pm

Enjoyed your report, enjoyed the video, almost as much as I enjoyed doing the walk last August with my then girlfriend. Too much drama, that's why she's not my friend anymore :D Walked it both ways in February. Coming out of Fort William towards Kinlochleven and Kinlochleven heading towards the devil's staircase was a hard monotonous slog. Really enjoyed going down the devil's staircase though. Surprise surprise, I'm doing it again this Friday, both ways, but going to start at Dryman I think instead of Milngavie and without the drama lol.

I also walked the Great Glen Way in April. Nothing like as good as the WHW imo, but one off the bucket list. I wouldn't do it again. Good for cycling or canoing though. Did meet some interesting people. Very quite walk, maybe just the time of year.

I'm 50 so have a couple of years on you. I also carried too much weight when I did the GGW, more hilly than I expected and hard pounding on the feet, especially along the canal path into Fort Augustus. I did the whole walk in 3 days :D

Good luck with your next trek, look forward to the report and maybe another X rated video :D
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby nick70 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 8:39 pm

scotsmist wrote:Enjoyed your report, enjoyed the video, almost as much as I enjoyed doing the walk last August with my then girlfriend. Too much drama, that's why she's not my friend anymore :D Walked it both ways in February. Coming out of Fort William towards Kinlochleven and Kinlochleven heading towards the devil's staircase was a hard monotonous slog. Really enjoyed going down the devil's staircase though. Surprise surprise, I'm doing it again this Friday, both ways, but going to start at Dryman I think instead of Milngavie and without the drama lol.

I also walked the Great Glen Way in April. Nothing like as good as the WHW imo, but one off the bucket list. I wouldn't do it again. Good for cycling or canoing though. Did meet some interesting people. Very quite walk, maybe just the time of year.

I'm 50 so have a couple of years on you. I also carried too much weight when I did the GGW, more hilly than I expected and hard pounding on the feet, especially along the canal path into Fort Augustus. I did the whole walk in 3 days :D

Good luck with your next trek, look forward to the report and maybe another X rated video :D


Hi Scotsmist, many thanks for your comments. Unfortunately my GGW walk did not go well. I attempted it on Friday 26 May this year. I was aiming to do it in 4 days so plan first day was to make Glas-dhoire (the Trailblazers wild campsite). Straight from the off though i was really struggling with plantar fasciitis in my heel and basically found myself limping the whole day. I made it as far as 1/2 miles by Clunes (maybe about 16/17 miles). After making camp that night i made decision to head back following morning and heel was still really bad next day coming back.

I must admit though to not really enjoying this walk (what little i seen of it). I don't know if the walking through housing scheme at beginning, and the constant same nature of walking, i.e. along a hard canal path, it just didn't have that enjoyment factor. A bit of me feels i would still like to complete it (I'm stubborn like that lol) but at the same time if i ever take time off work again i would rather do WHW again. I felt that on WHW every day was different and every hour within each day was different.

Many congratulations on doing GGW in 3 days, thats very impressive. I also hope your current/latest walk has went well. Please let me know if you compile a blog.

I think thats my walking trips for year on a hold (not enough leave from work left) so maybe a few weekend wild camping trips.

Thanks once again for your comments. I really do appreciate the time and effort people take to leave feedback :D .

ATB
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Re: West Highland Way April 2017

Postby Josiemcl » Sun Feb 04, 2018 3:46 pm

Your report was really funny. You captured the feel of it excellently, it's a shame about your physical problems and issues with your walking partners.

Well done on completing. It is something I would very much like to challenge myself one day.
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