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Musings Along 'The Way' - Part 2

Musings Along 'The Way' - Part 2

Postby NevJB » Fri May 10, 2019 4:53 pm

Route description: West Highland Way

Date walked: 30/03/2019

Time taken: 7 days

Distance: 153 km

Ascent: 4038m

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Tuesday 2 April – Day 4
Breakfast was equally good – a big ‘thank you’ to the guys (one family I believe) who run Beinglas – it truly is top notch.
After the trials of yesterday, today was meant to be easier – it was overall, but the first few miles along Glen Falloch had a few more ‘ups’ than my legs cared to tackle. I was tired, but determined to press on, although I have to say that taxis/buses came to mind as we approached the crossing under the A82. Miles was tired; he had not enjoyed the last 2 miles of yesterday thinking that we’d never get to Beinglas. Chris was, well Chris – as ever irrepressible. Whilst walking this part we had a mixture of sun and heavy hail showers – at least it didn’t rain.

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Across Glen Falloch to Stob na Eighrach

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Jackets off - then on - it was one of those days

After crossing the A82 we caught up with the group from Ayr – they had also stayed at Beinglas – and camped! However, that was to be their last night under ‘canvas’ despite the husband of one of the group ferrying their stuff ahead and putting up the tents before they arrived at the next site. It had been cold last night as well as wet – enough is enough.
Once on ‘cow sh*t alley’ the walking was easy – the path has recently been renovated and re-laid with some kind of foot-friendly, soft material. Anyway, not a cow pat in sight and very easy on the legs.
Turning the corner into Strath Fillan we entered some forestry – lovely walking on a bed of pine needles and only a few ups-and-downs. However, there was little in the way of panoramic views so we were glad to leave that behind. The woods along Loch Lomond were far prettier than this monoculture, but the forestry generates money and work; as with all things it’s a balance.

23_Day 4_Across Strath Fillan_Nr Crianlarich.jpg
Across Strath Fillan

After crossing the A82 (again) we passed into some mixed woodland before crossing the River Fillan and reaching the remains of St Fillan’s Church. It would have been good to have explored this further, but we wanted to press on to Tyndrum. All the while we could see Ben Lui, Ben Oss and Ben Dubhchraig across Strath Fillan – covered in snow. Passed the Holy Pool – a misnomer in my view as many a poor soul had met a watery end there either being ’cured’ of insanity, or having the charge of witchcraft refuted.
Only a little further and we arrived in Tyndrum and the ‘By-the-Way’ campsite. I had taken the precaution of booking a ‘Hobbit Hut’ before leaving Beinglas – good move. Full marks to ‘By-the-Way’ – best Hobbit Hut by far with TV (didn’t watch), a fridge and microwave. The showers were excellent as was the laundry room.
Chris was hungry so he disappeared to the ‘Real Food Café’ – Miles and I wanted to be a little more presentable and wholesome before dining. RFC was excellent and good value – Chris had a second dinner once we arrived. Once back at By-the-Way I did some much needed laundry and then fell into bed. The top third of my calves were tight and it made me worry about the potential 17 miles the following day.

Wednesday 3 April – Day 5
Distant panoramic landscapes were out today – in was horizontal rain, sleet and snow – so no pictures I’m afraid.
No way José were my legs going to carry me across Rannoch Moor – I needed a day’s rest and food – I was starving. So having packed our stuff we walked slowly (for my sake) to the RFC and breakfast. Again, excellent! Well done to the RFC for sticking to their policy of cooking everything fresh.
Whilst having breakfast we viewed the weather forecast for the day – typically Scottish – a mixture of rain, sleet, hail and snow; all driven by a strong NW. Had I had any thoughts of walking they were quickly banished – I would take a day out and get the bus to Glencoe. Chris and Miles set off around 9:00 am whilst I finished my second coffee (refills only a £1). Brave lads – no sooner had they left than it rained, sleeted and then snowed – they would be walking right into it all the way.
By 10:45 am I had given up on a bus (I don’t think I was reading the timetable correctly) and ordered a taxi and a hot chocolate as I’d been standing outside, waiting in vain for a bus to appear. Plenty of ‘Lochs & Glens’ coaches, but no buses. The taxi arrived in 10 minutes and I was on my way to the ‘Glencoe Mountain Resort’. As we approached Bridge of Orchy I phoned Miles to see if they wanted a lift – ‘No’, they were in it for the long haul and wanted their money’s worth.
‘Glencoe Mountain Resort’. Two-thirds of that title is correct, but I think ‘Resort’ is stretching the limits of credibility and is probably in breach of the Trades Description Act. This is most definitely not St Moritz or Aspen. I can only conclude that the staff are not well paid as customer service (unlike everywhere else we stayed) was a little random. When I eventually got the attention of someone they declared that the Hobbit Hut might not be ready as it was still being ‘serviced’. Nevertheless, a key was produced and I found the hut. ‘Serviced’? I doubt that the hut had been cleaned for the last few days; there was a heater, but none of the other niceties of the ‘By-the-Way’ hut and it was more expensive. My pack hadn’t arrive as I was early, so no sleeping bag to crawl into – not long after the Travel-lite van arrived – what a service! It was about 1:30 pm so I thought I could grab a few hours sleep before the boys arrived. Not so. At 3:00 pm I was brought back to the living by a call – they were in the car park wondering where I was. 17 miles in 6 hours of foul weather – they only stopped for a chewy bar once or twice – it had been heads down and a mile every 20 minutes.
We went for some food. Before you let your staff loose on the customers you should really train them and make sure that they know what is on the menu and how to order it on the computerised till. Still, once we had gone through the order (3 meals) a fourth time it did come quickly and was good.
There was a group of aging snow-boarders nearby which provided light entertainment. Not sure whether or not they were on the same planet as us and neither would we have been if we had spent too long in the shower when one of them ‘went out for a smoke’. They were friendly and above all they weren’t doing anyone harm.
The showers did not look promising being in an old container, but they were warm and with the added bonus of coming out as high as a kite. The toilets are in the main building, not with the showers; I think this reflects the organic way in which the venture has grown over the years. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh as the whole thing is a private venture – a lot of investment and an income that is weather dependent – last winter was good, this one not so.

Thursday 4 April – Day 6
Having had a day’s R&R I was hoping to walk the last two days – we set off shortly before 9:00 am. We didn’t stop at the ‘Resort’ for breakfast – we had the King’s House Hotel in mind. The KHH is quite [the] place now – we made it just in time as breakfast nominally finishes at 9:30 am. It wasn’t cheap at £16.95 each, but was a large buffet with just about everything you could wish for and in any quantity; it was also what you would expect of such a place so in my view well worth the money. Add to that a gorgeous picture window in the dining room allows great views of ‘The Bookle’ and the odd passing red deer.

24_Day 6_Glencoe_Chris_Miles.jpg
Chris & Miles - Buachille Etive Mor as backdrop

Didn’t really want to leave, but time was passing so out into the cold we ventured, past the original bit of the KHH and over the river (Etive?). It’s an easy walk to the foot of the ‘Devil’s Staircase’ where out came the over-trousers as it was now raining. We were hoping for some good views from the top, but were not in luck this day. The rain turned to sleet as we neared the top, but nothing much. The foreboding name is not really warranted – it is certainly no more than the climb to Conic Hill, but I can imagine that for the King’s soldiers in the mid-18C it was no fun – heavy, rough uniforms and kit; hence the name.
The other side presents the ‘long down’ (with a few up bits) – the path is good, albeit with the odd digger in the way – workers were repairing eroded parts of the path – lovely work in fine weather – diabolical on many days. The vista of the snow-clad Mamores held the eye ahead; to the right the Blackwater Reservoir now being brought back into use for hydroelectricity; and further down, the north side of Aonach Eagach ridge.

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Blackwater Reservoir in the distance

27_Day 6_Towards the Mamores_Kinlochmore_Chris_Miles.jpg
The Boys ready for the next shower

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The road descending into Kinlochmore - the Mamores behind

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Nearly down now

We weaved our way down to Kinlochmore and then a little further, past the ‘Ice Factor’ into Kinlochleven and the MacDonald Hotel. We’d made it by 3:30 pm – time for lunch + beer, then a shower. The cabins here are larger and the mattresses covered in sheets with pillows – very good! It may have been only a couple of hours after lunch, but we were hungry for dinner at 6:30 pm. Again, it was good. The manager was excellent – very attentive. By 7:00 pm the place was full – a mixture of WHW walkers, Munro baggers and a few locals. Although it was forecast to be cold and calm overnight, it blew – and blew. Glad to be in a cabin.

Friday 5 April – Day 7
Up early and in for breakfast at 7:30 am. The last leg is 16 miles as most know – we wanted to start by 9:00 at the latest to ensure that we arrived in Fort William with plenty of time for food, drink, more drink, shower and then catch the sleeper.
I was determined to make the last day, although I was tired and not looking forward to the climb out of Kinlochleven. It was cold and bright and the day promised to be fine even if my legs (well knees actually) were protesting from the off. They weren’t sore, just tired and didn’t seem to have a great deal of oomph in them when going uphill. In the end it wasn’t too bad with just a couple of stops on the way to the top. Once in the Lairig the walking was easy and we bowled along quite nicely, only stopping to take pictures along the way. Stob Ban looked impressive and it was hard to imagine that I had climbed that with Neill, although that was in 2006!

30_Day 7_In the Lairig_Stob Ban Behind_Miles_Chris_2.jpg
Chris & Miles in the Lairig - Stob Ban behind

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Chris in the Lairig by the ruined cottage - Stob Ban behind

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The view ahead through the Lairig

Chris and Miles were now in their stride – oh to be young and full of energy, but without all the worries of starting out (with family, house etc). Despite a full Scottish I was running out of energy by 11:30 and got stuck into my packed lunch and an energy gel. That did the trick for a while as did the scenery – enough to take my mind off the distance yet to walk. There were lots of walkers out today – a few through walkers like us; a lot just walking this section and a few runners training for the ‘Coast-to-Coast’ run in a few weeks from now.
The boys were eager to see Ben Nevis, but it was some time before it eventually came into view – it was worth waiting for – snow down to the ‘halfway tarn’ and ‘Five Finger Gully clearly visible. Magnificent. We stopped for lunch at a suitable viewpoint and drank in the vista.

33_Day 7_The Lairig_Ben Nevis_1.jpg
The Ben

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The Ben - pano

It was not long after lunch that we entered the forestry and lost the views – it is around here that I thought a bit of contouring in the path would have helped enormously. Before you reach the forestry road the path plunges (only a slight exaggeration), only for it to climb back up again. It was getting warmer by this time and I was finding any uphill section hard work – not impossible, just rather slow. Still after another energy gel and a few handfuls of hazelnuts it was all downhill. Before long we were at the Glen Nevis road and shortly after that at the ‘original’ end of the WHW – time for pictures.

35_Day 7_Fort William_Original End_Miles_Chris.jpg
Miles & Chris at the 'original' end of the WHW

Found the Nevis Centre which wasn’t quite where I thought and picked up my pack. Actually, Miles picked up my pack and carried it the last bit to the now ‘official’ end of the walk. More pictures, then the much awaited ‘Grog and Gruel’ and beer; then food, then more beer. We manged the last day in 7 hours (including stops), so not too bad I thought.

36a_Day 7_Fort William_Official End_Nev_Chris_Miles_2.jpg
The 'official' end

We eventually prised ourselves out of the pub and walked to the station – Miles once more carrying my pack. To tell the truth I don’t think he really notices – excellent Sherpa material, although not cheap to refuel. Once in the station we were rewarded with a glorious shower in Serco’s new Caledonian Sleeper lounge – opened this year in anticipation of the new rolling stock coming into service (October we were told). Very posh.
Once on the train it was single malts all round – the light was fading fast so we didn’t get to see Rannoch Moor and were in bed by the Bridge of Orchy. Missed Edinburgh (and the shunting) completely and were pulling into Euston in what seemed like the ‘blink-of-an-eye’. Finally, out of Liverpool St and home to sunny Essex.

Will I complete the missing section (Tyndrum – Glencoe)? A definite ‘Yes’.

Would I walk the ‘Way’ again? A definite ‘Maybe’.

For my brother Neill – sadly no longer with us – hopefully enjoying Scotland from above.

37_Neill_Nev_Sgor na h-Ulaidh.jpg
A favourite pic - Neill and me on the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh (Glencoe) in June 2008
Posts: 119
Munros:55   Corbetts:3
Joined: Dec 11, 2008
Location: N Essex

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