Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Day 97: Kinlocheil to Gualann nan Osna

The day started fine and clear and we set off up the A830 for a couple of Km before taking a track NNE alongside the Fionn Lighe. The track was at first well made and easy to follow 

but then became a path that swung North and became increasingly rough and boggy as it followed Allt a Choire Reidh until it disappeared all together and we were left struggling through increasingly difficult terrain as we climbed up towards Guallan nan Osna. The views back, however, became more and more spectacular.

Whether it was the accumulated tiredness of the 2,000 km we had already walked combined with the climb and the terrain which increasingly required all our concentration as holes, partially hidden by the bracken and grass lay in wait of tired legs and heavy packs in order to trip us up: but we were beginning to visibly tire and were falling further and further behind schedule if we were to make the Achuil Bothy in good time. We struggled on and reached the crags that marked the end of our ascent.

But that was not the end of our problems; we followed the contours around the crags but found that the terrain was going to be even more difficult and dangerous going down. Those hidden pot holes that were troublesome going up were going to pose a real risk of accident and potential broken bones going down, and we couldn't see an obvious escape route in the case of problems going forward? 
On top of that, thunder storms (which did not in the end eventuate) were forecast and the clouds were starting to descend. 
This combination of factors turned what we knew would be a difficult descent into a real risk of injury. We were tired and in need of, like Paddington Bear a good think: so we sat on a rock, ate a piece of Kendal Mint Cake and looked at each other. The safest option, though a greater distance, was to go back in the direction we came. Finding a better route looking down and from our experience going up.

Long story short... We decided that  discression was the better part of valour and roughly 2,000 km was enough for us and to put ourselves (and potentially others if we needed rescuing) at risk of injury was just plain stupid: so we took a last lingering look at the scenery we had come to love so much and headed back down the way we had come.

On reaching the A830 we headed back toward Locheil Side station and caught the train back to Fort William.

A disappointing end to our epic journey but we take pleasure in the achievements that we have had and do not regret the decision to end it when we did. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Day 96: Fort William to Kinlocheil

Today is what we have dubbed, a link day. One of us, who shall remain nameless (but it wasn't me) felt it was "cheating" to catch the ferry as described in the Cape Wrath Trail Guide Book, and we did not want to walk too much of the Great Glen Way: so today we walked the around Loch Eil in order to reach a point where we set off on the Cape Wrath Trail. I must say, however, that as I contemplated those contours now that this section of our journey is nie, the Great Glen Way with its boring flat tameness was looking better and better. The butterflies in my tummy had turned to Scottish Midgies and were gnawing away at my insides and when we reached Neptunes Stairway and the Great Glen Way went off along the Caladonian Canal and we went on up the A830 I was tempted to rebel and head down the canal too. But I am getting ahead of myself! Today was to be a road walk primarily: boring, hard on the feet and, at times, terrifying as cars, trucks and coaches hurtled past at breakneck spead.

We followed the road out of Fort William then had a brief respite as we followed a path past the ruins of the Old Inverlochy Castle, built in the 1200s.

and then on to Neptune's Staircase... A series of 8 locks in succession on the Calidonian Canal.

Then back to the road. At this point and for the first 10 km or so there was a footpath (sidewalk) along the road, so, although it was hard on the feet we were safe from the traffic. At Corpach we stopped for a while and popped into the "treasures of the Earth" museum where we enjoyed the well presented display of rocks, minerals and precious stones; then had lunch at the pub.
We had a brief respite from the road at the Locheil Outward Bound Station when we followed a logging track up the hill and then parallel to the road for a Km or so, then down again. Not only did this afford us respite from the tyranny of the road but provided great views across the Loch,

and, best of all, as we looked back toward Fort William, the great giant Beinn Nibheis (Ben Nevis) saluted our leaving by doffing his crown and revealing his face to us!

Then it was back to the road and foot slogging it the rest of the way to our B&B and the glorious views of Loch Eil.

Day 95: Preparation Day in Fort William

Whilst we had a rest from walking we spent the day getting provisions and booking accommodation for the first few days of our venture into the unknown on the Cape Wrath Trail!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Day 94: Kinlochleven to Fort William

Another little milestone passed today: we complete the West Highland Way, a truly wonderful walking trail which I can not recommend too highly. 

We stayed at MacDonalds hotel last night and had a great night's sleep, awaking to a view to die for outside our bedroom window.

After a hearty breakfast we were on our way as the WHW was virtually straight across the road from the hotel. The morning was mizzley and the clouds were low but we were soon warmed up as the track started off with a short sharp climb to about 250 mtr and then we followed the contours around the glen 

as the mizzle turned to drizzle and then to rain. Oh well, we can hardly complain, it is the highlands of Scotland after all and we have been treated to fantastic weather for the whole of our walk along the WHW.

At about the 13 km mark we passed over a lovely burn

and then continued on up and through Nevis Forest and then down into Glen Nevis

with Ben Nevis itself lording over his kingdom, tho he did not dein to lift his cloak which covered his face as we passed by.

But the glen below, looked bright and inviting,

and, as we strolled down the last leg of our walk into Fort William this little creature suddenly hopped and revealed itself as a frog and not a dried leaf as we first thought.

A great day's walk despite the rain and we have planned a rest day in Fort William to resupply and fortify ourselves for our venture into the unknown along the Cape Wrath Trail.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Day 93: Glencoe to Kinlochleven

A relatively short day with a little bump in the middle just to add interest as we climbed the Devils Staircase to reach a hight of 550 mtrs.

Again the magnificent Mountains provided the backdrop to our walk and as we set out there was a light rain falling and a bit of cloud cover.

On reaching the top of the Devils Stairway (so named by the workers on General Wade's Military Road)  we could see down Glencoe the way we had walked,

and behind us, as we reflected on where we have been, the path still to come.

From the top is was a gradual descent down to Kinlochleven with a view of the Blackwater Reservoir in the distance,

and a lovely waterfall as we reached the bottom.

Day 92: Tyndrun to Glencoe Mountain Ski Centre

The weather really turned it on for us today: blue sky and sunshine. There was a slight chill in the air as we set off, but just enough to put a spring in our step and the mist that had nestled in the glen had started to rise up the hill side as if to greet the morning sun.

The way was relatively flat initially with just a gentle rise as we followed a little burn up the glen. Passing through a gate, we paused to look back down the glen the way we had come.

The path crossed the Bridge of Orchy

and then began to climb up through the forest and as we looked back down the glen the views were stunning,

with a glimpse of Loch Tulla below,

Getting bigger as we moved along the path and up over Mam Caraig to pass from Glen Orchy into  Glen Coe.

The Monros of the Black Mount provided the backdrop for this section of the walk,

and the sprinkling of snow, glistening in the sunshine just added to the spectacle.

Crossing over a little bridge the burn splashing down the hillside through the jagged rocks was as beautiful looking down stream,

as up stream,

and the wildness of the moorland in Glencoe just added to the majesty of the surrounding mountains.

All too soon we were at the Mountain Ski Centre and had pitched our tent under the watchful eye of the surrounding Munroes. Despite the midges which swarmed outside our tent just gnashing their wee teeth and awaiting someone to need the toilet and venture outside, we drifted off to sleep... Night night campers!

Friday, 30 May 2014

Day 91: Inverarnen to Tyndrum

What can I say: each day is different but equally as beautiful. The West Highland Way truly is a great Walking trail! The weather today was just perfect: the sun shone and a light breeze just kept us from getting too hot with little fluffy white clouds drifting across a blue sky! Today was a totally different walk from yesterday with the path becoming more easily negotiated once we left Loch Lomond. The countryside opened out and, as we walked along Glen Falloch 

alongside the river of the same name

we were surrounded by mountains towering over us in magnificent splendour.

The path took us past the Falls of Falloch

and soon after, we crossed the river and began to climb the glen on the opposite side, following the route of the Old Military Road and soon turned NNW to enter a lovely, cool forest and, as we climbed higher, between the trees, the vista opened out in awe inspiring beauty.

On reaching a high point the path turned downward 

and we descended down to Strath Fillen, 

and followed the Glen all the way to our destination. An easy and enjoyable walk with magnificent views on all sides.