Tuesday, October 16, 2007

West Highland Way (Part Three).

Sunday dawned warm and sunny. I’d got 18 miles to walk today, 16 of which were along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. I’d anticipated the walk along Loch Lomond to be a steady stroll. I’d sampled part of the route earlier in the year on returning from climbing Ben Lomond. Unfortunately the bit that I walked that day turned out to be the easiest part, unfortunate in that for my walk today I was not prepared for what I was to face.

I left camp dragging my right leg behind me, and it was still refusing to co-operate ten minutes later when I reached the edge of the forest. It was here that I got my first view of Conic Hill. I had to climb this hill before descending to Balmaha on the shore of Loch Lomond. But first things first, before I could climb the hill I first had to climb a stile that had style. It was by far the biggest stile I’d ever seen. I cranked my stiff legs into gear and hauled me and my 50 pound pack up and over the top.

First view of Conic Hill.

A stile with style.

The climbing of Conic Hill was quite easy with the reward of excellent views of Loch Lomond far below. The way down to Balmaha was quite steep in places and far from easy, I had legs of jelly long before reaching the bottom, every step was a struggle against gravity.

The path up Conic Hill (16.25 Miles).

Looking north from Conic Hill (17 Miles).

Looking down on the southern end of Loch Lomond.

Balmaha was the start of a 16 mile trudge to Doune bothy – and that nights camp. I dislike admitting that any walk is a trudge, in my mind it means I failed in someway. My first failing was to not get pleasure from this part of the walk. I got so little pleasure from it because I failed to do my homework properly before hand. There was certainly no shortage of delights for people with the time to enjoy them. But because I failed to anticipate how exhausting this part of the way would be I hadn’t the spare time to relish them. Even driving myself continuously I fell behind schedule. There was no single reason for this, it was a combination of factors that tried in vain to bring me to my knees. 18 miles with a heavy pack is quite a distance at the best of times, and this was definitely not one of the best of times. Parts of the track were narrow and rocky with steep accents and decents. The weather also played its part as it was very warm at times. Then there was the rucksack which was proving to be very uncomfortable. Non of these would have been more than an inconvenience on its own. After all I’d walked more than 18 miles in the day on several occasions, and although the path was rough there were also considerable stretches along good roads, and even though the weather was unbearably hot at times it would have been far worse had it been raining and needed to wear waterproofs. As for the rucksack this was a problem I didn’t understand as I’d never had trouble with it before yet this day I was constantly having to adjust belt and straps in an effort to obtain some degree of comfort which I never did achieve for several days.

It was during this part of the walk that I piece of music by Steve Earle came to mind and it stayed with me on and off for the rest of the walk. On this occasion the words that sang in my head were,

“Nobody said it would be easy,
But it don’t have to be this hard,
And if you’re looking for the reason,
Just stand right where you are.”

Had I been able to spare the time to stand right where I was I’m sure I’d have seen the reason because I know that all around me was a beauty hard to imagine, I just didn’t have the time to enjoy it though.

The shores of Loch Lomond at Balmaha (19.5 miles).

At 1:05 pm I stopped for lunch, I was around 21 miles in to the walk having only covered 5 miles of the days 18 miles. Whilst sitting in a clearing with my back against a tree eating my biscuits my mind did its best to frighten me to death. I noticed lots of green hairy humps, all of which lay motionless whilst my eyes were upon them, but in the stillness of the forest I got the feeling that when my gaze left them they crept a little closer. I was resigned to my fate as I was in no fit state to run anywhere.

Hairy humps slithering through the forest (20.75 Miles).

After the short break it took ten minutes to kick start my right leg back in to action, I knew I should have brought my grans walking frame.


Blogger Jeanette said...

Hi Bob, that walk and climb, "Puff puff out of breathe" was well worth it to see the beautifull view of the Loch. No nessy though.
take good care. Jen

2:39 AM  

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