Tuesday, October 16, 2007
West Highland Way (Part One).
The way through Mugdock Wood.
Tonights camp is in centre of picture on far hill.
Path along disused railway line to Drymen.
West Highland Way (Part Two).
The first sight of Loch Lomond.
Saturday nights camp. 16 miles.
West Highland Way (Part Three).
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.
The path up Conic Hill (16.25 Miles).
Looking down on the southern end of Loch Lomond.
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).
Hairy humps slithering through the forest (20.75 Miles).
West Highland Way (Part Four).
When the time came to leave Rowardennan I was still coming to terms with the fact that I’d only covered half the distance for the days walk. What a daunting prospect to think I’d still got as much to do again, and in less time if I was to make it before nightfall. But it was like the song in my head was once again saying,
“No one else can get you through,
Right or wrong win or lose,
It’s all up to you.”
I was never allowed to get in to a rhythm, so even under full sail as I was one could never manage more than an ambling pace. Every step was a tiresome balancing act.
Shortly before reaching Inversnaid I passed three action men laid flat out in the grass. It was a case of the tortoise and the hare as earlier in the day they’d stormed past leaving me looking like the cripple I was feeling. But now the boot seemed to be on the other foot. I straightened my bowing legs and arched back, put the tongue back in my mouth and strode up to them like Clint Eastwood on a good day.
‘Now then lads, are you okay’? I asked.
Above the whimpering I heard one of them say they were staying at Inversnaid and asked was I.
I dauntlessly said, ‘no, I think I will press on to Doune Bothy’.
With that I said goodbye and breezed off in to the sunset to resume my tortured gait just around the next corner. This was not to say that there was any sort of contest going on between us, you just like to think you can hold your own with the young guys.
It was 6:55pm when I walked over the bridge by the waterfall at Inversnaid. By now I was hoping for a miracle because I knew that even under average conditions I was not going to make it to the bothy by nightfall and the circumstances were well below average and would become more so as the light failed…
My thoughts turned instead to finding a pitch while there was still a little bit of light left. Within minutes my prayers were answered as I emerged from the trees in to a beautiful clearing overlooking the loch. It was idyllic, it was also lighter once out from under the trees and with the light returned thoughts of Doune Bothy, perhaps I could get there after all. I stood there in the clearing for what seemed like ages debating with myself whether to press on or stay. The place was heavenly and normally that alone would have decided things for me, especially as it had been an absolutely murderous day. I was on my last legs and my hips felt like they were cut to the bone by the hip belt of my rucksack. But I just couldn’t give in, not when I was so close. The thing that eventually made my mind up was the knowledge that if I stopped here it would me having to add another one and a half miles to the next days walk. For sure the going would probably going to be easier tomorrow but I didn’t know that for sure, there was nothing to say that it wouldn’t be even harder than today. So in the end the thought of staying here in the clearing and so making my walk tomorrow over twenty miles was too much so with this in mind I hauled up my sack on to my weary back and pressed on, back in to the forest, back in to the darkness, back to slipping and stumbling over the rough path. Within a quarter of a mile I was once again stopped, this time contemplating returning to the clearing I’d just passed, the going now in the dark was even more pitifully slow. There was to be no turning back though, I’d made my decision so I would abide by it whatever the outcome. The outcome was that after another half mile of stumbling along in almost complete darkness I stopped again, this time to get the torch from my rucksack. To have continued without it would have been very dangerous.
Now with the torch lighting the way I was able to place my feet with more confidence and it was reassuring to know that barring battery failure I would eventually reach my destination. But because of my now limited vision I was unable to pick out any landmarks so was not able to judge where I was on the map. There was no sense of travelling, like walking in the fog. I kept on putting on foot in front of the other and hoping I was going in the right direction, I could see the path okay so I just hoped it was the right path and it was taking me to Doune Bothy which must be getting close by now. Occasionally something would dark across my path, I think I saw a fox, and somewhere to my right there was a hoot of an owl away in to the forest. It was quite spooky with lots of noises noticeable that you don’t hear during the day. Somewhere close by there was for a short while some considerable amount of fluttering of wings, I have no idea what it was, I just kept on walking. I walked for what seemed like hours although it wasn’t maybe only one hour before I eventually brole free of the forest. The torch picked out something quite large up ahead. Was it a building or just another large rock? As I got closer I could see that sure enough it was a building, two buildings in fact. One was off to my left but it was the one directly in front of me that I was most interested in. The door was wide open and as I passed through I could see with great relief that this was it. The whole of one end was taken up by a raised area, at the opposite end there was a fireplace with a raise area to each side of it. I chose the end with the large raised area to dump off my rucksack for the last time that day. I chose the larger sleeping platform because I fancied doing some lying down in a big way! With this in mind I went over to the corner of the sleeping platform to fetch the two sleeping mats that some kind soul had left. I pick up the first one to find there was something on it, a closer inspection with the torch revealed that someone had been sick on it. It took all my self control to stop myself from adding to it. I realised that this was not turning out to be one of my better days. I would have moved to the other end of the bothy by the fireplace but by now I was having trouble standing up never mind doing anything complicated like walking. I knew I should have packed my grans wheelchair.
Night time at Doune Bothy (9:15pm).
Before going any further I will just explain that a bothy is some kind of a building, more common in Scotland than in other parts of the UK. They can be any sort of old building from say a shepherds hut to an old railway truck. If you want more information please visit http://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/
West Highland Way (Part Six).
View back down Loch Lomond, (36.75 miles).
The Falls of Falloch.
In no time at all I’d caught up with the people who were in front of me. They turned out to be a young man and woman. As I drew level with them at a particularly wet bit the girls feet slipped from under her and with a shriek and a splat she landed on her back in the quagmire. It was the sort of thing you can see and feel happening yet all you can do is stand and watch. The man and I stood and looked at each other whilst the girl tried in vain to brush off the mud and her embarrassment. She assured us that the only thing hurt was her pride. I figured this would perhaps mostly easily cured by me not being there so I said my goodbyes and left them, I thought as I walked along how unfortunate life can be sometimes. I was probably the first person they’d seen all day and there was a good chance I’d be the last until Crainlarich. To fall in the mud when on your own would have been bad enough but to do it in front of an audience adds greatly to ones embarrassment.
West Highland Way (Part Seven).
The tree with a message.
West Highland Way (Part Eight).
‘If you’re looking for a reason,
Just stand right where you are’.
The words were true enough, if I was looking for a reason as to why I was doing this walk then all I needed to do was stand right where I was.
Looking to Beinn Dorain, (55 miles - 11:06am).
Approaching Bridge of Orchy station, (1:06pm).
Crossing the River Orchy, (1:27pm).
Looking back of the days walk to this point, (60 miles - 2:15pm).
Loch Tulla, (60.5 miles - 2:33pm).
View towards Victoria Bridge, (60.75 miles).
West Highland Way (Part Nine).
‘No matter which way the wind blows,
Its always cold when you’re alone’.
Is what the song was saying. In the end I decided to go on past him now resigned to making the rest of the day up as I went along. Maybe there would be a decent place to pitch my tent around the corner, maybe there wouldn’t – who knows, the plans were out the window and blowing away across the wilderness they call Rannoch Moor. I’m sure there are many plans running free in that remoteness.
As I got level with the man who was scanning the wilderness intently he lowered his binoculars and said good afternoon. I replied likewise thinking it was a great afternoon until you went and spoilt it but you can’t hold that sort of thing against a guy, not when he wishes you well so I stopped and started talking to him, as I said earlier I was into conversation with who or whatever, it had become a new found passion of mine. I asked him if he was a shepherd, he said not and went on to inform me that he was stalking deer. Now these guys are not far removed from gamekeepers so not the sort of person you would ask to move their vehicle a little so you can pitch your tent. I was scrabbling around in my brain trying to find a plan that involved soft soaping deer stalkers when he asked if I was going to Kingshouse for the night. I thought, this is my chance, he seems a decent sort of chap, I’ll ask if it would be okay for me to pitch my tent somewhere along the way. So I opened my mouth and said, ‘YES that’s right’. Now I can see how to you that might not make much sense, to fully understand it you would need to be a coward like me.
Approaching Kingshouse and Glen Coe.