Steve Anderson

The West Highland Way Page 4

Nov 2010

The next section took us 900 feet up over a pass on the edge of Rannoch moor, a spot which provided us with our first flurry of snow as the rain was forced over the top of a hill and down onto us, it continued until we started dropping down to the lower path of Glen Coe (Pauls own Glen), where it turned firstly into sleet then rather cold rain. The Kings House was a Hotel I had decided to camp at, as having stopped there before, I thought my tent might be slightly nicer than the Hotel, however with the persistent rain pouring down and no other sleeping accommodation available I decided to leave the tent where it was and with 2 groups of walkers in front of me broke pace and at a virtual jog I charged past the other groups to try and secure a bed, possibly the last bed, for the night, I was lucky, bed secured and a dry warm night on the cards. The Hotel proved to be much better than anticipated, as things often are when the assumption is not positive. We had not seen John all day so presumably he had picked himself up and made it to Kinlochleven (our next stop) in one go. Poor Mike was suffering quite badly from the days rigours and had an early night, Paul and I had a nice chat with a couple whom we had met on the way during the day, and as the evening wore on we inveigled ourselves into company with an Australian couple who were in accordance with the stereo type, rather wild. I vaguely remember them setting off fireworks on a bridge outside the Hotel to the disgust of at least one Hotel resident. To my amazement he completely ignored the safety instructions on the fireworks and lit them in his hand, and to add to the effect shook them around as they performed, luckily no hands were blown off, despite that looking like the inevitable outcome at one point.. They were to travel to Edinburugh the next day to play Bingo with an auntie, I had no idea Bingo was so Rock and Roll!

Day 6 and the Kings House Hotel to Kinlochleven on the old military road. This stretch of the route was to be our shortest with a distance of 9 miles, this was the day I had been quite looking forward to, almost half a day really, however what I had not taken into account was the “Devils Staircase”, which took us up to a height of 1800 feet, a climb of 1000 feet from our starting place by the river Etive at the Kings House hotel. This climb was to be made no more enjoyable by the steady rain which seemed to have been going all night causing rivers to cross the path as the flood water forced its way off the hills, and once on the top, we experienced  a very strong wind which tried to blow us off the path at every turn. On the lower level before climbing the “Staircase” we passed quite close to the main road which runs through Glen Coe, and every now and then a passing car would hoot, I could not see any sheep or rabbits in the road, and after a few more hootings realised that they were hooting and waving at us, I assume they had all done the WHW as well, which highlighted for me how immensely popular this walk is. On the South Downs I very rarely see long distance walkers with big packs, but up here, they were all over the place, and in mid October! We marched past a couple of Belgian girls we had chatted to briefly the day before, who were sitting in a hollow eating a rather healthy looking lunch, they both had a bush baby in the headlights (like rabbit but more so) look about them, leaving no indication of whether they were enjoying themselves or even if they knew where they were. Having established they were still alive we pushed on from the summit and on to a 1800 ft descent down to Kinlochleven, which even on this short section caused my knees to complain, this was proving too much even for my daily intake of 1500mg Glucosamine and Cod liver oil. The scenery on this section was lovely but we were not in a mood to sit around and savour, due to the wet and blustery conditions. Kinlochleven was famous for using Hydro power for smelting aluminium, and as we walked past the impressively leaky Hydro pipes a slightly industrial smell greeted the unwilling nostril as a lingering reminder of the towns’ previous history. The town is currently famous for having an artificial ice climbing facility, the tallest one in Europe I believe.

Make your feet your friend.  (J.M. Barrie)