Day 2/3 WHW West Highland Way

I wake in an empty hostel, no one it seems came in last night and I didn’t see the ranger again. I made coffee and went up to my room. It’s still dark. I muster the energy to get dressed and get some breakfast. Freeze dried porridge with sweet bits. Possibly apple. I also made some toast which is free with your stay. I was amazed at the facilities of this £20 per night bunkhouse run by the National Trust for Scotland. I cheekily also made sandwiches for lunch. Strawberry jam with lots of butter.

I headed out at first light, the moonlight still lighting the trail. The track starts wide and follows the loch. I remembered that you have a choice. Either the high road which is forest track or the low road which was deemed to be more tricky. I opted for the low as I’d not done it before. It was single track heaven, I managed to bimble with the odd scramble over boulder and down tree stump.

This continues for a good 10km, not fast progress but fun. Inversnaid Hotel is the next waypoint. A huge hotel on the banks of the loch. I don’t stop, there’s no one about. The next section is notoriously tough, it’s single track, undulating and littered with boulders making progress slow and tiring. I had done 13km in 2 hours and was feeling it. Although the weather was nice, I was sheltered from the wind and sun being on the eastern shore which made it cool.

The other end of the loch can’t come quick enough. It’s a lovely stretch but tough and I was glad to have got that behind me. Reaching the bothy I was in full sun, facing northward my shadow was long and the wind was nowhere. Far away mountains had snow on their caps reminding me that this is getting near to winter.

I reached Beinglas Farm where I had hoped there to be something open. But Monday’s in November mustn’t get much trade and so it was shut. I decided to stop and eat my sandwiches instead.

The next section is undulating along a track, ever increasing in altitude though so progress seems slow. I hadn’t seen a soul all day. It had been 26km by the time I did, two workmen on the railway.

The track dives under the railway and up over a style then through a tunnel under the road the climbs high. I start seeing fresh footprints in the mud could this be someone doing the WHW? I’d met no one doing the whole thing and I wished to actually meet a few folk doing it to share experiences. There ahead was a tall bloke. I reached him and made pleasantries. He said he was “fooked ” and that a train looks good. His mate was further ahead who was more talkative. He said they were thinking of giving in due to “the weather”. That front wasn’t due until Wednesday so I think they were having enough. They had big packs and was unsure if they were camping. Anyway, I ran on.

I was in Cow poo alley. An affectionate term given the levels of cow pat that litters the trail. There was very little actually, no cattle to be seen too. A good time to go through here it seems.

I reached the climb into Elwich Forest and walk up. The views are spectacular, the tops of the mountains covered in snow with a line where the temperature must rise above freezing. A line that stretches as far as the eye can see.

The descent through the forest is fun, eventually spitting you out across the A82 and into the valley. I stop to see if the wigwams shop was open, I was longing for a coke. It was shut, so I plodded on. The route now goes under the road again and meanders around the river where Robert The Bruce has a battle and apparently his sword lies in the lochan. Probably.

Tyndrum arrives and it is getting dark, I checked into my hotel and immediately had a bath and a nap. The luxury of a holiday at last.

I was first to breakfast as I wanted an early start. They were still putting it out when I got there. Not many people were staying it seemed. I leave just after 7:30 and first light is here, sunrise won’t happen for another 45min and in the mountains it can appear gloomier for longer. I make my way up the hill to the Glen that will take me to Bridge of Orchy, from here it’s downhill and I’m running. Im feeling like I am making good progress. The wind is firmly at my back and pushing me along. The sleeper train trundles on by toward Fort William. I’m making excellent progress and feeling quite good for a change. The extra large fish and chips must have helped last night!

Cows! In my road. I approach them slowly and wishing them all a good morning. They don’t look amused and watch me with suspicion. I escape over the style and over the bridge and into another cow field. This time they’re highland Cows. With their big horns they look cute but scary. I don’t run and take my time. They largely ignore me which is a relief. The sheep on the other hand don’t and run away down the bloody trail! Before I knew it I’m shepherding the toward Fort William !!

They eventually see sense and run off the track leaving me to get going again.

I’d not seen anyone yet today and make it to Bridge of Orchy after an hour and a half. The climb out of here is through forest protecting me from the ever increasing wind. It spits you out almost at the top of a hill and from here the vista opens out. Mountains everywhere!

The track drops to Inveroran and follows the road to forest lodge where it ascends onto Rannoch Moor. It’s about 10km from here to Glencoe Mountain Resort along decent track. I’m running and I’m happy. The cool wind is strong on my back pushing me along. My elbows cold but the rest I’m warm.

There’s a guy up ahead. I try to approach making noise as it must be scary coming across an idiot running. He’s from the Netherlands and is heading to Kinlochleven too after starting at Bridge of Orchy and he is walking. I expect to see him late on tonight.

The wind now is strong and I make my way down toward the ski centre. I know this place is open so I go in for a cuppa. Nice sweet tea. So nice I have another one. I had coach’s voice in my head “gotta keep moving ” so I packed up and dawdled no more. The road descends steeply which is tough on the knees. Crossing the road again I’m running and feeling good. Kings house is still a construction site but looking good!

I’m running still as it is keeping me warm. Though I’ve my hood up as the wind is cooling me too much.

Devils Staircase is steep but the views across to Stob Dearg are awesome. I opt to get my poles out as the climb is relentless and my back could do with some help. The wind is also cutting across me on every switch back.

I hit some heather with my pole which rebounds it toward my body and at that time I was putting it down and bam, right into my foot. It’s bloody sore stabbing your self with a pole!

The wind is very strong, gusting and blowing me and my pack over. I was looking forward to the descent. It’s a long descent into Kinlochleven, some 7kms of mainly down, the last 4 on track. Unforgiving on the knees I opt to walk as I’ve plenty of time. And so i did. I walked into Kinlochleven and arrived into my hotel. Very smelly and apparently with some blisters now that I’ve taken my socks off! I best fix them before tomorrow!

7 responses to “Day 2/3 WHW West Highland Way

  1. Pingback: West Highland Way in 3 and a bit days – planning | Run Spud Run!·

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