Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 9: Kinlochleven to Fort William

Last day of walking the West Highland Way, but a long day at 24k. Will I make it? Yes!!!

Today was shorts and t-shirt weather - sunny and bright, not too hot though - just about perfect. Since coming down that long steep descent yesterday into Kinlochleven, I'd been dreading climbing up the other side today. It was steep, for sure, but not nearly as long as yesterday. At the top I took a last look back. You can see the straight line of water pipes above the town, the same ones I walked past yesterday afternoon.

There's Loch Leven. It's an offshoot of Loch Linnhe which reaches up to Fort William from the Atlantic Ocean.
The WHW climbs out of the valley to a height of 1100 ft. then swings north as it rejoins the military road. From here the Way is fairly level,

going past old ruins at Tigh-na-sleubhaich
and a mile or so later, the ruin of Larigmor, little more than an unsightly pile of rubble.
There were many streams to cross. That's Stob Ban in the distance.
It was at about this point that I started to meet a lot of walkers coming the other way. I wasn't even at the halfway mark of the day and I wondered how they got so far from Fort William so early, so I asked one man if he had left at dawn. Apparently he was part of a fairly large group from Kinlochleven that had driven to a point about 3 or 4 miles south of FW and started out on a day's walk back to Kinlochleven as a fundraiser for Down's Syndrome. There were people of all ages in the strung out group - some senior seniors, even some toddlers and one DS boy - plus a woman in sandals(!!). They had a support vehicle that brought up the rear and when I asked, the young man at the wheel said he had no trouble navigating the rocky road - his biggest concern and a real nail-biter was a very narrow patch beside the gorge close to home. I wished him well and carried on.
Eventually I started to get a glimpse of the big one - Ben Nevis
and a while later, after a long steep climb, I stopped for lunch here at the side of the path, where I could sit on the bank and enjoy the fabulous day.
A few walkers passed me, including one couple who recognized the "Muskoka" on my sun hat and we compared notes about Deerhurst where they had holiday-ed a few years ago.
As the Way neared Fort William, it went into a forested area that was shady and cool and very pretty - a contrast to the open land I'd just been through. This was Nevis Forest, with alternating sections of clear-cut and remaining forest and an undulating up and down trail, sometimes quite steep.

Finally the path came out onto a forestry road and descended in long switchbacks to Glen Nevis where a path cut down to the main road through Glen Nevis. After this it was a matter of tarmac-pounding for maybe 4k into Fort William, passing my B & B, the Corrie Duff Guesthouse (forgot to get a photo of it) on the way. After a round-about where the official end of the WHW used to be, it was another kilometer into the centre of the city onto the pedestrianized High Road and then almost to the end of that. On the way, I passed other walkers who had finished and saw quite a few I'd met over the last couple days.
And then, at 4:30, the end: Gordon Square
where there is a sculpture of a weary walker sitting on a bench and rubbing his sore feet as he gazes out at the harbour. I think all the walkers who end their journey here could commiserate.
This is when a man came out of the nearby pub when he saw me pass by so he could offer his congrats. There were lots of congrats being bandied around. It was great!
After that? I retraced my steps 2 km back to Corrie Duff Guest House where Craig welcomed me and invited me in.

Here's the view out the window. The building is abutted up to a very steep hill, so this is a hillside we're looking at. That rhododendron has big buds on it and I'm sure it will soon be spectacular.

After my bag finally arrived around 6 pm and I'd had a shower, I was too tired to contemplate another walk into town and back for dinner, so instead, wolfed down the Greek Salad that I bought yesterday at the Co-op.
And now, everybody's wondering if I climbed Ben Nevis the next day. Nope. Too tired. Feet hurt. Maybe I could have done it with fresh legs and feet, but instead, I spent the morning browsing the few stores that were open on a Sunday morning and looking at the train station where I'd be leaving from on Monday morning. In the afternoon I set out on a gentle walk back towards Glen Nevis along the riverside and sat on a bench for an hour, reading my Kobo. I was content!
Go to Day 1
Go to Day 2
Go to Day 3
Go to Day 4
Go to Day 6
Go to Day 7
Go to Day 8