Kings House to Kinlochleven
Right. That’s it. I am now officially sick to the back teeth of not sleeping properly. You would have thought that after five pints last night I would have had at least an ok sleep…but no! I was awake until gone 2am when clearly I dozed off at some point just to wake up at 5am, wide awake! I have no idea how my body’s continuing to function with such little sleep?!
I did try to get back to sleep after that but it just wasn’t happening so I got up well before my alarm went off and started to sort myself out. I wanted to head off as soon as possible this morning, even though it was a short day, so that I could be done and dusted early as Steve and Jill were driving up to see me and I wanted to spend as much time with them as I could.
In hindsight, having five pints after yesterday’s long walk probably wasn’t the best of idea I’ve ever had. I wasn’t feeling too bad when I got myself of bed but I certainly knew I’d had a few beers that’s for sure. It could have been a lot worse and I was very thankful it wasn’t.
Kings House wasn’t too bad a place to stay but I suspect that as they’re the only place for miles they don’t really make too much of an effort: stay there or camp in a field. The room was a little on the tired side and I must admit, the portion sizes on the food left a little to be desired. Still, they did have two real ales on so that was a definite plus point for the place. I wouldn’t be rushing back there though that’s for sure.
I sorted my room bill out before sitting down for breakfast so that I didn’t get caught in a rush of people all trying to check out at the same time, had breakfast and left at 8:30am.
Ashley had been camping outside the hotel for the night and had already packed up and headed off. I don’t blame him as the weather wasn’t exactly nice. I gave him a ring as I was leaving and he was already a way up the path. There was no way I was going to catch him up as we walked at very similar paces. Oh well, a day walking on my own wasn’t a problem, it’s not like I haven’t had enough of those over the last two and a half months now is it?
From Kings House the day’s walk was a little mundane, following the course of the A82 for a couple of miles to Altnafeadh along another very annoying stone cobbled path. My feet really don’t like these paths and I was worried that it would set my heel off first thing this morning. Fortunately it held well as I’d put a little extra foam padding on the insole on my right foot to try and help over these awful paths.
This was where the path took a turn for the worse with the daunting Devil’s Staircase looming ahead. This was an 850ft climb over about half a mile with a path that zig-zagged it’s way up the side of Bheinn Bheag.
Just my luck, as I approached the bottom of the path from the A82 a coach load of German tourist “walkers” started to make their way up the path in front of me, shrouded in their plastic ponchos to protect them from the worsening rain. Brilliant! They were going at a snail’s pace and the path made it very difficult to get past them. But get past them I did and powered on past the lot of them, even carrying the pack I was carrying. Ok, I couldn’t keep that pace up all the way up the climb but I was determined not to have any of them catch me up, even with a couple of very short stops to catch my breath.
It was a bit of a slog getting to the top, especially with the wind and rain, but I made it and after a minute or so trying to enjoy the view – the rain really didn’t allow you to see much – I headed off again.
If there’s one thing I’ve really noticed as this walk has progressed it’s the improvement in my recovery period. It has gotten shorter and shorter which is just great.
I’d spotted Ashley near the top of Devil’s Staircase as I approached it but by the time I’d made it up he was about to take the next turn round the hillside, a good half a mile away or so. It was clear we were keeping the same pace so it was unlikely I’d catch him up without doing something stupid. Knowing that I stopped and put my iPod on to keep me occupied while walking in the rain and drizzle.
The path was as bad as ever, having to concentrate on every step to make sure I had good footing. It would be very easy to slip or twist an ankle up over the top, especially as a lot of the paths had turned in to little streams with all the rain.
About half a mile further on the trail started to head down, finally. I don’t like these sections, especially with the types of paths I was walking on today, as it plays havoc with my knees and, as I found out today, the front of my right foot. It was tough going but there were a few miles left to go and I wasn’t looking forward to them I can tell you.
As I came to the point where I got my first glimpse of Kinlochleven below, the sun started to shine and a front of rain moving over Kinlochleven started to form a rainbow. Normally when I’ve seen a rainbow they’re just there, in the sky. This time, I actually stood and watched it form it’s arc – it was amazing to watch. I took a few photos but nothing will ever capture that moment fully.
Making my way down I spotted a guy sat on a rock. Following the path’s zig-zag route I made my way towards him. As I approached we said hello and that’s when he told me he’d had a tumble and had done something pretty bad to his ankle. See what I was saying about how easy it would be to hurt yourself?
He seemed in good spirits and he’d contacted the mountain rescue team who were expected to be there in half an hour. I stood there and chatted to make sure he really was ok as I would have stayed and waited with him if I had any inkling that he might not be ok waiting on his own.
All being well, as it could be in the circumstances, I pressed on down the hill to my final destination of the day.
About a mile and a half from Kinlochleven I phoned my mate Steve to see where he was as he and Jill were driving up to see me and to give me my final pack of maps. They live in Ayr so it was a bit of a drive for them which I very much appreciated I can tell you. I’d made excellent time so was considerably earlier than I expected, it only being 11:40am so they were still a way off from getting there.
Knowing that, I decided to get to my hotel, which I’d only arranged that morning but I was confident I’d be ok seeing as it was a Sunday, and sit in the bar waiting for them to arrive. It was far too early for me to be able to check in my room so what else was I to do? I only had one pint after last night’s overindulgence but it was very nice indeed.
I’d made excellent time today, getting to Kinlochleven in three and a half hours. Not a bad time to cover the almost nine miles, including the Devil’s Staircase. I was pleased with my efforts anyway so that’s all that matters.
Steve and Jill turned up a little while later with Steve’s son Fraser in tow. It was great to see them. We chatted and the time just vanished and it was far too soon before they had to head off on the drive back home again. Thanks guys for coming out to see me and for bringing me my maps. I know it was only lunch I bought you but I hope it helped to show how much I appreciate it the long drive?
I finally checked in and cleaned myself up and chilled out in my room for a couple of hours. I managed to sort out somewhere to stay in Fort William which took a weight off my shoulders and then I watched a bit of TV, waiting for 6pm to tick round so I could speak with the girls.
After speaking to Alice and Elisa – I had a lovely little chat with Elisa today – I popped down to the bar for a pint and some dinner. While I was sat there a couple I’d spoken to on the trail over the last couple of days – Andy and Sue – were also sat in the bar. Andy came over and offered to buy me a pint so I moved to the table next to them and we spoke for an hour or so. A really nice couple and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation.
Having the next grueling fourteen miles ahead of all of us we said our goodbyes and headed off to get ready for tomorrow. I was careful not to drink as much as yesterday, only having three pints through the course of the afternoon and evening so hopefully tomorrow’s jolly little stroll will go ok.
Before I forget, again, you can read Ashley’s blog on TravelPod and, if you’re feeling generous, you can sponsor him on his Just Giving page. Good luck with the rest of your walk if I don’t bump in to you again Ashley.