View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy
Showing posts with label West Highland Way. Show all posts
Showing posts with label West Highland Way. Show all posts

Friday, 1 June 2018

TGO Challenge 2018, Going over the top. Day 5

In which I lighten my load…

Up at 7am to start packing, I had breakfast in thew hotel - £10 for a full English Welsh Irish Scottish, good value for what I had: all the usual stuff you get with a hotel breakfast, but rather having a fry-up I opted for smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. It was probably the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had. I’ll be using the MacDonald Hotel campsite again – it’s better than other commercial sites I’ve used in the town.

I joined Conn Hardingacklin for breakfast, he’d planned a similar route to mine – whatever that was!


The view up the loch from the campsite was quite stunning – the morning light was just right.

Up and away via the Post Office (to send some stuff home) and the Co-op to buy choccy and bread.


JJ, Mike and I left town at 10am for the long slog up to Devil’s Staircase.

Lots of kilt comments (mostly complimentary) and loads of requests for photographs….we should start charging! The vast majority of the walkers we saw were on the WHW, some hoping to get to Fort Bill that day whilst others seemed content to stop in Kinlochleven.


Miffed that the cafe at the top was shut

It got a gloomy as we climbed, then it got gloomier still as we climbed some more – then waterproofs were needed as the wind drove rain in. It got quite cold too. This was the second and final time that I walked in rain on TGOC2018 – quite a record.

As late as 4pm some WHW walkers were still heading north, it would be quite late before they got to KL.


The rebuilding of Kingshouse

Once past Kingshouse the kilt comments virtually dried up. We were now off the WHW and we didn’t come across any other walkers for what remained of the day.

The rain had now stopped but the cold wind remained, at least it dried the outer shell of my Velez quite nicely.



Black Corries Lodge

I’d intended to camp before Black Corries but it felt right to continue on beyond the lodge. And so we did.


A mile or so later, at NN322552, we came across a nice flat spot with an abundant supply of water – just what we needed. It was adjacent to a LRT but we really weren’t mithered about that.

Tents up and brew on – just in time for the Archers on BBC R4 LW.

I had an excellent meal of home made and home-dehydrated beef & ale plus Idaho mashed potatoes – these are now my favourite packet mashed potatoes, they’re delicious.


Pudding was a good sized (= big!) piece of chocolate, an Eccles Cake and a mug of tea. I was replete.

After a top-to-toe wash down in my tent I slid into my sleeping bag and wrte up the day’s diary….ie what you’re reading here.




Looking over the lochan in the fading light was really quite relaxing. The snow-covered tops added to the beauty of the scene. The sky was clearing so I expected a cold night ahead. Because I’d loaned Eden some of my lighter-weight stuff I was carrying my winter sleeping bag – cold was not on my list of worries that night.

Eden was doing his DofE Bronze expedition at the same time as my TGOC, I didn’t want the poor lad to be weighed down with a pile of heavy kit.

Whinge warning:

On the subject of DofE, which I’ve commented on previously (causing some knee-jerk reactions by those who couldn’t be arsed to read my words thoroughly – or just want to argue / disagree with my P.o.V.):

There are some absolutely brilliant and very experienced DofE expedition ‘intructors’ out there (you know who you are) but there are also some who clearly don’t have much idea at all. They probably don’t know who they are.

Expedition instructors can’t be held fully responsible for their teachings, the recommended expedition kit list can be viewed here – I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions….but we’ve all taken pity on overloaded DofE teenagers. I’m surprised that so many return to the outdoors.

Some fellow Backpackers Club members, including me, have offered some local DofE groups help and advice but as far as I know, and certainly in my experience, our offers haven’t been taken up.

End of whinge.

I slept badly, not because of the cold, I was actually VERY warm, it was just a load of crap going through my head that wouldn’t allow me to wind down. A mug of camomile tea, a listen to the BBC World Service and a bit of time spent taking photos helped take my mind of the rubbishy stuff and eventually my mind found neutral and I drifted off.


The view from my tent at 4.10am

Cuckoo count: 3 (poor)

Other wildlife encountered: Not much at all really, a just few birds lurking around the lochan. Not even any Challengers.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

TGO Challenge 2018, the story so far…

In which my knees terrify some WHW walkers…

Up at 6.30am, away before 8am…after washing some of my smellier smellies. The sun, even at this time, shone hotly – my soggy laundry would dry fairly quickly in this heat.


Towards Lundavra


Water tap by Lundavra – no water though

The day’s route was very straight-forward and *mostly* easy underfoot: north by Lundavra, then following the West Highland Way, south and east, to Kinlochleven.


Lots of walkers encountered – all going the other way (to Fort Bill, the end of the WHW). Many took delight in telling me I was going the wrong way (this is not news to me, I usually go the wrong way), others wanted to know whether I was doing the WHW in the ‘other’ direction – North to South.

I think the WHW must be marketed quite heavily overseas, a very substantial proportion of walkers were from overseas: many Americans, a large Japanes party and and goodly number of Dutch and Germans. The Way must provide an important source of revenue for businesses on the route.

Walking in a kilt

American ladies swooned. Japanese photographers clicked away, English walkers blushed, German walkers politely averted their gaze….

I had to pose for so many photographs that day that it added a good hour to my walk – great fun though!

My Sports Kilt was generating a lot of interest. In all seriousness, this is the best of walking kit I’ve bought in a long while. It’s extremely comfortable, lightweight and very practical. At 330gms it’s not exactly heavy and because it’s made from microfibre it dries very quickly.

It helped that the weather was so good of course, but even in moderate rain it did it’s stuff well.

The risk of ticks was uppermost in my mind when I was walking through undergrowth. I’d treated my kilt (and my undies) with Permethrin before setting out and this gave me some peace of mind. There was only one day where I didn’t wear the kilt all day, that was my Day 3 through Glen Gour where it just *looked* like good tick-breeding ground. As it happened I didn’t encounter one tick on my entire crossing.

Sports Kilt is an American company, I ordered mine (and Mike’s) whilst I was in USA earlier in the year – perhaps a Scottish manufacturer could take up the reigns and produce them over here.

Back to the walk…

I’ve walked the WHW a couple of times, always South to North, going the other way transorms it into a completely different walk – no better or worse, just different.


The route was mostly but not always easy underfoot, some of the path was covered in loose rocks and stones which slowed my progress from time-to-time. The absolute worst bit was the final steep-ish descent to Kinlochleven – I nearly ended up on my bum a couple of times.


I’d booked into the campsite at the back of the MacDonald Hotel, it was very quiet when I arrived, but within a couple of hours it was rammed. It’s a reasonable commercial site, £10 a night and good facilities – the ground was stony under a couple of inches of grassy soil though.

The Kilted Pieman was refused permission to camp, apparently the site was full – although he could have squeezed on quite easily.

The hotel served decent food and very excellent beer (Cairngorm Trade Winds). I’d hardly eaten all day so I ordered a decent lunch but I struggled to finish it.

I’d sent a food parcel to the hotel, it *should* have contained maps for the next section of my walk….but it didn’t. What the hell happened there then? I had my route description with me of course, I also had my Garmin Etrex20 so I had a fall back, it wasn’t ideal though. (I since found the maps….at home, in a box. A different box.)

A couple of other Challengers appeared, notably Conn Hardingacklin and Scott – good blokes, the pair of them.

Mike ended up camping at the Blackwater campsite, we met up for nosh and beer at the Tail Race, decent food but no proper beer – just fizz.

Mike’s route wasn’t too dissimilar to mine so we decided to team up for a few days (he had his maps!), certainly until my next food parcel which would hopefully contain some maps.

In bed by 11pm, nicely relaxed and ready for a good night’s kip. It wasn’t to be though, noise from adjacent tents and the camping pods kept me awake until the early hours…then it was coming light at 4.30am. Ho hum. 

Cuckoo count 4

Other wildlife encountered: Norralot, not even any Challengers on the route.

Photos from my entire TGOC2018 are here

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Laughing our way across Scotland – the first bit


Mary, Denis’s wonderful wife, (both stars of the small screen) delivered us to the end of the Pipe Track, a pleasant route that follows the pipeline that feeds Glasgow with it’s supply of H2O from Loch Katrine.

The pub jukebox was playing ‘Hey Jude’. We craved cold lager, we’d already walked over 50 yards and we were both determined to remain hydrated throughout the walk to come.

We’d earlier had a brief chat with J.D. who just happened to be toddling off to buy his daily newspaper – and maybe a bottle of milk. Or something. He takes hydration seriously too. Obviously.

Then we walked, laughed, chatted, laughed some more…and then we found a distillery. We’d been forbidden from entering but Denis, clearly a closet Boy Scout, was suitably prepared.


An anonymous <koff> Challenger in familiar surroundings 

Continuing north we came to a pub. Well it could be considered rude not to…..


Denis chatting with John, another sometime TGO Challenger. I met up with John on last year’s Challenge whilst walking with Beryl on a cold and snowy Lochnagar. John goes ultra-lightweight: his waterproof gloves were Marigolds and his waterproof leg-protection was a sort of skirt made from Sil-Nylon. It worked for him!


One for AlanR






Hissing Sid


Balmaha, gateway to Loch Lomond (apologies to the late, great Peter Sellers)

We walked as far as Drymen where there was a pub. Denis’s daughter came to meet us and drive us back to Denis’s house – where Mary had prepared a wonderful meal. After a gallon of tea and a damned good chinwag and more laughs it was time for bed. My hosts couldn’t have done more to make me feel at home – my very grateful thanks!

Next morning Mary delivered us back to Drymen where we continued our foray northwards. The pubs were still shut so we just started walking….and recalling our Challenge memories and laughs.

AlanR recently wrote on his blogThe good thing about the Challenge is the assistance you get from other challengers’. I think he hit the nail on the head. There’s far more to it of course, but assistance is freely given to those in trouble with no expectation of reward – it’s what happens in the hills of course. The ample reward is the knowledge that you’ve done good.





Denis (with his Irn Bru) at Sallochy Campsite

Sallochy Campsite is run by Forestry Commission Scotland. At a fiver a night it’s a good deal. Although there’s not a shower block, the composting toilet is, er, convenient, and clean water is available.




Evidence of the area’s volcanic past 



Brilliant pitch at NN325162, overlooking Loch Lomond



Feral goats


The Cenotaph, Crianlarich


River Fillan


St Fillan Priory Burial Ground, and Kirkton Farm. Ben More (?) in the background









River Ba


Cooling my overheated feet in the River Ba



Bridge over the River Ba, NN277483

I’d previously received a text message from Gayle asking if I was going to be at Kingshouse – which I was. This was A Good Thing, Mick, Gayle and Colin were also planning to be there. I was delighted to be invited for dinner in Colin. Gayle had conjoured up a rather fine Shepherd’s Pie. It was a bit nice. After dinner we wandered over to the much-maligned Kingshouse (I’ve always experienced good ale and pleasant staff on my previous visits) where quantities of beer (TT Landlord seeing as you asked) may have been consumed.

Before bed I had a mess around with my camera, set on a mini tripod:


Buachaille Etive Mor at 11.30pm



Kingshouse by night

The following morning Mick & Gayle again invited into Colin’s interior – to enjoy an egg & bacon butty washed down withe finest Yorkshire Tea. Thanks for your kindness - I could get used to this!


Clach Leathad (?) from Kingshouse


The view from Colin’s side window


Colin, and if you look carefully you may spot Mick & Gayle lurking in the shade


Pass of Glencoe….Scotchland’s answer to High Cup Nick


En route to Kinlochleven


Arriving in Kinlochleven I toyed with the idea of booking into the bunkhouse – it was blisteringly hot and I was in dire need of a shower. It was also a bit early. After a Co-op lunch of cheese butty, carrot cake and a bottle of something refreshing (non-alcoholic) I decided to press on a bit further.


The LRT running WNW from Kinlochleven passes some superb wild camping spots, I settled on this one:


Perfect pitch just south of Stob Ban


I was able to strip off and have a really good wash down – I hate feeling sticky and mucky when climbing into my sleeping bag. It’s so much nicer feeling clean(ish) and smelling sweet(er).


My new toy, a Caldera Cone

My only reservation with the Caldera Cone was that they’re designed for specific pans – in my case an 850ml MRS Titan. I frequently need to give my rehydrating meals a bit of a nudge (bringing them back to the boil to speed the rehydration process). This shows my MSR pan sitting in the Caldera Cone ‘unlocked’. It worked well although it’s as well to keep an eye on it’s stability – just in case. I’m happy with this arrangement.


Identification challenge for AlanR


Ruin at Tigh-na-sleubhaich



Debris left behind after the forestry had been chopped down and carted off. Worramess.






So that was it, well the first bit of this section anyway. It had been good fun, Denis & Mary were tremendously good fun and wonderful hosts. The weather had been glorious, a bit too glorious sometimes – I frequently had to sit out the hottest part of the days, starting early to avoid the heat and high UV levels.

Pubs on the route were noticably expensive – certainly pricier than other pubs on LDPs that I’ve walked. If you’re interested I suggest that you check out The Rowardennan Hotel and the Bridge of Orchy Hotel and it’s bunkhouse on TripAdvisor, I wish I had.


The End…..of this bit.

Although I should add that I spent the night in Fort Bill’s Bank Street Lodge, an excellent bunkhouse / hostel. I ended up sharing a room with TGO Challenger Keith Leonard (Grandad). He was doing the Challenge with Charles who was also staying at the hostel.

We ate in Fort Bill’s Wetherspoon’s pub, The Great Glen. Unusually for Wetherspoons, the food was awful. The beer was excellent though.

We decided to give the place another chance for breakfast the next morning. No change – the food was still awful.

Fireworks Avoidance, Bonfire Night 2019

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