Today was the second of my short days, although I was expecting it to be tougher than yesterday as the first half involved tackling a climb going by the somewhat intimidating name of The Devil’s Staircase. Also, yesterday had started off overcast but got warmer and sunnier as the day went on, and today was forecast to be even hotter – I learned later it did indeed get up to 26 degrees and Scotland was the hottest part of the UK! Now 26 degrees and blazing sunshine is all very nice when you’re lying on a beach but not so good when you’re walking up a very steep hill with no shade, so I decided I would just have a quick breakfast of fruit and yoghurt and set out as early as possible, to get the climb over with before the sun got too high.
However, my plans to avoid the hottest part of the day were slightly derailed by the spectacular views of Buachaille Etive Mòr which I had in front of me more or less all the way to the top of the Devil’s Staircase, forcing me to stop about every 5 minutes and take more photos! It really was stunning 🙂
I liked this image with the West Highland Way sign in front of Buachaille Etive Mòr – kind of sums up how amazing the WHW is!
I was really enjoying walking this morning. It was warm but not yet too hot and because I had been the first one out of my hotel I didn’t see a single other person until I was halfway up the Devil’s Staircase …. and that was Speedy Dave, overtaking me again despite starting from a mile further back!
My progress was further slowed down when I came across a pair of red grouse. I’d never seen this bird before and I was totally entranced – it was hilarious the way it scurried about and made the most bizarre noises. I think I stood watching it for about 20 minutes. But this was why I’d planned an 8 day walk – so I could do stuff like this and not feel rushed!
I shot some video which you can see here – turn it up to hear the mad noises it makes!
Once I’d had enough of grouse-watching obviously I had to take a few more photos of Buachaille Etive Mòr ……
…. including the obligatory selfie!
You’d think I might have made some actual walking progress after that, but no, I was distracted by yet another bird I hadn’t come across before – a wheatear. A very pretty wee thing, I watched him sitting on this rock chirping away for a while!
After a few miles the path started the climb up The Devil’s Staircase. It was quite a long climb but I didn’t find it too hard – all that hill walking I do at home means I’m used to this sort of terrain and how it feels to walk up hill for a reasonable length of time! I’d done two short days but I know a lot of faster walkers combine this segment with what I’d done yesterday – I was SO glad I hadn’t done that, partly because I would have hated to rush through yesterday’s amazing scenery, and also because I think this part was much easier with fresh legs in the morning – doing it after lunch yesterday in the hot sun would have been hard!
Now I was getting higher the views were getting ever more spectacular!
At about this point Dave went scooting past me away up the hill while I stopped for yet another selfie 🙂
A bit more climbing and then I arrived at this lovely spot with a convenient rock to pop the camera on and use the timer!
More climbing ensued, with the legs getting a bit tired now, but finally I was at the top! Just as the trail reached the top the views opened out onto a whole new range of mountains – the Mamores. I decided to have a good long stop here and enjoy the views, as this was the halfway point and I only had another 4 miles to get into Kinlochleven. So I plonked myself down and enjoyed the peace and quiet for a while until the rest of my trail buddies from the hotel caught up with me and we ended up having a bit of a party at the summit – about 12 of us there in total I think! Plus some other walkers not in our “gang” stopped to chat. First of all two young lads from Paisley who were walking the Way in four days (!!!!!!) to raise money for a local hospice. They stopped for a few minutes and said it was the first time they had actually managed to take the time to rest and look at the views. Then a woman came along from the other direction and it turned out she was walking from John O’Groats to Lands End – she was doing an average of 18 miles a day for 10 weeks! Amazing, I found it very inspirational hearing about all the mad adventures people were on – it made me want to do MORE of this sort of thing!
The Mamores to the north were looking stunning …
While back where I had come from, my old friend Buachaille Etive Mòr was still looking pretty good from this angle 🙂 I wandered off away from the crowds for a couple of minutes to scatter today’s wee bag of ashes on the the cairn that you can see in this photo ❤
One of my Canadian buddies took a photo of me perched on the summit cairn.
I would have liked to have stayed longer to enjoy the beautiful views but sadly by now I was desperate for a wee and with all these people at the summit and no cover at all I thought it was time to make tracks in search of a rock to hide behind!
From here it was tough going as the path descended 550m into Kinclochleven ….. I often find the downhill harder than the uphill and this was certainly one of those times. The path was rough, rocky and gravelly, which made it slippery too, and walking downhill on it for 4 solid miles was very hard on the knees and leg muscles. Plus the sun was well and truly up by now and it was very hot! However the views did make it easier 🙂
Still smiling 🙂
The very last glimpse back to Buachaille Etive Mòr as it disappears behind the hill …. I was a bit sad to say goodbye to this beautiful mountain which I had enjoyed looking at today and yesterday!
With the path descending and it being open hillside you could see for miles – I could pick out Dave, Chris & Stuart all ahead of me in the distance making their way to Kinlochleven. Today was another one of those days when I had rashly looked at extra walking I could do as it was a short mileage day – I had grand plans of doing a walk from Kinlochleven to see the Grey Mares Tail waterfall – once again, foiled by the terrain being harder than expected! By the time I got within sight of Kinlochleven all I could think about was finding food, getting out of the blazing sun, and resting my poor feet!
Finally after what seemed an age on the rough ground the path emerged onto a forest track.
I was very tired and hot by now and hoped I was near the end but actually there was still a fair old way to go to get into Kinlochleven itself! There were beautiful rivers and waterfalls to distract me from my sore feet though.
At the edge of town I caught up with Dave who had stopped for a breather. Both being knackered, boiling hot and starving at this point we decided to walk together to the nearest establishment serving cold drinks and food!
We found a lovely pub, the Highland Getaway who plied us with cold drinks, food, tea and scones and didn’t seem to mind us making ourselves at home on the sofas where we stayed for a good long time resting our feet! Bliss!
After a couple of hours recovering we decided to head for our hotel – once again we had managed to upgrade the single I had booked so after two nights apart we would be together tonight – this time we had upgraded to a triple room WITH A BATH!! A BATH!!!. On the way we called at the Co-Op to stock up on food for tomorrow’s picnic lunch and then popped in to the Ice Factor in the hopes that they might have some shorts I could purchase! I was absolutely boiling in the hot sun in my black trousers – which I had worried the week before I left would not be warm enough, as it was snowing then! Sadly there was nothing suitable in the shop but then I was struck with inspiration as I remembered I had a cheap pair of running leggings in my overnight bag. Once we got settled at the hotel I attacked them with scissors and voilà! Shorts! Not exactly a fashion statement but I was past caring at this point – they would do the job!
Tomorrow’s attire sorted, I soaked in the bath (bliss!) and then we headed down to the bar for drinks and dinner. Chris & Stuart arrived so the four of us ate together and enjoyed a few beers too. Once again we managed to make it until the late hour of 9 pm to watch the sunset over Loch Leven from the hotel bar – beautiful!
Then it was off to bed to get lots of rest before the final day – a long 15 miler into Fort William. I was feeling quite emotional already about the end – I was looking forward to resting my poor tired feet, but also sad that my adventure would be over.
Click here for the Day 8 blog.