Alright there, troops? I’m not long back from doing the West Highland Way and a pal suggested it would a good idea to write up a wee blog about the adventure so that folks could learn about how an ex-serviceman tackled it…
Like the vast majority of people who take on the 96 miles, I walked from South to North. I went with three keen walkers who’d done it before.
We started off in Milngavie headed for Drymen. The section was around 12 miles and I enjoyed every bit of it, scenery, banter and all. I wore my Altberg boots and had layers to prepare me for the typical four seasons in one day Scottish weather:
– army issued Goretex waterproof trousers and jacket (these are similar)
– a Norweigan shirt, also known as a ‘Norgy’ or a thermal undershirt if we’re being posh
– army issued self-wicking t-shirt
– small army issued rucksack with my thermos cup, water bottle, a torch and a first aid kit, with that all-important zinc tape
By the time we got to Balmaha, I was pretty tired and my feet had started to hurt. Nothing a couple of pints wouldn’t sort…
We started off keen as mustard and I was enjoying the sightseeing. My three pals wanted to power on as they’d done the walk before but I was enjoying (and needing) a slower pace because at five miles in as my feet felt like they were on fire! I was starting to fall behind around this point but was determined to continue, so I stopped to assess the damage and consider my options, after finishing this leg we all met in the Drovers Inn bar for a feed and a couple of beers.
SO MUCH RAIN – what a day. I swapped to trainers, hoping that would help my poor feet! I soldiered on and reached the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum, really needing some new footwear, as my trainers were soaked and I could not stand the thought of putting those Altbergs back on. I was seriously considering a bus to Bridge of Orchy by this point. My feet were hotter than Satan’s radiators and I had 15 miles to go! I bought myself some Sealskinz socks (I was to find out that this would be the best £40 I have EVER spent). I took myself off to the pub for a consolation pint, dried my feet, put on my Sealskinz and back on went the wet trainers. The horizontal rain was off-putting but I had my pint and went on my way.
When I arrived and caught up with my mates, they were amazed to see that I was bone dry beneath my army issued Goretex AND my feet were also bone dry underneath the magic socks!
The best way to describe this day is wall to wall rain and a Devil’s Staircase to climb – which I was amazed to see mountain bikers descending it. It was miserable! It was a trudge and managed to keep up with my mates for a good bit but despite my miracle socks and trainers combo, my feet were hotter than hell. I was feeling quite scunnered, with surely the world’s sorest feet, so when someone stopped to offer me a lift at the end of the longest, windiest, steepest downhill road ever, I asked them how far away my hotel was – and when they said it was only half a mile to Kinlochleven, I gladly got in the car. Best lift ever!
Kinlochleven to Fort William – the end was in sight and this was a good day, despite really changeable weather. This stage faces Ben Nevis – which never seems to be any closer despite how far you walk! In reaching Fort William – the end – I had an immediate bottle of Baltika in Wetherspoons, where I was informed that my eagerness for a beer meant that I was short of the official finish line by about four metres! I then went straight out and crossed it!