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The West Highland Way 2018 - What an Experience...

Sep 17, 2018

What an accomplishment - the Spice Scotland West Highland Way - completed

For those who don't know the details - The West Highland Way is a world famous walk from the north of Glasgow to Fort William and the base of Ben Nevis - the official length is 95 miles (our tracking shows it was over 100 miles however) and over 11000ft of ascent as you go.  As our group lived in Scotland we broke it up into 5 day walks and 2 weekends.  Here is an outline - I hope you enjoy..

Section 1 - Milngavie to Drymen - April 2018 - The start of our adventure - 20 Spice members meeting in Milngavie at the official walk start - pretty straight forward throughout although Deby won't ever forget the blisters.

Section 2 - Drymen to Balmaha - April 2018 - Another straight forward section taking in the south shores of Loch Lomond and up an over Tinto Hill into Balmaha - this is easy, what's the fuss about we said!

Section 3 - Balmaha to Rowerdennan - May 2018 - A short walk to Rowardennan - another easy day but sterner challenges lie ahead for sure.  The sun beating down as some walkers took a paddle in Loch Lomond.

Section 4 - Rowerdennan - to Inverarnan - June 2018 - All the guide books tell you this the toughest section - the guides books are always right aren't they?  Our day began with a 8.45am ferry from Tarbet across Loch Lomond to the start at Rowardennan.  Full of beans we made land and set off.  It was wet, very wet, waterproofs on we continued.  The came the midges - loads of them, everywhere - midge spray out, midge nets out, we certainly looked the part.  It was tough, the route along the banks of north Loch Lomond was root ridden, boulders and rocks everywhere as well as what appeared to be steams appearing on the path - welcome to The Wet Highland Way.  7 miles in we took shelter at Inversnaid - a sorry bunch but back inside morale improved.  Off we went again - the guide books said 7 miles - at this point we unfortunately lost a few walkers to leaking boots, it was relentless.  What came next was one of the hardest afternoons of our lives - the rain got heavier, the midges became more determined to lunch on us and the streams got deeper.  We ploughed on, and, on, and on for what seemed an eternity. 7 miles came and went - we were now up to 15 miles for day and no end in sight.  Then, just then the sun came out and shone on us as we made the end of the section - 17 miles and counting we tracked it at!  We were hobbling and knackered - just the 2 hour drive back to Edinburgh.  A day that will live long in the memory.

Section 5 - Inverarnan to Tyndrum - July 2018 - After the previous section this 12 miles with 1500ft of ascent was a real walk in the park.  The group was getting fitter and learning so much as we went.

Sections 6 - Tyndrum to Inveroran and 7 - Inveroran to Kings House - Our 1st weekend and 2 days walking.  My favourite sections as we are starting to feel very remote.  The walks here are simply stunning and the crossing of Rannach Moor will live long in the memory.  These sections I'll do again and again i'm sure.

The final weekend - Section 8 - Kings House to Kinlochleven and Section - 9 - Kinlochleven to Fort William - 2 big walks ahead, big hills and I think the most dramatic scenery on the whole route - these mountains are big!  A simple first hour or so on the Saturday before you reach the Devils Staircase - pretty much 1000ft straight up - take your time - it's fine.  Or group had no problems with this and we enjoyed a well deserved lunch stop at the top.  The route then places in the most remote section of the walk - there's no going back, the views are simply breathtaking and we all felt privileged to be a part of it.  What goes up must come down and that we did, all the way into Kinlochleven - around 13 miles we think - day 1 done.  The end is in sight.  We all enjoyed a group dinner on Saturday evening and some who had to drop out after injury were welcome guests for the night.  It was low key as I think we all felt a little anxious about day 2.  We were already tired and tomorrow is the longest section - over 16 miles and 1500ft to come.  Early start - we met at 8.30am and headed to Kinlochleven for a 9.30am set off.  Immediately as you leave you are faced with most of the ascent in one go - up, up some more and a little bit of up to set off.  Only 14 miles to go after that.  Then came the rain, and the wind, we were drying and getting soaked at the same time - it was brilliant - mother nature testing our resolve and character right at the end.  We marched on and the rain stopped and but for a one more short shower it stayed dry.  This last section is probably the most varied offering many different walks within one big one.  6 hours after setting off we at the base of Ben Nevis looking up at the commanding peak knowing we were close to the finish.  The walk down the High Street in Fort William is a strange feeling - tired, happy, sad and very proud.  We had all shared something very special over the year and everyone who did some or all the sections will forever be part of our West Highland Way group.  

What was really satisfying is that we were not experienced walkers by any means, we had courage, determination and above all a Spice spirit to have a go..... that we did.

I'll leave you with this quote from Freddie Johnson - it sums up of experience perfectly...

'Just completed the final section of The West Highland Way. A wonderful experience. Contrasting scenery. Contrasting weather. 96 tough miles made easier due to the fact that I had by my side some of the finest walking companions anyone could wish for. Thank you for your company along the way everyone'

Until the next time.

 

 

 

 

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