For the second day in a row I checked the clock. Five AM and already light. Drowning in mist and with no sleeping mat, I rolled over and attempted another sleep.
A couple of naps later I climbed out so that the midges could have breakfast and I could attempt the Devil’s Staircase before the sun got too high and make it to Fort William before the sun got too low.
The Devil’s Staircase isn’t as hard as it sounds, I seem to recall that it got that name from the people building it rather than the people walking it. The humidity made it tougher, but nothing compared to the past two days.
At the top I met a man who was sitting waiting for a gap in the grey below, waiting for the view to appear. I joined him for a while and in turn we were joined by a couple who had also chosen to tackle the climb early. We must have spent over half an hour chatting away and waiting for that view. It was worth it for the good company as much as the view which slowly appeared. Initially you could only see the hilltops peaking out of the grey, something that was much more impressive than a clear view would have been.
We chatted about the tornados (or so I’m informed) flying around. I had seen a pair fly below me as I was climbing down from Aonach Eagach a couple of days ago. There’s something odd about looking down on a plane in flight.
Conversation drifted towards the walk, and from there to the Germans. There was one who was carrying a rucksack so heavy that legend has it he had to put it on lying down and have his friends help him up. He also had huge sideburns. I’ve seen him walking along and all three seem to have overpacked. The couple thought they may have quit by now, when they last saw that trio the girl was nearly in tears because of the insects and sideburns also looked particularly miserable. It seems that a lot of people have quit this week, either at Inveroran or Kings House, and more due to the weather than the path. I hope none of my new friends have quit. I’m sure the little girl didn’t.
The other three had all chosen to start walking around five this morning, hoping to finish in Kinlochleven before the afternoon sun. The couple had even contemplated walking at night to avoid it. I didn’t have that luxury. I had to get to Fort William before it got too late, so I said my farewells and off I trudged.
You see Kinlochleven a long time before you get there. That was frustrating but the lure of fried food, caffeinated beverages and a much needed top up of water spurred me on. Unfortunately I had arrived too early and the chip shop was still closed. Not to worry, I made my way along to a pub which I knew had internet access. I could go there, have something to eat and drink, catch up with my trip reports and then carry on down The Way. It was also shut. So much for that plan.
Rather than wait for things to open I decided to make the climb up out of Kinlochleven and push on to Fort William. I’d forgotten how steep and closed in this path through the trees was, but along it I came across a stream suitable for resupply, which turned out to be a great idea, before then marching on down the Old Military Road for what seemed like forever.
One forever later and I was informed by a sign that I was only halfway. This bit was no longer fun. I had a long list of jobs to do once I reached my B&B and I just wanted to be in Fort William and away from my own personal spiralling staircase of pain. First my left Achilles’ tendon would hurt, that would cause me to overcompensate with my right leg which in turn would make the front of my right ankle hurt. Then my left knee would have a go, shortly followed by my right hip. Each time around the loop was a little worse and each time around I was walking a little slower. Without the scenery of Glencoe to keep me occupied this was becoming hard work. I was turning it into hard work. I used the thought of fried food in Fort William as the proverbial carrot to keep me going.
I made it to Fort William by 18.30. My spreadsheet informs me that I’ve done about 140 miles in six days. That’s not bad going I suppose.
I walked on to the end, passing all the shops which had shut because it was after five. An ice cream shop was still open so I sat in the sun and ate ice cream. When I was done I noticed there was an ice cream shop open, so I say back down in the sun and ate ice cream.
I made my way to the B&B, which seemed nice enough, before going to buy supplies at the supermarket which included a bottle of sunscreen for £3. My next stop was at a chip shop where I ordered salad and the teddy ordered a battered haggis and chips. They forgot my salad so I had to help the teddy finish his dinner instead.
From there I spent an hour on the phone to my mum and my sister, had a shower and shave, started sorting my kit out and finding that all in all that had already taken me to 1am. I still have a long list of things to do, but for now it is time to sleep.