Saturday, 7 May 2011

Day 1 - Fort William to A'Chuil

Monday 18 April

Woke up to a fine day with horizontal strips of mist hovering over Loch Linhe. Had breakfast in the bunkhouse and spent some time on the terrace drinking tea, looking out over the loch and watching the white mist roll in from Ben Nevis' direction. Pondering the trip ahead...

Caught the 8.30 train from Fort William out to Glenfinnan.

We'd chosen, after a lot of consideration of the various options, to start here rather than Fort William as it avoided the road walk you faced if you took the ferry straight from the town. We'd also chosen not to do the Cameron McNeish variation that started off along the Great Glen Way as we were keen not to miss out the Knoydart section - even though we knew that this would make the first few days some of the hardest of the whole trip. As neither of us had been further north than Fort William we thought we'd stick to the definitive route - trusting that the authors had something in mind when they picked the route!

Another advantage to doing it this way was crossing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct (the Harry Potter bridge) and then being able to walk back up under it.

After a bidt of final fiddling with packs (and me pre-emptively taping the parts of my feet that have been hot spots in the past) we set off about 9.30. First along a bit of the road and then left up in to Glen Finnan - up a good road then track then path and a nice gentle way to start. The Corryhully bothy was the first point of interest we went by, having a nosy look inside and stopping for a brief chat with the one guy we'd seen so far - he was spending a few days Munro bagging (a common theme for many of the walkers we met - very very few were doing the CWT). We paused about 12.30 for a 'lunch' of 9 bars, dried fruit and nuts up on the pass of Bealach Chaorainn. The glen was pleasant and gave us some time to adjust to the packs which were definitely heavier than they were for our practice weekend!

The second half of the day was a lot tougher, a bit of a reality check after the easy morning. The heat and humidity had got more and more oppressive as we'd progressed and the good path simply ran out at the top of the pass. We descended down the Gleann a'Chaorainn over wet, boggy tussocks with no clear path or direction of how to stay with dry feet. We criss-crossed the river as we went, trying to find the easiest/ driest route and not always succeeding. Up high to our left, in the shimmering of heat haze, we saw our first tentative herd of deer and were naively pleased - not considering at all that this also meant we were firmly in tick territory now.

The descent seemed to take forever, the affects of the heat and the first efforts of the trip not helped by my clumsily falling over at any opportunity and ending up with wet and gritty feet (there's a fine line between the risk of wet feet and the need to put on the Goretex socks - I often miss it!).

Actually, here's a good time to state that we were both using Inov8 with Goretex socks for when they were needed - a great plan but hampered a little by the differences between us. Dave's Inov8s have a much higher surround and this means that he can walk over things and not get wet where as I will get wet. The shoes are only partly to blame, I am not anywhere near as graceful as Dave is at walking and that is particularly true of river crossings (though I did improve at this as we went - I had to).

Eventually, after plumping for the eastern side of the river, we headed towards the forest and the next stage. We arrived at the brige over the river Pean (probably should have cooled off here) and felt whacked out. There was a choice now. Our original plan A had been to head all the way to the Sourlies bothy but it was clear now that we were not really in the mood or the state to go that much further. So instead we headed in to the forest and cut through on the forest paths towards A'Chuil (the house of Eil) bothy in Glen Dessarry, arriving about 5.

After a quick dip in the cold river we headed up to the bothy to eat soup and rehydrate some food and ate outside in the warm glow of the sunset, chatting a little to the others who were in the bothy (all of them bagging tops of one size or another). This was our busiest bothy experience but I was too tired to worry about the basic sleeping arrangements or who's snoring was the worst.

Time on our feet: 9.30 to 5 - 7.5hrs
Distance covered: about 17km

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