Saturday 28th May 2022 – Rowardennan to Crianlarich (20 miles)
“The Scottish Bluebells”
It was an inauspicious start to the day, with a 30 minute wait to be served breakfast. What would the previous evening have been like if we hadn’t ordered in advance?
We gathered outside the hotel under a cloudless sky for our now obligatory pre-walk photo.
The third day of the trek continued the trend of extending the distance over the previous day. A fellow hiker chatted to us before we departed. He had to withdraw from his hike due to blisters. A sad end for him, as the best was yet to come.
Ben Lomond towered above us as we made our way from the hotel to the lochside.
We set off along the path that skirted the loch. There were photo opportunites galore as we trekked through the woods at the water’s edge.
The path was becoming more challenging. Was this an indication of what was to come?
It didn’t take long for the hares at the front to start racing ahead. Their enthusiasm took them racing towards the low route by the lochside.
Normally you might expect the lochside route to be easier than the higher hillside track. Not in this case.
Did they know what they were in for?
The tortoises, having studied the route beforehand, took the higher, faster forest path.
Not only was the higher path faster, there was more time to consider the photo opportunities.
The paths merged again and the hares caught up by a hillside of bluebells where the tortoises had stopped to take photos and affix Compeeds. Band Aid treated a blister on Ashtead’s right foot, relieving the pain that had plagued him since the start of the day. The midges had a field day as we waited.
The next hour alternated between walking through fields of bluebells and scrambling across boulders.
The single file path was rocky in places and caused a few stumbles.
Every so often we’d catch a glimpse of the mountains we’d be visiting later in the Hike. It was an ideal day for walking.
We gathered outside the Inversnaid Hotel and enjoyed a seat and sandwich, topped up our water and chatted about the morning walk.
Checkshirt was way behind as usual. A phone call ascertained he was alright and going at his own pace.
It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining brightly. The hares were preparing to race ahead again. Godot was asked if he intended being in the first or second group for the afternoon.
The afternoon started with a long stage to the top of the loch. This turned to be the most extreme scrambling on narrow, rock strewn paths.
We met some mountain bikers carrying their bikes across the rocks. It was impossible to ride and wheels were useless. We had a quiet laugh to ourselves. Didn’t they know how to read maps? Or guidebooks? Evidently not.
There were occasional stretches where brisker walking was possible, but it was mostly up and down over piles of boulders.
Club called Checkshirt, who hadn’t yet reached Inversnaid, to warn him of the difficult terrain and suggested he should take an alternative route by ferry across the loch from Inversnaid to Tarbet or Inveruglas, and hence by road to Ardlui, Inverarnan and Crianlarich. This route had been given to us beforehand as an alternative should it be needed.
Unbelievably, he just turned his tracker off.
The Brothers marched on. A group of five stayed together to support Del whose replacement knees struggled to cope with the difficult terrain. He had a sticky moment when he failed to negotiate a burn and launched himself full length onto a boulder in a desperate attempt to cross. The Brothers rushed to assist, getting him back upright and out of the water undamaged.
Meanwhile Ashtead, patched-up feet powering him on, caught up with the hares at the end of the loch. They were enjoying a soothing paddle.
The terrain was changing now. The hares dried their feet and, now seven strong, left the rocky paths behind.
There was a short, flat stretch of open land at the end of the loch before the climb started and they raced off again.
Meanwhile, the tortoises had safely negotiated the lochside paths and maintained a steady pace, eventually reaching the hillside. Elt had a sudden burst of energy and shot off after the hares.
Beinglas Farm was a welcome stop in the hot sun. The hares had time to sit down and each enjoy a cold pint, which Ashtead declared was arguably the most enjoyable pint of lager he has ever drunk. He also bought a new walking pole at the shop as he’d snapped one earlier in the day as we left Rowardennan.
Fourteen miles completed and six to go. Water topped up, and the hares were ready to go just as Elton hove into view. He stopped for an ice cream (Ed: Two actually 😊) as the others set off.
Our 7:30pm mealtime was now looking an unlikely target. Ashtead asked Garry to try to delay dinner as the hares broke away again.
Everyone was now walking in full sun and it was energy-sapping. The path was stony but relatively easy as we climbed up out of Beinglas; lots of bridges, waterfalls and wooded glades punctuated the walk. Elton caught up with Ashtead and Balham and we were now walking in three separate groups; hares in front, the group of three next, and the tortoises keeping a steady pace about 30 minutes behind. Checkshirt’s whereabouts were unknown and untrackable.
About an hour and a half up the track we saw a man in a green t-shirt by the side of the path. A kettle was boiling on a Primus stove. As we approached, Elton and Ashtead recognised him as Greg Drumm; a fellow hiker who had been with us in Torridon in April. As he handed out the beers, he explained that he thought we might be in need of some sustenance as we walked the final part of Day 3. He’d come all the way from Dundee! Boy, were we glad to see him!
The six miles turned to eight as we plodded on to our destination. Somebody had miscalculated. Ashtead was forced to stop again to sort another blistered toe which had become painful after bursting. With the help of Doctor Elton he applied a dressing that allowed him to walk again. It was approaching 7:30 pm as we checked in, with nothing left in the tank.
The last group arrived about 15 minutes later, in good time for the delayed 8pm dinner.
As we enjoyed a drink beforehand we discussed the damage wrought in terms of blisters, bites and sprains. Radar topped the list with a badly sprained ankle from scrambling along the lochside. He’d trapped his foot between two rocks and fell to the ground.
Fortunately we had a decent meal washed down with some wine and the pains started to ease. Checkshirt, having finally taken a taxi from somewhere, arrived midway through the main course.
It was a memorable day, the events of which will likely grow in the retelling, but it certainly tested the resolve of the Brothers. We were not found wanting.