Monday 30th May 2022 – Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven (22 miles)
This was to be the longest day.
An early start was called for, so the hotel served breakfast at 6:45am and everyone was gathered and ready for the off by 7:30am. Godot’s ankle was still swollen so regrettably he bowed out for the day. We said our farewells and arranged to meet him in Kinlochleven.
We left in convoy and walked steeply uphill for 45 minutes, leaving Bridge of Orchy in the glen below.
At the summit, all bar our usual absentee had arrived and assembled for a photo. Checkshirt later reported his ascent had been hampered by his breakfast of kippers.
The clouds were beginning to look ominous.
We decided not to hang around and set off as the skies darkened.
The cloud descended bringing the first of numerous stops throughout the day, to change layers according to the conditions.
The descent to Inveroran Hotel and the time taken to put on waterproofs had the line of Brothers spread out across the hillside.
We were soon down in the glen at Inveroran Hotel, and walking on the macadam road built by Thomas Telford along General Wade’s original route.
Just before Victoria Bridge Ashtead found a haggis nest lying in the road. Despite having traversed many miles of moorland and hillside, it was the first we’d spotted on the whole Hike.
Probably dropped by a passing eagle.
Eventually we turned off the road onto the forest track which was to take us to Rannoch Moor. During the morning we had seen a few hikers camping in the wild and exchanged the usual greetings. Just past this gate with a sign which reads, “Please keep to the track”, three idiots were camping in the middle of a copse of trees with a roaring campfire going.
Generally hikers are a great bunch and respect the environment. Enough said.
The track climbed steadily upward to the moor.
The landscape is one of the bleakest in Scotland with the peat hags and black lochans punctuating the moorland.
Intermittent showers marked our crossing of Rannoch Moor, including one particularly memorable peppering of hailstones. Apart from the sound of the rain falling and the crunch of our boots on the track we pretty much walked in silence, taking in the stark beauty of our surroundings. Remote doesn’t adequately describe this area.
We were well spread out across the moor. Ashtead, Del Boy, Club and Elton were walking together.
The snack break was, erm, damp, as we stopped during a particularly heavy downpour.
The various platoons of Brothers trekked on as the weather steadily improved.
Kingshouse and the Devil’s Staircase at the far end of the glen provided a photo opportunity…
…as did The Buachaille, dappled in the distance, with Black Rock Cottage in the foreground. A stop here for a quick snack was interrupted as a minibus arrived and disgorged its passengers, snapping away happily with their cameras on their whistlestop tour of the Highlands.
We took the opportunity to hand out cards with details of our website and how to donate. Every little helps, as someone once said.
At 12.45 we arrived at Kingshouse. Drinks and a curry pie constituted lunch. Some tending to the feet, then we were off again towards Kinlochleven.
As opposed to thinking of it as one long walk of 10 miles we split it into four easily achievable bites.
Stage One: 2.5 miles along the glen. We walked in groups of four or five.
Another photo op with Buachaille Etive Mòr in the background, followed by a brief pause for sustenance and a comfort break before the climb.
Stage Two: The Devil’s Staircase
With the hares up ahead, Del Boy led as the second group ascended the staircase, but dropped back after the first section.
As we climbed the views back down the glen increased in magnificence.
Elton picked up the baton and this particular group reached the top in about 45 minutes. It hadn’t been nearly as bad as we had anticipated,; after the previous four days we were conditioned for it.
A brief stop at the cairn for photos, and an opportunity to take in the view in all directions.
Stage Three: The Plateau
Band Aid led us across the plateau. As we descended we paused at a footbridge for another comfort break and some sugar hits of chocolate and Jelly Babies. (Ed: This kind of hike is impossible without Jelly Babies.)
Stage Four: The Descent to Kinlochleven
We were now into the final stages, downhill on long and steep forestry tracks, passing a hydro complex and an aluminum smelter on the way. (Ed: Whatever happened to Knuckles’ long-anticipated lecture on aluminum smelting?)
At the end of a 22 mile trek, downhill on a metalled road, with blistered feet and tired legs, we couldn’t wait to get to our nightstop.
We crossed the bridge into town and realised that our hotel was on the far side of Kinlochleven. Really not what we wanted. And it was raining heavily again.
But we weren’t downhearted. Where else in the UK can you walk into the centre of town and find these guys sitting in the middle of a roundabout?
At 5:30pm, ten hours after starting, we arrived in the bar; hungry, tired and thirsty. But the view down the loch was magnificent.
Instead of enjoying a relaxing drink, chaos reigned as rooms had been wrongly allocated. It was a minor blip but tempers frayed until it was sorted. There were also issues with the meal order and so it was a good 30 minutes after arrival before we were finally able to relax.
As we sat down for dinner at 8pm, Checkshirt arrived, having been walking for over 12 hours. His tenacity was to be admired but his lack of preparedness for the Hike had created stress amongst the group. His solitary hiking also diluted his trekking experience.
However, having completed the longest section of our six day Hike, we ordered some wine to celebrate. As the staff couldn’t find a corkscrew, one of the waitresses was dispatched to her house to get one. Bearing in mind the confusion over the rooms and the problems with the meal order, we had a good look round but Basil Fawlty was nowhere to be seen.
We eventually retired to prepare for the final day.