Tuesday 31st May 2022 – Kinlochleven to Fort William (15 miles)
“The Laraig Mor”
At breakfast we chatted about the day ahead. It sounded as if some thought that this final day would be a straightforward, brisk walk to Fort William. Most didn’t bother with a packed lunch, preferring to rely on our numerous remaining energy bars to keep us going.
Outside for the daily photoshoot there were beautiful blue skies with white clouds drifting in the sunshine.
This was Loch Leven at its best.
Apart from the midges.
At 9am, as we did the previous day, we started with a woodland ascent.
The midges were dancing with glee at the prospect of an early breakfast on those of us wearing shorts. Ashtead’s arms and legs were quickly transformed into a Jackson Pollock creation.
The more sensible Brothers eschewed the sunshine and opted to remain covered.
We were soon through the forest and high above Kinlochleven.
We continued upward as the clouds began to cover the sky.
Although the sunshine had now all but gone, it looked brighter in the distance and we were still hopeful we would have fine weather.
As we reached the top the first drops of rain started falling.
Some 45 minutes after starting we were in the Lairig Mor on a winding path dwarfed by the Mamores.
The Brothers were strung out as we walked; some in coats, others braving the showers that continued through the morning.
The “straightforward, brisk walk” was turning into a long, up and down hike along narrow paths.
A kind pixie appeared to point us in the right direction.
Around 1pm, the peloton of nine paused to eat our sparse lunch and take on liquid.
Godot, now recovered from the ankle injury which had sidelined him the previous day, wandered around cadging morsels and drinks from the others. He hadn’t packed any snacks before we set out. If you’ve read some of our training hike reports you’ll know that forward planning isn’t his strong point.
He was distraught. Nobody had packed the pecorino cheese.
The weather was clearing and we had a great view of “The Ben”, for now not shrouded in cloud, as a backdrop to our stop.
Godot, having solicited a coffee and an energy bar, was back to his old self as we followed a narrow undulating path towards what remains of The Glen Nevis Forest.
This used to be a beautiful shaded forest walk until the trees were felled some 5 years ago.
Some regeneration has now taken place so it becomes a walk through low shrubs and trees further down.
Throughout this part of the walk Ben Nevis glowered at us, its peak occasionally shrouded in cloud and rain falling on its slopes.
The next 3 to 4 miles was down a forestry access road.
There were plenty of photo opportunities with the Ben as a backdrop.
Ashtead thought he met a celebrity on the descent. It was probably just the effect of altitude sickness.
Then it was a long slog on the pavement beside the main road into Fort William. After six days on the hills, walking near traffic comes as a shock to the system. Elton was nearly hit by a the door mirror of a passing truck.
After what seemed like hours we arrived at the outskirts of Fort William. We were nine walkers, the five hares having arrived almost an hour earlier.
We walked through the town centre as a single unit. The skies were darkening again as we reached the official end of the Way.
We hugged and high fived before posing for a photo with “The Man with Sair Feet”.
Then, as the heavens opened, it was quickly into the Ben Nevis bar for a well earned drink. The advance party of five were ensconced round a table and there were more congratulations and hugs.
It was 3:30pm and, injuries notwithstanding, fourteen of us had completed the 96 miles. The rain was now falling heavily outside.
After a pint and some chips, Dave Smith from Surrey Hills Radio called to congratulate us and talk about the Hike. Ashtead couldn’t remember what he’d said in the interview; he was just relieved at having finished.
By 5:30pm we were in our lodgings, showering and getting changed to go out for dinner. Checkshirt shuffled in at 6:30pm, and all the Brothers were safely home.
At 7pm we gathered in the Spice Tandoori for a curry and a few more drinks. After the meal there were some short speeches of thanks, congratulations to the Brothers and a toast to Stuart in whose memory all this was arranged.
After the curry some Brothers returned to the Ben Nevis bar and continued the celebrations with some of the other walkers we had befriended on The Way over the previous 6 days.
The following morning we gathered for a final group photo. Jock had to leave early to catch his train so his place was taken by “Sair Feet”.
The 1,000 Years Hike was over. The Brothers said their goodbyes, and set off on their journeys home.
It had been a blast!