So here it is. The long awaited blog from our first ever Walk for Wellbeing. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has donated and wished us well. As a result of your generosity, we have raised just short of £3000 for our projects in Uganda, a figure that we couldn’t have envisaged in our wildest dreams.
To give you the most accurate representation of what you actually sponsored us for, it was decided that Kate, Fin, Dan, Jenna and Joe would take responsibility for blogging about a day each. Below are the first two days, in all their glorious detail. Days 3,4 & 5 will be published at the start of next week, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Thanks again for your support, and we hope you enjoy the blog!
Day One: Fort William to Glencoe
By Kate Purchase
After a handful of ‘practice walks’ (mainly consisting of canals, pies and beer), the six of us set off at the crack of dawn from Fort William armed with Pom Bears and pork pies in order to break the back of the 25 miles that lay ahead of us. Despite the rain we set off with eagerness and excitement, blissfully ignorant to what lay ahead of us. With the first suitable rest stop (a pub) being 15 miles away, we conquered paths that took us 900 feet high through wind, rain and mud finishing with a steep, slippery descent into Kinlochleven (stopping only for an obligatory Pom Bear break courtesy of Fin). Spirits were somewhat dwindling at this point as Fin proclaimed ‘We’ve bitten off more than we can chew here!’ However after a couple of pints we were ready to take on the last 10 miles of the day to Glencoe. Little did we know what lay ahead of us … another whopping 1850ft climb!
As I’m sure the others will agree, this afternoon was by far the most physically and mentally challenging, especially after the long 15 miles we had already completed. After every corner turned we were faced with another hill climb to get the top of the mountain. As swarms of spritely Germans glided past us downhill and we pushed ourselves upwards, it became apparent we were the only sods heading in this direction. At this point I’d like to make a special shout out to Ross who came back down hill to find me struggling and motivated me by saying I was almost at the top (although this was factually incorrect I would still be probably be there now if it wasn’t for that!)
We all made it to the top eventually and at this point we could see our accommodation which gave us a slight lift (Joe insisted that it was only a mile and a half away however this turned out to be four…) However this meant the start of our descent down the famous ‘Devil’s Staircase’. Luckily it was dry at this point as if it was still raining it would have made it even more dangerous underfoot. Once we past this last hurdle it was a relatively easy walk to reach the pub ‘near’ to our accommodation. However the balls of my feet were burning at this point and as Jen put it was like ‘walking on hot coals’. As we all arrived at the Kings House pub in dribs and drabs Ross, Jen, Joe, Dan and myself were feeling an immense sense of pride of what we has just accomplished. Fin however was on the verge of a meltdown and left shortly after eating to complete the extra mile to our Hobbit Houses at the base of Glencoe Mountain. Despite being clean and warm at first these were not ideal to sleep in after the day we had as the beds were too short and not wide enough to rest our aching bones. A quick story about the Glencoe Massacre from Ross however took our mind off the pain and we eventually got some shut eye!
Day two: Glencoe Mountain to Tyndrum
By Adam Finlay
Awaking on the second day of our quest through the Scottish Highlands, I attempted to digest the state of affairs I had found myself in whilst staring glumly around the cosy coffin we had resided in – marketed as a ‘Hobbit House’ (see below).
Groggily contemplating the previous day, a day that will forever hold high rank in the ‘worst day of my life’ standings, I heard a muttering from somewhere down near my right foot where a stirring Joe muttered that this is probably how it feels to emerge from a coma. It was difficult not to agree with his assessment.
Hoping that the last twenty-four hours had all been a dream the blistered feet, swollen ankles, sore knees, aching back, strained shoulders, and painful chaffing in unimaginable places all confirmed that it had indeed been a reality… four days remained. Three synonyms of ‘reluctance’ are unwillingness, lack of enthusiasm, and dragging your feet. All three could not be more apt if they tried.
Following the soon to be habitual routine of repacking my enormous rucksack, mummifying my damaged feet in bandages, and smothering areas – that for the sake of decorum – shall remain nameless in vast quantities of Vaseline I was grudgingly ready.
Setting off from the spectacular Glencoe Mountain in the early morning mist we watched as a helicopter ferried ski-lift parts from the bottom to the top of the still snow-capped peak, its downdraft blowing away the remaining cobwebs.
Promptly finding our way back onto the West Highland Way trail we headed south across Rannoch Moor, one of Britain’s largest and wildest – consequently it was also extremely exposed to the elements as we soon discovered. The ten-mile slog across rock-strewn and tricky terrain towards Inveroran was briefly broken up at Ba Bridge where we all watched with hopeful anticipation as Ross clambered down the treacherous riverbank to fill his water bottle. Disappointingly for all concerned he failed to fall into the crystal clear waters below.
Inevitably I soon found myself facing another of the hills that I perpetually seemed to be walking up. However during our occasional rest stops at their summits I soon discovered the joys of lying down on rocks to rest my weary legs. It might have been my exhausted and delusional state but they felt as comfortable at that moment in time as to how I imagine the mattress in The Royal Suite at The Ritz feels.
Trudging into the remote hamlet of Inveroran, feet throbbing from what felt like miles of fire walking, we found the local Inn. After a replenishing pint of ale, a hearty bowl of soup, and some photos of the local deer defecating we left raring to go… until being immediately faced by yet another mountain.
Descending into the picturesque Bridge of Orchy we found ourselves at another pub. As I sat and sipped my pint of cider outside of the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, staring longingly at the railway station across the road, I was quick to learn of one of the consequences of applying such a liberal amount of Vaseline to my commando’d crotch – I left a slug like trail in every place I sat down. I left hastily.
Trekking down an old disused military track we meandered through the valleys of the hills before reaching a railway bridge we had to pass under. Taking the ‘Hobbit House’ approach a little too literally the bridge mustn’t have been more than 5 feet off the ground. I have since learnt that this was actually a ‘sheep creep’ – a means by which livestock can pass from one field to another.
Unfortunately for my oversized rucksack and me once we reemerged from the dark cramped tunnel we very quickly discovered that sheep possess a strength I do not… they could negotiate the very steep and uneven cliff face staring back at me. The air turned blue momentarily but nonetheless we clambered over the rocks and up the abrupt slope before I was yet again reassured that it was all downhill from here.
Thankfully this time the last few miles were relatively flat and we had our sights set on Tyndrum, which was only briefly interrupted by two locals offering me painkillers that would “get me ta tha end nee bortha” – it was like a scene out of Trainspotting.
Finally dragging my shredded feet into Tyndrum, and slightly reinvigorated by my magical painkillers, we all reconvened at a pub (during which a fellow avid walker cheered me up no end by offering that it was much more difficult the way were doing it…), before finding the next hut where I would have to spend another uncomfortable and tender night drinking a warm can of Fosters.
The evening’s entertainment consisted of an intervention where the contents of my bag were laid out of a picnic table and everyone got to pick something to throw away in an attempt to lighten my load. Seeing as I had been carrying half of Boots’ toiletry section this didn’t turn out to be too difficult. Hair gel down, I retired to bed.
So that was the end of day 2.
Thanks for reading, to be continued…