West Highland Way, Crianlarich to Rowardennan
Sunday 16th November 2014
Weather/Conditions: Stunning autumnal conditions of subtle light, patchwork of cloud and sun, drifting mist breaking like a wave over Nevis in slow motion. Amazing.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 9.2km / 1000m / 3h 40m
Crianlarich to Rowardennan: 24.5km / 400m / 7h --- 9.4km / 200m / 2h 15m (17th)
Accompanying: Buachaille: met James, Julia, and Andrew on summit, West Highland Way alone.
This day was absolutely stunning. A group of us had been staying at the Blackwater Hostel in Kinlochleven, but being a Sunday everyone was now heading home.
A plan was being discussed for the Buachaille and I promptly jumped on board - Curved Ridge, again? Why not!
We left Kinlochleven on a sunny/stark morning. I've never really felt it before but I have to say Kinloch is a funny wee place. It's so hemmed in by mountains that it just doesn't get the sun at this time of year. It seems to exist without purpose, stuck in a crease in the hills like it's own little lost world. I've never really felt that before about it, but being November and generally dark might have something to do with it.
The Buachaille however was just magnificent. I left Julia, Andrew and James to the normal Buachaille path and shot off up toward Curved Ridge. I definitely wasn't going at full throttle, but I moved pretty fast. Unlike when I did it with Cameron, the rock was *dry*, cool and crisp. Just perfect for getting some scrambling. I overtook some parties, cut up into Crowberry Gap and then straight to the summit. Here on top it was totally calm, and unbelievebly - warm! In fact I went taps-aff as much for the novelty. It's been an odd November and the weather patterns don't look like they'll change too much into December. I wonder when we'll get our first frost in Glasgow??
After being self indulgent in shooting yet another Buachaille summit pano, I headed down the west ridge to see if I could catch up with the others - a jog took me to the bealach above Coire na Tulaich and I indeed met them here. For a moment I considered going for the other Buachaille tops, but Curved Ridge won out again and I decided I'd go down that way (first time!)
The four of us headed up to the summit of Stob Dearg, and took a long break on the summit. It was busy, but no wonder. Lots of photos shot, the reams of mountains all absorbed while this weather allowed us.
Eventually we parted ways, and I headed back down Curved Ridge, which looks a good bit different to how it appears on the way up. Downclimbing everything I knew so well on ascent was highly enjoyable. At the foot of Rannoch Wall I met a couple of foreign guys who were standing in helmets, thumbing a guidebook.
"Have you done Satan's Slit?"
"Nah I haven't done that one I'm afraid, no idea where it is."
"No problem. Where have you been?"
"Just up and down Curved Ridge to the summit and back"
"That's a big day, you must've started early."
"Aye, well just keep in mind there's three, uh, four hours of daylight left if you're thinking of Satan's Slit...".
And so I left them to it. Who knows what decision they eventually made, but I was sure that as we drove over Rannoch Moor an hour or two later, I spotted the most minute speck of that bright orange helmet in the centre of Rannoch Wall. They'd better have been quick!
And so I headed back to base - back to the car park where the others hadn't yet arrived (helped push some girls car out the car-eating potholes). I headed toward Coire na Tulaich, met the others then walked back with them.
We headed south, the other three back in the direction of Edinburegh. I was dropped off, with all my kit, at Crianlarich.
I stopped by the hotel for pizza, but at the heady price of £8 or £9 it was not a lot more than some pathetic cooked bread with stuff on top. Hardly a pizza. Unfortuante.
I wasn't keen on getting a bus home or anything, so why not just walk?? I have to say I really looked forward to it, I enjoyed the buzz of walking into the night, walking home essentially. I got out of Crainlarich a wee bit later than expected and headed up the tracks to the WHW as the sun dipped to the horizon. I joined the WHW and the sun turned the hills immense shades of deep blood red. Really impressive. The light quietly fizzled out as I headed down Glen Falloch and darkness took over.
It was thrilling to be in the dark, and the darkness changed my perception of everything. I am very, very familiar with this area, but the night made me feel out on the edge of the world, face to face with the winter night and pressed right against the darkness. It was approaching tea-time and I needed to see some human comfort - so I headed for the Drovers where I got a lovely meal. Through the internet, I found out Kev had had a bad do at Glen Dessarry (helicoptered off Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoigh). I felt strangely isolated from the people around me, folk having dinner perhaps before heading home, and here I was about to slip off into the dark of night unseen and unnoticed. It is astounding that the night has such an immense effect on the human psyche. But it does and should be felt and acknowledged.
I crossed back through a deserted Beinglas Farm, and headed on the WHW. The walking was pleasantly easy, and I was lost in my own world, thrilled by the walking and thinking of all the miles I was cranking up. My tent was on my back and I had everything needed to survive. (funnily enough I forgot my jacket because I left it in the back of Julia and Andrews car - picked up a week or two later)
The comforting lights of the Pulpit Rock roadworks came and then disappeared behind me. Ahead I could see the faint glow of Dumbarton. I spend my life thinking of places away from the city, but this night, those lights were comforting. Doune Byre passed by. I peeked inside for a look. It was dark and deserted. The 'bothy smell' hit my nostrils, a relatively unknown smell in this part of the world. I continued onward.
All in all, I made good miles and was amazed that I should be here - after all I'd been up and down Curved Ridge and I felt tired in the car after that! I'd come far and more was to come.
At one point, I heard a shuffling in the trees and turned - eyes glowed in my torchlight - just wild goats. But in that moment I felt the primal fear of *something*. The psychology of this night on Loch Lomond was most fascinating, I really was peering into the void. If anything I suppose it's amazing I should feel this on Loch Lomond. The area normally doesn't feel remote in the slightest!
Anyway I made Inversnaid. I'm not sure why I expected anything, but there was just a sign on the door saying "closed for Christmas". Damn I felt really alone. In a very good way. I was thrilled. Home felt a million miles away.
I continued south, I wondered if I could make it to Rowardennan? I was tiring now, so it was a long shot and it probably wouldn't happen. But why not see how far I could get? Things started to get a little weird a couple miles on and I threw up my tent somewhere between Ashlan and Cailness.
The next morning, the cloud was a carpet across the land. The Arrochar hills looked somewhat unfamiliar, the evergreens of the forest shining more brightly than the land.
I don't think I'd eaten well enough, because I was wasted this morning, packed up and headed off at a gentle pace. Anything more than gentle would have meant physical wipeout. I was really pretty delicate and suffering accordingly. A couple hours of walking took me to Rowardennan, on a gentle morning, where mum picked me up and we headed home - all a bit more civilised.
A very good trip.
Stob Dearg 360°
Stob Dearg 180° North
Stob Dearg 180° South
(0.00) 9.30am Alltnafeadh
(0.10) 9.40am Path junction
(1.15) 10.45am Stob Dearg
(2.35) 12.05pm Stob Dearg (left)
(3.40) 1.10pm Alltnafeadh
(0.00) 3.30pm Crianlarich
(3.40) 7.10pm Drovers (left)
(4.45) 8.15pm Doune
(4.55) 8.25pm Doune (left)
(6.15) 9.45pm Inversnaid
(6.30) 10.00pm Inversnaid (left)
(7.00) 10.30pm Campsite NN 341 066
(0.00) 9.05am Left campsite
(0.05) 9.10am Cailness
(2.15) 11.20am Rowardennan