Day 62: 24 May 2014; Glencoe to Kinlochleven

Day 62: 24 May 2014; Glencoe to Kinlochleven
Walk descriptor LEJOG2014 Day 62
Date Sat 24 May 2014 Start to end time 04h 45m
Start point Glencoe End point Kinlochleven
Miles today 10.51 Cu miles 1,148.10
Ft today 1,729 Cu ft 155,259
Route miles left 349.09 Route ft left 49,266
Today’s weather Fine and dry. Light cloud in morning with long sunny periods. Cloudy in afternoon. Light Easterly breeze. About 15C
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Today’s location
(the red cross in a circle shows where I am at the moment)
GPX based track of today’s walk
(click here to access to access downloadable file)

“It took me a minute to work out what was odd about my tent this morning. After puzzling for a moment, I realised that it wasn’t wet. Yes, it hadn’t rained overnight and the breeze had kept the dew off. So for the first time since I set off 61 days ago (yes, really), the tent was dry when I put it away. I also realised that at 1,110 ft this was probably going to be the highest camp on the hike.

So, light headed through lack of oxygen, I set off towards Kinlochleven. I’d decided to break the walk to Fort William into two shorter sections because I knew that I had some very difficult walks ahead, once I’d arrived in Glen Nevis – so I wanted to conserve strength. It’s also a scenically spectacular section of the walk and I didn’t particularly want to rush it.

After passing the Kingshouse (where I decided it was too early to stop for a cup of tea), the route continued down Glencoe then climbed sharply up to the Beinn Bheag ridge via a path called the Devil’s Staircase. And not without reason – it zig zags sharply and painfully up nearly 1000 ft in under a mile. The summit is the highest point in the WHW and from the top there are spectacular views all round – back to Glencoe, across into the top of Glen Etive and North towards Ben Nevis. The other remarkable thing that happens when you drop down off the top is that all noise stops. The road, which cuts through the silence of Glencoe, disappears out of earshot. There are no birds, streams or people up there to break the silence. There was no wind, either, so eerie silence filled the air. It was like wrapping your head in dense velvet, as there was nothing at all to hear.

But my reverie was soon shattered, when a stream of mountain-bikers started zooming down the hill past me. I’ve never seen mountain bikes in such large numbers on the hills before and I thought that it looked like an extremely uncomfortable sport. Agonising bumps and spine-jarring drops made it look like an activity I’d probably want to avoid. I think there may have been a competition underway as I can’t believe that on a “normal” Saturday there would be quite so many of them.

Descending down the path to Kinlochleven, the route entered birch forests and I noticed that, just like the pine and spruce forests of Cheshire and Wales, these have their own characteristic smell. It’s quite distinctive, like something you’d get in an expensive shower gel, and not something I’d noticed before. There was also lots of bog myrtle growing along the pathside, especially higher up, and this also has a pungent, herbal aroma which reminded me a bit of the smell you get in those expensive health food shops in Covent Garden.

So, accompanied by the sound of a cuckoo calling out in the woods, I walked down into Kinlochleven alongside the water pipes from the hydroelectric dam at Blackwater. They looked poorly maintained to me, as several of them were fountaining spouts of water which must be wasting lots of the potential energy. The campsite I’m in tonight is next to the hydroelectric power station in Kinlochleven at the end of the pipes. It’s operated by Rio Tinto Alcan which used to feed the electricity to an adjoining aluminium smelting mill. The mill is closed now and has been turned into an outdoor sports centre. The electricity goes into the National Grid but I believe Alcan buy back an equivalent amount for use at their other aluminium smelter in Fort William. So another early finish, which leaves me a few minutes to have a look round the village before the midges come out!”

Today’s photos (click to enlarge)
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Iconic view of Buachaille Etive Mor over Rannoch Moor this morning Classic “U”-shaped glacial valley above Glen Etive
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Looking down the zig-zags of the Devil’s Staircase At the top of the Devil’s Staircase and also the highest point on the WHW (1800ft)
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Mountain bikers – there were hundreds on them on the route over the Devil’s Staircase today. Looks remarkably uncomfortabe.. The pipes leading down from the hydroelectric dam at Blackwater Reservoir looked to be in poor condition – severeal of them were leaving and throwing great spumes of water into the air
Panorama from the top of the Devil’s Staircase, looking North towards Ben Nevis
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