Day 71: 02 Jun 2014; Kinlochewe to Dundonnell

Day 71: 02 Jun 2014; Kinlochewe to Dundonnell
Walk descriptor LEJOG2014 Day 71
Date Mon 02 Jun 2014 Start to end time 09h 11m
Start point Kinlochewe End point Dundonnell
Miles today 23.15 Cu miles 1,311.39
Ft today 4,051 Cu ft 184,491
Route miles left 197.35 Route ft left 20,381
Today’s weather Dull and overcast most of the day with occasional rain showers. Some sun in afternoon. 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)

“On this hike, I’ve got into the rather bad habit of worrying about things which subsequently turned out to be completely straightforward. So yesterday I’d started worrying about today’s hike, and if I’m honest, I didn’t sleep very well last night either, as I was turning the route over in my mind (that and the fact that some midges had got trapped in my sleeping bag, which was making me very itchy).

The reason I was worried about today was because it was very long, with a lot of climbing, and in the middle there was a long section with no paths, and no access to the “outside world”. It turned out, actually, that my worry this time did have some justification, for I found the walk exceptionally hard. Possibly the hardest day of the trek so far, though I’m not quite sure why as it wasn’t the longest, and it wasn’t the day with the most climbing. But by the time I finished, I felt pretty battered and I’m exceptionally glad that I have taken the “soft” option and checked into a hotel (at Dundonnell) for the night. Perhaps it was the pathlessness that made me tired – it’s very hard work blazing your own trail through miles of upland bog. Or perhaps it’s weariness – after 71 days of non-stop hiking I think I am starting to become fatigued. Anyway – hopefully only 8 more days to go, so need to grit teeth and think positively!

The walk itself passed through some of the most impressive – and remote – territory of the hike so far. I set my alarm for 5:30 am so I could be away by 7 and allow myself plenty of time to cover the distance. After climbing up to the “Heights of Kinlochewe”, the path continued to Lochan Fada – a beautiful, remote loch which, I understand, is pretty much unique in that it has three rivers flowing out of it – all in different directions.

From the lochan, the path promptly disappeared so I followed the route of the Cape Wrath Trail, which I’d plotted out on my “Viewranger”, up and over the Bealach na Croise to Loch an Nid. It was on this section of the route that I suddenly realised how exposed I was. My mobile phone and location beacon were out of coverage range, I wasn’t on a path, and there was literally nobody for miles (in fact I only saw 1 other person between leaving the pub last night and checking into the hotel today). So I took it extremely gingerly, as I simply couldn’t afford to make any slips.

When I wasn’t busy studying my feet, I did look up to admire the magnificence of the view. I passed round the back of Slioch, and then as I went over the pass, the amazing bare rock slabs on the slopes of Sgurr Ban came into view. And finally, I drew closer and closer to An Teallach – a real mountaineer’s mountain – with spectacular ridges and summits all in clear view.

I eventually joined a Land Rover track, which I was immensely grateful to see. I followed the track to the road to Dundonnell, and finally arrived at the hotel after nine and a half sinew-straining hours of walking. I’m now in the process of organising food and water for tomorrow. I’m wild camping near the Knockdamph bothy, so have to carry everything in. This will make my pack even more excruciatingly heavy, and I’m not looking forward to it. But once I reach the bothy, the route from there to the end gets easier – fewer hills, and easier-to-follow roads.

So I now need to go and load with carbs, ready for tomorrow, and get a good night’s sleep to ease the battered muscles!

PLEASE NOTE: Tomorrow’s update will be delayed for 24 hours, as there is no network coverage at Knockdamph

Today’s photos (click to enlarge)
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Having a wild thyme(!) in the mountains Whoever devised this sign must have employed the same cartographers as mapped out the non existent forestry track near Dornie, as the arrows are the wrong way round
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On the summit of Bealach na Croise, feeling very remote and vulnerable! Looking down over Loch an Nid to the spectacular An Teallach range
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The remarkable, completely un-vegetated, rock slabs on the slopes of Sgurr Ban I can’t begin to explain how glad I was to be here!
Panorama over Lochan Fada, with its three river exits (one, actually is man made, according to my guidebook, and delivered hydropower to an iron smelting factory on the shores of Loch Maree)
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