The Last Day!
I woke up warm and happy in my top bunk at Blackwater Hostel in Kinlochleven. I snoozed for about an hour and eventually rolled out of bed at about 8 am. Feeling quite sick, I forced down some porridge and a mug of hot chocolate. After gathering my gear from the drying room and giving myself a quick pep talk, I was on the Way to Fort William by 9.30 am.
Military Roads (take me home?)
After a short walk along the footpaths of Kinlochleven the Way heads upwards through steep and rooty woodland. After about 45 minutes of trudging upwards, the path leveled out and again I found myself on those old military roads. (I feel like someone should write a song about those Old Military Roads!) The rain came down by the bucket-full and before long I was soaked to the middle. The landscape, though dull and sodden, was quite spectacular. Mountains revealed themselves for a few moments before sneaking back behind the mist. Waterfalls were plentiful and I would not have been at all surprised had a Stegosaurus wandered by.
For a couple of hours, I skipped over the little streams that gushed across the path using rocks and logs as bridges. Eventually, I had to admit that this was a pointless task, my boots were flooded. I gave up trying to avoid the deep water and marched straight through every little stream and muddy puddle. I marched on, determined to get to Fort William.
I wanted to get to Fort William before 3.15 pm. Having left Milngavie at 3.15 pm the previous Wednesday, getting to Fort William would mean I had completed the West Highland Way in 5 days, all be it over 6 days. I marched on without stopping. The rain stopped and I walked faster and faster until I found myself running! Though wild heather and then a pine forest, I hiked and ran, hiked and ran.
I passed a group who had stopped for a snack and cup of tea, (they had a flask and I was jealous, I would have loved a brew right there and then.) I asked how far they thought it was to Fort William and they said about another 4 hours. There wasn’t a chance I was willing to accept that and vowed to make it in 2 hours or less. It was 1.15 pm.
The pine forest ended abruptly and the gravel logging road turned downward. My knees were shaking and I need to pee, I hadn’t drunk anything all day and I felt like my stomach was eating itself, but I couldn’t stop. I was done. I was wet and cold and everything hurt. Right now, I was ready to see the back of the West Highland Way.
Ben? Is that you?!
All of a sudden I saw it… Ben Nevis! The top of the UK. Granted, I could only see the foot of Old Ben due to the fog, but still, I was SO excited!
In the distance, I could see Glen Nevis from where Fort William was only 3 miles away. My aches and pains faded away, my boots were no longer full of water, I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t need to pee. All I need was Fort William.
The last 3 miles of the Way couldn’t be more different from the last 93 miles, all tarmac and exhaust fumes. I stomped along the footpath by the busy main road, feeling quite out of place. The 96th mile of the West Highland Way saw me through the center of Fort William, past numerous gift shops, a Costa Coffee and a Wetherspoons. I’m not gonna lie, the end was quite unceremonious.
I found the monument announcing ‘The End of the West Highland Way’, asked a stranger to take my picture, called 2 friends, neither of who answered their phones. I called my Mum who, of course, answered on the first ring and told me how great I was. (Good old mum!) Then turned around and headed to Costa Coffee. It was 4.15 pm on the dot. I ordered a large hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and staggered to my hostel which, obviously, was on top of a bloody big hill.
The next 2 days were spent recovering at Fort William Backpacker hostel in Fort William. I tried to do some sightseeing, but couldn’t take anything in. I was shocked at my achievement, shocked and really proud. The West Highland Way was the first thing I had accomplished in a long time. It felt good. I felt I had begun to earn my stripes in the world of adventure and my imagination ran wild with ideas for the future.