Stage 4 – No Turning Back

Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven.

After probably the comfiest and definitely darkest night in the the tent so far, we emerged, a little damp and disheveled into the early morning light. What we thought were raindrops turned out to be rain dripping off the surrounding trees. The wind was still blowing but the rain had stopped. We decided to crack on for an hour or so, knowing that if the rain returned we could always head back to the sanctuary of the train station.

That wind was a godsend because after 1/2 an hour it had thoroughly dried out our coats which had spent the night hanging from trees rather than in the dry tent. We were caught up by our Israeli friends who were amazed we were still going and they said that they were stopping at the ski centre which was our destination as well.

We got onto the old drovers road and my feet were soon complaining but we were rewarded with spectacular views and the previous days rain was now seen as a delight. The mountaintops were white. What had soaked us thoroughly the previous day had fallen as snow at the higher elevations and it was, well, amazing!

We were keen to keep a good pace as we really couldn’t camp anywhere up here. I say up here because it just feels really high up and mountainous. We chatted to a couple who, again, were so impressed with the kids and they also gave us the greatest news we were hoping for. The ski place had drying rooms! We arrived at a reasonable time and were greeted with splendid views of Stob Dearg and a really muddy camp area where we pitched the tent in a gale, slid around the muddy patch and headed for the drying room and cafe where Colin, the chap from earlier, presented the kids with creme eggs and got a little emotional telling us how impressed he was with us doing this trip as a family. Soppy bugger!

The following was Easter Sunday and we decided to take a rest day. We watched the snow fall, had a little wander down Glen Etive and just relaxed and got things dry and nearly clean.

Monday morning we headed back out on the trail after a breakfast of oatcakes and squirty cheese, feeling worse for having a rest day, we just all felt heavy legged. At the Kings House we looked enviously at the people frying sausages in the back of their car, Lil and Isa played fishing in all the little streams and Evan just ploughed on, excitedly pointing at the grouse that were heard before being seen, all the while surrounded by some of the best mountain scenery we’ve ever been a part of. I say it like that because now, after a week on the trail, we really felt IN the landscape.

The climb up the Devils Staircase was hard going but soon we stopped for a porridgey breakfast at the top, looking back at where we had been before turning around to see the mass of BIG mountains dominating the skyline in front of us. The track turned a bit rockier and Isaac took this as the prime time to run ahead and it wasn’t long until we got a glimpse of Kinlochleven just at the bottom of the hill.

That was a long, long walk, and it felt like an age to get down to the little town on the river. Evan was fed up and Lil’s boots had started to come apart at the seems but it stayed dry. We found somewhere to camp, visited the shop 3 times and feasted on doughnuts.

I went to bed feeling thoroughly done with the trail. Not the hiking really, I was feeling strong again after a slow start, just the logistics really. How much food do I need to get before the next shop? where can we camp? what are we cooking? Can we get dry? Thinking back, I think I felt this way a little every time we reached a town or village or campsite. I just wanted to be in the wilds.

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