On our last day together, we had potted porridge for breakfast again and left the hostel at 8.45. The weather had broken overnight – it was overcast and cool for the longest climb of the Way out of Kinlochleven and up onto the Larig Mor. We welcomed the cooler weather but the dampness attracted the midges, which had been uncharacteristically shy until that point. I wore my midge net for the first and only time along the Way.
It was a long, hard slog up the mountainside, but with the compensation of good views both back to Kinlochleven and onwards into the mountains. There were lots of people on the walk – finishing at the end of the week after 5 to 9 days walking. Everyone has to do the same last day as there is nowhere to stay between Kinlochleven and Fort William.
Once we’d finished the ascent, we followed the old military road through the Larig Mor pass. This is wild, remote country: we passed just a couple of derelict cottages en route. Lots of weary walkers trudged along the undulating, stony path. Very few people walk the Way from north to south, but one that we did meet on this last day was walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End for Macmillan Cancer Support – an impressive challenge. She was in her late fifties probably, walking around 25 miles a day with her husband following her in a camper van to provide support and overnight accommodation. We chatted to her for a while and wished her well. It doesn’t matter how much you challenge yourself, there are others who do far more!
The day warmed up as the sun broke through and we looked forward to the second half of the walk when the map showed we would be in the shelter of pine forests. Alas, it was not to be – the trees had been harvested! It got progressively hotter and even when we did finally enter the forest it was on a broad track which still failed to provide much respite. Eventually, we emerged at the northern end of the forest to a view over Glen Nevis towards Fort William, with Ben Nevis on the other side of the river dominating the scene. It was time to celebrate success and we exchanged photos at the top with a family where the parents had walked the last day with their adult sons. Then they ran off to catch the bus home from Fort William.
After another seemingly never-ending last mile, we arrived at the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel at 4.45 to complete our 8-hour walking day. The hostel has just re-opened after a major refurbishment and is very comfortable and thoughtfully designed. We just had time for a shower before staggering along the road for a celebratory meal at the Glen Nevis Restaurant. It was a delicious and served by a very friendly young waitress.
But… we weren’t quite finished yet! Three of our intrepid walkers set off to climb Ben Nevis at 8am the following morning, despite the heavy overnight rain and the grim weather prospects. We watched them climb the steep path opposite the Hostel, as we prepared to walk the final two miles of the Way along the road into Fort William. The weather didn’t lift as Penny and I travelled back to Glasgow on the iconic West Highland Line, rapidly rewinding our walk. We thought the others would probably have abandoned their climb half-way up, but we shouldn’t have underestimated them! They reached the snowy, cloud-shrouded top, where nothing beyond the mountain was visible and returned triumphant to the Air B&B where Jennie welcomed them with hot chocolate and chocolate bars. An impressive achievement.
All that remained was to exchange photos and start chatting on What’s App about which long distance path we should tackle next – St. Cuthbert’s Way, the Cotswold Way, the Coast-to-Coast Path, the Inca Trail??