WHW Day 5: Devil’s Staircase and Kinlochleven
Picking up from yesterday, I woke up in the rail station for Bridge of Orchy. Except, I didn’t wake up at a normal hour and well rested, half of the place snored and my legs were cramping all night so I couldn’t get comfortable and rolled around every so often for hours? the father and son Dutch duo were still asleep in bed when 5:50am came, but we’re gone without a sound by 6:15! I was really impressed they managed to escape undetected.
Anyway, 6:30am rolled around and I was about to pee my pants, so I decided to get dressed in my walking kit, use the restroom, and take my protein snacks from the Green Welly in Tyndrum to the honesty shop room next door. This way I could eat breakfast before fully packing up, and hopefully more people would be up by then.
While I’m the honesty shop room, I was tempted by the card machine and bought a tea, coke, and bag of chips which brings the total number of breakfasts on this trail that were only coke and chips to three… don’t worry, I’m already scheduled to get a cavity filled after this trip so the dentist can sort me out then.
I packed up and chatted with everyone one last time (the goodbyes are only getting harder!) and headed out, but then ran back because I had forgotten my walking poles.
At this point, I figured that Robin was still at breakfast at the hotel, because he said he was taking his time, so I trotted on and made my way into the first ascent – one medium hill before pretty easy walking to the Devil’s Staircase.
I passed a few groups and met a women named Kelly who was also from North Carolina (by way of Michigan!). We walked and talked until the trail hit the hills, and I paced ahead. I walked alone for awhile, entered the Rannoch Moor, and later started walking with a woman named Rosemary from Montana. We walked a while together, talking about being women who backpack, how she had originally planned to camp but now was in hotels, and the rest of her trip to Scotland with a friend who isn’t interested in hiking. Shockingly, we then stumbled upon Robin taking a break where I had planned to stop for a water break anyway. Rosemary kept on, and unfortunately I didn’t catch up with her again.
Once again, Robin assumed I was way ahead of him, and I assumed he was behind me, just for the opposite to be true. We walked together for awhile and got lunch together at Kingshouse hotel. They have a bar on the corner of the building that is walker friendly, and secluded from the rest of the otherwise really nice lodge.
We also ran into… the father and son Dutch duo!! They had been there about an hour and were getting ready to crack on.
The food at Kingshouse was all cold, except for soup of the day, which wouldn’t be ready for another half hour, so we decided to wait it out to get a warm meal. The weather had gotten chilly with light rain going into lunch, so the potato lentil (or was it potato leek?) soup was going to hit the spot.
Just before we secured the soup – our friend Jana came bursting into the bar, dropping her stuff with us to use the restroom before leaving as quickly as she came in. We were really impressed because after we parted ways at the Bridge of Orchy hotel, she had walked another 3 hours to a campsite near the Inveroran Hotel, on the other side of the medium sized hill we crossed today. Serious kudos to her, that was a really hard day!
Leaving lunch, Robin and I walked on and off together, to and over the Devil’s Staircase. The staircase wasn’t that challenging to ascend as we were already about halfway up at the start of the climb if you’re headed nobo, but the back side was a killer on my legs. The first quarter I was able to trail run on and off through the flats and descents. It wasn’t particularly technical terrain, and something about the scenery and just getting to open up and run made me feel really alive, like you’re on a really freeing high or in a film that doesn’t feel real. Big main character energy happening?
The next three quarters of the descent were a killer, and once arriving into Kinlochleven, my face said it all – I was hobbling bad and my feet and legs hadn’t hurt that much all trip.
I made a pit stop on the way to the Macdonald Hotel to the Blackwater Hostel for another WHW passport stamp, which I got to pick out and do myself! This place looked sweet, and I really wish I had known about it and booked a bunk. If you’re reading this and wanting to walk the WHW – don’t make my mistake, book a bunk or a glamping pod!!
The town of Kinlochleven is BEAUTIFUL, it’s surrounded by munros and over looks a loch? more than any other place on this trail, I aspire to come back to Kinlochleven. If I ever just quit my job and go missing, definitely don’t look here? … but check to make sure I wasn’t actually kidnapped first.
The MacDonald Hotel
The MacDonald Hotel is a weird place… I booked a cabin since there is no hostel/bunkhouse, and it comes with four beds summer camp style. You also have to book “linens” and a towel for £7. The linens are just an old synthetic sleeping bag, and there’s pillows on the bed already. If you’re familiar with the American camping chain “KOA” is seems really similar, but there’s also a hotel and bar on the property.
They also were supposed to have a laundry facility, but only had a drying room, so I did trail laundry for a third time, and hung up the one outfit I’ve been wearing the past two days in the drying room (similar to a sauna but for clothes and shoes to dry out. All of this was after taking the coldest shower of my entire life followed by a baby wipe bath?
I booked a table for dinner at the bar and Robin joined. While the restaurant seemed to be out of most things, we settled on onion rings and mac and cheese. Like adults. It’s bittersweet that tonight is the last night on trail, but we’ll both be at the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel tomorrow, so we’re also deciding how best to end the trail – walk all the way to the terminus and then the 3 miles back to the hostel, or splitting it up another way?
Find out tomorrow for Day 6!
P.S. after writing this post, I needed to run to the bathroom to brush my teeth. It was about 11pm, so I put my headlamp to walk to the bathroom stalls, about ~200 feet away from my cabin.
As soon as I stepped out the door of my cabin, the outdoor light came on, and so did the three cabins next to mine as I passed by…. Shining directly at the tents that were pitched right in front of them?
I tried to run by quickly to avoid this, but it was inevitable. The same thing happened on the way back, even when I tried to walk as far from the cabins as I could, right next to the tents?
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