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West Highland Way 1997 : not completed, best holiday ever

West Highland Way 1997

Having completed the West


Highland Way last year I thought I was ready for something more daunting : starting the WHW at Milngavie and continue all the way to Glen Brittle on Skye.In hindsight I can now say that it was just a bit more than daunting because I used a 1:250k map for the routeplanning. Not having a computer either it must have been plain stupid.The fifth of May I left Holland with the DFDS Seaways ferry. The sea was smooth but the weather turned into a full storm during the night. I don't suffer from seasickness but didn't sleep very well either.The ferrycrossing was followed by the trainjourney north and at 14.45 I started walking, having done some shopping in Milngavie. On the first stretch of the WHW out of Milngavie it occured to me that I was walking without consulting my map. Been here, done that. Was I bored with the WHW ?The weather was okay : partly cloudy, some nice sunshine but a cold northerly wind. From other backpackers I heard it had been snowing yesterday. After having diner at the Beech Tree Inn I moved on and pitched my tent at the Easter Drumquhassle campsite just after 8 o'clock. Next morning I did some shopping at the Spar in Drymen before entering Garadhban Forest. On the other side of the forest a sign stated that Conic Hill was closed due to lambing season. A detour had to be made. My Achilles tendon started hurting and I could feel a cold coming up. Early in the afternoon I passed Millarochy campsite and decided to make camp. My pack felt heavy. Occasional light showers accompanied me the next morning. Last year I walked the highlevel route after Ptarmigan Lodge. This time I took the lowlevel route which proofed to be much more entertaining and demanding with boulders and overhanging trees. I had to cross 80 (!) burns between Ptarmigan Lodge and the Inversnaid Hotel and covered 21k in 7 hours, not including 1 and a half hours rest. Friday 9 May started sunny. The WHW north of Inversnaid isn't a doddle and certainly a challenge if the weather is bad. I had lunch at Beinglas Farm after which the rain started again. Luckily the Old Militairy Road wasn't as muddy as last year but the drying room of the Crianlarich YH was very welcome. In the evening I enjoyed myself in the 'Rod and Reel' where I met two Englishmen who were cycling from Land's End to John O'Groats in 10 days, covering more than a 1000 miles. I don't think I would be able to walk after such a distance on a bicycle. For saturday the Met-Office said the freezinglevel would be down to600m. The cold northerly wind was still blowing on my way from Crianlarich to Bridge of Orchy. I was cold and wet again and the'views' weren't very inspiring. May should be the driest month but that didn't look to be the case this time. There weren't many people out walking and I understood why. The Bridge of Orchy Hotel was a welcoming sight. They had the bar and reception area and the prices of food and beer had gone up. I didn't feel well and was off to bed in the bunkhouse quite early. It rained heavily during the night but sundaymorning stayed dry with evensome sunshine. Rannoch Moor was very wey and sparkling all over in the sunshine.I arrived at 2.30 in the afternoon and pitched my tent exactly at the same spot as last year : a heathery bump near the river. Someone had pitched his tent on the littleisland in the middle of the stream. A romanticist or someone suffering from anthropophobia. At 4 o'clock it started raining heavily but I was comfortable in the Climbers Bar.It rained the rest of the day and night. As I came back to my tent the stream was in spate and I wondered if the 'romanticist' would be able to get back to his tent.I never found out. I couldn't sleep that night. My down sleepingbag got wet at the endand my feet were terribly cold. I was shivering all night and it felt like I had fever.In the morning it continued raining heavily and I didn't feel well at all. I was in doubt whether to continue my walk or not. I checked the Citylink buss timetable and aftergiving it considerable thought I decided to call it a day and catch the buss to Fort William.It wasn't an easy decision but once made the tent was taken down very quickly. Walking towards the A82I saw the buss coming and had to run to the mainroad. I was too late ! Luckily for me it was just a coachfull of tourists. I had to wait for another ten minutes for the Citylink buss to arrive, every passenger steaming from the rain. Glencoe was impressive and magic. Water was coming off all rocks and mountains and the River Coupall and Coe were a torrent.In Fort William I booked a bed in The Fort William Backpackers Hostel where I had to recover for three days. On the third day I still felt feverish but had to get out to get some fresh air. It was the first day without rain and I walked down Glen Nevis to Steall Falls. The first few kilometres were hard and very sweaty but with the sweat the fever left my body also. The next morning I took the buss to Skye and although my third West Highland Way adventure didn't go too well I had the time of my life at the Black Cuillin of Skye and later at South Harris in the Outer Hebrides.

railroad underpass north of Tyndrum

Loch Tulla

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond


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