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West Highland Way 1998 : old and new

West Highland Way 1998

JJ and I both

thought of retrying the WHW together this year. We, JJ, Marco, Martijn and me, were chased out of Scotland by the dreaded midge during the '95 heatwave (see WHW1995). Martijn couldn't and Marco wouldn't join us. In december '97 I'd met my girlfriend and I asked her if she would be interested in walking the West Highland Way with us. Because JJ and I both had a Hilleberg Nammatj GT it seemed logical to ask Marco again to join us. He agreed.Katinka, my girlfriend, was used to walking but had no experience with hillwalking. She also didn't have any walking gear fit for the WHW. We bought new boots, a jacket etc. and tried to break them in in time.The boots and jacket weren't the only new things she would be wearing on our trip : she and I new she was one month into her first pregnancy. So actually there were 5 of us going to Scotland. The combination of new boots and new life proofed to be far from ideal. After a bumpy boattrip to Newcastle and the adjacent railjourney to Glasgow/Milngavie the first legwent reasonably well. The weather was good - actually the best in thelast four years - and due to the lack of hilly terrain we made good progress.Our first pitch was at the Easter Drumquhassle Farm campsite. Shortly before reaching Drymen the next day we were handed a leaflet from a rucksack delivery service. We did some shopping in Drymen and entered Garadhban Forest. JJ and Marco were getting ahead of us and as Katinka and I came out of the forest we could see JJ and Marco starting the ascend of Conic Hill. Katinka's feet were hurting and our speed dropped even more. After reaching Balmaha we followed the road all the way to the Milarrochy campsite. We decided to give the delivery service a call and to have Katinka's rucksack transported to our next stop. It actually turned out they didn't deliver to the next stop which would be the Inversnaid Hotel because of the enormous detour they would have to make. The rucksack's next stop would be the Crianlarich YH. We decided to put all necessary items in my rucksack before continuing our walk the next day. On the stretch between Milarrochy and Inversnaid JJ and Marco tried to outrun each other and they certainly outran us. I think both had some bad feelings from the pastthey tried to get rid off. At least they got rid off us.They were ahead of us and decided to take the low route to Inversnaid. We took the high level, easier, route. On the last stretch before Inversnaid the two routes join again but we didn't see them.After the two tracks join it doesn't get any easier and there's still a substantial distance to Inversnaid. I tried to keep up Katinka's spirit bysaying I could hear the Inversnaid waterfall but many, many times it turnedout to be a minor waterfall en route. Years later we still make jokes about it.Eventually we reached the hotel of course and while we were sitting at the bar Marco and JJ arrived. They were flabbergasted to see us sitting at the bar, having arrived before them with their speedwalking, and they didn't look happy.The next morning the skies were grey and rain was forecasted. K's feet were in a sorry state and we decided to take the ferry from Inversnaid to Inveruglas, on the west side of Loch Lomond, and take the bus from there to Crianlarich to have a rest day.The YH had room for one male and K. shared a room with a female member of staff.Marco and JJ arrived late in the afternoon and were angry we had beds and hadn't booked for them. Explaining there weren't any beds left to book didn't help. They camped near the WHW crossroads. We didn't see them again before Fort William.Our rest day didn't help K. very much but we walked from Crianlarich to Bridge of Orchy before deciding to stop walking. A short busride took us to Fort William wherewe stayed at the FW Backpackers YH. Marco and JJ arrived three days later. We had a spare day before we had to catch the ferry back to Holland. Marco and JJ would go up the Ben and K. and I were going to Edinburgh. It had been a weird holiday which ended a friendship and bonded K. and me together even stronger than before.

Easter Drumquhassle campsite

Loch Lomond seen from Conic Hill

Treefelling in progress

Leaving Inversnaid

River Nevis

Edinburgh Castle


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