Day 2) Drymen to Ardess, West Highland Way« Previous post in category · Next post in category »
Thursday 1st September – 14 miles/22 kilometres
Today we start refreshed and energized, looking forward towards Loch Lomond, something Alan hasn’t seen before. Its sunny with strong blustery wind and we dry all of our stuff in twenty minutes flat by hanging it on the site’s barbed wire fence and the tent’s guylines. We write our journal (this!), and lacking toothpaste brush our teeth with soap. Jo is learning to insert contacts without a mirror. We walk through several miles of forest trail with gorgeous weather and are glad we didn’t continue last night because it seems that the designated wild campsite had been cut down! Approaching Conic hill, we deem that a descent into the valley before it will be good practise for climbing the Carn Mor Dearg Arete later on – how naive we are! As we mount the beautiful Conic Hill we catch our first glimpse of mountains to the North and Loch Lomond proper. At the top a path curves round the conical tops (which are optional). On this path we happened upon a group of five students originally seen back at the railway line, before, we climb the steep side path to Conic Hill’s highest peak. Conic Hill is a remarkable structure, with four distinct rounded steep mounds arranged linearly, with several supporting grassy knolls at the long ends.
We make a partial descent and take lunch on one of these knolls, gaining unobstructed views over Loch Lomond and the thickly forested island chains that it harbours. We also make out what we later firmly identity as Ben Lomond. At this early stage, we already feel the need to establish a lunchtime boot removal policy, to aid foot rest. Alan takes the opportunity to perform oncho (nail) surgery on Jo’s foot. After lunch, the steep descent changes the perspective of view rapidly, and lush vegetated valleys obscure the loch further down.
We emerge in Balmaha on the side of Loch Lomond, and realising that evening is catching up with us and that we have a long way to go, we begin round the coast of the loch at an extraordinary rate. Jo was particularly energetic, though we are both in considerable pain from packs and shoes. Earlier that day, we had started off near pain free as our body parts had already started becoming used to strain. Today is our longest (and we hope our latest starting) day. Midges keep our breaks in check. We are treated to beautiful views across the loch and mountains, and to an orange sunset with the mountains on fire over the water! “Together we are stronger! Weaker never! Pole! Pole!” (Pole is Swahili for “slowly / take it easy”) We repeat our motto with growing determination! We encounter a group of three – as yet unseen – foreign hikers, the female of whom is plainly in considerable foot pain. They pass us later but only by taking the road instead of the track. On seeing us, the two guys quickly get back on the trail again! We pass them again later, though do not see them at the wild campsite that evening – it seems they went to a hostel or B&B, yet they are loaded with equipment – bigger packs than us!
Ardess wild campsite, just beyond Rowardennan Youth Hostel, arrives more quickly than we thought it would to our rejoicing! It’s a lovely site: flat, tree-dotted and cooled by the gurgling river that flows through it – and what’s more it’s deserted! We immediately don the roll-on midge repellant (highly convenient) and throw ourselves into a fantastically efficient camp set up. Jo puts up the tent and inner, Alan lights the stove and makes dinner. We only just make it into the tent within twilight to indulge in a spaghetti dinner even bigger than the previous night’s, but we finish it all! Spaghetti, mushroom soup, dried onion, cheese, apricots and margarine all combine for ultimate satisfaction. By way of entertainment, we read the first of “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson, a novices account of his part-walk of America’s massive 2200 mile Appalachian Trail. The weather this day had been the best that could have asked for and the on-site midges are tame. Today was our longest day – approximately 14 miles – a long trek with the packs, especially with Conic Hill, requiring about 9 hours of walking.« Previous post in category · Next post in category »