I never slept if you were wondering, for some strange reason I was caught between a giant orange light and the security light of the shower block, they alternated all night long bathing me in either a wondrous orange glow or a bright white light of no sleep (it was the crappest disco ever). I used my buff as a make shift eye mask to very little effect, to add to the difficulty in sleeping the rain started around 9pm that night.
Now I’ve known rain before but not like this, it was non top torrential from 9 pm, my new tent also decided to leak in at the guy points dripping water onto my feet and head, I covered my feet with my jacket and tried to nod off, pretty much every 40 mins or so I woke to the noise of the wind and rain before 5 am came along and it was time for me to get up.
I was glad that I hadn’t wild camped as I was able to use the wash area to stow and pack away my gear in the relative dry. The rain was biblical, I had spent just a few minutes darting from my pitch to the dry area and was already wet, a delicious bar for breakfast, some water and steeled myself for the coming miles.
I set off, my torch barely lighting 3ft in front of me, it was pretty clear that today was going to be miserable, the paths along the way were either flooded or flowing like small rivers and being unavoidable my feet were soaked within 10 minutes of leaving.
I wound my way through the woodland, a slow pace set due to the rain and rocky parts of the trail, I was surprised at how hilly it had suddenly become and signalled a more rugged and remote feeling. The shore line held a few brave wild campers, the light was starting to appear now and afford me some extra speed. I was quite surprised at how far my identified night spot from last night was and knew that I would not have made it in time.
I came across Rowardenan and watched in jealousy as people chowed down on breakfast in the dry and warmth. I didn’t have time to stop and had to push on, passing the YHA which I noted for a return at some point being in a fantastic place it was worth a revisit. The path followed the Loch, twisting its way along rocky outcrops and steep scrambly ascents which burned my legs with every step.
One thing I had become very aware of is no matter how waterproof your clothing is, after a prolonged period in the rain they will eventually wet out and just hold the rain, I was wet and cold the rain eased slightly but was still a constant companion along the way. More sections of paths were waded instead of walked and small bridges with the highest steps I have ever seen were climbed much to the dismay of my aching and burning legs.
I came onto the Rowchoish bothy which afforded me the luxury of dryness, it was my first bothy experience and I would of loved to have stayed overnight with an open fire, I sat at the table and weighed up my options. My clothing, hat, gloves and bag all dripped with constant rain, checking the Met Office, the yellow weather alert was in place pretty much all week with the prospect of having to ford rivers in spate and the constant heavy rain for the next 5 days I decided that there was no carrying on into the next park, it was just to risky to go alone.
I made a call home and informed Kerry of what was going to happen next and that I would be home the next day at some point, I wrote a brief message in the bothy book proclaiming the miserable weather and set off again, the close canopy of the forest affording me some protection from the rain.
I passed around 7 points in the paths where waterfalls made the crossing a little tricky, waterfalls both large and small greeted me at each turn, small bridges covered some of the larger parts with parts of the bridges missing due to the weather. I was soon coming upon my next point and a hopeful break. I could hear the large and amazing waterfall at Inversnaid from some distance away and it reminded me of the droning noise from busy roads.
The sound was amazing, the large ominous roaring shutting down all other noise in the area, I crossed a bridge and stood in awe at the might of nature in its fullest. I snapped some footage and pictures and made my way towards a brew and a cake. The hotel was very posh for a stinky wet walker and I stowed my boots and coat at the walkers entrance, complete with radiator. A sign in the walkers part requested the removal of muddy boots, I glanced down at my rather smelly shoes and decieded that given the smell, the dirt and wetness of what was inside, wearing them was the best option for the hotel.
I order a brew and bag of crisps from a rather posh looking bar staff, manoeuvred my way around the many coach loads of tourists before sitting by some other wet walkers. I got chatting to a pair of young lads who had attempted to complete the West Highland way over 3 days, but after the epic rain fall of the night and morning they had given up at the hotel and were awaiting a lift home.
I bid my god bye and good luck and set forth again, now filled with some hot tea and carbs (that’s what crisps are, right?) I felt suitably energised and set to the task of a gentle run, I passed walkers bravely heading along the nice parts of the paths and after more rugged, rocky uppy downy bits I caught some walkers, one chap in front proceeded to bang his head on a tree branch, I shared my sympathy having done the same thing a few times today before I passed them tucking around some tricky parts.
More of the same path followed quickly, it twisted and turned and despite being a poplar walking path, it never really resembled other well worn paths. I caught another couple further on, the lady taking things a little slower as the path took on a more technical manner, I stopped and took their picture by a delightful waterfall before making short work of some steeper drops, this was much more my running, technical, fun and lots of interest.
I carried on, taking a little break here and there as I drank and ate little but often, the Loch was a contact companion and gently changed as it neared its beginning, people were busy enjoying the many tours of the Loch, some were even brave enough to go water skiing. The path began to level out and into what was a more recognisable path, the Loch began to end (or start depending on your perspective) and a few people mulled around using this area to capture some stunning photos or just to sit and taken in the views and peace.
I took a seat Cnap Mor and took in the most fantastic landscape, filled my bottle from the little stream and just had 5 minutes to myself. I loved Scotland so far regardless of the rain, the landscapes were vast, the kind of place that could easily eat you up and spit you out if you didn’t take care. I hobbled into Inveraran, happy to find a lovely campsite and shop, I bought a sarnie and pop the happy chap informing me that the path was much easier from here. I tucked in and after 20 min set off again at a slow trot, I was feeling the previous miles in my legs now, the constant climbing had pretty much sucked the energy from me now.
The path settled into an easier more consistent flow now, following the River Falloch as it cut its way along the valley, a nice sign declared that the bridge ahead had been washed away, I took a look, it was and there was no wading across, I was forced uphill along boggy claggy paths, squelching and slipping as I went, it was a pain in the arse to be honest but I was soon crossing the bridge and admiring the magnificent water works that are the Falls of Falloch as they roared down from the hills above, more waterfalls and crossing appeared and vanished each adding to the wonderful views and experience.
I came upon the little cottage at Derrydarroch, from the front it appears to have a little damaged but once I closed the distance it was clear that it was a little more than a bit, the whole backside of the cottage had been totalled, the water appeared to have some unearthly force here, a scene right out of a disaster movie. I’ve seen pictures from earlier in the year where its looks a wonderful place, the once wide and welcoming paths now replaced with large boulders, the house half demolished by the force of flooding only 2 months earlier in August. The bridge I now began to cross held large tree trunks and say some 20ft above the river itself, showing how high it had become, glad I wasn’t here then, but it just added to why I wasn’t carrying on into the Cairngorms.
I quickly transitioned from valley floor to a moor rugged moorland feel along the old military road towards the crossing point of Creag a’Bheannain, origianly built in the 18th Century by general Wade on his quelling of the many rebellions.
The forest around here were old and full of that lovely mossy growth which I love, but spying another uppy bit I was a little peeved off, I still had some 4 miles left but I was quickly running low on light and energy, I had struggled for some time to keep moving and it was only through sheer will I was still plodding on, the woods held a fascination for me and helped along. I was soon crossing a rather scary and fast moving A road and passed the remains of St Fillian Church and through another campsite, mine was drawing near now, I passed through a small section of woodland before I entered my accommodation for the night, luckily right by the train station.
Booked in, washed and fed, I ached as I lay in my bed the room smelling of, erm lets call it victory, I was happy with how my day had gone, over 30mile covered very difficult terrain carrying 9kg of kit in the continuous rain was more than enough for anyone. I knew that parkrun was pretty much done as a project, there was no more time for the Cairngorm and the window was now closed for weather it was disappointing but it was what it was and there was no use in getting moody over it.
Right now, I was happy to be dry, warm and resting as tomorrow a 5hr journey home awaited.