Kingshouse Hotel – Loch Etive
21 April 2012
39 km/460 m/09:30 hrs
My last training walk before the TGO Challenge took me to the West Highlands again, as once again that was the area with the best weather forecast. I parked at the Kingshouse Hotel and started walking along the West Highland Way, but this time in a southerly direction.
The weather was a bit dull to start with, but soon the clouds started to lift above Rannoch Moor.
The Bridge of Orchy Munros.
View from Bà Bridge.
On this section of the walk I met many WHW walkers, not really surprising as I was walking “in the wrong direction”. I stopped counting at 50…
After a bit of drizzle the weather finally started to clear, and the sun came out over Beinn Achaladair, Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Dorain.
The track leading to Forest Lodge is covered in cobblestone, which I found quite unpleasant to walk on. Passing through the gate, I saw this sign discouraging camping between the Inveroran Hotel and the Kingshouse Hotel.
Just before Victoria Bridge, I left the WHW and turned west onto a track leading along the Abhainn Shira. There is even a helpful sign for WHW walkers who have gone astray at this point…
An abundance of signposts in this area!
Looking back along the river to the Bridge of Orchy hills.
The Glen Etive Munros, seen from the east.
In the meantime it had become sunny and very warm, and the walking was very pleasant on a good, dry path. I kept turning round to admire the Munros that had already impressed me on my last walk a week ago.
There was only one slightly boggy section on the approach to this footbridge.
Meall nan Eun, seen across Loch Dochard.
View into Coire nan Cnamh, east of Meall nan Eun.
Turning round, I saw dark clouds approaching…
Stob Coir an Albannaich.
Beinn nan Aighenan.
Down in the glen, I saw a bridge on my left, but couldn’t be bothered to walk to it, and just forded the river instead. On another visit a few months later, I had a look at the bridge and found that it was unsafe anyway (but there is a new one a few hundred metres downstream).
At this point it started to rain, but at the same time the sky seemed very bright, creating some interesting light effects in the glen.
Footbridge in Glen Kinglass.
After a while, the rain stopped and the sun came out again.
I would have liked to have a look inside Narrachan Bothy, but it was apparently occupied by someone, so I didn’t.
Rainbow in Glen Kinglass.
It was already past 19:30 when I reached Loch Etive. I had planned to camp near the outflow of the River Kinglass, but when I realised that what I thought was possibly a ruin or a deserted cottage at Ardmaddy, was actually an inhabited farm building, I walked further along the lochside.
Near the farm I came across this part of a historic tractor.
On my way along the loch, I passed some nice beaches that would have made perfect pitches for the night. The only problem was (with Loch Etive being a sea loch) that I couldn’t find water nearby. Some of the streams I passed were just trickles, and I kept looking for a fast flowing, more substantial water source.
Sunset over Loch Etive.
At last I found a stream to fill my water bottles, and shortly after, my own little bay, complete with sandy beach, to pitch my tent.
It was around 22:00 when I had finished my dinner and was ready to go to sleep, but at this time the wind suddenly picked up. The waves started to crash on the beach, they were very noisy and I was wondering if, when the tide came in, they might even reach my tent? Thankfully after a couple of hours (during which I was lying awake) the wind calmed down, it became quiet again and I could finally fall asleep.
Loch Etive – Altnafeadh
22 April 2012
24.6 km/650 m/09:00 hrs
The morning started nice and warm again, and the surface of the loch looked like a mirror.
Camp site in the morning.
The Glen Etive hills in the distance (zoomed).
After packing up the tent, I continued walking along the eastern shore of the loch, passing several secluded bays on the way.
View along Loch Etive.
Looking south from the old shielings at Inverghiusachan.
Another view to the south, with Ben Cruachan on the left.
Close-up of the granite slabs on Beinn Trilleachan.
Approaching the northern end of the loch.
At the end of the loch, the path becomes very boggy, and I was glad when I reached the buildings at Kinlochetive (a former bothy, which is now closed).
Beyond Kinlochetive, the path improves.
Beinn Starav and its neighbours.
Ben Starav’s NE ridge.
After following a signposted, boggy path around the house at Coileitir, I crossed the bridge north of it and arrived on the road through Glen Etive. Along this section of the road, there are several signs that discourage camping.
This shed and bicycle have both seen better days!
Lochan Urr on the right, and the Lairig Gartain in the distance.
The damage caused by the storms at the beginning of the year was still visible, many fallen trees were lining the road, the middle parts had just been cut out to give enough space for cars to drive through.
Approaching the Lairig Gartain.
Dalness with Stob na Bròige in the background.
I followed the signposted path to the Lairig Gartain, and the first few metres were easy enough, walking on a narrow path above a gorge.
But soon I came to the first obstacle: I had to climb down a bit, cross a waterfall and climb up a high rock step on the other side. This proved to be more difficult than it sounds, as I was standing on a tiny ledge above the waterfall, and just couldn’t get up the step. It was too high to climb up directly, the rucksack was pulling me out of balance, and there was nothing to hold onto that I could have used to pull myself up.
After struggling unsuccessfully for a while, I finally managed to take my rucksack off and lift it up the step above me. Without the additional weight, I could then haul myself up… phew!
Looking back along Glen Etive.
The path was very close to the Allt Gartain, it was very steep in places, with some scrambly, muddy sections. I kept wondering if I was on the right path, as I thought I had seen another one, higher up on the flanks of Stob Dubh from the distance.
Another view down Glen Etive.
Loch Etive (zoomed), with a large boat just visible on the loch.
It was quite a relief to reach the top of the Lairig Gartain.
Since I was here the last time, the path has been greatly improved, and I made good progress on the way down between the two Buachailles.
Stob na Doire and Coire Altruim, one of the descent routes from Buachaille Etive Mòr.
As I approached the road, grey clouds suddenly appeared and it became very dark.
Last sunlight on Beinn a’ Chrùlaiste.
Coire na Tulaich.
The sky was almost black by now, but there were still some rays of sun on top of Beinn a’ Chrùlaiste.
Then it started to rain, and instead of walking to the Kingshouse Hotel, I decided to try and get a lift. I had already walked this part of the route the previous week, after all.
At the same time, the sun was still shining in the Lairig Gartain.
I positioned myself in the layby at Altnafeadh, and I was very lucky, the second car stopped. It was a young man from Glasgow who was on his way back home from a holiday in the Outer Hebrides, and who mentioned the Northern Lights he had seen while camping on the beach. I would have liked to hear more about this, but after a few minutes drive we arrived at the Kingshouse Hotel, where he kindly dropped me off right beside my car.
As it was raining heavily by now, I drove around the hotel to the camping area, but waited in the car until the rain stopped. Then I pitched my tent and went over to the hotel, this time to the main bar, to have a meal and a drink.
The next morning, the weather was great again, and I was up and away at 07:00.
Kingshouse Hotel in the morning sun.
I intended to have breakfast at Morrisons in Fort William, but when I arrived, I found that they didn’t open until 08:00. I didn’t feel like waiting until then, so I had my first ever breakfast at McDonald’s…
On the way home, I decided to get rid of my trusty old Roclite’s, because about half of the loops that hold the laces had snapped over the last months, and I couldn’t tie the laces properly anymore. I had a brand new pair waiting at home, which I had kept for the TGO Challenge.
And so they found their last resting place in a bin at the car park in Invermoriston – this time they had lasted almost nine months!