Wednesday, 31 October 2012

November 2012 - Fort William

Choice of walks for our trip to Fort William with Joss Johnson and David & Wendy Boother. We will be in Fort William for six full days with definitely one day planned for a bus trip to Isle of Skye and possibly another day sight seeing.
That will leave four or five days for walking dependant on the weather.
Start for each walk can be reached by public transport and end on a road near public transport or access for local five seater taxi to meet us on demand subject to phone signal.
Walks range from maximum of 10.66 miles with very little ascent down to only 3.34 starting at nearly 1200m (higher than anywhere in England) and again with very little ascent.
What all walks have in common, apart from the spectacular scenery is that there are multiple exit points to cut the walk short with a return home only a phone call away to the local taxi firm once we have reached a public highway.
Only Munro likely to be bagged this trip is Aonach Mor, which will really be a bit of a cheat as it will be accessed from the Nevis Range ski lifts.
No Corbets planned though may divert to bag one if weather and conditions are perfect to deviate from the West Highland Way between Kinlochleven & Lundavra. Even less likely though as one of our party has a pathological fear of heights.

Post trip summary
A most successful and enjoyable trip in spite of no Munros, Corbets or even Grahams being bagged. In all 3 of the planned walks were completed by all of the party, with a 4th unplanned walk being completed by myself and wife, while the others went on a train trip from Fort William to Mallaig.
Any chance of completing a Munro was scuppered when we found out the Nevis Range gondoler and chair lift was closed for maintenance.
Loch Ossian round was ignored early on by mutual agreement due to the early start imposed by the only suitable train from Fort William to Corourr being the 07:20am, meaning loss of the excellent breakfast at Laural Bank Lodge B&B.
Well done to Joss Johnson who overcame her fear of heights on completing her first Marilyn, not to mention Wendy Boother who managed 3 of the walks on her first hill walking trip after recovering from severe fatigue.
Away from walking, the bus trip with Citylink to the Isle of Skye can be highly recommended, along with Inverlochy Castle, where we visited on an unscheduled rest day, after spending the morning in Nevis Sports looking at the excellent range of outdoor gear and walking books I have found in one place.

Nevis Range
Route Information
Start Point - Most southerly Ski Tow Station on Nevis Range (GR - NN 19162 73958)
Start Height - 1184.62m
Finish Point - Adventure Activity Centre (GR - NN 18788 75625)
Finish Height - 651.35m
Distance Walked - 3.34miles
Height Ascended - 123.51metres
Duration - 2hrs 19mins [based on average pace 1.5mph + 1hr 0mins added per 600m of ascent]

Most gain for the least effort. Gain will be the chance to visit one of Scotland's Munros at a height of 1221m (over 4000ft) being the 8th highest point in the United Kingdom. Least effort being a total ascent of 123m from a start point altitude of 1184m thanks to the Nevis Range gondolier. That is higher than any point in England & Wales.

With less than 3½ miles for the total walk even allowing plenty of time for sight seeing as well as coffee and cakes in the mountain top cafe, ½ a day should be plenty of time leaving time to explore Fort William or just taking it easy for the rest of the day.

Route Profile

Post trip report
The Nevis Range gondola and chair lifts were closed for annual maintenance so any chance of bagging a Munro on this trip was lost. However like the mountains it will be there next time we visit, alternatively Aonoch Mor can be reached via the access path to Steall Falls.

Laurel Bank Lodge
Route Information
Start Point - Laurel Bank Lodge (GR - NN 09510 73036)
Start Height - 31.03m
Finish Point - Laurel Bank Lodge (GR - NN 09510 73036)
Finish Height - 31.03m
Distance Walked - 6.06miles
Height Ascended - 605.11metres
Duration - 4hrs 39mins [based on average pace 1.5mph + 1hr 0mins added per 600m of ascent]

Only walk to start from B&B. Again walk will be less than a full day but will be more than ½ day.
We will quickly get into open countryside and will soon be able to see Ben Nevis. Plenty of time to warm up walking along the road to Blarmachfoldach.

After the cattle grid we leave the road following the wall and finding the easiest way up the slop to the top of Bidein Bad na h-Iolaire. From the summit and to the right will be the Momores and straight ahead we should be able to look over Nevis Forrest down on the River Nevis through Glen Nevis. Beyond will be Ben Nevis and turn around will be Loch Linnhe towards where we will be heading for and home 2½ miles away.

Route Profile
Post trip report
First walk of the trip and Joss Johnson's first Marilyn - Bidein Bad na h-loloire. Well done to her on tackling the peak in spite of her obvious fear of heights.This summit area is as difficult as many of the 20o0ft tops I have tackled in England.

Spean Bridge - Torlundy
Route Information
Start Point - Spean Bridge Bus Stop(GR NN 22115 81430)
Start Height - 71.30m
Finish Point - Hartside near Linhope(GR NT97679 16207)
Finish Height - 37.15m
Distance Walked - 9.03miles
Height Ascended - 403.56metres
Duration - 6hrs 27mins [based on average pace 1.5mph + 1hr 0mins added per 600m of ascent]

Will catch 10:15 or (10:30-Not Sunday), 919 Bus service to Inverness from Fort William to Spean Bridge.

From bus stop will head for Commando Memorial commemorating commandos who trained here during World War II.

From memorial we drop down to High Bridge where we pick up General Wade's Military Road.
At Achindaul leave the Military Road we make the short ascent to Cruim Leachinn where we should enjoy views to the North across the Calledonian Canal between Loch Linnhe and Loch Lochy.

At the Aerial mast we will have walked 5½ a further ½ mile of ascent will take us to the A82 where we can decide to stay on the A82 and catch the bus back to Fort William or continue along Gemeral Wades Military Road to Torlundy where we can catch the bus to Fort william or call a taxi back to Laurel Bank Lodge.

Route Profile
Post trip report
On the last day it was a choice between this walk and one section of The West Highland Way. Mainly because of Joss's reluctance to attempt even another minor peak we went for what I think was the tougher option, after all this walk was only included for the less adventurous members of our party.

Loch Ossian
Route Information
Start Point - Corrour Rail Station (GR - NN 35627 66441)
Start Height - 408.44m
Finish Point - Corrour Rail Station (GR - NN 35627 66441)
Finish Height - 408.44m
Distance Walked - 8.95miles
Height Ascended - 187.87metres
Duration - 6hrs 10mins [based on average pace 1.5mph + 1hr 0mins added per 600m of ascent]

Early start required for this walk catching the 07:42 train out of Fort William arriving in Corrour Station at 08:30 which at over 1300ft is the highest station in the United Kingdom. That leaves 6 hours and 51 minutes to complete the 8.95 miles in time to catch the 15:21 back to Fort William. Any later and we will have a long wait for the next train at 21:19.

Having said that nearly 7 hours should be plenty of time to cover nearly 9 miles on what is basically flat terrain.

This walk is by far the most remote giving us a true wilderness experience. Following the footpath around Loch Ossian there is very little ascent but maintaining an altitude of at least 400m and enjoying mountain views above of the many Munros that slope down all sides of the Loch.

Route Profile

Post trip report
With only a maximum of five days walking two of the seven planned walks would have to be discarded. Although this was my first choice, due to the high chance of snow and perceived wilderness experience, I accepted the early start of 07:20am from Fort William station would make this walk a less popular option. We will have to stop off at Corrour and stay at the Youth Hostel a couple of nights on a later trip, maybe even bag Beinn na Lap.

Lundavra - Inchree Falls
Route Information
Start Point - Lundavra (GR - NN 09442 66440)
Start Height - 169.23m
Finish Point - Inchree (GR - NN 02460 62912)
Finish Height - 16.06m
Distance Walked - 7.96miles
Height Ascended - 918.46metres
Duration - 6hrs 13mins [based on average pace 1.5mph + 1hr 0mins added per 600m of ascent]

The best way to get to the start of this walk is by 5 seater taxi to Lundavra along the road we will have already walked to Bidein Bad na h-Iolaire. From the start point it is gentle walk up Doire Ban, then across the valley to Beinn na Gucaig. At 4 miles this summit marks the ½ way point of the walk and mostly down hill from here to the climax of the walk at Inchree Falls.

Options to cut short the walk are available from almost any point after Beinn na Gucaig or even before if anybody is too tired after Doire Ban by simply turning north and head for the A82 and catch a bus or call a taxi.

The benefit of completing the walk apart from the falls is a couple of pubs where we can wait for the 44 bus from Kinlochleven to Fort William or again call a taxi.

Route Profile

Post trip report
Did not complete (or even start) this walk as planned. The ford near the outlet of Loch Lundavra was swollen due to the recent rains that had flooded other parts of the country preventing access to the first top of Doire Bàn. 
Had I been on my own I may have gone for it anyway but as Gina was with me I did not want to put her off and gave her the choice of heading for the snow covered Beinn na Gucaig or the closer and smaller Meall nan ClèireachShe decided on the latter and as it turned out with amount of daylight remaining was the correct choice.
One outcome of this walk was my unexpected appreciation of the higher peaks from lower levels and I think Gina's appreciation of what can be gained from going up an arbitrary hill in terms of views and understanding of the lay of the land. The aspect of just ticking off a peak may well follow later.

Laggan Locks - Fort Augustus
Route Information
Start Point - Laggan Locks(GR - NN 28661 96326)
Start Height - 31.92m
Finish Point - Fort Augustus(GR - NH 37900 09204)
Finish Height - 13.44m
Distance Walked - 10.66miles
Height Ascended - 147.22metres
Duration - 7hrs 15mins [based on average pace 1.5mph + 1hr 0mins added per 600m of ascent]

Again we will make use of the 10:15 or (10:30-Not Sunday), 919 Bus service to Inverness from Fort William but this time getting off at Laggan Lochs.

Two options for this walk. Either full day finishing walk in Fort Augustus where we can wait for the bus back from Inverness in one of the Hostelries.

Or waiting at Bridge of Oich for the next bus to Inverness and spend the rest of the day their.

In both cases we will catch the bus from Inverness back to Fort William and be following the route of the Great Glen Way which is a 73 mile multi-day walk from Inverness to Fort William

Route Profile
Post trip report

We chose the route from Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus on the second day to give us a rest from the ascent we had done going up Bidein Bad na h-lolaire the day before, even though it was the longest planned walk of the trip. Although the weather forecast was favourable, rain set in about lunch time making the last 4 miles very wet indeed. well done to everybody for getting heads down and getting on with it. Especially Wendy whose coat succumbed to the rain making the last couple of miles thoroughly miserable.

West Highland Way from Kinlochleven
Route Information
Start Point - Kinlochleven (GR - NN 18700 61675)
Start Height - 22.99m
Finish Point - Callert House (GR - NN 09245 60260)
Finish Height - 9.6m
Distance Walked - 8.29miles
Height Ascended - 651.28metres
Duration - 6hrs 12mins [based on average pace 1.5mph + 1hr 0mins added per 600m of ascent]

The final walk is another sample of one of the famous long distance walks in the area. The West Highland Way from Glasgow to Fort William is a 96 mile multi-day walk where usually the section from Kinlochleven to Fort William is the last day.

At 16 miles this would be too long for our purposes so ideally we will start at Kinlochleven by catching the  44 bus from Fort William and walking to Lundavra, the starting point for one of our earlier walks. This option will only be available if we can verify there is a mobile phone signal at Lundavra. Otherwise we will leave the West Highland Way at Lairigmor, skirting around the lower slopes of Mam na Guilainn and picking up the road to Kinlochleven at Callert House. We will then head towards North Ballachulish until we pick up a phone signal to call the local taxi - again.

Route Profile
Post trip report
Think it is safe to say that this walk from Lundrava to Kinlochleven was everyone's favourite walk. Who knows, it may even provide the inspiration to consider the possibility of attempting the complete walk from Glasgow to Fort William.
The scenery was absolutely stunning with a new mountain view being revealed around each corner we passed, reinforcing my new found appreciation of the mountains from lower levels. That said it was also a good opportunity to survey possible routes up various peaks as well.
Route was walked in reverse by getting taxi from Fort William to Lundavra and bus back from Kinlochleven. That way we did not have to rely on a mobile signal to call the taxi and could have a coffee or tea in the pub whilst waiting for the 15:42 school bus to Fort William.