Tuesday 12 September 2006

Scotland 2006 - Day 5 - Hiking in the Highlands

After spending all of the previous day in the car, we decided that a day of walking would be a good idea - the area around Fort William is reknown for its variety of trails, so we had lots to choose from.

The most popular option (which the other half of our group opted to take, but we didn't) is climbing Ben Nevis, the highest mountain (or Munro, in local speak) in Scotland, at just over 1300 feet. For those who are more familiar with Coloradian or Alpine peaks, this doesn't sound like much, but when you consider that the base is just a few meters up from sea level, it's a much more challenging climb than most people give it credit for. In fact, more people die or are injured climbing Ben Nevis annually than Mt. Everest.

Gib, Cherrie, Stephen and I decided to got a bit further off the beaten path and headed toward the visitors centre for a map and some guidance - nothing too hard, just a nice walk with some lovely views. Since the two main valleys, Glencoe and Glen Nevis, were glacial, this did not prove difficult. On the advice of one of the visitor centre guides, we headed first for The Pap of Glencoe.

This turned out to be a little more than we bargained for (and a failure to understand exactly how steep that all of those little map lines very close together meant), so after some serious scrambling (read: hands and knees across bare rocks) and some very steep trails (most of which honestly were more like river beds than a true trail) we decided that half-way was perfectly good enough for us, and at 375 feet not exactly wimpy. We did get some awesome views though, which made it worth it.

From there, we decided to head over to something a little more rolling and much less steep. Fortunately, we found the perfect path just off the main highway, called The Study, which took us gently through the pass between two smaller Munro ranges. Again, lovely scenery and a very gentle ascent. We all wished that we would have found this place first, as the trail went on for several miles and included an alternative loop around back towards another area that looked just as lovely.

Needless to say, after all this we were well ready for a relaxing evening, and all of us slept well. The next day, was unfortunately, our last before heading back to London.