WHW Day 3 – Rest Day & Ben Lomond

Day 3 on the trail – well, not actually ON the West Highland Way, but on another trail; Ben Lomond. I’ve been here before in 2018 towards the end of April/beginning of May. From hiking the whole trail this time, I think I got about 3/4ths of the way up the mountain when rain, wind, and other people turning around and heading back down encouraged me to do the same. I didn’t finish that trail and always wanted to because I love elevation.

It was an easy morning. Esther and I didn’t get up too early and I wasn’t moving too fast to begin with… everything was sore. My body had not yet yielded to the daily intense exercise that I was putting it through. But, once you get up and moving, things loosen up. Breakfast done, I inquired about doing some laundry when we returned from our hike. The young guy that seemed in charge of the hostel said yea sure! Cool! Esther and I set off at about 10:15. I was thinking the trail, about 7.6 miles round trip, would take approximately four hours…especially since we weren’t carrying big backpacks. We’ll just see about that!

It wasn’t raining, thankfully; it was more like very low clouds, barely a mist. It was just a very damp, humid, chilly day. This makes it hard to decide what layers to have on when you’re gaining in elevation. I had the right layers with me, but hiking up a mountain generates a lot of heat! We could not see the top of the mountain; it was shrouded in pretty low clouds. There was no guarantee of any views at the top. But it wasn’t raining and so I really wanted to do the loop. We headed up the trail at an easy pace; no need to rush to the top.

We passed a donation container to help fund trail maintenance. I was, and still am, very thankful for the blessing of being able to travel and enjoy nature. So I put in 10£ or 20£ – don’t remember exactly. Shortly after that, maybe 20 more meters and we saw a guy who was doing trail maintenance work. He was taking a break and so we got talking to him. He told us a short version of his life story. A German girl broke his heart and he was a little depressed because he had injured his knee in a long mountain run and couldn’t run; his physio-therapist had advised him to rest. But he wasn’t exactly following those instructions. I asked if he had a brace he could put on his knee to help support it. He said yes and so I told him “PUT IT ON if you’re going to exercise!!!” We talked about where me and Esther were from, how we met, how he does trail maintenance, logic behind how they maintain trails and how wide they walkways are.

What we learned from that conversation is: STAY ON THE TRAIL! Don’t walk on the side of the trail if it’s especially boggy in an area because if too many people walk on the very edge, the trail will get widened by all the foot traffic and damage more land than needs to be. He said that if they find a “boggy bit” (said in the Scottish accent – which is awesome) they have to deal with it straight away. Most of the boggy bits we had on the trail had rocks that you could step on to avoid getting muddy wet feet. LOOK FOR THE ROCKS and avoid going around the edges of the boggy bits! If we came to a boggy bit in the trail for the rest of the West Highland Way, that “boggy bit” was always in my mind and I’d whisper it to myself and giggle. Also, humans like walking on flat ground, so on the sides of the trail, they’ve taken to building in mounds of rocks and dirt that grass can eventually grow on so that the ground is not flat and therefore discouraging foot traffic outside of the gravel foot path. We talked to this guy for probably 25 minutes but eventually we had to keep going as both of us were getting chilly.

We continued up the hill. Shortly after continuing on from our conversation with the Scottish trail maintainer, the desire of our hearts started to be answered! The clouds began to part and lift!

Oh how exciting when you’re ascending and the clouds begin to part!

We continued onward and upward! The further we went and higher we got, the continues lifted and parted more and more until we reached a point where Esther said “look back!” Oh what joy!! We were hiking with the clouds today.

Another relatively steep ascent up towards the top. It’s about this point that I think I reached when I had to turn back in 2018. The views just got better and better the higher we went!

Finally we reached the top! The top of the mountain remained clear for the duration that we rested there and appreciated being able to hike and enjoy the great outdoors.

It wasn’t too windy at the top so we could take a decent break without getting too cold too quickly. Snack time. After taking several pictures and refueling, we headed down to complete the loop. I guess I should have looked at the elevation profile on the Hiking Project app before deciding which way to go down – back the way we came or complete the loop. Ignorance is bliss… or a bone jarring 3,000-foot descent.

We hiked the direction of the arrows. What we probably should have done was hiked the direction of the arrows to the peak and then turned around and went down the same way. Oh well. Next time, Anna, look at the elevation profile over the distance and decide which route to take down.

My knees and the heel on my right foot didn’t appreciate that too much. Thank goodness for my trekking poles. They take so much pressure off of your knees on a long descent. We had to put our rain gear on towards the end of the hike as it began to rain. I had to put some climbing tape on my heel as it started to feel a bit aggravated; not blistering, but just, a targeted pressure area that needed some help. I should have taped it a bit sooner but thankfully I didn’t tape it too late. Here’s a couple pictures of the descent.

We got down to the bottom of the trail, both thankful that descent was done. Esther said there was never a question whether she was going to join me for this hike today… but towards the end, I was hoping she wasn’t regretting the decision or hating me for taking her on such a not-rest-day-worthy hike! As my mom and one or two other people have said about my hikes… “You’re brave if you hike with Anna.” My hikes are not for the faint of heart!

The hike took us 6 hours to cover 8 miles.

Back at the hostel, I asked the girl at reception if I could do laundry and she said “maybe at 6pm”…. Esther and I looked at each other. If we wait till 6pm to do our laundry and then you tell us we can’t, we’re too late to wash by hand and then dry on our heater. So we went to the room. Esther washed, I wrung out, and laid clothes out to dry. My long sleeve wasn’t drying as quickly as needed, so I took it reception, hoping the nice guy was there (he was), and asked if I could dry my shirt. He said “You should have asked if you could do laundry” and I told him I did but that she said we couldn’t until like 6. Hmmph. He threw my shirt into the staff’s dryer for some time. I went and picked it up later and it was much more dry but still damp. So I put it on and figured my body heat would dry it the rest of the way while I slept.

Dinner, shower, bed time…. after getting our clothes and packs ready to go for the next long day on the West Highland Way. It was a challenging hike – Ben Lomond – but I am so glad we did it and was so happy to have Esther with me! Thanks so much again for joining, Esther!

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