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Go BackWest Highland Way
A small group of four Explorer Scouts completed an expedition along part of the West Highland Way between Saturday 29th March and Wednesday 2nd April 2008.

Saturday 29th – Meeting at 7am at Dunfermline Bus Station; we were all pretty tired, considering that an Explorer Scout`s normal time to get up is around noon! However despite the lack of energy, the four of us were up for a challenge, which the long journey ahead would most definitely be. The hour long bus journey to Glasgow would pretty much be our last taste of luxury for the next few days. We met an American man from New York State, John, who we would meet all too frequently the same day, as we passed each other countless times on the trail but being Explorers, there was obviously no competitiveness....ahem! After completing part of our challenge in the train station we spent a quarter of an hour on the train to Milngavie. This was the start of the West Highland Way. The first few miles were flat land through a forest, in which we passed various nationalities on the trail, including the aforementioned John a few times! The 10 mile trek was, in all, fairly easy for an expedition, and at the end we got a well earned rest in wooden wigwams.
Milngavie... the start of the West Highland Way
Milngavie... the start of the West Highland Way

Sunday 30th – We woke up to the main negative aspect of these expeditions draining our spirits… the weather! The rain held up till around midday, by which time we had reached the banks of Loch Lomond, with many a reference to the songs, we had a well earned rest accompanied by a hearty lunch. We started out again after lunch with high spirits until we saw the dark shadow of an ominous hill looming over us. This was what we in the business call a “beast” of a hill. We spent most of the afternoon climbing, constantly turning back on ourselves, which doesn`t do much for morale considering you aren`t making any distance. We eventually reached the summit, tired and in need of a rest so we sat for a while under the damp trees; for me one of the highlights as there was a sense of achievement in what we had just done. An hour after descending the hill we arrived at our first Youth Hostel, Rowardenannan Lodge, which had beds! Score!

Monday 31st – After the best night’s sleep we could have asked for we were in a very good mood. After a quick breakfast and photo shoot outside the lodge, snapping some great views of the loch and mountains, we headed out again. Once we had started off the pain of the previous night quickly returned. The flat path in which we had started out on steadily rose, along with our frustration! The weather held up and we eventually came to a sign which read “Beinglas 2 miles”, however after an hour I felt like going back and tearing it out the ground! With many a sigh we struggled on, most of us wondering whether or not time and distance were measured the same here as at home. We eventually arrived at the Beinglas Wigwams, which were a godsend. The site had a shop… and gas stoves. Knowing we only had 6 miles to go the next day allowed us to sleep easily. If only we knew!
The group at Drymen
The group at Drymen

Tuesday 1st – Weather forecasts were bad, but experiencing it was worse. The mud was up to our armpits today, and the hills were treacherous. We climbed an enormous ridge, battling the stinging rain and gale-force winds. This was without a doubt the most tiring and demoralising part of our expedition, knowing you only have 6 miles to go, but that feel like 60! The rain had carved its way through the landscapes, making rivers where there were none originally, and causing existing ones to break their banks, we had to manoeuvre our way over ones that had crossed our path, rushing their way right in front of us. We not only had to wade through these, we also had to take running jumps to cross some! After passing this, we eventually came to a small tube, like a sewer, in which we sheltered for a while. Our ankles were in agony, but we carried on; we climbed a steep gradient hill at a run, the adrenaline lasted a few seconds until we reached the top where the sight was enough to make me sit down and give up… ahead was a huge farm road, that was virtually inaccessible! We started it wearily; this was where we got dirty, very very very dirty. I was up to my chin in goodness knows what, whilst struggling to carry on. After 2 hours of swimming through cow manure on the never ending trail we eventually reached a crossroads which indicated we were close. After a hilarious comedic moment from Stuart through the forest we finally got to a descent. The adrenaline came back as we approached the end. We literally sprinted down the final hill to the train station in Crianlarich, with rucksacks on our back that weighed around half the weight of me. We got to the train station, collapsed, and crawled to the Youth Hostel.

Wednesday 2nd – The thought of no more walking was amazing. We lazed about all day, with hearty meals. The bus journey flew by and soon we were in our houses, with a hot shower and comfy bed awaiting us. In all the expedition was typical, to the extent that you will complain about every aspect of it whilst you are actually walking, but when you have achieved it and it is over and done with you will only remember the good things. The bad things you will just laugh at and after all, it all adds to the experience, it wouldn`t have been as much of an experience if the negative aspects weren`t so vast.

Alistair Aitken
Explorer Scout



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