Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Plea for Independence....

It's been wonderfully warm and dry in the UK recently.  September has been fantastic so far, and we spent a lot of time pondering this.  After much hemming and hawing over some vacation time that was use-it-or-lose it, we found ourselves once again pouring over hiking websites.  It's September and we are getting shorter on daylight, which could be problematic for slow-ass walkers like me.

We thought about finishing up the Coast to Coast.  I would still like to, one day.  The Alps are always good times.  There's a bunch of stuff in Wales we're itching to do.  

In the end, something more exciting than the Yorkshire Moors got our attention.

The West Highland Way is nearly 100 miles.  It stretches from just north of Glasgow to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest peak.  It's going to be incredibly challenging, as we are planning on doing this in 7 days, and then (maybe) Ben Nevis on day 8 (I said maybe).  It goes through the beautiful Trossachs National Park along Loch Lomond before climbing into the sky.  I mean, not really, but I've been getting vertigo just looking at the elevation gains and losses for each day.

September is a good time to hike in Scotland if only because the blood-sucking midges are done with.  Those little bastards are terrible.  We encountered them briefly on the Coast to Coast, and they were like little cheerleaders that kept me moving across the fells or else they would suck me dry of blood.  I'll take cold and blustery any day.  Yeah, I say that now.

I'm hoping for decent weather.  If it's bad, that extra day we have will be spent sitting at a pub with a book, as I won't be risking my neck to get across the ominously named "devils staircase".

Unlike the Coast to Coast, I booked this sucker a whole week in advance.  Accommodation was spotty, but I managed to string together a series of hostel, pubs, b&bs and a few "hobbit houses" of byo bedding not-quite-roughing-it camping.  

Another lesson learned:  we will be using a baggage-forwarding service.  You fill out a form letting them know where you are stopping each night, and someone with a van picks ups and drops your bag off every day, as I try to not tear up with joy.  Those packs just slowed us down way too much last time, and we no longer have the luxury of so much daylight.  Plus, they are going to be heavier:  warmer clothing, sleeping bags, and about a million of these suckers:

I feel like now is the time to tackle this hike.  The hundreds of miles we've done since April means that I'm probably more fit now than I ever have been.  I've been going out walking the North Downs Way when I have a spare day here and there, just to keep up and prepare myself (I'll string together that trail in a blog post extravaganza at a later date).  I'm a bit worried about my boots and feet as they really rubbed my heels raw in the Lake District and the interior fabric is almost gone around the heels, but I can't be breaking in new boots at this point.  This is the biggest undertaking to date.

Also, oddly enough, we'll be there during the vote for Scots independence.  It should be interesting.

Another interesting development:

I grow tired of my ass being stung by nettles and thorns every time I need to wee.  I took drastic measures.  This might be a game changer.  

I'll report back on the other side.  Happy Equinox!

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