We woke next morning to begin walking through the type of landscape you expect of nightmares. An open barren valley walled by black rock faces that rolled exponentially away from the valley floor. The size of the land was incredible and something we felt we could not ever gain a perception for. I began to understand what drives the rock climbers that flock here. There is a need to touch and become a part of the mountains to then fully perceive them. On reaching an end of the valley (I am not sure it ended, I couldn’t tell, it was very vast and seemed un-real) the only way to exit was to climb. We climbed up and over the cliff top following the aptly named ‘Devil’s staircase.’ This was the highest point on the Way and we met the snow line for the first time. Looking out from this new vantage was a flurry of new snow capped peaks with one looming shadow behind and above the rest, grey as if surrounded in mist. We had been graced with a brief view of Ben Nevis. From this point, which felt like where the land snags the sky, we descended. This was the most remote and wild expanse of land we had experienced. It was just us out there, no roads or buildings, just heather, rock and water. We began to pick our way back to civilisation.
On entering Kinlochleven the first thing I noticed was how much it reminded me of Switzerland. A town nestled between so many peaks it goes two months through midwinter in the shadow without direct sunlight. The town was the largest we had seen yet since Milngaive (it had a coop), but was the most beautiful I had ever seen. We sat staring at the loch and mountains in bright sunshine and thought about how far we had walked since Glasgow and the stories of the people we had met on the Way.
I think I had expected the Way to change me somehow. As the days had passed we had become stronger. Our continuous hunger had subsided and we no longer ended the day with a deep and utter fatigue. The act of walking continuously northwards however, has not only been a transformative experience, but a restorative one. It was on leaving Kinlochleven, with its rows of identical houses and open fire chimneys that I felt the most happiest I can remember feeling.
When walking your concerns are predominantly of finding some where to sleep and of finding water. We knew where we would be sleeping and we had water. For the first time in longer than I remember, I was without stress.