Sunday, March 11, 2007

Day 50 : Kinlochleven to Fort William

Monday 5th March 2007

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Distance Walked: 15 miles
Start Time: 9:17
End Time: 14:34
Elapsed Time: 5:17
Weather: Overcast
Distance walked so far: 971.8 miles

Everyday I’m ashamed of the person I was the day before. The things I said and did, I seemed so na├»ve then. So much I didn’t know. Yet somehow, in the moment, I forget this, and persist with the notion that my experiences are not simply mundane. If my rampant arrogance wasn’t balanced by crippling self-doubt, I would be a monster.

In the Lime Tree Gallery in Fort William there’s an exhibition of Frank Hussey’s stunning photographs of Shackleton’s unsuccessful expedition to Antarctica. It’s astonishing stuff. True adventure. Even the rugged types in the huge Nevisport outlet at the other end of the High Street seem more genuine than me, as they discuss their recent exploits on the Ben, avoiding avalanches and leaping through the crags. What have I done? Walked from one B&B to another. I am a fraud.

To reach Fort William, the last section of the West Highland Way climbs steeply out of Kinlochleven, then slopes incessantly upwards through the long Lairigmor valley. With snow capped peaks on all sides, and the wind and sleet slamming into the face, it’s a pretty isolated place. Bending north, the stony path leads into the Nevis Forest, where timber felling has turned the path in places into a mushy mess that’s difficult to penetrate. Presumably these seasonal operations will be completed before the hordes of spring walkers arrive for, again, there’s virtually no one else around.

Those that are here, are here for the mountain. For looming above the pine trees is the bulky outline of Britain’s highest peak. Life should be as it’s drawn by four-year-olds with crayons. Cars should be boxes with wheels. Parents should have huge heads with strands of wispy hair. Mountains should be triangles with squiggles of snow on top. Ben Nevis at least has the snow, but otherwise it’s a pretty drab pinnacle, a squat behemoth. A minor mount in world terms, but it’s the biggest we’ve got. I toy with the idea of taking a day off to climb it, but decide against it. That would be too adventurous and I am a fraud. The Way ends beside a roundabout, car park and shop. I take a photograph, and track down another B&B for the night.

Song of the day:

Dave Mason
“Shouldn’t have took more than you gave”

Shouldn’t have took more than you gave /
Then we wouldn’t be in this mess today /
I know we’ve all got different ways /
But the dues we’ve got to pay /
Are still the same

1 comment:

Nicole said...

wow, i haven't been checking up on you lately, and you've gotten so so far! i'm really impressed. i'm doing the tourist thing this week, and i walked maybe 3 miles today and am exhausted. now i really admire what you're doing.