The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday 28 October 2008

WHW: The Postmortem

When we decided, last Thursday, to abort our walk up the WHW, I didn’t really give any reason for so doing.

The post I made at the time referred to the flooding of the tent and possibly made it sound like that had a direct bearing on the abortion.

What actually happened was that we walked for five days in mainly atrocious weather* and then just didn’t feel like carrying on.

On the fifth night, it rained. In and of itself, that was unrelated to our decision. Had we woken on the sixth morning to a flooded porch and moderate rain or drizzle, or a vague hint of visibility, we would have carried on and quite possibly would have covered the remaining twenty or so miles within the day.

However, we awoke to pouring rain and, more importantly, very low cloud. We knew that the weather was not forecast to improve at any time during the day** and when it came down to it we just didn’t fancy walking another 20 miles whilst getting wet and without being able to see anything only then to camp with in horrible wet-and-windiness.

Getting wet and having a bit of a view is one thing. Getting wet and being able to see nothing is a different proposition.

The biggest factor, however, had to be that we just couldn’t quite be bothered with the rest of the walk. Had it been a long walk or one that we really wanted to do, we would have either put up with the discomfort and the lack of views or sat it out until the weather showed signs of improving.

But when it came down to it on the day, although we had by that time solved all of our lack-of-waterproofness problems that had affected the earlier days of our walk, and although we were suffering no blisters, aches or injuries, we didn’t have the enthusiasm to continue in the absence of any tangible benefit in so doing.

And regrets? Mick has a few. It is absolutely true that we could have continued and would have only suffered marginal discomfort had we done so, thus although Mick was all for abandoning at the time, he now wishes that we had pushed on. Personally, I have no regrets. The WHW is not going to go down as one of my favourite walks (quite the contrary, in fact). If I never finish those last 20 miles, I will not feel like something is missing from my life. If I do finish those last few miles, which are probably high among the most spectacular on the Way, then I would like to choose to do so in conditions such that I can at least get a glimpse of the surroundings.

All in all, we had a fantastic time as far as we went. Perhaps the best day was the one we spent popping (nearly) up Ben Lui (so not on the Way at all). This also wins the picture of the trip:

With Ben Lui we do have unfinished business and we will return either in better weather or better equipped (e.g. with a flask of hot soup and some warmer footwear!)

(* I wouldn't say that we're fair-weather walkers. We’ve walked over 1700 miles this year in everything Britain wanted to throw at us, including three and a half weeks of rain in Scotland in June/July. At no time did we encounter anything even remotely as bad, and as sustained, as we saw last week.
** The forecast was correct in that the rain continued to fall. The following day I saw the weather stats in a newspaper and noted that Fort William had received two inches of rain on the previous day, a quantity only beaten by the Isle of Skye and Borrowdale. The forecast was, however, optimistic as to wind speeds. In Fort William we experienced far more than the predicted 30mph.)


  1. You did the right thing. To push on regardless at all costs just does not make sense. The walk will always be there. Another time when the weather is more kind. These things happen and I am sure that a lot of folk in your position would have done the same. Also, many of us can say, been there, done that, the enjoyment goes out of something and we have just packed in. Look in on my last trip in the Cairngorms. Packed in while I was still enjoying myself. Dawn

  2. Lots of walking still to come for you in Scotland. You could always go via Lui on the Challenge. Lots of summits on a South of the Great Glen route. As for bailing due to no views to be had etc. I pulled out in May in Scotland simply as I had had a good walk for several days, and after a day in the rain with no goal like a coast to coast to do I opted walk out a day early.

  3. Yup, the world is a strange place, and even stranger that some nasty piece of work has a go at me for only walking 47 miles during my holiday. I've not heard of people slagging off strangers for not sunbathing the full day, or being sea-sick on a rough cruise.

    For me, thinks like that happening links the outside world with nasty people. Which is strange, because I do not meet nasty people in the outside world, only concealed behind a keyboard or in the modern rushed anonymous urban environment.

  4. My motto has always been-Live to fight another day.I got only half way up Snowdon in January when I experienced Gale force winds and absolutely freezing temperatures.I had no hesitation in turning back.The walk was not enjoyable and I would have been putting myself and my friend at risk if we had carried on any further.The mountain will still be there for next time.

  5. Oh and by the way, look out for strange gubbins in the post. Consolation prize.

  6. Brew up a coffee. Switch on the sun lamp. And wander thru the last bit here