…Or to give it it’s full title, ‘The One where we wildly miscalculated our distances and ended up almost bonking before we’d even eaten lunch because our lunch stop at Green Welly/Tyndrum was an hour and a half further than we anticipated’
Day 3 – Doune Bothy to Bridge of Orchy 35.8km
The day started very pleasantly – with a 1km walk warm up to ease our tired bodies into the whole running thing – Ellie was now the bearer of the pole. The bothy had been kind to us and no mice friends had found their way into our stuff, and after a swift wild poop (yes, the glamour of no toilets people!) and a hearty breakfast of porridge and a rice krispie bar, I felt very ready for the day ahead. Especially as today meant a) leaving behind Loch Lomond (there’s only so much of 1 loch a girl can take) and b) seeing some familiar sights from our days of Scottish kayaking pilgrimages.
For me the first km walk warm up felt a bit like a cheat – surely we were at our freshest and should start the day off as we meant to go on? But this was one of those things, one of those self-imposed trail rules that I have heard so many other adventurers talk about but never really believed in their power. But here I was, itching to start running when my team really needed that initial walk to warm up. I am quite a stickler for rules most of the time, and I can also be quite selfish in my approach to some things so being made to walk because it was a)the right and necessary thing to do for the health of the collective and b) who gives a toss whether you’re running yet or not – only you can judge yourself, was a learning curve I was in the end gratefully forced onto.
The terrain followed the same style as much of the lochside had – rocky, rooty and rollercoaster-like, but as we reached the head of the Loch the trail opened up and for the first time since Day 1 we ran gratefully side by side and chatted. Our system of walking the uphills was firmly entrenched by this time as we encountered a few pumpy inclines. The bog foot also became a big thing this day as we were forced to detour up a boggy hill as a storm had washed a bridge away – my oh my were we muddy!
It’s funny when you’re running, people look at you like you’re mad, but they also expect you to be miles ahead. By this time we had come to see a pattern in our days, as familiar trail faces began popping up here and there: we would spend our mornings constantly leap frogging a number of different groups as we stopped every hour for snacks and the like, and then by lunch we would have put some distance between ourselves and start the process all over again with a new set of travellers, then by the end of the day normally after we’d set up camp and scarfed down some pasta Mugshots the morning’s groups would turn up. A strange kind of pattern, especially as people would always follow up on the running thing with ‘How many days are you doing it in?’, and I always think they were a little disappointed when we said 5. A fit and dedicated person can walk it in 5, and we might have been able to do it in less but really, we wanted to enjoy it too!
But anyway, back to Day 3! Fi was really struggling with energy levels and all emergency gels and snacks had to be employed to keep the gang moving. The trail had wound itself high above the floor of the valley and terrain was easy going and flatish until we schlepped our way back up into the forests towards Crainlarich. This was when things all got a bit blurry…
The day wore on, our stomachs got emptier and the forest track just kept going. The Green Welly – a yearly pilgrimage on our kayaking trips to the Highlands – just seemed to never appear! And it took an emergency sit down and stuffing snacks in our mouth to get us through until it finally appeared. When we got there we were a littel bit broken, we INHALED as much food as we could handle and I gulped down a few pints of Irn Bru. We restocked our snacks, did some first aid on our ailing feet and ran out of excuses to not get going again. I think this was one of our lowest points mentally and physically. We were hurting and knew that tonight would be a rainy one under our tarp. But set off we did…
The final push to Bridge of Orchy was blissfully monotonous and required us just getting our heads down and grinding out the miles. Rainy but mostly flat, and an easy path through the hills, we finally made it to the Bridge of Orchy.
A popular wild camping spot on the WHW, we were early birds and had the pick of the spots. Instead of going with the ‘crowd’ we chose a spot off to the left against the tree and in a slight dip, hoping these would provide some shelter for what we knew would be a bit of a grim one. Once changed and fed (we were already a bit fed up with mugshot pastas), we retreated to the nearby pub – The Bridge of Orchy Hotel. I honestly cannot recommend this place enough! What a find!! Open to the hapless soggy traveller of all classes, from the smelly (us) to the more well groomed. Free wifi, good drinks and a warm welcome. We even got to brush our teeth and refill our water bottles the next day for a pound donation. It was enough to have me googling the room prices lets just say that…. But the girls persuaded me and as our eyelids drooped we headed back out to our tarp. It was already raining and we had to do a bit of emergency tarp reconfiguring with the rain direction. But actually, in a night where a number of campers were flooded out and had a miserable one in their tents we stayed dry warm and content under our tarp! Yeh we were pretty smug….
And THAT was Day 3. We were over halfway…