Tag Archives: lakes

Routeburn Track, Fiordland, New Zealand

During the COVID pandemic, I chose to take a break from Europe and head to New Zealand for a bit. In early February, I’d planned a hike in the central North Island. But due to sustained rain over the two available weekends, I put that trip on hold and instead flew to Fiordland, at the the bottom of the South Island, where it was still sunny.

The Routeburn Track is a popular 3-day hike crossing the Mount Aspiring National Park and the Fiordland National Park. As it’s considered a Great Walk run by DoC (the NZ Department of Conservation), there are 3 huts along the way where most people will stay. However, at NZ$68 a night, I chose instead to camp for only NZ$21 a night. Unfortunately, there are only two campsites on the trail, meaning the first day would be very short, and the second day, very long.

Day 1 – Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats Campsite – 7.5km – 1.5hr

Having spent the night in nearby Queenstown, I caught a trail transport to the trailhead at the Routeburn Shelter where several of us were dropped off. I left the shelter feeling icy at just after midday, marching into the forest and following Route Burn. A burn is a watercourse, somewhere between a large stream and a small river.

Over the course of the day, there would be a gradual 250m climb, which was barely noticable. With only a short walk, I out marched the others from the trail transport, crossing several side streams on swing bridges and static wooden bridges. These bridges gave the only real views of the day other than trees. The water of the burn ran very clear and was a tourquoise blue in many of the pictures I took.

As I walked, I came to a purpose built toilet, just off the side of the trail. There’s nothing like the sense of being in the wilderness with random toilet blocks.

The trail itself could be described as the motorway of hiking trails, wide, flat and stony. This was purposeful, I assume, to make the hike accessible to beginning hikers. Before long, I could see the flats opening up on one side of the river and came to the Routeburn Flats Hut. Only 200m to the campsite and I was out of the trees, where I pitched my tent and hung out for the afternoon.

Day 2 – Routeburn Flats Campsite to Lake MacKenzie Campsite – 13.5km – 7hr + Side trip: Conical Hill

It had been cold overnight, but my new gear was warm. I was up early the next day, and as I packed up I watched the pink light on the tops of the mountains as the sun came up, well before it reached me and the other handful of tents. Once ready, I headed out of camp, back past the hut and up the hill. It began a fairly steady climb of 250m over the course of the 2.3km, but still in the trees. The trail became thinner and rocky as it skirted around the mountain until the hut came into view. After my first spot of hard work on this hike, I dropped my pack at the hut and took a 10 minute break, admiring the view back whence I’d come. It was around here that I first began to notice my pack didn’t feel weighted right.

After my break, I pushed on up the hill and out of the forest for the first time. Today, the weather was blissfully sunny, as I climbed another 250m over 2km and got a sight of the trail ahead crossing the small plateau. At one point I passed an older couple and their daughter having a late lunch.

Without looking at the map, I guessed a lake sat in the crater above. On climbing around the side of the peaks my guess was confirmed when Lake Harris came into view at the top of the Route Burn Left Branch.

As the path led around above the lake, I crossed the hike’s highest point (not including side trails) at just under 1300m, and rounded the peak to see the Harris Saddle Shelter. I crossed the saddle and set my pack down for lunch.

It’s here that the side trail up Conical Hill begins. I’d heard it was well worth the effort, so I donned my day pack with water bladder inside and begin the climb. I won’t lie, it was hard work, and I stopped many times for short breathers until I finally came over the top. At 1515m, the summit of Conical Hill gave me great views along the Hollyford River Valley leading to Lake McKerrow and further out to the Tasman Sea.

At the other end of the valley I could see a lake, but with so many lakes in Fiordland, I couldn’t tell which it was. I hung about for 10 minutes before heading down. As I got to the shelter, I discovered I was out of water with 3-4 hours of today’s walking still to go. I stopped for a few minutes before heading off south along the upper slopes of the Hollyford River Valley.

I’d heard much of the water in the streams, huts and campsites were good to drink without treating. So at the first stream I filled up. The taste was crisp, clean and refreshing. I continued along as the trail slowly undulated around the small peaks. I again passed the trio from before the saddle, they too had run out of water, but were more nervous about drinking from the streams.

I continued and eventually rounded a peak to see Lake Mackenzie below, the hut (the white block on the right), and the camp (near the largest of the visible beaches. After rounding the peak, it was all downhill to the lake.

The trail hit a couples of switchbacks before diving back into forest. Over the past couple of hours, I had begun to notice more and more that my pack wasn’t quite right. It was hanging to one side all the time, and the straps kept slipping. It felt more like a travel pack meant to sit on the back for an hour at a time, not a 9 hour slog over mountains. I stopped and repacked it, but while the balance felt a little better, but it still wasn’t quite right. I followed a girl down the hill and came out at the hut. Nearby people swam in the lake as I continued the the 10 minute walk to the campsite. Finding a spot, I pitched the tent, had a wetwipe ‘shower’ and zipped myself in for the evening.

Day 3 – Lake MacKenzie Campsite to The Divide 12km – 5 hours + Side Trip: Key Summit

Most of today would be in the forest, so after a late breakfast I headed out. I climbed the first of today’s two short climbs, barely noticing the 100m over the 1.5km distance. It was then fairly flat over the next few kilometres, the only views were in places where there had been slips although signs advised to hurry through and not stop.

At one point, I ran into the older lady and her daughter and stopped for a chat. Then a kilometre on I came out at the Earland Falls and met the husband with a family I’d met on the transport to the hike on the first day. It seemed we would all be on the transport out of the hike later that day. Earland Falls is a 179m tall with a large pool at the base. The water levels were low, but it can apparently flood during the winter.

From here it was a descent of 300m over 2.5km, but as it was through the forest, it was hard to tell. I passed several people going the other way in the early hours of their hikes before eventually coming out at lake Howden where I stopped for a 15 minute break. There was once a hut at this location, but it burned down a couple of years ago. After my break, I headed up the last 100m climb of the trail, still in the forest and stopped after a kilometer, when the trail led up to the Key Summit. I dropped my pack and headed up without it. The side trail climbed above the forest line giving wonderful views back north along the Hollyford River Valley from whence I’d come. At the top, it also gave a view of Lake Marian.

I stopped only briefly before heading down again. I donned my pack and continued for the last 3 kilometers of the trek, all downhill and all within the forest. I emerged at the Divide Shelter, took my pack off and rested. Not long after, others began emerging too, many of whom would be on the 4 hours bus ride back to Queenstown.

Overall
The Routeburn trail is a classic three day hike centred around crossing Harris saddle, with much time spent above the forest line. It was a busy and popular hike that I’d rate as having a moderate difficulty. I’d recommend for beginners and and those fairly new to hiking, although advanced and experienced hikers would enjoy too, although there are other more challenging hikes around.

It was good to get out on the track after 18 months away from hiking due to COVID and moving countries. I was troubled by my new pack, so set a task for myself to buy a new one on returning to Auckland.

Next week, I head to Nelson to start the Abel Tasman Coastal Great Walk.

Until then,

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit, Nelson Lakes – New Zealand – Part 1

After walking the 4-day Abel Tasman Coastal Great Walk, I took a break and caught a transport 86km south of Nelson to the Nelson Lakes Region looking for more of an alpine hike.

Initially, I was due to arrive late afternoon and camp the night in St Arnaud. But due to a change in timing for the transport, I would be in the region several hours early, so chose to start the hike immediately with a short first day.

Day 1 – St Arnaud to Lakehead Hut – 3hr – 10 km

I arrived in St Arnaud, bought a coke from the Petrol Station/General Store, and with the lunch I’d brought with me, sat on the beach of Lake Rotoiti to enjoy them.

My big mistake was not to not know there aren’t any rubbish bins in St Arnaud. I’d have to carry an empty coke bottle for the entire hike. You live and you learn. After lunch, and a bit of harassment by a duck, I headed off around the edge of the lake climbing a little as I went on a thin non-manicured trail.

The 10km of today was entirely in the forest, and it would not sink in until later in day two that the vast majority of the hike would be this way.
Lake Rotoiti looks somewhat like an angry sperm, with two large nobs at one end and and a thin tail at the other. Near this table end, I stopped and boots off, dunked my feet in the water. Around me wasps crawled everywhere, attracted to the Beech trees most of the forests in this region contain. None bothered me, and neither did the sandflies, as for this hike I had bought some DEET insect repellant.

It didn’t take me long to reach the hut and I settled into hut life, chatting to the people who were already there including some Te Awaroa walkers and a girl who had arrived via water taxi. I talked to her into the evening and once everyone else had gone bed, we too decided to slip off to our respective sleeping bags.

Day 2 – Lakehead Hut to Upper Travers Hut – 19.6km – 7.5 hours

The first part of today was walking through the long grass at the end of the lake, before I disappeared into the forest once more.

I left last from the hut, but within 30 minutes I ran into the girl I’d been talking to the night before, who was reorganising her bags, of which she had brought too much.

Once she was ready to move on, I walked with her through the forest for the first half of the day, talking about everything and anything. Even as the sole of her boot fell apart before me, we continued walking and talking, and before we knew it, we arrived at the John Tait Hut, where we stopped for a coffee and lunch.

After our coffee break, my new friend and I continued on, beginning the climb towards the Upper Travers hut. About 30 minutes in, she took a break, but told me to push on. I bid her farewell, that I would see her at the hut, and set off up the trail. Not long after, I came to the Travers Falls. I dropped my pack and climbed down the steep bank to get a better look.

I ran into my friend again while I was putting on my pack. She seemed to like the idea of not carrying her pack for a while, so I left her to enjoy the waterfall. The climb continued at a fair pace, although within the trees I really couldn’t tell how far I was climbing except when I came out to cross the occasional stream. I’d been alerted to one of the bridges in this area having been washed out, and I located it, or what was left of it, as I crossed the rocky stream.

Then after three hours of climbing since the John Tait hut, I came over a rise to a tussocky field with great mountain views and the hut nestled in a small copse of trees. I crossed the field and set my pack down, preparing for the evening. For the next couple of hours I kept an eye out for my friend, who did eventually arrive, having left one of her bags behind. That evening I discovered much of the rest of the hike would be through trees, except for 2 hours crossing the saddle the next day.

Day 3 – Upper Travers Hut to West Sabine Hut – 8km – 6 hours

My walking friend from the day before made the choice to stay another night in the hut and return down the same track we’d climbed the previous day. While chatting over breakfast, she suggested a more alpine route, which I decided to ponder on the way to the next hut. I bid farewell and began climbing straight into forest, but only for 10 minutes before it opened out into an alpine landscape including a crown of mountains.

The trail plodded up towards the crown for several hundred metres before beginning a steep climb up the side of Mt Travers before slowly rounding out to the saddle, a 90 minute climb total.

I dropped pack and took a break with the view of Mt Travers behind me.

At the advice of another walker, I climbed to see small tarn a little further up, and also got a great view back down the valley I’d climbed from.

On the other side of the saddle, I got a view of where I would be going. With no sight of other walkers, I took up my pack again, and began the climb down. Half an hour later, and near where the trail dove back into the forest, I stopped for lunch in the sun.

Back in the forest, the trail led steeply down and seemed endless. Very occasionally, I could see the mountains around to judge how far I’d descended. But again, it felt never-ending and my knees didn’t thank me for the effort. Finally, after what seemed like hours, I began to hear a river ahead and followed the noise along a gully until I came out at the bottom where a stream met the raging East Branch Sabine River.

Thankful for the break, I took off my books and dipped my feet in the water. Afterwards, I headed along what I thought was a flat rest of the trail, but I was wrong. It was for the first several hundred metres before it crossed a bridge where deep below, the wide river raged even harder through a thin channel. The trail climbed around the side of Mount Franklin, still deep in the forest, with often muddy areas, until after a handful of kilometres, began yet another steep decent leading down to where the east and west branch of the rivers met. Then it was a 500m flat walk to the hut where I found two ladies from the previous hut, and no-one else. That night, I did some research on my way forward.

I’d originally planned to do a return day walk to the Blue Lake, then on to Sabine hut, the following day, with a long day out to St Arnaud for my last day. But this would see me walking predominantly in the forest, which I was honestly sick of at this point. The other option was to skip Blue Lake, head straight to Sabine Hut and then climb into the alpine region to Lake Angelus Hut instead. This sounded much more my style.

Next, part 2 of my Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit.
The Lone Trail Wanderer

Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit, Nelson Lakes – New Zealand – Part 2

Eighty-six kilometres south of Nelson in the Nelson Lakes regions, I walked the Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit. Click for Travers Sabine Angelus Circuit, Nelson Lakes – New Zealand – Part 1

Day 4 – West Sabine Hut to Sabine Hut – 14.2km – 6 hours

After making the decision to skip the day walk to Blue Lake, I headed out this morning and made for Lake Rotoroa and the Sabine Hut. A hundred metres from the West Sabine hut I cross the wide river on a suspension bridge and followed it into the mossy forest.

Today’s walk is six or so hours through the forest, but thankfully, unlike the previous day, there is no major climbs or descents, just a gentle downhill for most of the day.

And yes, with the exception of the 2 hours I spent crossing the saddle yesterday, this is my fourth full day in the forest. But even the forest itself seemed to feel my frustration and came out to remind me all was fine.

There were plenty of opportunity views back along the river…

And the occasional open grassy areas to cross, to break up the constant forest. This one led onto the only real climb of the day, passing over a knoll to get the heart pumping a little. At the end of the knoll, I met an exhausted looking couple who were carrying far too much. They’d only started an hour earlier after getting a water taxi across the lake.

With only a couple of kilometres left, I crossed the river and made my way through the flat forest waiting for the lake to appear. Then, for the first time this hike, the weather turned and a very light rain began. It continued until I finally arrived at the lake and then shortly after to the hut. On arrival, the sky opened up and bucketed down with lighting and thunder for much of the evening. About midway, a rather wet walker arrived, no doubt thankful to be out of the rain.

Day 5 – Sabine Hut to Angelus Hut 7.2km – 6 hours

After the rain of the previous evening, I was concerned that the steep first route that left from beside the hut would be overly wet and slippery, but I went anyway. The initial climb was very steep and foot placement was pertinent, carefully placed on dirt with a slight covering, no rocks or roots unless I could get a good foot holding.

It was slow work, and I used the trees where I could. After the first hour, the steepness eased with easier paths, but I remained fastidious, ever watching my steps. The climb grew easier, but the forest must have held a fairly low temperature, as I neither felt tired nor even broke a sweat as I climbed. This is odd, as I am an easy sweater while walking under weight. The trail grew steeper in hour three, only to round off and become flatter once again.

The Sabine hut is at 467m and at 1335m I emerged into a sunny Tussock covered rolling hilltop. I stopped just inside the forest to prepare for the open trail.

I climbed a further 200m in the glorious open sky to the summit of Mount Cedric and stopped for lunch. Below me lake Rotoroa stretched away while to the side mountains stood tall. Out of the shade of the trees the wind at this height was icy, so I put on my wind breaker.

A crown of mountains headed off to the right, and I saw that the Mount Cedric Track followed it, so after eating, I continued walking.

My climb, now in the open air, was glorious, and under the direct sunlight I began to sweat. The climb grew higher as I skirted around the rocky top of the crown and followed the ridge line off to the left, climbing even higher.

After being in the forest for four days, just being atop an open mountain ridge gave me a sense of enjoyment. The direct sun, the slight breeze, the rocky bliss and the sense of smallness among giants…

While there was a defined path, there was some rock hopping and thin somewhat precarious paths, but I always walk with caution on these paths. I got past and rounded the ridge line to look down onto the valley where Lake Angelus was supposed to be, but there was another smaller ridge in the way. Below me I could see the Hinapouri tarns instead.

I descended towards their smaller ridge with much rock hopping, which took some time, before I finally climbed down the slope to stand before Lake Angelus.

I climbed down to a flat tussock path, then around the lake to the Hut where, in the blissful sunshine, dropped my pack and chatted to some ladies on the front deck. Angelus hut turned out to be a very social hut with more people arriving through the afternoon.

Day 6 – Angelus Hut to St Arnaud – 18km – 5 hours

After my usual breakfast and packing regime, I set out across the tussock towards the ridge line behind the smaller two lakes in the basin, to the trail called the Robert Ridge Route. The climb affording good views back down the Lake Angelus basin as I climbed. The lake soon disappeared as I walked along the top of the ridge away from the hut.

As I climbed towards the Mt Julius Summit at near 1800m, I got a view down the valley to where I had crossed on the 2nd day of this adventure.

At Mt Julius Summit, I found a wide area where I could stop – wide in this case being 1.5 – 2m. I also found good 4G reception, so thought I would video call my parents at home in Auckland, to show them the view.

Afterwards, the trail cut across the side of the rocky ridges as it continued, before changing to the rounded hilltops with wide paths. There were some climbs, but nothing major, but all the time glorious views in all directions with the weather warm and minimally cloudy.

The route continued and I began to see walkers coming towards me, I climbed the last of the large round hilltops and stopped on some flat rocks for lunch.

After chatting with a couple of passersby, I headed off again along the ridge, this time slowly descending. The route continued down past a rest shelter likely build for day walkers, to the summit of Mount Robert, the final peak before my big descent out of the National Park.

I took a break at the top to chat to another climber and admire the view down on Lake Rotoiti.

The descent to the carpark was partially through the forest, but mostly in the open, growing steadily warmer as I got closer to the bottom. There are more than 22 switchbacks on the way down, and I find it handy to count then down. In my mind it helps as fast descents are not my knee’s favourites.

At the bottom, I set out along the road towards St Arnaud, a further 90 minutes along a dirt road which turned to a major highway. I had intended to camp 45 minutes from the end of the hike, but it was still early with plenty of daylight left, so I decided to crack out onto the road and thumb a lift back to Nelson, some 86km away. I made it getting two lifts and not having to walk too much.

Overall,
I should have taken more care in selecting a hike, as I found this circuit to be particularly frustrating. If I had walked the entire length as planned, but added the side trip to Blue Lake, it would have been six days in the forest, with only 2 hours in the alpine region crossing the Travers Sabine saddle. As I particularly dislike walking in the forest for anything longer than a day, I was thankful for the girl I walked partially with on day 2 and her suggestion to go to Lake Angelus instead. As these are my first long hikes in the NZ mountains, I will be more careful with my planning in the future.

Next, after a week or so giving my legs a break, I have a couple of walks in the North Island.
Until then,
The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Great Glen Way, Scottish Highlands, Scotland – Part 3

In June 2019, I decided to walk the 6-day Great Glen Way, a 79 mile / 126 km walk from one side of Scotland to the other along The Great Glen fault which separates Scotland roughly in two.

534px-great_glen_way_map-en.svg-2019-06-10-14-02.png
By Ayack – fr:Ayack – Own work :Topography: NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM3 v.2) data (public domain);Reference used for confirmation for the additional data: ViaMichelin;Locator map: File:Saint Kilda archipelago topographic map-fr.SVG (modified) created by Sting., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8860318

Back to Part 2

Day 5 – Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit – 13.5 miles / 23.5 km
This morning I left behind the father and son walkers I’d run into on most days so far. The father’s foot had packed it in, and they were finishing the walk there. It had rained overnight, again, and I packed a wet tent as I had several times before. I walked out of the camping ground back up to the low route. I walked the mile back to the junction I’d come down off the moors on yesterday. I continued walking, the rain taking a break and I came down to the bridge across to Invermoriston. I took a quick photo down the river…

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I walked 100m down the road to the cafe and a full Scottish Breakfast and coffee. After breakfast, I headed out and up several hairpins on an old country road to the top of the ridge and then higher along a trail beside a fence.

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For the next few kilometres, the trail followed the fence or dipped down into the forest only to return again. The rain came and went, but it was not heavy. During the hours I spend atop the ridge line, I saw no one else. I was hidden away from Loch Ness for much of it but came past the ViewRanger, a piece of art built on the side of the hill. 

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I continued across the moors for several more kilometres, clouds hanging low at times.

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Then I came to the Troll Bridge and crossed it furtively but without assault, into the forest again where I continued.

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On several occasions, I came to parts where there should have been a view, but the clouds were too low over Loch Ness. Then, as if it knew I wanted to see the loch, the clouds lifted slightly and finally…

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At the end of the 11km, I headed across some fields on a trail to a farm road as it again began to pour with rain. I found a little shelter someone had put out with things for sale for walkers.

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I put on the pace along the sealed road averaging about a km every 10 min along the 4km stretch of road.

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The road dove steeply downhill, and Drumnadrochit came into view. The trail them cut through a forest as it headed down towards the river before coming out onto the camping ground I’d be staying in for that night.

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After pitching my tent, showering and washing my clothes, the sun came out, and I headed across to the local pub for dinner and a well-deserved cider.

Day 6 – Drumnadrochit to Inverness – 18 miles / 28.8 km
It didn’t rain overnight and when I woke there was s thin mist over the camping ground. And, by the time I had packed the sky was blue and the sun was out. After 5 days in the rain, the final longest day was to be spent in the sun. But I was not so lucky that my tent wasn’t wet, the dew and mist had ensured I would still be packing a wet tent.

Once packed, I headed to a cafe for a big Scottish breakfast but was disappointed there was no haggis, I’ve become quite fond of it on this trip. After breakfast, I headed out through Drumnadrochit along the main highway past Drambuie farm and up a hill that gave good views back across Loch Ness…

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…and the ruins of Urquhart castle.

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I continued on along the trail and into the forest with continuing good views.

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The trail climbed for the next 2km, sometimes steeply until it eventually came out into the moors only to cut into the forest again shortly after. After the hard climb up the ridge, the trail flattened out and remained that way for much the rest of the day.

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I passed a farm and stopped to tend to blister forming when I noted the farmer struggling to get a trolley onto a trailer. So I put my boot back on and gave him a hand. After my good deed for the day, I set out again along the farm road, across a highway and onto a thin track. Along the side of the track, I started to see signs of an eco cafe, so stopped off for an expensive coffee and cake in the middle of nowhere. After the break, I arrived at another road…

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…and quick marched the 4 km until it merged with a dirt trail. Dark clouds seemed to come, but no rain eventuated.

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The dirt trail ran for a mile before diving into a forest and on a slow descent over 5km until I saw Beauty Firth, a stretch of sea off the coast of Inverness.
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Then I rounded a hill and Inverness itself came into view. I followed a fairly steep hill down towards it.

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I crossed near a golf course to the canal where I walked for 3 km, crossing the Ness Islands and eventually ending the trail at Inverness Castle, near the centre of the city.

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I discovered my hostel 50 metres from the castle and checked in for a well-deserved shower. Once clean and in fresh clothes I located a Wetherspoons for dinner and, of course, a cider or three.

Day A – Inverness

I found it cheaper to stay in Inverness the night on Saturday before flying out on Sunday. I wandered around the town a little but decided against doing the tourist thing. Instead, I rested my feet and body after the hike. Saturday night, however, there was a music festival in town, so all of the pubs and restaurants were very busy. I hung out about the hostel and read a lot relaxing and watching a movie with a few people in the common room.

Overall
The Great Glen Way is a good hike, but not a great hike. The first three days a spent on the flat walking beside the canal or lake. But it is the last three days where the real hiking begins. While the climbs were not high, it gave plenty of views when they were available.

The major issue with the hike was the amount of rain, but it is Scotland in June, so you just have to go with it. It was nice to have the sun on the final day. The other issue is the general lack of food options along the way, which is likely something I should have planned better for. I survived and enjoyed my time.

In a couple of weeks, I head back up to Scotland for another six-day hike, The Isle of Arran.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Great Glen Way, Scottish Highlands, Scotland – Part 2

In June 2019, I decided to walk the 6-day Great Glen Way, a 79 mile / 126 km walk from one side of Scotland to the other along The Great Glen fault which separates Scotland roughly in two.

534px-great_glen_way_map-en.svg-2019-06-10-14-02.png
By Ayack – fr:Ayack – Own work :Topography: NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM3 v.2) data (public domain);Reference used for confirmation for the additional data: ViaMichelin;Locator map: File:Saint Kilda archipelago topographic map-fr.svg (modified) created by Sting., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8860318

Back to Part 1

Day 3 – Laggan to Fort Augustus – 15 miles / 24 km
After a night in the softest bed ever, a great relief after 2 days of hiking, I set out from the hostel and ran into the two ladies I’d been chatting to most of the night before. We then walked to a local cafe a few hundred metres off the trail for breakfast and coffee. On the way, we stopped to take a photo of Loch Oich as we crossed on a swing bridge.

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After eating, we headed back to the trail and began climbing the hill. As we walked and chatted we all but reached the top without noticing the climb, heading around a curve of the hill and heading back down. At the base of the path, the pair continued north while I split off to the east where I ran into the group of older walkers from the day before. I chatted with them as we crossed into Invergarry, where I stopped to look for lunch options. I didn’t find anything suitable after a quarter of an hour, so continued on.

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I climbed the path, a set of hairpin lanes that led up the to a forest road which I followed as it curved around above the loch. It wound its way through forest trails for some time as it slowly descended back towards loch level before climbing again into the forest. It was here I ran into the groups of older walkers and chatted to one of the group leaders until the path was wide enough for me to pass.

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I came down to the A82 highway and followed it around to the swing bridge across the canal. Off to my left was the Oich bridge, an old now-closed bridge. On the swing bridge, I noted a sign for a cafe half a mile off along the A82. It was off the trail, but I was hungry, so I made the walk up the hill. After passing several signs over the 15-minute walk, I arrived to find it was closed Tuesday – Thursday. So I walked back to the swing bridge and took a break without eating. It was here I noticed a couple of what I thought were ticks on my leg. With tweezers, I removed them even though they had not dug in; I didn’t see any other the entire hike.

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After the break, I marched on alongside Loch Oich as the skies began to clear. It was six kilometres to Fort Augustus. As I walked, I noticed I was on a path between the Caledonia Canal and the River Oich. They came very close on several occasions, and I even crossed a weir that allowed water to run off from the Canal into the river if it was too high.

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After an hours march, I arrived in Fort Augustus and located my camping ground. I set up my tent beside the father and son walkers I’d met on the first day and once done headed into town with them to a pub for dinner and a cider or three.

Day 4 – Fort Augustus to Invermoriston high route – 8.5 miles / 13.5km
After enjoying five ciders last night, I slept very well, somehow managing about 10 hours. But when I did wake in the night, it was raining, heavily at times. It continued into the morning. Today is the shortest leg of the six days; I held out until it stopped raining for as long as I could before packing up and heading out into town for breakfast. At the locks, I looked down the canal towards Loch Ness.
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After breakfast, I headed out through town along a stretch of road still under construction until I found the trail and followed it up a hill into the forest.

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The climb was short and one of the first real climbs of the hike. I came out into a new forest road and followed this for about a kilometre until the high route began. The trail cut up the hill with switchbacks and steep climbs. It finally felt like I was hiking after so much loch and canal-side walking. After about five hundred metres, I came out of the forest and onto open ground. While the rain had stopped, the clouds hung low over the moors.

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After about a kilometre the trail disappeared into the low clouds, and I came across the older walking group again. I stopped for a brief chat before pushing on. The low hanging clouds over the loch and the moors gave only the occasional view.

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The trail continued for another 4 kilometres through open ground before dropping down into the forest again. After several switchbacks, the trail descended very steeply. With shaking legs under the weight, I contemplated taking out my walking poles. This was, after all, why I’d brought them, but I decided to suck it up and just did it.

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At the bottom, the trail met with the lower route, but instead of following it to Invermoriston I headed the other way, back towards Fort Augustus. I walked along the low route for two kilometres as it again started to rain. The low route is simply a fairly flat forest road with no views and is very boring. It would be good for cyclists, but hikers would find little of interest here.

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I soon found the side trail leading down to the camping site where I arranged to hand my tent in the drying room. While I waited for the rain to stop and my tent to dry, I showered. When I pitched my tent, I noted across the grassy camping area, the father and son walkers I’d met several times through the walk. With little in the way of food options nearby, I bought some noodles and a can of peaches from the camping ground shop and nestled into the tent with my Kindle to read for the evening.

Next, days 5 and 6 of The Great Glen Way.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Great Glen Way, Scottish Highlands, Scotland – Part 1

In June 2019, I decided to walk the 6-day Great Glen Way, a 79 mile / 126 km walk from one side of Scotland to the other along The Great Glen fault which separates Scotland roughly in two.

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By Ayack – fr:Ayack – Own work :Topography: NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM3 v.2) data (public domain);Reference used for confirmation for the additional data: ViaMichelin;Locator map: File:Saint Kilda archipelago topographic map-fr.svg (modified) created by Sting., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8860318

Day 0 – London to Fort William

To get to the beginning of the hike, I took a 75-minute EasyJet flight to Glasgow and a 4-hour Scot Train to Fort William. It was an easy and relaxing journey with great views across the western side of Scotland including a leg through Loch Lommonds & The Trossachs National Park.

Fort William is a small township nestled beneath Ben Nevis, UK’s largest mountain. It’s a friendly place with several stores focused on adventures and hiking, along with several whisky stores. I also managed to stay at the Fort William Hostel on its 10th anniversary weekend, so got a free dinner and several beers.

Day 1 – Fort William to Gairlochy – 10 miles / 16 km
I headed out from the hostel in the rain and down to get some last supplies and have some lunch before beginning the walk. From the centre of town, I followed the trail past an underwater centre and along a canal, crossing at a train bridge.

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The path followed the bay around, through Inverlochy, Lochyside and Caol. If these are suburbs or villages absorbed into the larger town, I’m not sure. I looked back across the harbour back at Fort William with the cloud covered Ben Nevis to one side.

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I rounded a football field and came to the beginning of the Caledonian Canal, the canal that connected the three lochs across Scotland, allowing boat travel from one side to the other. I passed Neptune’s staircase, a series of nine locks climbing up the canal. The trail followed beside the canal for 11 kilometres. It was rainy and a little boring, so I just put my head down and just marched. There were pretty points along the canal, very green because of the regular rains.

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Towards the end, I stopped for a chat with a couple of guys – father and son – who were wild camping near the canal. I then headed a kilometre and a half along a road to my campsite, where I pitched my tent next to a couple of ladies. In the UK, when hiking, I’ve usually ‘glamped’ – staying in hostels, BNBs, pubs or hotels. This time I decided to pull out my tent and camp four nights of this 6-day hike. This meant I was carrying a full pack at 20 kg, including drinking water. I’ve carried heavier many times, so it wasn’t a problem. As I walked, I passed Meall Bhanbhaidh, a peak that was easier to walk past than to pronounce…

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On most other UK hikes there is a pub every 5km, so I figured I’d pick up food along the trail. I soon discovered the error in this. After leaving Fort William, there were no shops, cafes or restaurants. I got to my campsite with only a packet of breakfast biscuits. Thankfully, I’d found a restaurant a mile further along the road, so after showering, I began the walk. It turned out to be fairly expensive, but I had to eat. No doubt this would not be the last food issue I’d have. On the way back, 100m from the campsite it poured with rain. Yay, Scotland!

Day 2 – Gairlochy to Laggan – 13 miles / 21 km
It rained for much of the night and continued for most of the morning. Thankfully, it stopped long enough for me to take down my sopping tent. I walked the mile back to the loch, crossed to the other side and followed the logical route alongside only to walk a couple of hundred metres to a dead end where a sign conveniently told me as much. I headed back to the bridge and continued up a road. The rain came, and I knuckled down with my waterproof jacket’s hood up. The trail headed off the road and up through a light Conifer forest for a while before again crossing the road and headed down near Loch Lochy.

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After a long walk through the forest, the trail came back to the road and continued for some time. I passed the small villages of Achnacarry, Bunarkaig and eventually Clunes, but there were no shops in any of these locales. For breakfast, all I’d eaten was three breakfast biscuits and no coffee. At Clunes, with no other options, I ate the last 2 breakfast biscuits before heading up onto a dirt forest road. On the long walk alongside the loch I passed the carving of a falcon on a wooden stump.

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For more than 10 km, the dirt road continued just above the loch covered with dark clouds. I finally stopped for a break near the end of the dirt road, and as I sat on my pack, a group of old walkers came past.

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After the break I marched on, easily passing the older walkers before heading onto a road and around to the Laggan Locks. I followed a trail on the other side for a mile to the road, then back 300m to the Great Glen Hostel, where I ran into the two ladies I’d camped beside at Gairlochy. Since we were 2 hours early for the hostel, we sat in the common room and chatted, something that went on well into the night.

Next, Days 3 and 4 of The Great Glen Way.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 4

Day 4 – Buttermere to Boot – 12 miles (19.3km) – 8 hours

It rained overnight, and that left me expecting the worst from the weather today. But thankfully, the sun came out and decided it liked the day, so stayed. There were plentiful clouds, which kept the temperatures down but with little wind. Overall, an awesome day to hike in the Lake District.

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I left the hostel and walked down through the village towards Lake Buttermere. Ahead I could see several groups of people and hoped not to get stuck behind any of them.

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I quickly passed a group of six teenage girls that were taking off their clothes on the side of the trail. If only this were a regular thing on hikes! Alas, they were a group of schoolgirls doing a group exercise? They had overdressed for the day and were removing excess clothing. I continued on along beside the lake.

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At the end of the lake, the trail cut steeply into Buttermere Fell. I took a shortcut, and when I rejoined the main path ran into another group of teenage girls, these were sweaty from having climbed the steep trail. I wished them well and continued climbing.

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Today is the fourth day of this hike, and my body is so used to the effort it just does what I need it to do. While my legs are still a little sore, they just seem to power up the hill without too much effort.  I stopped about a third of the way up for a shot back along the Lake Buttermere.

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Before I knew it, I was through Scarth Gap and crossing the pass towards the other side. For the most part of the hike today the trail had been rocky or covered in slate.

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I came down the other side of the pass and headed down into the next valley River Liza running strong along it amidst Ennerdale Forest. I followed a fence on a path made from large cobblestones, and stopped for a for a break, taking my boots off.

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After a few minutes, I continued down into the valley. I note on my map a hut along the way, and as I got closer, I noticed it was occupied. When I arrived at it, I discovered it was a YHA, the most remote YHA in the UK. I stopped for a coffee and ate my lunch. Ahead, I guessed my trail led me up beside the stream called Sail Beck, in the middle of the photo.

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It was taller than the previous climb, and the trail was less obvious, but after 30 minutes I was at the top and looking down wondering how I’d got there so effortlessly. The path was at times boggy, and sometimes I had to scramble up some rock, but nothing too strenuous. At the top, I looked down at the trail on the other side, which was made mostly of stone steps.

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I climbed down into the valley, passing several hikers, and stopped to chat to the leader of the two groups of girls who were waiting for them. The sun came out again, and I looked down along Mosedale to Yewbarrow in all of its rocky glory.

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At the end of the valley, the village of Wasdale Head and a low pass over Sca Fell, where I would be climbing out of the valley. I stopped at the Inn for a cider and took my boots off again. Pro tip: regularly dry off the feet, socks and boots by taking them off. This helps to prevent blisters, especially on hot days.

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After my drink, I packed up and headed off again for about two kilometres before heading up the Sca Fell. While I was crossing the fell known as Sca Fell, I did not climb the main peak, which is the tallest mountain in England. After a while, I looked down on Wast Water, the deepest lake in the Lake District at 79 metres.

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When I reached my highest point of the fell, the ground was a lot boggier, and I had to dig my boots out of the bog several times, but after a mile or so I came to Burnmoor Tarn. At the tarn, I realised that my hostel for the night was more than a mile from Boot, my planned destination. So, I chose another trail that would take me closer.

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This, however, led me across a lot more boggy ground and a footbridge…

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…towards Eel Tarn and a lot more boggy ground.

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Eventually, I got close to the tarn and ran into a man who looked rather lost. I showed him the map and sent him on his way, then skirted the tarn and headed onto a more rocky trail. This led me down to eventually come out at the Woodpack Inn, just down the road from my hostel.

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A long day climbing may hills, but with my body in a good state, I’m looking forward to the next three days.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 2

Day 2 – Rosthwaite to Braithwaite – 12 miles (19.3km) – 7 hours

After the full day of rain yesterday, the weather was supposed to clear up for the rest of the week; ‘was supposed to’, being the operative statement here. When I awoke at the hostel, it was raining and would continue to do so for most of the first part of the day. What’s a hiking man to do but strap on his pack and get out there.

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I walked out from the hostel during a pause in the rain hoping it had stopped for the day, but alas, ten minutes down the road, the rain began again. While it wasn’t heavy, only a gusty drizzle, it was annoying. I followed the River Derwent for a while before it headed up Tongue Gill. I was somewhat thankful for the cool weather as makes it easy to climb. Not far up the valley I stopped and looked back on Rosthwaite and in the distance, the valley I had come out of the day before.

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The gill ahead looked arduous, a steady climb all the way, including the wall at the end. What made it more difficult was that for every 10 minutes I walked, I spent 5 minutes hovering either behind an old slate wall, in the opening of a mine or a cave, waiting for the gusts and drizzle to subside. Along the way, to help out the climb, there are many slate steps. Towards the top, there are more broken down buildings and mine shafts. I ignored them as it is never a good idea to explore old mines.

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Once at the top of the steep, wet, slate steps, I pulled out the hiking poles, this time to stabilise myself at the top in the somewhat extreme gusts of wind. The plateau at the top is boggy, and I sloshed across it, my boots filled by water already, only an hour into the day. I climbed over Miners Crag and Red Crag on my way up High Spy, the wind and rain continuing to pelt at me. Eventually, I arrived at a large cairn marking the top point of my climb.

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From here there was a long walk across the top of High Spy and Maiden Moor in the relative peace and solitude. It is difficult to take photos with the persistent rain, but I was able to see down into the next valley during clear moments.

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Towards the end of Moor I began to see people coming out of the mist, then when I came over Bull Crag, I looked down towards Derwent Water. Ahead more people climbed towards me and many more standing on Cat Bells, the small peak at the end of the chain. I would not be going that far along as my trail headed down to the left before it.

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After a series of muddy descents, I followed a trail down and away from the mass of day climbers. Ahead you can just make out people on the top of Cat Bels.

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My descent took me down into the valley I had seen from High Spy.

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I eventually came down to a path and the sun fought its way out of the clouds to welcome me. I followed the trail to Little Town, which is only a village, where I stopped for a coffee break in some tea rooms.

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After my break, I set out again around the valley, following the base of the Cats Bells. Instead of climbing and being beaten by the wind and rain, I got a pleasant walk across some paddocks, avoiding sheep and cow dung, before heading out along some country lanes.

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But as I crossed the valley, my next climb loomed, climbing the valley alongside Stonycroft Gill between the Barrow on the right and Causey Pike on the left.

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With sore legs after the past two days, the long slow climb was quite a slog.

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I turned the bend and headed up the valley, slowly. The sun decided to show its face finally, and things began to warm up. On sore legs, I pushed on.

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Darks clouds amazed behind me as I looked back along the trail to the valley.

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I pushed on along the rocky path, always climbing. I passed a steep climb to the top of the pass and chose to continue on towards where the trail doubled back to a flatter trail. I finally arrived at the Barrow Door, between The Barrow and Stile End, where I looked down upon Braithwaite below me.

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For the last 20 or so minutes I quick marched down into Braithwaite. On arrival at my hotel, I checked in, got an upgrade to a double room and got set up for the evening, including a well deserved hot bath to ease my aching legs. Tomorrow is the shortest day of this hike with only one major climb.

The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 6

Day 7 – Coniston to Ambleside – 15 miles (24km) – 8 hours

Today is to be the longest day and has the highest climb of the hike, while it is 200m short of Snowdon, I have two further climbs today, plus a lot of road walking. But it is the final day of the hike, and I will be pushing it at the end.

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I set out from the hostel climbing a fairly steady road until it merged with a dirt one. This rose steadily into the mountains, past an old copper mine to where the YHA Coniston Coppermines. A remote hostel for those wanting to be out in nature. Beyond it, the next stage of my climb.

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I cut up the hill on a vague trail which didn’t seem to match my OS map and GPS locator. But it eventually caught up, and I climbed steeply up the hill until I came to a prominent trail. It was about here that it decided to try to rain. I stopped and put on my pack cover, but the rain didn’t make it past a light drizzle and eventually stopped.

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I made it to the Levers Water reservoir to find a group of female hikers studying a map. I joined in a discussion on the various crags around the basin. They were doing a circuit of the basin, while I was climbing to the top.

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I pushed on past the reservoir and into boggy ground. The top of the valley was ahead of me, and I presumed it would be the top of my climb, boy was I wrong.

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At the top of the valley, there is a large cairn. But this is not the top, the trail cuts steeply up the rocky face of Swirl How. To add to the fun, the mist had rolled in, and the drizzle continued. Thankful I had worn my long sleeve hiking shirt today, I turned down the sleeves and began the long climb up the mountain.
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Each time I thought I had arrived at the top, the mountain continued higher, until I eventually could see the cairn at the top in the mist. I climbed on, but as it was cold and I couldn’t see much at the top, I didn’t hang around.

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The trail cut around to the north, dipping and climbing past the Great Carrs, Little Carrs, Hell Gill Pike and several crags as it slowly made its way down over the course of three kilometres.

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Once I could see the bottom point of the mountain – where the cars are – I realised that my next climb was right across the road. It was a little chilly, and the wind had a slight bite to it. But I found a sheltered rock and sat to eat my lunch.

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The climb up to Red Tarn was easy, although I am not sure where the name came from. Perhaps the mist and rain hid some redness?

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While the climb up to Red Tarn was easy, the climb down the other side was not so fun. For a start, it was wet and rocky, but it seemed to go on forever. Descending is hard on the knees, and by the time I got to the bottom, I was hurting quite a lot.

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By the time I reached the valley, the mist had moved enough to take a good photo. For the next 3 kilometres, I walked along a flat valley on a stone road. The road continued for some time through the middle of the valley until eventually coming to a farmstead where it met a real road.

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I followed the trail to the left and over a bridge. It led into a paddock along the river where I walked for a kilometre to a pub where I took the opportunity to stop for a cider. The trail then merged with the Cumbria Way and made its way up the hill a little. I paused and looked back down to the Inn in a valley with the mountains behind it.

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I then followed a quiet road behind many of the farms and quarries for several miles through the forest. This area was quiet, and I only passed one couple as I walked.

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Eventually, I made it to a major road and then on through the town of Elterwater and up to another major highway on the other side. I then crossed several fields and walkways until I came around the back of Loughrigg Tarn to a caravan site and beyond.

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Finally, I climbed beneath Ivy Crag, my last climb of the hike and the final Fell. The trail led only 500 metres across until it came down onto farm roads.

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From there, I got a good view down into Ambleside.

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For the next 2 kilometres, I walked down farm roads onto more distinct roads and finally into the town itself. Then it was the last kilometre from Ambleside to the YHA I had left 7 days earlier.

Overall, the 7-day, 90-mile loop that is the Innway of the English Lake District has been by one of the better hikes I have walked in the UK. Finally, I found the right balance of nature and civilisation. There is much beauty in the region, days where I just looked back, and all I could see was nature.

Next time I push further north and into Scotland to find some true wild country in these Isles, but that won’t be until the next hiking season, next year.

Until then,

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

The Inn Way to the Lake District, England – Part 5

Day 5 – Boot to Broughton-in-Furness – 14 miles (22.5km) – 6.25 Hours

After the hard climbs of yesterday, today is longer but with less climbing. With the sun out, today should be an easy and glorious day.

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From the hostel, a mile out of Boot, the trail quickly crossed to the other side of the river cutting more than a mile off the trail should I have stayed in Boot. From across the river, I could see the rocky ridge I had come down the day before. The little building in the middle is the hostel.

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I crossed farmland for a short distance before the trail cut up onto Harter Fell. There was plenty of sheep, so I spent much time avoiding their droppings as I walked through the paddocks. As I climbed higher, I got a better look along the valley I had stayed in overnight.
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At only 350m above sea level, the climb quickly came to an end, and I got my first look beyond and into Ulpha Fell, a crag dotted area. It was here that the bogginess began again and I spent much time stepping around the flows of water hoping not to sink ankle-deep in the slush. I failed several times, thankfully my boots are mostly waterproof, so I did not suffer the wet feet of earlier days. Ahead I could see the beginning of Dunner Forest, one of the few real wooded areas on this hike.

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Unfortunately, the trail through the forest was also boggy in many places.

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But, it still gave good views across the Dunnerdale-with-Seathwaite range. You have to love these English place names.

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As I came out of the forest, I came out at a farmstead where I found a nice place to sit and have lunch. A family with two young boys came past laden with full camping gear. They stopped for a brief chat, and I discovered the wife had grown up in the town I would be staying at overnight – Broughton-in-Furness. After my early lunch, I followed them along a grassy road, through several sets of gates before I got my first look down on the valley of High Wallowbarrow.

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I passed the family as they ambled, and headed steeply down a curving rocky trail that just seemed to go on forever.

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The curved trail ended at a farm where I turned left and headed into a wood where I crossed a river on stepping-stones before eventually coming to the Newfield Inn, where I stopped for a well-deserved cider.

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After my break at the Inn, I walked on quickly and headed back up into the fells. With a mountain called Caw on my left, I worked my way up to 355m above sea-level.

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As I followed the Park Head Road path I quickly came to the top and a view out over the Irish Sea in the distance.

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From here the trail led me downhill towards the Broughton West Flats, and again a view of the Irish Sea.

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The trail came down to a road for a couple of hundred metres before coming to a farmstead called Hoses. The path then cut back up the hill sharply and steeply, along the fence line. It cut through fields of ferns scratching at my legs as I walked, with the occasional nettle hidden beneath it.

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Eventually, I came down into the flat farmland where I crossed paddocks for several kilometres until I was forced to walk through a thin trail covered in bramble and nettle. As much as I tried, there was no avoiding it. Hours later, and my legs are still tingling from the nettle stings.

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I finally came out onto a major road and was forced to climb a steep hill on a footpath. But on the other side was Broughton-in-Furness, the first place I could get a signal for my phone in days. I located my BnB, my first of this trip, where the owner was away, and I would have the place to myself.

Day 6 – Broughton-in-Furness to Coniston – 13 miles (21km) – 6 hours

When I woke this morning, there was brilliant sunlight coming in through the B&B’s sky-light. When I went downstairs to confirm, I found a perfect blue sky. According to the maps, today is to be a fairly average length day with few climbs, an easy one in the sun.

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As Broughton-in-Furness is just outside the mountainous region of the Lake District, there is plenty of farmland around. For the first two miles or so I crossed paddocks, some that were once public walkways, but have been blocked off. This did not stop me crossing, I just had to be quick.

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I crossed a small Moss called Middlescough which was still not much of a climb, but had a fair amount of ferns covering it, both living and dried out.

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I then pushed up into Thornthwaite Latter Rigg, a small rolling hillock that was an easy climb which barely got the heart pumping. The only annoyance was the number of brambles hidden within the ferns, so climbing up the thin trail caused me to come away with many scratches up both arms. Battle scars of hiking.

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I followed the trail up Woodland Fell. I’m not sure where this name came from as there is no woodlands, trees or similar, just boggy tall grass. This led me to my first proper climb of the day, but only to 150m.

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The path then joined the Greater Cumbria Way Trail and headed north towards the Beacon Tarn, but before I reached it, I found a spot to rest and eat the lunch I had prepared.

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My next stage would be to walk around the Tarn, but when I got to it, it was very boggy, so I took the option to climb Beacon – the hill beside the tarn. At 255m it was not particularly strenuous but the view of the surrounding land and nearby reservoir was well worth the minimal effort.

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And off to the right from the top of Beacon, the five-mile long Coniston Water. When I eventually arrived at the hostel, it was filling with people who would be swimming the length of the lake for a charity event.

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I walked quickly down the hill along the trail and quickly came to the tarn that simply had the name ‘reservoir’. Before I crossed the farmland for about a kilometre to arrive at Torver, a small township which looked to have had mass-produced housing, all in grey.

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From Torver, I began climbing a stony road as I ascended slowly towards the mountain known as the Old Man of Coniston.

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As I followed the trail steadily towards the base of The Old Man, I came to a hidden pool sunken into the rock fed by a waterfall.

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At the base of the mountain, the trail turned to a road and lead towards the town of Coniston.

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Behind The Old Man is a horseshoe valley called the Coniston Fells. This would be a great place to come back and hike around.

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I took the advice of a guy I met at the Buttermere YHA and modified my route to climb around to Miners Bridge which gave me a good view across the valley to Coniston town and lake.

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While it was an easy day, my last day looks to be the hardest and longest yet. I will start the day with the highest climb of the circuit and with the hike coming to an end late tomorrow.

The Lone Trail Wanderer