My day began with breakfast – eventually. One poor chap at the hotel was trying to take orders, prepare filled rolls, keep the coffee and tea topped up, and clear the tables. I am sure the new hotel will be a wonderful place to stay but currently they have a few teething problems.
As I was not in a hurry, I could afford to relax and go with the flow, so I left at 8.30 in a light drizzle. The initial 4k runs parallel with the A82, but the views of Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag more than offset the noise of traffic. Near the end of this section of the path, the valley of Lairig Gartain can be seen in all its glory.
After around 55 minutes I reached Altnafeadh, and stopped to gird up my loins. I had reached the Devil’s Staircase – 259m (850ft) of steep ascent.
In reality it is not too bad, and was probably named by the soldiers who carved out this old military road in the 1750s.
Another stop seemed reasonable at the top as the weather was brightening and the views across to the Mamores and Ben Nevis were impressive.
From the top of the pass at 548m (1797ft) you descend gradually to sea level at Kinlochleven. This gives an almost alpine feel to the path down.
Over to the east Blackwater Reservoir is surrounded by bleak wilderness. Originally constructed in 1905-9 to drive the hydro electric power station at Kinlochleven, which was built because of the aluminium smelting works, it is no longer used.
Tragically several Irish navies died on this path during the construction of the dam. Returning over the pass after drinking in the Kingshouse they were overtaken by bad weather and perished.
As you enter Kinlochleven evidence of its industrial past are everywhere. The village was built to serve the aluminium smelting works which is now closed. The Ice Factor, situated in the old smelter building, has the largest indoor ice climbing wall in Britain, and is a popular attraction. The town is now largely dependent on tourism, especially walkers on the West Highland Way.
The Blackwater hostel is very comfortable and, as I arrived in the town around 1.00 and rain was forecast, I have arranged things so that I do not need to go out again until tomorrow.