25th April – Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

20190425 Buachaille Etive Mor
Buauchaille Etive Mor

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.

20190425 Buachaille Etive Beag from near Altnafeadh
Buachaille Etive Beag from near Altnafeadh

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.

20190425 Lairig Gartain from Altnafeadh
Lairig Gartain from Altnafeadh

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.

20190425 Tiny walkers on the zigzags of the Devil’s Staircase
Tiny walkers (centre foreground) on the zigzags of the Devil’s Staircase

In reality it is not too bad, and was probably named by the soldiers who carved out this old military road in the 1750s.

20190425 Looking down towards the Kingshouse from the Devil’s Staircase
Looking down towards the Kingshouse from the Devil’s Staircase

Another stop seemed reasonable at the top as the weather was brightening and the views across to the Mamores and Ben Nevis were impressive.

20190425 Ben Nevis and the Mamores from the Devil’s Staircase Pass
Ben Nevis and the Mamores from the Devil’s Staircase Pass

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.

20190425 Kinlochleven just visible in the centre of the photograph on the long descent
Kinlochleven just visible (centre) on the long descent

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.

20190425 Blackwater Reservoir
Blackwater Reservoir

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.

20190425 Disused Hydro Electric water pipes at Kinlochleven
Disused Hydro Electric water pipes at Kinlochleven

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.

20190425 Am Bodach 1032m towering above Kinlochleven
Am Bodach (1032m) towering above Kinlochleven

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.

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