I awoke again to the steady patter of rain on the fly-sheet of the tent.
I peered outside but there was little to see.
The cloud base was a few hundred feet above me and it looked like the
rain would continue for some time. I switched on the K1 and tuned around
40 meters. At 0700 there were few stations on near to 7030kHz.
I called CQ and Einar SM5CBC/4, called in to see how the night had been.
We had a pleasant chat again. He was making jam that day, I had a feeling
that I would be taking an unwanted shower.
After my QSO with Einar I called CQ again a few times while eating my
porridge. There were no takers so I began to pack up the things in the
Just before I packed the K1 I tried one last time and was rewarded with
a call from GD4IOM, operated by Tony G4APA. Tony had contacted me before
my trip and said that he was going out to the Isle of Man to catch the
Persids meteor shower on 2 metres.
Tony and I belong to the Stockport Radio Society. He had said that he
would listen for me so I was delighted to make the QSO. Unfortunately
his rig had no sidetone but nevertheless we were able to have a short
chat and swap notes on our two very different aspects of amateur radio.
But all this was just putting off the inevitable. The tent was going to
be packed wet again!
I packed it and wandered into the margins of the woods. The trees were
impassable and the ground beneath them was home to numerous species of
If you have ever seen those garden gnomes that sit on bright red toadstool
speckled with white, you will appreciate what one of the toadstools that
saw looked like. It was brilliant red with white speckles and shiny as
though it has been varnished (no gnome though).
The West Highland Way path heads into the forest at this point and I was
soon striding out through plantations. The walking remained easy and although
it was raining it was warm enough. I pressed onward along the military
road until it passed c lose to a minor road to a farm. At this point there
was a choice. By following the minor road I could cut an hour off the
walking time to Fort William but that seemed to easy so I continued into
I didn't expect to see anyone on this stretch of the walk as I would be
well ahead of the West Highland conveyor belt traffic setting off from
Kinlochmore. At one point I did see a rather forlorn looking tent pitched
under the trees. It was poorly pitched and very wet.
The path narrowed to a track and the forest closed in. In places it was
nearly dark amongst the trees as the canopy closed above me. I was getting
wetter and wetter again. It was along this path that an idea dawned upon
me. I recalled reading that Gore-Tex - the waterproof material that my
coat was made of - can become porous and that to rejuvenate it, it has
to be washed.
Perhaps this was why I was getting so wet? There was mile after mile of
forest with no real view until the path joined a wide forestry road. Here
I began to see walkers heading east. They were a mixed bag, some looked
well equipped and happy, others looked poorly equipped and fed up.
Pretty bad news for the later group as this was presumably their first
day out on the West Highland Way. To encourage them I was pleased to remark
"you've only ten days or so to go!". I hope that this made them
feel a little better... Funny what happens when you're home and dry (well
nearly home anyway).
The track descended and views across Glen Nevis began to open out on my
right. I could see the lower slopes of Ben Nevis but since the cloud base
was only about 600 feet the view was not to inspiring. It was another
case of head down and keep going. My map showed a visitor centre where
the track reached the road, so I decided that I would stop there for a
cup of tea and then catch the shuttle bus into Fort William - perfect.
I arrived at the road and saw two walkers just packing their final items
ready to begin the Way. I'm sure that my soaking wet state will have encouraged
them too. Crossing the road I headed into the visitor centre. At the counter
I asked where the cafe was - answer "no cafe". Hmmm. So when
did the shuttle bus leave - answer "if you run across the road you
might just catch it" and when did the next one go? "another
I ran across the road as best I could with a 40 Lb. pack and a fishing
rod aerial. I waited for a while until the truth dawned upon me. I had
missed the bus by about 60 seconds. Grrrrr!
There was no alternative but to walk into Fort William. I set off and
was passed every few seconds by another nice warm, dry family in their
four-wheel drives. The road seem to go on for ever but in fact it was
only about a mile and a half before I was in Fort William.
I passed several guest houses and eventually saw one that I liked the
look of. I went in but it was diserted. I stood in the hall for five minutes
and rang the bell. No-one came so I left again. They will have returned
to find a pool of water in the hall . . . In the centre of Fort William
I headed for the Tourist Information Office. The office was very busy.
I left my pack and dripping as usual went to the counter to ask about
accommodation. There was very little left but eventually I picked a B&B.
Here is the letter that I wrote to the Tourist Office about the B&B:
Tourist Information Office
On Monday of this week I arrived in Fort William soaked to the skin after
a long walk, backpacking in the hills. I went to your offices and booked
some accommodation through your booking service. The choices were quite
limited but eventually I chose to book at Voringfoss with Mr and Mrs Fraser.
I was immediately surprised when your booking person told me that Mr Fraser
would come down to pick me up. In a few minutes he arrived and took my
heavy rucksack and me up to their house. Prior to that Mr Fraser drove
me round the centre of town so that I could orientate myself for later
in the day.
Mr Fraser obviously realised that I was pretty wet and asked if I had
spare dry clothes with me. Due to the arduous nature of my trip I did
not. Mr Fraser then said that he would lend me a complete set of clothes.
This he did; underpants, trousers, socks a shirt and even some shoes.
While I showered he packed my soaking boots with newspaper and hung my
tent out to dry. Mrs Fraser offered to wash all my clothes.
I then spent an unexpectedly pleasant and comfortable afternoon in Fort
William. On my return all my clothes were back in my room, clean and dry.
Since my transport from Fort William was the sleeper on Tuesday evening,
Mr and Mrs Fraser invited me to leave my rucksack at their house while
I explored the area for the day. When I went up to collect it, Mrs Fraser
kindly offered to run me down to the station- an offer that I was pleased
Over the years I have stayed in a great many bed and breakfast places
but never have I run across hospitality of this type. It was truly exceptional.
I would commend Voringfoss to anyone. If you have an award for the best
hosts in town, I feel sure that Mr and Mrs Fraser should win it!
CC Mr and Mrs Fraser, Voringfoss
If you want to stay in Fort William, Mr and Mrs Fraser be contacted on
So there ended my trip into the hills. On the following day (day 6) I
took the train to Mallaig and played at being a tourist before catching
the train sleeper home again. On boarding the train the attendant said
"Hello Mr Newstead, was it too wet for you at Corrour?". Perceptive.
I learned several things from my trip:
1. Don't use green aerial wire as it is hard to spot on grass.
2. Make sure that your waterproofs are still waterproof (to rejuvenate
Gore-Tex, Berghaus advise washing at 30 degrees C in a non-bio powder
and then tumble-drying at low heat).
3. Taking a broadcast radio is handy for checking the weather forecast
but in remote areas it needs to have medium-wave.
4. Cadbury's Smash is a viable evening meal but needs a can of sardines
to add a cordon bleu touch.
5. Thermarest mats are brilliant.
6. It is possible to do a walk without chocolate . . .
* * * * * * * * * *
Richard Newstead, G3CWI, is an avid outdoorsman and QRPer who heads
the European arm of The Adventure Radio Society.