After lots of planning, but still many things left unprepared, I set off on the preliminary bonus day from Duncansby Head on the 5th July and then officially from Dunnet Head on the 6th. I initially felt quite intimidated at the scale of what I had committed to that lay ahead of me, but focusing only on the first resupply / rest day helped.
After a few days, it became clear I was setting a good pace, 28km per day or so, and I was quite optimistic. The bogs turned out easier than I had feared, perhaps drier due to good weather.
Then tiredness began to hit, along with pains from my rucksack straps among other things. I realised I had to ease off a little…
As I got into the mountains, the weather deteriorated, but I got into a reasonable rhythm, doing somewhere just over 15km per day. I felt the gradual depletion of energy, however, having weak legs and tiredness in the mornings. I began to feel hungry regularly, and longed to arrive at Ullapool to get some proper food.
Meeting Chris Townsend, doing the Scottish watershed in the other direction, on top of Beinn Leoid, was great, especially given the small number of hikers you generally see here - I think less than 10 on the whole trip so far.
I saw deer practically every day, frogs everywhere, a surprising number of lizards, fewer midges than I'd have expected due to the wind (though the cleggs were nasty…), and a few other interesting natural sights.
How easy is it to follow the watershed exactly, and how much trouble am I going to in order to go the right way? Well, it's not always easy to follow the correct ridges over every knoll and mound. I haven't been as dedicated to total correctness as I could have been - I've certainly tried to get to all the main tops, even minor ones, and to go the right way around lochans and so on, but there's a limit… I've often taking an easier path rather than follow the very top of every ridge, and have avoided small bumps and so on. Given the inherent uncertainty about the exact course, and the deviations which are inevitable due to unsafe terrain, forestry and land use and ao on, I feel this is acceptable. I try not to cut too many corners, to go the extra distance where there's a meander etc. Certainly the actual distance I walk is more than the distance shown on my map - what with bog-hopping, navigating peat hags, finding a route up steep slopes and the like.
Rain makes a mockery of the idea never to cross running water - every stone, every tussock of grass has water running off it. And I, myself, am a watershed, shedding water from every hair, item of clothing and part of my backpack…
A hot and sunny weekend in Ullapool has helped dry things out after the miserable weather on the Conival / Breabag day, and I've managed to do and buy everything I need, I think. Spirits revived and stomach filled…
Still an immense amount of the route ahead, but I think I'm at least ready for the next week on to Kinlochewe.