Analysing terrain data
3 - 4
The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
This section passes beneath the dramatic crags of The Buachaille, up the zigzags of the Devil's Staircase and over a high pass with views of the magnificent Mamores range; then down into the deep wooded glen of Kinlochleven, a small town with a fascinating industrial past, hidden away at the head of a fjord-like sea loch - there's a lot to be said for this fairly short stage of the WHW.
For a more challenging day it can easily be run together with stages 5 or 7. Cross the bridge behind the Kings House and turn left to follow an old road running roughly parallel to the A82.
Across the glen Buachaille Etive Mor looms menacingly out of the moor, a giant spearhead of rock.
This is one of Scotland's greatest mountains, and boasts some of the best climbing.
Before the minor road joins the A82 the West Highland Way branches off right, continuing close to the main road under Beinn a’ Chrulaiste to reach the car park/layby at Altnafeadh.
Here the West Highland Way leaves the roadside and climbs the Devil’s Staircase, a long series of zigzags running up the heathery slope to the pass above.
The high point is marked with cairns.
There are brilliant views back over Glen Coe and the wastes of Rannoch Moor, and ahead to the long ribbon of Blackwater Reservoir, the wooded Leven valley and the serrated skyline of the Mamores.
From the cairns it is possible to make a quick detour to either of the small summits flanking the pass, west to Stob Mhic Mhartuin or east to Beinn Bheag.
The trail descends into a shallow corrie, then rounds a shoulder to begin the descent towards Kinlochleven.
The town is soon seen far below, at the head of steep-sided Loch Leven.
As it loses height the path becomes rough and rubbly, with another series of zigzags.
Meet a vehicle track at some buildings at the top of the impressive Alcan works pipeline.
Once known as Electric Village, Kinlochleven was built in the early 20th Century to house workers in an aluminium smelter.
The process demands a huge electric charge, here generated by turbines fed by the Blackwater Reservoir.
Pipelines still carry water into town, though the smelter has gone.
The track turns away from the pipeline, descending quite steeply on a winding course through pretty birch woods and seemingly in no hurry to reach Kinlochleven.
It eventually re-meets the pipeline for the last short straight down to town, where there's a selection of accommodation, pubs, a bank, groceries and the world's largest indoor ice climbing wall - the Ice Factor. © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Oct 2012