Analysing terrain data
5 - 6
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 is a long easy stretch on forest tracks then brings you out in Glen Nevis at the foot of The Ben.
That's the scenery done with, and by rights the trail should probably finish here; but of course it continues for a couple of miles of pavement walking into the middle of Fort William. Head out of Kinlochleven along the north loop of the minor road that circles Loch Leven; the path starts just opposite a school.
It's a steep ascent through scattered birch woods, very pretty and with views back down to Kinlochleven, and over narrow Loch Leven to the jagged skyline of Aonach Eagach.
Having crossed a vehicle track the trail zigzags uphill to eventually reach another track on about the 240m contour. Turn left onto this, passing above the wooded gorge of the Allt Nathrach and then gradually ascending into the desolate Lairig Mor.
Above to the north are the Mamores, some of the best hills in Scotland - though it's hard to appreciate their quality from this close-to.
Cross the high point of the col at about 340m, then pass some forlorn ruins and continue west to round the western flanks of the Mamores.
Shortly afterwards enter the first of many pine plantations. Just before meeting a minor road the WHW bears right, then follows a long series of wiggly little ups and downs through the trees, making gradually towards Glen Nevis.
Occasional glimpses through the branches show Ben Nevis dead ahead; this is the mountain's far less impressive southern flank (the north is where it's at) but still striking for its sheer scale.
Just as you're beginning to tire of dense-packed sitka spruce, reach a little col overlooking Glen Nevis.
A short detour right from here brings you to the prehistoric fort at Dun Deardail.
Otherwise, descend towards Glen Nevis to meet a forestry track.
After a big hairpin this makes a long, gradual descending traverse throuh the woods.
If you’re staying at Glen Nevis Youth Hostel then leave the West Highland Way early, turning hard right on a side track leading to the road in the glen bottom.
The official route brings you to the same road about 1km further north. Turn left onto this, and follow it past the visitor centre.
Pass out of Glen Nevis at a roundabout on the main road (the former inauspicious northern end of the WHW).
Go left here to follow the main road past the sports centre and Belford Hospital.
Then turn left at Nevisport onto the pedestrianized High Street, and walk down this to Gordon Square.
Here is the new official finish point of the trail, marked with a statue of a man with sore feet, and some benches (well it is better than the former finish).
Still, this journey was never about the destination was it? © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Nov 2012