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  • Emily Hayes

A Winter Adventure on the West Highland Way: Hiking 100 Miles in 5 Days

Embarking on a winter hike along the West Highland Way in December is an exciting experience that offers unforgettable moments for those willing and capable to take on the challenge. The rugged Scottish Highlands turn into a snowy wonderland, creating a beautiful backdrop for an epic journey. The fresh winter air refreshes you as you walk the 100-mile trail, connecting you with nature and your inner adventurer.

Approaching the New Year, the decision to complete the trail in just 5 days added excitement and urgency to the adventure. With my hiking buddy Jonathon, we embarked on this ambitious journey, ready to push ourselves and face the elements. Our shared purpose fueled our determination, making each mile a testament to our perseverance and love for adventure.

The winter West Highland Way offers a different view of the iconic trail, showcasing its natural beauty in a new way. The snow-covered peaks, frozen trails, and dense forests create a magical atmosphere. Every turn reveals a new scene, a new challenge, and a chance to connect deeply with the Scottish Highlands.

One of the memorable moments during my trek was staying overnight in a bothy, a traditional Scottish mountain hut offering shelter from the chilly weather. We bought firewood from a nearby town and distributed the extra weight among our backpacks that day. Upon reaching the bothy, we quickly lit a fire and gathered around it, enjoying the sound of crackling wood and the wind outside. Later that evening, we were joined by fellow hikers who had also had a long day of trekking. This experience made for a special way to mark the beginning of the new year.

During the second night, we set up our tents in the snow-dusted highlands near the Bridge of Orchy, enduring the -7°C temperatures. Earlier that evening, we had a warm meal in town and marveled at the clear night sky as we made our way to the camping spot. It was crucial to hike the final miles without sweating to maintain warmth once we settled in our tents with our winter sleeping bags. This marked the lowest temperature I had ever camped in, but thanks to quality gear and sufficient calorie intake, I had a restful night's sleep without experiencing any Raynaud's effect on my hands.

With the short daylight hours of winter limiting our hiking hours, I was fortunate to experience the trail at night, guided by the soft glow of our headlamps on the snow as we navigated the trails ahead. The quiet solitude of the nighttime trek added a sense of mystery and adventure to our journey. It has become quite typical that Jonathan and I will over plan the daily mileage, resulting in walking some of the distance at night in the dark. Thankfully we both have a strong sense of adventure and were fortune with unusually dry and clear weather at night.

As I reached the end of my 5-day trek, I felt a profound sense of accomplishment and gratitude for the opportunity to explore the West Highland Way in its winter glory. The experience had tested my limits, pushed me out of my comfort zone, and rewarded me with memories that would last a lifetime.

In conclusion, hiking the West Highland Way in December over New Year's Eve was a challenging yet rewarding adventure that allowed me to connect with nature in a way I had never experienced before. If you're looking for a winter escapade that will push you to your limits and leave you in awe of the natural world, I highly recommend embarking on this unforgettable journey.


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