Walk completed August 28, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 89 – Watten to John O’Groats, 0 miles

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. I had planned on not mentioning the weather again, but I’m making an exception. I had also planned on walking to JOG today, but that didn’t work out either. Yesterday’s walk to Watten was in very high winds, but it was dry. It rained and blew heavily last night, and continued this morning. Here’s today’s official weather warning:

     Issued at - 27 Aug 2011, 11:28
     Valid from - 28 Aug 2011, 00:00
     Valid to - 28 Aug 2011, 23:59

     A spell of wet and unseasonably windy weather is expected during Sunday.
     Persistent rain, heavy at times, will be accompanied by strong to gale force winds with a risk of severe gales in the most exposed areas.
     The public should be aware of the risk of localised flooding

What the forecast doesn’t report is the unseasonably cold temperature which accompanied the gale force wind and rain. With no refuge between Watten and JOG, I concluded that attempting to walk 20 miles in those conditions would be foolhardy. The risk of hypothermia was far too great.

I arranged for a ride from Watten to the Sea View Hotel in JOG. We drove along the same route I was to have walked. At one point, a downed tree partially blocked the road, but we were able to navigate around it. The road was heavily flooded in at least a half dozen places. Small Loch Watten had white caps and 18 inch waves.

Upon arrival at the Sea View Hotel, I left my pack and walked the ½ mile to the road end where the tourist shops and Orkney Ferry pier are located. That short walk was very difficult. The ferry was still berthed at the pier – today’s crossing had been cancelled due to the high winds and rough sea.

I browsed through the shops, took a few pictures, and had a cappuccino at the coffee bar. I then walked back to the Sea View, fighting the wind and rain all the way. I was very cold when I reached the hotel again. I could not have walked from Watten today.

Being a highly-trained mountaineer, I’ve developed a sense of when to abort a climb and abandon the summit. That sense came in handy today. I don’t want to be overly dramatic and say that my good judgment saved my life, but it certainly saved me the embarrassment of having to be rescued due to a bad decision.

Some readers may wonder whether I’m disappointed about not “completing” the walk. I’m not disappointed at all. One of the world’s top mountain guides with whom I’ve climbed commented to me that a climber never regrets aborting a summit attempt due to weather. You regret failing to abort the summit when you should do so. I have no regrets.

Flowering heather
Although the official description of this storm is “unseasonable” the storm shows that the seasons are changing. Summer is coming to a close in the Highlands of Scotland. Already there is an autumn crispness in the morning air this far north. Tree leaves are yellowing, and the mountain heather is nearing full autumn bloom  

The pink blossoms that my pictures have captured since June are now reaching their apex, confirming summer’s final days.

Just as nature heralds the end of summer in Scotland, my arrival at John O’Groats tolls the end of my 1200 mile summer. For the past year and a half, I have shared my anticipation, disappointments, challenges, joys and sorrow. We have shared new friendships, and re-bonded with old ones. I have tried not to dwell on the hardships, suffering and occasional exhaustion, because we all have enough negatives in our daily lives – but they were surely present more often than I like to admit.

The sun will rise again tomorrow here in Scotland, but my blog will not. My 1200 mile summer is finished, and it’s time to move on.

Thank you for following and supporting me along the way. Good-bye for now.

Land's End

John O'Groats

The End

© 2011 Ken Klug


  1. Congrats Ken, what a fantastic journey it;s been for you and those of us reading your exploits. Too bad it ended with the ugly storm, weather is unpredictable. Have a safe trip back home ans get some rest!
    See you in the dessert!

  2. Well done, Ken - what a difficult decision to make, but it certainly sounds like the right one. I wouldn't have fancied a 20-mile slog through flooding and hypothermia, that's for sure!

    Many congratulations on reaching the finishing line; looking forward to hearing all about it on Wednesday...


  3. Thanks and congratulations Ken. I enjoyed starting my days all summer by reading about your adventures! I am so glad you did this fantastic trip so I don't have to.
    Keith and I had dinner with Ossie last evening and we are all keen for an adventure with you next summer. Not as big an adventure as LEJOG, but a nice hike!

  4. Congratulations, Ken.
    It was great to be able to slog my way up the length of England and Scotland while sitting in a comfortable armchair with a cup of tea at my elbow.
    Cathy is determined that my new knees will get me hiking again by next summer, so I hope we are able to arrange to do something together with you and Janet (and possibly Ossie).

  5. Congratulations on your good judgement and the perspective you shared with us. Daryl and I have often pondered whether it's "the journey" OR "the destination." You have elegantly combined the two thoughts with your posting. It has been a pleasure to follow your writings the past three months. Regards, Steve

  6. Ken, Congrats on finishing your walk. I have enjoyed reading your blog every day and it fires up the want and need to walk LEJOG for myself. Have a safe journey home, and hope you come back to the UK again soon.

  7. Well done Ken, i can't express how glad i am that you made it, thanks for sharing the experience and do come again.
    Cheers J.P.

  8. Congratulations Ken! It's a shame the weather didn't cooperate on the final day but it definitely is about the journey and not the destination. Thanks for sharing your fantastic blog with all of us.


  9. Well done Ken on the whole journey and the ups and downs of the last 18 months. I can remember the final road walk as being blustery and that was on a relatively calm day, god knows what it was like today.
    Hope you have a safe journey back.


  10. Congratulations, Ken. I remember brutal winds between JOG and Wick, causing me to abort the last few miles and return the next day. I don't think there's a natural windblock except for grass within a dozen miles. Very much enjoyed your blog, and the even-tempered way that you dealt with the challenges. Say hello to Mark for me.


  11. Congratz anyway, Ken. You made a fine hike and I guess the right decision the last day. This makes a better story anyway. I am looking back to the days we spent together with pleasure and maybe we will meet again. Good luck and a good trip home.

  12. Congratulations Ken. I was only lucky enough to stumble on your blog for the last few weeks but I've been glued to the screen since then. A famous mountain climber (whom I don't remember the name of) once said something like this "It's not a successful climb if you don't make it back down." Sounds like a resounding success to me! Travel home safe!

  13. Congratulations on completing your journey, Ken. The slopes of Everest hold the evidence of the danger of succumbing to “summit fever” in bad weather. You made the right decision. Keep in touch and if you’re ever in the mood for a little 800 miler, we’ve got the Arizona Trail here.

  14. Congratulations on your great walk. I really enjoyed your blog. What am I going to read now?? Hurry up and plan another!!

  15. This is belated...and I have already congratulated you via email...but Congrats again! I wish I had been reading since you started the walk in June. I managed to read every day since I got home from my walk on the WHW.
    Thanks a million for thw wonderful writings.

  16. I Cant believe I missed your Lejog Ken!!!!!!!!
    still I can look forward to reading it all in one go!!!!
    I dont know if you know or want to come to that but the pink blossom youve been following is rose bay willow herb, i enjoyed following the Ransom (wild garlic) last year!
    Many congratulations! oh and welcome to the club!

  17. We finished cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats on the same day (Sunday 28 August 2011) - I am pleased that somebody can corroborate how dreadful the weather was that day!

    Congratulations on your magnificent achievement and I hope that you are settling back into 'real life' well - I'm sure you often think of the many wonderful memories you have obtained from your trip.