Friends, collies, even tempered dogs,
Once again it was a last minute decision to risk the indifferent weather and ‘do’ another Munro weekend. Apparently, all my van had needed was the have the battery terminals tightened or, at least I was keeping my paws crossed that the young man B took a shine to at Kwik Fit was right; despite the older man from the RAC saying we needed a new battery. It turns out he wasn’t a magician after all, and then there was that horrid man from Halfords (in St. Mary’s Street, Dumfries – don’t go there) who had tried to sell us a battery and an alternator.
Our route north was the same one we came home by, just a few days ago. You know the one with all the bridges. As my paws were already crossed I asked them to wish hard that we didn’t have to do big leaps, on the bridge with bits of the road missing, and – thank goodness – my wish came true. We were on our way to walk Schiehallion, which was the one we had missed last week. When we got to the spot where my van had died a big shiver went down my spine, like someone had walked over my grave; a very scary thought for such a young dog.
The John Muir trust, a major conservation charity, has bought the part of the mountain where all us walkers go, to help deal with all the erosion we inflict on it each year. Once you’ve seen Schiehallion, with its long elegant shoulders stretching out, with a reach like the long arm of a compassionate law, you can spot it from miles around, its shape a presiding presence in the landscape around. When you notice a Munro like that you just have to bag it. That’s what hill walking is like. It’s addictive, there is no alternative and I must admit to having become an addict myself. Neither the forecast nor the actual weather was great but at least we were starting off in the dry. That John Muir person had put down a very good path for and it got us a good way up the hill. Then the mountain turned very rocky and, as it was now raining, the rocks were very slippery. I’ve got quite a good grip myself; what with four paws and pads that grip like carpet huggies. B though, often does a bit of involuntary skating on the rocks. As it was like that on the way up, I was beginning to be rather concerned about her ability to maintain an upright posture on the way down. It really had got very misty and the way through the rocks wasn’t always very clear, so B kept looking out for cairns.
Cairns are mini-mountains that humans have made to tell them they are going the right way. I don’t really see the point of them myself because – it seems to me – you either go up or you go down but, I’m just a dog, so I expect there are very good reasons for maps and compasses, and grid reference apps., and a GPS and scores of other things that make people very rich. That said, dogs – over the years – have found these cairns impossible to pass by, without leaving their mark; they are very alluring. Therefore, every 10 metres or so I joined the ranks of my fellow canines doing our bit to challenge the work of conservationists, and making that John Muir work hard for his money.
As we reached the top a human cairn of walkers fell away from the summit, passing us on their way down the hill. Shiehallion, is certainly very popular; it was just like Piccadilly Circus up there i.e. there were loads of people but no circus. I said hello nicely to a few of the crowd, but then someone slipped in my direction and, before you can say doggy manners, I was having a go; letting myself down… again. Fear is such a powerful emotion and perceived threats to my survival bring out the worst in me. Rational thought lags a long, long way behind, so I appear very rude and end up upsetting everyone.
We didn’t hang about long after that, setting off down the increasingly wet stones. On the way we passed the man I didn’t like but he seemed to be having quite a bit of trouble on the slippery rocks, so I behaved myself and passed by without a murmur. B nearly went over a few times but, I have to say, she seems adept at righting herself and she never actually fell over. I was very grateful for this because if she fell on top of me I think it would hurt… a lot. We eventually arrived back at van camp, very wet but in one piece, well two pieces really, I suppose. I nipped into my seat and pretended to be washing myself, while doing that thing that B’s sister Mary, told me is eaves- dropping; it seems she does quite a lot of it herself. I was getting all the gen from the man who had been slipping about, and his friends. Apparently, this had been his very first Munro and he had found it v. v. v tough. His friends made a big thing of encouragement, telling him what an achievement it was. He said he might feel like that later on but, right now, he was just a broken man. I think they should have waited for a lovely day before dragging him all the way up Shiehallion, so at least he was rewarded with some lovely views, instead of ghostly figures coming in and out of the gloom and a raging dog that threatened his own security on the uneven slippery surface. I felt sorry for him but he had rushed off before I could apologise for my behaviour. I think he might have been going home for a long hot bath and, I have a sneaky suspicion, he will have followed that with lots of that beer stuff that B drinks.
By this time B had sorted herself out, and said goodbye to the Robin she had made friends with, so we drove away to find our parking spot and have an early night. We had plans for a mega walk tomorrow.
Love Ben xx