Friends, collies, sleepy dogs,
Oh dearie me, we slept in and weren’t up in time for the 6am start needed to do our very long walk. B hadn’t slept very well but had finally sunk into deep zzzzs when we should have been getting up. In that dreamy netherworld just before sleep embraces you, B had decided today’s walk would need to be a shorter one. Six or seven hours on little sleep is one thing, nine or ten is quite another and actually, that suited me just fine.
In the end, we did two Munros instead of four, but it was still one of our routes ticked off the list, so nothing was lost and a bit of extra shut eye gained; actually I had slept very well, so it was all a bonus for me. B drove north up that big road, the A9, to Dalwinnie, where we did a big wheelie and parked up in a layby on the other side of the road, heading south. After B had a brew up, and packed the rucksack with all my treats, we set off.
It was quite hard going on a long track up to a disused quarry. My paws are generally up to the job and have got tougher than the leather on B’s boots but, every now and again, a horrid sharp stone lodges itself right between the claws; big, big ouch. Better make that gaiters, and walking boots, on my Christmas list. When we got to the top of the stony track it was softer going on lovely, springy peat, of the non-bog variety. There were big ruts in the peat made by Land Rovers, which the man who wrote B’s guide book didn’t like at all. I just wished one had come along when we were flogging up the hill and offered us a lift. B likes these tracks because they are easy to follow. The trouble with B is she forgets the Land Rovers aren’t doing the Munros, so the tracks don’t always go the way we should be going and we end up getting lost. On this walk, someone had made an arrow out of stones to show where you needed to leave the track; how cleaver is that?
There was still a small path for us to follow, with some fence posts and – unusually – we could see around us, so there really was nothing for an anxious young collie, like me, to worry about. We found a subsidiary path up to the summit no bother where B, as usual, became snap happy.
Looking north east, all you could see was cloud, something I was getting very familiar with. However, to the south west the sky was clearer and you could make out the familiar contours of Ben More, in the far distance. The panorama from these Munros is truly breath taking, and certain shapes cut themselves into the sky so clearly that they etch themselves on your memory, so that you can spot them from miles away.
Ben More is one such mountain, as is Schiehallion and, to the north west, magestic Glencoe annouces itself as the gateway to the true Highlands. B says she misses that game you play when you walk with other people; I think it’s called ‘I Spy for hill walkers’, where you have to guess the names of all the mountains around you. Instead she tells me and I record it all faithfully in my blog; we are getting to recognise more mountains every time we go Munroing.
From the heady heights of Carn na Caim we retraced our steps back to the top of the stony track, but then we carried on southwards, instead turning west and going back to my van. Therefore, I knew we were going to put another one in the bag. Isn’t that a silly expression? The only bag we have is a rucksack and you couldn’t even begin to put a Munro in that. Anyway, we were on a good solid track up to the top A’Buidheanach with its impressive cairn made of the quartz.
We stopped for a bite to eat, B did some more snapping and then we re-joined the track, though we knew we had to leave it soon. I really thought B was doing well because we found a path, going in the right direction, very quickly but soon it got all horrible and boggy. Still, at least we could see all around, including a very well defined path ascending from the stream – which we were heading for – at the bottom of our very steep hill. We could also see people, who we had met earlier, coming down that path, so all was well. In fact, after we had passed them, I had a good look back and they weren’t going up the steep boggy bit we had just come down at all. They were on a distinct dry path, going up at a much gentler angle. I decided there and then that I was going to pull B up that way on our way back, showing her the right path. Once we had crossed the stream it was – as always – v. v. v steep, going up to our next Munro. When we got to a plateau there was a fence, so B followed it. These fence posts are great navigational aids but they do have to be going the right way. This particular fence led to a well laid cairn, right at the top of the land around us, so out came the camera, phone, mascot and long stick thing. Just as we were about to start the ritual (and I’m not absolutely sure malt whiskey didn’t actually touch lips), B spotted some people in the distance gathered around one of those concrete pillars. As I said, it’s amazing what you can pick out in the distance, when you are up among it all: walkers in bright pink jackets; others sporting horrendous headgear and, of course, trig points.
These beacons on the hills, are the proud legacy of an army of cartographers who, working for the Ordinance Survey, and using the science of trigonometry, laid out the complete navigational grid for the United Kingdom. This forms the reference system used on Ordiance Survery maps, by which me and B are meant to know where we are though, given our recent experience, you could forgive the tears shed by the odd cartographer or two.
What I can tell you, with great authority, is that trig posts are just as alluring to dogs of all varieties as the cairns I mentioned in my last post. The real thing about this trig point is that it had been mentioned in all the guide books and was clearly represented on the OS map, as the highest point on A’Bhuidheanach Bheag. This collection of evidence helped us to reach a very sorry conclusion. Firstly, we were in the wrong place and secondly, we were a long way from the right place. Following the fence posts hadn’t been such a bright idea on this occasion, after all.
It is surprising though how quickly one, or in this case two, can tramp across a vast open landscape when in search of a Munro. I think B did herself in a bit because there was an awful lot of that huffing and puffing stuff going on. We got there, as we always do, and then B did the works up around one of those great symbols of geographical endeavour.
The route back was interesting at first. Once we had crossed the stream I stuck to my resolution and dragged B up the right path and you just wouldn’t believe what was there, when we re-joined the main track. Big arrows, a bit like on the other Munro, to show the right way, except here there were three of them in a line, virtually pleading with you to follow them.
B can be clever sometimes, but I don’t think she always very observant and I don’t think it was clever of her to take me down that steep mucky slope, when there was a good path to follow. On our way back to my van, the main track – that one with the sharp stones – seemed to go on forever. B had the nerve to say they were hurting her feet too, even though she has big boots with very thick soles. When we were back at the road the very best I could do was to jump in the back of my van and tuck my sore paws up in a nice soft blanket, ready for sleep.
Love Ben xx