Friends, collies, commuting dogs
Our misfortune in getting held up in traffic on our journey to the Munros a couple of weekends ago, and the slow progress along minor roads before we got anywhere near to donning our walking boots, got B thinking . The radical fallout from this cognitive endeavour was the decision to drive up the night before our first walk. It confused me no end. B went off to work as usual and I had my lovely gentle stroll in the forest with David and the old girl. Once home I was biding my time on the soft furnishings till B got home, praying with all my paws that it was going to stay fine so we could play some ball in my garden. Therefore, excitement was upper most when B arrived early. Her arrival was followed by a lot of activity and within 15 minutes I was in my van heading north accompanied by a lot of butterflies, who might well have been playing ball in my tummy.
Luckily, this time, we had a better route to Edinburgh, via Biggar, on a much smoother road. I don’t think I could have coped with my van bouncing over pot holes as well as the butterflies chasing ball. Unfortunately I was given cause, once again, to question B’s ability to plan our travel. Now I’m only a dog, albeit a border collie, but it doesn’t take a genius to predict the time all those people – who drive into Edinburgh for work across the Fourth Bridge – will be driving out again. You guessed it, we arrived at the Edinburgh by pass at that precise time. So, there we were, once again, in a long line of stationary traffic, going nowhere fast. By the time we passed the crook of Devon I could well believe that we were in the west country. Eventually, we arrived and were drawn to the lay by on the A93 we had become so familiar with last time. It was early to bed that night as B was v. v. v tired, what with the working and the driving, and I wasn’t sorry. Given my nervous disposition I was exhausted too. This Munro project was certainly playing havoc with my equilibrium.
The next morning reared it’s ugly head long before my body clock had time to adjust. If one of my eyes accidently opens at 5.30am I like to greet the world with a big stretch and then roll over and go back to sleep for a good few hours. Not so for B; her motivation for being up and doing was both admirable, in an objective sense, and lamentable for me as her buddy. By 6.30am we were legging it up yet another track into more hills, with summits stubbornly veiled in what was becoming their traditional headgear.
The notices around the baronic pile that is now Dalmunzie hotel – where we had parked – told us what to do, what not to do and when to do it, like similar notices on so many estates. That got B going off on one. This diatribe featured the genuinely complex relationship between rights and conservation, in comparison with chauvinistic types who think that shooting at wildlife is something to be proud of, pay loads of dosh to keep the estates just viable, and then hold up their ‘sports’ as acts of conservation. Meantime, I’m not allowed to go anywhere near nesting birds that are only going to see the end of a two barrel, as the end of their lot in mortal coil.
Our track did a few demi wheelies, crossing the river each time and we so pleased that it had been dry most of the summer (up to early July) otherwise we would have been in big trouble. Up and up we went, as the cloud vaporised about us and the temperature dropped dramatically. It wasn’t anything that couldn’t be expected in a cool April but, in July, it really didn’t cut the mustard. Jacket, waterproof trousers, gloves and hat all got an airing before we had reached the first summit of this weekend. B seemed to be reasonably water tight but not me. I was exposed the vagaries of the elements and I began to pout a bit, not the least inclined to put on ‘a face’ for the camera. I wanted to be seen cutting a dash in this year’s collection of doggy outdoor gear. We did the usual Munro selfie but, in all honesty, I can’t say that B came out of it cutting any dashes at all, so I’ve cut it out (hee, hee).
We didn’t hang about around at the top of Glas Tulaichean and we avoided the temptation to follow the ridge between two corries, heading south (thank you guide book). Instead we followed a northern trajectory with what the Munors often throw up as navigational aids; those rusty old fence posts. Though they had seen better days they were nevertheless, hanging about for the long haul and did us proud. Our next move involved cutting down to river and then up onto the – currently invisible – stalkers path on the other side. Cutting down and river aren’t words that immediately conjure up feelings of rapture, accompanied as they usually are by vast hinterlands of pathless, boogy trudging and today was not exception. I particularly don’t like this when mist is hanging about as it stirs up my anxiety juices, with the words lost and forever, reverberating in my ears. Luckily as we descended the mist lifted a little and the path we wanted became clear. Though this didn’t stop me getting in an awful mess I was at least, no longer in fear of my life. As we left the path, making for the top of Carn an Righ, the weather closed in again but not before we had seen a parcel of deer against the rocky outcrop. We got to the top but with the rain and the cold, and generally being in a bit of a state, I was even less inclined to be the stooge in the photo, proof of another one in the bag.
Just then clouds – that had been fiends – began to scuttle across the sky, chased by a more benign force that promised a brighter afternoon. A battle then played out above us with light and dark in frequent bids for ascendancy, like a troop of old geezers playing tug of war to see who could topple who. Our walk under Mam nan Carn through more boggy territory began to seriously dampen my spirits until, oh lordy me, 8OO metres above sea level, there was a wonderful expanse of water nestling in the mountains, casting a magic to compensate for all my woes. I could sense B weighing it all up: how cold, how deep, how much time etc. but, I was having none of it and put considerable strength into my own tug of war until B could hold me no more. Boy oh boy, you should have seen me go. Pathless route, no problem. Peaty hags, made for leaping. Squelchy bogs, a mere trifle. I was down by the waters edge, looking for my ball, before you could say, “mind your feet”.
After an invigorating dip, and much retrieving of my ball, we set off on the last leg of the day, the long stroll down the length of Glen Taitneach. Finally, when down in the Glen, the brighter forces won the battle of the skies as evidenced by the slimline figure B became, when relieved of multiple layers of protective clothing. Of course, I had nothing to take off but it was lovely to feel the sun on my back and sense the steam rising from my inner being.
My spirits had been restored up at Loch nan Eun and now, with the late afternoon sun beaming down on me, I could reflect on the glory of 2 more peaks to my name. B was made up because we were staying in the car park at the ski centre and she was assured of hot and cold running water in the loos up there. So endeth another happy day of Munroing.
And so to bed,