Friends, collies and in memory of my coach and mentor, Millie Porter-Brown,
I am so sad to lost have my dear friend who gave me such wise advise, helping me to get a constant supply of food from my people. Her wisdom will live on as I live the dream.
While I might have had a good reason to divert from my walking blogs last time, to discuss the rights and wrongs of wild camping, I was also putting off reporting our next walk. By the time me and B got back to my van, on day three of my second weekend, we were finding it difficult to shift the black hats we had donned. Things hadn’t started well when B – getting her boots – noticed that driving along the last bumpy, minor road had caused our water container to leak all over the back of my van. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this but, a little water goes a long way. Well, this was a lot of water going a v. v. v long way, including all of B’s bedding, though stopping short of mine (hee, hee). The time spent mopping up the worst, on top of our travel time, made us nearly two hours later in starting than we would have wished. Setting off into hills that were clothed in cloud didn’t do anything to raise the already dampened spirits (another pun in this blog, I’m really getting the hang of it). Today I began to realise that me and the de ja vue person, who hung about so many of our walks, were never going to be best friends.
Early on our walk we had to negotiate three wooden stiles as our path crossed boundary fences where gates were locked and, I must confess, I had never mastered the art. At the first B sort of hauled me up and pushed me down and my reunion with the path was anything but graceful. For number two B thought it might be best tackled by sprawling down and crawling, crab like, under the gate; this did nothing at all for my dignity. By number the three I was determined to prove myself, showing I could learn the technical manoeuvre of up, up and over. I was so taken with my success that, without warning, I flew over straight into B’s arms, nearly toppling her in the process. I hadn’t yet learnt that the two planks on the other side of the fence require equally nifty down, down footwork.
We were heading up hill on a decent track at a reasonable incline though, looking into the mist we could see the faint outline of much steeper things to come and, of course, a renewed acquaintance with the wet stuff. At this point our walk was punctuated when B put on her nice comfy waterproofs so that we could plough on regardless. I used this opportunity to try out one of Millie’s ‘let’s get food’ strategies. I have got the hang of the doleful eyes, as the picture at the top of website shows. Now I was going for the cuddling up and leaning in tactic. It seems there is still a bit to learn about this plan of action. As a means of suggesting how sweet I am, and therefore how worthy of just another little treat, it works wonders on the flat. However, the weight of my body doesn’t seem to go down to well on a gradiant of 1 in 3. I don’t think they can have many steep hills like that in Norfolk because Millie hadn’t warned me about this. Having nearly floored B a second time, I though it better to stick to the pleading eyes routine.
Ben Vorlic is one of those very steep sided hills clustered around Loch Lomond and Crianlarich. As we got further up I found that B was trying to copy the four legged position, which comes so naturally to me. It was wet. It was windy. We couldn’t see a thing. Yet there it was, bold as brass and half the price, the trig point at the summit. Our bag now had the number 38 on it in big letters. We walked south to the cairn and then continued on a grassy path that got narrower and narrower. Realising we had gone wrong we did one of those u turns politicians are so famous for. OH my galligaskins, on return there were about 20 youths parading around the trig point. This brought on an extravagance of cheese to keep me happy and, though I was enjoying it mightily, I was wondering about the sustainability of supply at the this level of chain feeding.
Now, here things go a bit pear shaped I’m afraid. The map is a bit of a disaster area in the wind, especially while trying to keep me from the young people and, of course, the glasses have steamed up. Also, the GPS went in for a slice of bad timing too. Change my batteries was the last thing that B wanted to see. Well actually, not quite. What she really, really, really didn’t want to see was droves of young people coming up the narrow path, to join their fitter friends above. There were a continuous dog leg of them (if you’ll pardon the expression), for as far as the eye could see and, the ones on all fours at the back were not happy; it was a noisy and frightening experience. I lost touch with my concerns about the later availability of Primula, threw caution to the wind, and took every bit that was offered, to try and maintain a facade of control. We had come down away from the summit and were sitting off the path while B tried to change the batteries in the GPS, to work out where we had gone wrong. Apparently, trying to control an anxious dog with a constant squeeze of Primula while, at the same time, trying to keep the back of the GPS dry when changing the batteries in pouring rain, is v. v. v hard work. This became apparent when the GPS case went tumbling down the steep east face of Ben Vorlic, along with the supply of new batteries.
B was fairly sure we had come way too far down the mountain but all that awaited us, if we managed to haul ourselves back up, was a marauding troop of angst driven, hormonal teenagers, now swollen to about 40. The prospect didn’t appeal to B and, with my concerns about how far one tube of Primula can go, neither did it to me. We reluctantly decided against that course of action. This was no small matter. Though we had achieved one Munro it was no good without the other. Ben Vorlich would have to be done again, in order to bag Stuc a Chroin. Damn and blast are two words that describe our feelings at the time. These weren’t the words that issued forth from B’s lips. As an innocent in the world of expletives I tried to put my paws over my ears and convey a glass half full mentality, against the odds, as we continued retracing our steps downhill.
Sadly, while we were both trying to cope with our despondency, a fellow walker past on his way up, with an acrid smell of smug self-confidence, and I just couldn’t help myself; I had held it together far too long and B – in the act of trying to keep herself upright on steep wet scree – was a little slow with the Primular. Fury got hold of me and I did lots of barking, lunging and grabbing of trousers. I feel bad about this because he was a nice man and said it was OK but, we’ll never know if my big incisors did a v. v. v bad thing with what looked like quality trousers. At this time jet black describes the colour of the hats we were wearing.
We tried hard to get it all in perspective and pretended we could just post photos of trig points – because they all look the same – and pretend we had done lots and lots of Munros. With such duplicitous thoughts our spirits lightened a little and when I thought of the soft furnishings at home, that I would revisit tomorrow, I was able to put my yellow hat on. From sunny optimism I went for a red hat to test out my gut reaction. Immediately we were perched on a wet rock, munching something tasty, and the world was suddenly a much better place for it.
Finding ourselves on the outward track again meant three stiles to cross on the way back to my van and I was very impressive – even if I say so myself. The rhythm of up, up – over – down, down, was pure canine poetry in motion. Our retreat was concluded by a drive back to Comrie where we could sleep in a car park in the road appropriately called, Field of Refuge. I found a handy spot where I could lift my leg and spent a long time relieving myself but, apparently, that wasn’t a very good idea.
B learned 3 very important lessons that day:
- Don’t rely on the GPS. Batteries are known to do a roly-poly down hills.
- Only apply your black hat when you need it to keep you safe. Always end the day with a yellow hat and NEVER, EVER go to bed with a black hat on.
- The toilets in Comrie – only having cold water – aren’t a patch on the H & C facilities at the ski centre on the A93.
B ended the day with a very elaborate yellow hat. She knew exactly how she was going to keep her spirits up. She left me to it and was off to the pub where she had two LARGE glasses of wine and a hot bar meal. I wore a much cheaper yellow hat because I just curled up and put my head down, hoping for a better day tomorrow and, in the meantime, hoping for sweet dreams.
Love Ben xx