Friends, collies, dogs in the service of science,
Despite the application of ice cold treatment yesterday evening, B knees had got worse by hour with the left one seizing up completely when rested. Stretching the muscles at all caused spasms of pain that put our plans for this weekend – at the very least – in jeopardy. When I woke up I wondered if I could be a brilliant buddy, running off to put a few more in our bag, keeping the numbers up. However, it was windy and I didn’t think I could manage an anarchic map, with all its flapping about. In the end, I was spared the dilemma because – when B stretched out her leg in the sleeping bag – there was no noise; the pain had gone. After the usual contortions, to get dressed, a walk about the van confirmed the sensation of taut muscles but… the absence of pain.
Me and B had a bit of a con-flab on the subject and decided to give a single, shortish, Munro a go. This would let us know how the land lay. If we made it brilliant and one more for the bag. If we didn’t… well, we wouldn’t have lost more than if we didn’t try at all. To tell you the truth this wasn’t a Munro I was particularly looking forward to. Walk Highlands gave it a bog rating of 4, with 5 being the maximum. Yesterday’s hike only had a rating of 2 and looked what happened to me then; I was going to be watching my paws every step of the way. On the other hand, our guides told us the views were going to be magnificent and I’m a sucker for a bit of the old panorama. Certainly, Gava bridge wasn’t a bad spot to be starting out from, on a lovely clear morning.
The ascent started by the river Feith Talagain and, all things considered, the boggy mess was bearable. However, it did cause us to loose our path, both on the way up and the way down. Going up, while trudging through heather, B took us too far west and it was when we were doing a big arc – to correct the mistake – that I heard the exact moment of B’s knee giving way. I really, really, really wouldn’t want a puppy, such as young Bobby, to hear that moment. At the time we were too far up to consider giving up the climb and the pain was bearable, once the initial twang was over. Thoughts of the extra pressure on the joint during descent were put on the back burner, until we seized victory from the mouth of defeat by bagging Geal Charn. From the summit, the vastness of the land stretching north was awesome and the views in every direction stunning. Sun clothed the hills in their finest colour, picking out the mountain features to their best advantage, in a clarity of light that would make any lover of these highlands weep for joy.
Somehow I don’t think it was joy that accounted for the sobs coming from the mountain lover by my side as we started going down. However, the painful bag – despite being heavier – was much more bearable with another Munro in it. We had done the right thing and we could rest on our laurels tomorrow and see what Sunday brought. It was clearly going to take us sometime to get back to sea level today.
The return route was the reverse of the way up so I was fairly confident of keeping my head above bog level. Obviously, my tummy was a mess but nothing I couldn’t sort with a healthy dollop of self-grooming back at my van. As I was looking forward to this a funny thing happened. Almost as soon as the slope eased so did the moaning and groaning and, unlike yesterday on a similar gradient, there was an increase in speed, with none of that lop-sided hobbling going on. Could B really have corrected the problem by walking a Munro? I thought she should mention it to her doctor, getting him to tell his patients about it. None of this gentle exercise, and not too much pressure on the joint, nonsense. Get out there and walk the odd 3,000 feet up and down a steep sided mountain. How about that? Me and B on the Munros, extending the boundaries of medical science.
Following our walk we drove – without any of the exclamations that punctuated yesterday’s drive – to the phone box at Laggan. Here, in a quick call, B was able to let David know that I was back on terra-ferma. Next, en route to our next overnight stop, we pulled in at Kingussie. The aura of affluence, in this exquisite small town, sent my imagination on a flight of fancy. I pictured the depth of the soft furnishings that lay behind the decorous exteriors of these elegant residences. Meantime, B found other, more prosaic, recommendations for the area. A wonderful hot wash could be had for the very reasonable price of 20p, in the ladies conveniences. In addition, a strong phone signal meant we could check the internet to confirm the forecast for tomorrow. Within 20 minutes B was freshly scrubbed and fully perpendicular – for the first time in over 30 hours. Optimism defined the outlook, a predisposition that was reinforced after the mountain weather information service had been consulted. That day of rest was definitely off the cards.
I was sorry to leave Kingussie because I couldn’t quite get the thought of snuggling up on a golden sofa – stuffed with several centimetres of goose down feathers – out of my head. Yet, when B parked up for the night, the sun – slipping into dreams of it’s own – bathed my van in a radiance that illuminated our achievements. Surely, the best way to end this day.
Love Ben xx