26th July – Munros 99 & 100

Friends, collies, simpletons

(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a young Border Collie on a v.v.v important challenge. You can read all about it by clicking here. My blogs tell the whole story, paw by paw. I do so hope you will like them and want to follow my adventures).

Following this mornings saga of the dead engine – reported in my last blog – we set out to resume our quest for two more Munros, by finding the road that had been nowhere to be seen. Strange as it may seem, I find that the only way to get to where you are going is to follow the signs, but it had taken B a number of erroneous attempts to find out this important fact, having studiously looked in the wrong place, on our way to find Loch Voil. We had, in fact, registered the sign post pointing left but, as we were expecting to turn right, B hadn’t bothered to read the name Balquhidder clearly written for all to see. Once the mistake was finally corrected – some hour and a half later – we turned left, as suggested, did a big wheelie thing – steeply downhill and to the right – passing beneath the road we had been on and thus ending up on the minor road going west, towards the evasive village and glen of Balquhidder. By this time I was all done in, just like the butterflies in my tummy, and so joined them in a bit of shut eye.

The frustrating morning of route finding, together with the van problems, had caused considerable delay and our drive alongside beautiful Loch Voil was no different. Even here – somewhat off the beaten track and leading to a dead end – there was scattered development, built over a number of centuries, that snaked along the thin artery. What’s more, the entire population seemed intent on vacating the valley as quickly as possible, driving in the opposite direction to us. Eventually, after a close acquaintance with every passing place, we covered the 8 miles or so to the end of the road. Then, just three hours later than anticipated, we set about the business – with B in those ridiculous boots she puts on and me subjected to lead and clasp – of adding a couple more Munros to our bag, including the significant number of 100.

Our route from the car park caused us to do a bit of a wiggle around Inverlochlarig, including the farm house that is reputedly built on the site of the last home of the infamous Rob Roy.

On the site of Rob Roy’s pad

Thankfully, following the instructions for this walking route was easier than the road map, and we had no bother finding our way off the track and towards the ridge of Beinn Tulaichean, but then even B would have difficulty missing the cairn that showed our way so clearly.

Could it be this way, I wonder!

The grind involved in reaching the ridge wasn’t our favourite sort of walking at all. Up and up and up we went, on a vast tract of pathless, peaty mountainside that was inclined to cling to each paw, even as I tried to bound forward; B was worse. Those big boots – that I always warn her about – became cloying shells of ancient bog that weighed a ton. That familiar huffing and puffing became the marker of our long (slow) progress. Getting… “a real sense of Rob Roy country” – when looking back down the glen – was, of course, trying to give legitimacy to my buddy’s need to collapse on the nearest stone; no one fools Ben.

Looking back on Rob Roy Country

It seems that this Mr McGregor was a bit of a lad in his day. Originally a law- abiding cattle drover, earning big bucks and deep into the property market, he turned clan-land felon after loosing his fortune due to some dodgy contacts. Old Rob, as I like to call him, targeted his revenge on wealthy landowners by operating a protection racket, guaranteeing that the cattle – on his patch – would not be rustled, but only after a lucrative exchange of the readies. From the images I’ve seen, of the man himself, I’d like to hazard a guess that our ginger-haired outlaw was actually the original model for the ‘Jimmy Wig’ – that outlandish piece of Scottish headgear which has many an outing around the drinking establishments of the central belt, communicating – as it does – the sort of robust roguishness associated with the whole history of the highland clans.

In this Scottish era, post lockdown, when international travel is discouraged, the most popular glens have seen a vast influx of visitors. The whole population of Scotland seems to have alighted on the same idea of what freedom means and has, en mass, sought to reclaim the wild highlander within them. Apparently, this includes – in the summer of 2020 – the converted transit van as source of travel, shelter and accommodation, judging by the number of them about. Luckily – just away from the classic views of Buachaille Etive Mor or ‘The Ben’, my namesake – quieter experiences could still be found and, surprisingly enough, contenders for an extensive crawl up the sides of were Beinn Tulaichean were at a minimum, even at the end of July.

Though the going was tough, and the weather belonged to that familiar Dreich fellow, who we so often meet, there was still a joy in our struggle to attain the ridge. No great wind inhibited our success, no sidelong sheets of rain make us miserable. What we had instead was invaluable: health, a certain degree of fitness and the enormous privilege – hard won – of access to walk across this land, a common treasury for all. As if that wasn’t enough to be going on with we also had each other – our silent love a precious jewel; I pulled just a little harder on my lead to help B up the hill.

Attaining the ridge is always a significant mile stone on the way to the summits. One takes a deep sigh, pauses and looks ahead. Then… ‘Oh My Giddy Aunt’… have we still got to do all that. Time for a bite to eat, something that always restores my spirits. As for the creature beside me… well, it was going to take a lot more than a few nuts to get her going again.

But, we carried on as we always do. The cloud that had hung about all morning still deposited it’s mantel around the summits. Ben More, the loftiest of our Munro neighbours, had not been seen all day and right across the mountainous panorama peaks were hidden behind the stubborn cloak – a moist, thinning shawl that hugged us with the warm embrace of familiarity. 

Lofty neighbours

Much exertion, more huffing and puffing, a fair degree of determination, and some vocabulary coloured in blue, were the features that pre-empted the arrival of the number 99 onto our Munro bag; numerals that smiled back at us in glorious curlicues of happiness.

No. 99 Beinn Tulaichean

From the perch on Beinn Tulaichean our next goal, and 100th Munro – seen over the ascending undulations of the ridge – seemed unobtainable. But – as surely as night follows day, and as eggs are eggs (don’t ask me what any of this means) – we were going for it. Thus, after more exertions and exhalations, we were onto the shoulders of Cruach Ardrain, heading for her crown.

Cruach Ardrain

During the 2020 confinement, exercise at Shieldhill had been an indulgent stroll along the lanes – slowly going nowhere fast, before getting home for some comforting treats. As a result, I had succumbed to a new medical syndrome called, ‘The Pooch’s COVID Pouch’. Yesterday and today had broken the spell, reminding us that putting numbers on our Munro bag involved immense physical effort, facing a demanding mountainous landscape, which wasn’t to be underestimated. Our motivation was the immense satisfaction that came from overcoming these efforts, and the views – which pumped adrenalin directly to our souls – were our reward. Suddenly – in this year that had amplified the fragility of life – being up here, on top of our 100th Munro, was a tad overwhelming. B’s tears stroked her cheek and, in falling, were witness by the sentient world as they mingled with the summit cairn, becoming part of the human story. They certainly added a new element to our Munro bagging ritual, and I’m not sure yet if this is going to be a permanent feature; I do hope not, it can be a tad embarrassing in a crowd.

The sun finally took his hat off as we descended and the reflection of it’s rays illuminated the scene, bringing a sharper – more beautiful – definition to the colours of the landscape, enlivening our senses. Further down, the penetrating warmth and extended activity began to activate something called wilting, not such an attractive side effect of the sun in its splendour. B doused our buffs in lovely cool water from the stream and watched the droplets sparkle on my fur; I had become a spectacle!

Out of the mist at last

We wiggled once more around the farm at Inverlochlarig and then, walking back towards the car park, considered our plight if the car battery refused to sparkle. But, we need not have worried, spark it did, in the turning of a key. Then it purred all the way even as we pulled in, to let the returning population of the glen come home. We stopped at church in Balquhidder and paid homage at the graveside of our highland rogue, who is often described as the Robin Hood of the highlands. One such incident, that gave rise to this comparison, involved a Campbell knight who was commissioned to enforce the law on a neighbouring farm, but old Rob intercepted him, ducking him in Fillan’s pool near Tyndrum, saying the virtuous properties of the waters there may improve his sense of honour, so he might never again deprive poor men of their lands.

McGregor Despite Them

St Fillan of course… but, perhaps we’ve had enough history for one blog, and his story belongs to another Munro anyway. Though we were going back to Dalrigh, close to the remains of St Fillan’s Priory, it was just for an overnight stay. I just couldn’t wait to get home the next day to tell David all about my adventures but, before then, I needed dinner and lots of zzzzzzzzs

And so to bed

Love Ben xx

Oh dear, and it was going so well…

Friends, collies, map-reading dogs,

(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a young Border Collie on a v.v.v important challenge. You can read all about it by clicking here. My blogs tell the whole story, paw by paw. I do so hope you will like them and want to follow my adventures).

Me and B were tucked up nice and early last night and slept the sleep of the just.

What, with a sleepless night on Friday, followed by the gigantic hike across two v. v. v big mountains, we were just about dead on our paws by the time we got back to my van yesterday. So, when the 26th July popped by to introduce itself, through a chink in our blackout arrangement, you couldn’t have found two less inclined Munroists. I was quite disposed to follow the mood of the day and, being a dog, not burdened with this thing called guilt, which you humans seemed to have saddled yourselves with. B, on the other hand, was struggling to overcome her default setting by making strident efforts to embrace the day, instead of snuggling up with someone called lethargy.

She seems to have succeeded, because it wasn’t even 6.30am before we were on the road, heading for Lochearnhead and then, just south of Loch Earn, turning off towards Loch Voil… or so I thought. However, the road off proved exceedingly elusive and, while trying to discover the minor road, we became very well acquainted with a three mile stretch of the A84, driving backwards and forwards several times.

kingshouse

Eventually, after turning off the trunk road into a cul de sac, and giving our map the once over, we were about to resume active service. Sadly, resuming and active were too things our van just couldn’t do. Oh deary me, we had been here before hadn’t we, in our much loved – but not long lamented – old VW Caddy; there was no life in this battery either. At that moment, the road that had disappeared off the face of the earth was the least of our problems, where we might fetch up tonight before I got my dinner was uppermost in my mind.

B looked at me, raised her eyes and, after a bit of scrabbling about, unearthed a couple of spanners that I didn’t even know existed. To be honest, I don’t think B knew about them either. Anyway, with a degree of confidence that impressed even me, she found the latch for the bonnet and… with that great achievement under her belt, stared into the mysterious abyss of my van’s engine. This was followed by something called tinkering after which, challenging my cynicism, she turned the ignition key. Well…, blow me down with a combustion spark, we were up and running.

Good news doesn’t always spell calm to a clever, but nervous, collie like Ben – tinkering success is not far off pure luck, in my book. Now, the mysterious disappearance of the minor road was coupled with uncertainty about my van. Would it ever start again, once turned off? These troubles were only compounded by the precariousness of phone signals in these parts, which is constant source of anxiety for Ben. The butterflies in my tummy were going in for a spot of unsynchronised sky diving and, all-in-all, it was mayhem down in my viscus. I just can’t tell you how v. v. v relieved I was when I heard David’s voice from the other end of that ear phone thing. Reason and reliability were two words that came immediately to my mind. Phrases like, “I can come up”, “collect you if I need to” along side, “just walk along the till you get a signal”, were all music to my ears. With such a certain backup it seemed we were still going to find this mysterious road, park in the middle of nowhere and climb our 99th & 100th Munro. The extravaganza in my tummy was quelled, the butterflies exhausted.

Whatever the fate of the myserterious road I needed sleep.

Love Ben xx

Hallelujah – at last, Munros 97 & 98, 25th July 2020

Friends, collies, liberated dogs,

(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a young Border Collie on a v.v.v important challenge. You can read all about it by clicking this link. My blogs tell the whole story, paw by paw. I do so hope you will like them and want to follow my adventures).

Firstly, let me apologise profusely for my person’s time management, neglecting my blog for sooo… long. Over three months ago I wrote up my Munro walks. I ask you, three months… and she’s only just got around to doing the technical bit that I haven’t quite mastered yet. “Better late than never” she said, and I only have to hope that you agree.

Back in July I thought being locked up was forever and I was very down in the tail. In fact, as long ago as May I waved a paw at the Munros and shed a tear, while barking, “hope to see you all again next year, dear friends”. Me and B looked up photos of past achievements and went online to see other peoples’ beloved memories, which flooded the internet during the pandemic lockdown. My conclusion form this cinematic exhibition was that… B really needed some help in the photographic department.

But… leap forward from such thoughts to the end of July and there I was, back in my Kangoo heading north, holding my head up very high indeed. We really were off and I was going to help B put the number 100 on our Munro bag, or so we hoped. Life is never straight forward when we go away together, as those who follow my exploits know only too well. We’ve had the tales of blown out tyres, defunct batteries, hours of – easily avoided – traffic delays and, of course, the tragedy of the locked in key – safe inside with our phone and money – while we were most defiantly on the outside, rather lacking in personal possessions, except for my lead.

I digress to the past, but such history accounts for the state of the butterflies in my tummy as we drove north; they were certainly not in any kind of lockdown. It wasn’t until we drove alongside the beautiful Loch Lomond that they finally settled, and there was no one as surprised as me when we turned into the car park at Dalrigh, and my dinner was served BANG ON TIME.

Unfortunately, neither me or B sleep well on the first night away from our wonderfully comfortable Eve mattress. Thus the long hours passed with much tossing and turning, each of us waking up the other, all through the night. Finally at 5.30am, we decided that getting up was the better part of exhaustion, safe in the knowledge that climbing a couple of Munros was bound to solve the problem of sleep that night.

I would love to say that B and I set off for our 97th and 98th Munro with a spring in our step and a song on our lips but… I’d be fibbing. Very nearly a year had elapsed since I had set paw on a Munro and I’m afraid ‘Tide of Trepidation’ was the tune that resounded in my head space. What with being so unfit, thanks to that imposter Mr COVID, having snatched sleep in 10 minute intervals last night – amounting to less than two hours, and the description of a route that sank the spirits becuase the walk promised to sink Ben’s body. All-in-all, this was going to feel like a v. v. v long day. Bog for the dog seemed to be the order of the walking, lasting almost to the ridge and, what’s more, we had to return though it all again on our way back. B looked at my white bits with fondness, similar to the way you look back on the past with great nostalgia. Nevertheless, a Munro is a Munro and every climb is an achievement rewarded by an ascending numeral on our mountain climbing bag. So with eager paws, if not buoyant ones, we set off; Ben and B were back in the Munro bagging business.

Ticking off all the landmarks we progressed along our route: crossing the white bridge, striding out beside the railway heading for Oban, going over the track and then turning right into the swamp we had been warned about “the ground is waterlogged in places”. EXCEPT, oh happy days, the invisible path building sprites had been out under the radar of the Walk Highland authors – much like the mice who saved The Tailor of Gloucester’s bacon – and constructed a bog proof path across the mire… just for Ben. Thus, when we crossed the bridge over the beautiful Alt Gleann Auchreoch my paws were lovely and dry.

All the glory of summer was ours, in the Coille Corie-Chuilc, one of the remnants of the great Caledonian Forest that covered Scotland after the end of the Ice Age. The Scots Pine trees here are direct descendants of the those that had arrived in 7000 BC, a fact that was prone to make a young Border Collie’s brain hurt a bit, as he cocked a leg. They reached high into the sky filtering the sun so that our immediate surroundings sparkled in what seemed to be a million shades of green, while the vivid golden spires of bog asphodel were showcased in vivid yellow against their emerald neighbours. The sun may have illuminated our way but unfortunately it hadn’t penetrated the mulch – the path builders not having crossed the bridge themselves – and, as a direct result, I was often tummy deep in muck. The ‘Flawless Paws’ of our venture couldn’t possibly reference the current state of my pedi-care.

Thankfully, our ascent was punctuated by the diverting song of the river, as it frolicked in a changing topography. Sometimes small waterfalls cascaded into dark rock pools while elsewhere, less dramatically, the water tumbled down and, massaging great slabs of rock, created a river bed of polished stone. Seemingly, exploration around these steep-sided banks was dangerous for Ben, the alarm in B’s voice causing me to abandon the escape, though it’s quite possible my safety wasn’t the primary reason for such shrill tones. In pursuit of adventure my long lead had trailed behind me collecting, along its journey, an awesome decoration of bog detritus. Who in their right mind would want to pick that up? This aversion to the contents of the mire made for a rather prolonged, meandering progress, as we adopted a very circular approach to the way ahead, in a doomed mission to keep B’s feet dry.

Eventually, we reached the ridge and were on dryer land so, in turning south east towards Beinn Dubhchraig – the first summit of 2020 – a song of mountain joy did eventually escape from our lips. Alas, my partner didn’t quite manage the ‘spring in your step’ bit. Huffing and puffing – the musicology of my Munro memory – was once again the score that notated our slow advance. But, like every other year, the caress of the summit cairn was like touching gold and prompted an immediate, to me miraculous, return of B’s energy. After a good look around and with the photoshot complete – including, of course, the summit hug – we returnd to the bealach.

Though the morning had started clear, pockets of inverted cloud had gathered and, in rising, they cloaked our return to the bealach where, after being reunited with the myriad of small rock pools, we made out way west to claim Ben Oss. Though the initial climb was steep it became less noisy as we made our way across the final, more gentle incline, to put no. 98 in the bag.

Up here we stood erect amid a panorama of mountain peaks while the glens still captured a confluence, where the sun-kissed air was rejected by a cool valley and, as a consequence of this encounter, clouds formed as a sea of pure white whose waves rose, wafted and dispersed. In this rapidly changing vista trying to spot Ben Lui, the captivating view we had been promised, had become a game of hide and seek.

Ben More and Stob Binnein From Ben Oss

Taking leave of the views that had nourished us we retraced our steps to the rockpools that had announced our arrival on the ridge. The exquiste mood that accompanies mountain ridge walking had quite overtaken me and it wasn’t until we were about to leave that I remembered the quagmire we still had before us. Despite the treacly peat, and B taking me on very long diversions from the path again, we still were in seventh heaven. A little thing like a world pandemic wasn’t going to stop us and, having completed our first Munro expedition, we looked firmly toward tomorrow and the v. v. v big landmark – singing out in large numbers on the second summit – Munro 100.

But, Ben’s sleep first…

And so to sleep

Love Ben xx

Help me with J? Ben’s big summer competition

Friends, Collies, dogs on Zoom,

Even us dogs have been in changed times because of this COVID interloper. While we have done a sterling job, keeping our people happy, I’m now allowed to spread my paws a bit more, so I need to put all those coronavirus related words – that have invaded my head space – behind me. Then I can enjoy my walking and, of course, write all about it for my blog. I think the best way to do this is to wipe out the whole experience in one big cathartic A – Z.

However, I’m stuck on J. So, help me out please, on my alphabetic tour around a canine experience of Coronavirus – one of Ben’s special prizes could be yours 🙂 

A = Anti Bacterial paw gel

Doesn’t half sting when it penetrates the cracks in my pads.

B = Boris

A nasty little whipper snapper I sometimes bump into. He’s nothing like the great British Bulldog he seeks to imitate.

C = Clap for carers

Double the money with my four paws, though what they really need is lots more of that money so they can have lots of nice treats too.

D = Disinfectant

Really, what bleach? won’t I have to keep touching up my roots?

E= Eye sight

Colour blind myself, but still seeing red about that Orwellian squealer at No. 10.

F = Furlough

Does it extend to working dogs?

G = going, going…

H = Hancock

I heard mention of a protective ring. Are we talking Frisbees?

I = Incompetence

Barks for itself.

J = Can you help me out please?

K = Key Worker

Thank you, with all my heart, to everyone who has kept Pets at Home open.

L = Lockdown

I’ve put on a heck of a lot of weight so, who is it I contact for one of those free quad bikes? Do I still qualify if I take part in the “Eat out, to help out” scheme? I’m v. v. v interested in helping out here.

M= Masks

OMG – I dare you!

N = Nicola

I’ve grown to admire her greatly. She’s the dog’s b…, but apparently I’m not allowed to say that.

O = Online

The only way to keep in touch with your pals.

P = PPE

I’m clued up on the pees, but never done e’s before.

Q = Quarantine

Now I know why the caged dog howls.

R = R number

Speaking for myself, I wasn’t allowed to reproduce.

S = Shielding

I’ve got Pedigree Chum home delivery on speed dial, just in case.

T = Test and Trace (by smell of course)

Get those working dogs out of furlough – we’re across it.

U = UN-precedented

If I hear that word once more… dogs obviously have longer memories than our people (1258…, & then again, 1918 – to mention just two episodes).

V = Vaccine

I don’t do needles – full stop.

W = wide berth

2 metres, I’m thinking lamp posts.

X = Xponentially

It’s just possible I’m dyslexic.

Y = Yellow Peril

Could this describe a cheeky little Shih Tzu I’ve just got to know.

Z = Zoom

A new punchy cocktail, made just to celebrate my person’s retirement this Friday.

Oh my goodness me, that was hard work – need to essay the soft furnishings.

IMG_6672
And so to bed

Lots of love,

Ben

We’re off!

Friends, collies, Munro dogs,

I just knew there was something a foot last night. Racking my big collie brains brought distant memories of summer evenings, with lots activity around my van, were always followed by a big adventure for me and B the next day.

Looks like we’re off at last and, learning to live with this COVID person, we’ve got to take lots of paw gel too; the van is full of it. So, that dream I mentioned in my last post wasn’t a dream after all. It’s very exciting and equally scary.

Wish me luck. I might have a little doze on the way up.

IMG_5040
And so to bed

Lots of love

Ben

 

 

 

Review of the year – 2019

Friends, Collies and my greatly esteemed friends and followers,

And, for anyone new to my dog blog, find out what it is all about here Ben’s big adventure

So, 2020 has arrived and I’m now living in a new decade, which sounds awfully exciting; I’ve not done that one before. Apparently the chips are down on the chances of my seeing another one, but I don’t want to think about that just now. Instead, let me take you on the grand tour of Ben’s life in 2019.

Right at the end of last year’s review David had just got back into a little bit of walking. That was after the horrid, awful, terrible (do I make myself clear?) three months, following the big fall and broken pelvis which, in itself, came fast on the heels of saying goodbye to the old girl. The worst part of being on a mountain, with an incapacitated David, was the whirligig thing that hurt my ears and stole my person from the mountain.

However, I’m so happy to report that right from the beginning of 2019 it has been back to business as usual, by which I mean the rightful reinstatement of my morning routine, consisting of: a lovely early morning drive to Mabie Forest; meeting up with the gang to discuss the weighty issues of the day and then – oh, what unconfined joy – playing ball and lots of it, my absolute – incontrovertible – favourite thing, apart from a spot of dinner, of course. In celebration of this return to normality, I’ve developed an ebullient little song and dance piece, that I perform on the back seat of the car, as soon as we hit the drive that takes us deep into the forest.

During the winter afternoons that follow this morning ritual, I’d while away the time with vivid dog dreams about “… gold lama baskets and choice cuts of meat …” 1 until woken from my slumbers by the sound of Wainwright biscuits hitting porcelain bowl. Reality tore me from luxurious fantasies but, the familiarity of home wasn’t half bad. About this time of day, B’s smell – round and about the house – has faded to the level at which I knew she was about to arrive home (oh dear, I’m so sorry my fellow canines. I’ve just given away the mystery of how we know when our people are coming back. Incase anyone didn’t know, dogs do it with noses ). So, after tucking into a nutritionally balanced – fat free – meal, I’m up at the window waiting for B to drive in. In my excitement I throw myself into her arms, the same v. v. v big welcome home every night. I’m not altogether sure that my exuberance is fully appreciated. Bags seem to go everywhere and sometimes we find ourselves in a confused heap on the floor. She particularly doesn’t like it when one of my paws slides down her face, leaving a big red scar for days on end. I like to think of it as a term of endearment.

Leaving the worst of the winter behind us heralds the start of the caravan season, when we return to our mobile home (that doesn’t move), in The Lake District. I’ve done it every year of my life, the same pattern, with gleeful anticipation of the spring, summer and autumn that lie ahead. This year I was robbed of such happiness. As soon as I crossed the threshold I could smell her. It hit me like an incense bomb and was everywhere – the unforgettable scent of our old girl, Maisie. I curled up in my cushion and got all depressed. Eventually, a little bit of dinner brought me out of myself and, a game of ball on Moor Divock the next day wonders but… every time I got back to the caravan the black dog, instead of our old girl, was my companion.

               

 

It took a lot of hard work but I had to pull myself together, because me and B had work to do and helping others is always such a tonic. We needed to get David confident on the hills again, after the big fall, and – even though I say so myself – we done good. Thus, on 30th March 2019 – exactly six months after the accident – me, B and David, did a return to Place Fell and, on this occassion, actually got to the top. 

March also held another red letter day and gosh, all fiddlesticks – my tummy still gets excited remembering. It was a case of out with the old, in with the new. Though in this case it was just a bit newer. On 11th March 2019 we crossed a line. No more sleeping cramped on the floor of an unreliable VW Caddy van. Now me and B were going up in the world. The future heralded not only a more dependable car but also, one we were going to convert with a micro camper kit. 

 

 

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Nevertheless, despite the excess of comfort, it was with a tear in my eye that I said goodbye to my faithful – if unpredictable – friend of three years. The ally that had got me and B going on the Munros and witnessed my first 47 climbs, and 52 of B’s.

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Perhaps you can imagine how eager I was to go Munro bagging again and try out the soft furnishings in our new Munro mobile. Sadly, I had to exercise something called patience, which is soOOO hard for me to do.

April of 2019 brought in yet another big, BIG event, in our small lives, and it had to be marked. David had one of those birthdays with an 0 at the end of it. I’m not meant to tell you which one, so I’ll put it in v. v. v small numerals and you can pretend you never saw it. (70, hee, hee). For Dog’s sake, HOW MANY DECADES IS THAT? It seems we were heading east to celebrate and I had to test out a whole new suite of soft furnishings. Home comforts aside, I’m not a great fan of sudden change and definitely at my best when running on well oiled lines, with a bouncing spherical object to cement my happiness. Therefore, when we set out on roads I had never, ever been on before, the lava from last year’s butterflies started to hatch in my tummy, giving me a very strange sensation indeed and, not at all to my liking. Of course, all’s well that ends well, and the very first thing to happen, when we arrived, was that I had a lovely big dinner. After that, secure in the knowledge that my food had travelled with us, I set about testing out the buoyancy of the soft furnishings, in this home from home.

For the next week we ranged far and wide across somewhere called The North York Moors. The landscape was gynormous, with vistas stretching into space across bracken and heather hillsides, broken only by deep sided valleys that had – in the geological mists of time – been scooped out of the very earth we might have stood on. These vales took some considerable effort to tumble down and then climb back up so that, by the end of our walk, we needed to stop for refreshment. I would have my dinner beside the car and then B and David would warm their paws, and the cockles of their hearts, in a pub called The Lion Inn, at Blakey Rigg. Unfortunately, I couldn’t join them because of my propensity to take objection to the frightening smell, accompanying the odd human, which brings on a defensive nipping of ankles and makes me canine non grata. Instead, I was left to ponder on the whereabouts of this lion, how fail-safe the locks on our car were, and just why the windows had been left so open. On their return, D & B’s happy disposition met my relief and made for lovely companionable evenings.

Once home, from the birthday celebration, my enthusiasm to get Munroing became a bone of contention, so to bark. First of all the weather was against us but, even when it wasn’t, I was excluded. Apparently, B just happened to be working in Glasgow and it made sense for her (and not me ), to take off north from there. Unbelievably, inexcusably, it was July before I put paw to Munro. However, over that weekend, and another in August, we put another 10 summits in v. v. v heavy bag, which stamped it with the impressive number of 84; me and B had done 57 of these together. The fiery sun played hide and seek behind Cumulonimbus clouds, and then danced on the shimmering waters of high mountain lochans which – in sequestered corries – were protected by cliffs that rose in awe-inspiring towers that beguiled and terrified, These were blissful times together and, on the highest Caledonian hills, we soaked up panoramas that brought the heart, and soul, of a young dog alive. Gasps for breath, from the bi-ped beside me, suggested the heart wasn’t quite up to the job; as for the soul – well, that’s anyone’s guess.

Lots of photos on my special slide show. It’s a bit on the slow side but you can use the arrows to move forward

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Of course, as mentioned in so many of my blogs before, being away with B is never a totally easy experience and nothing had changed in the last year, unfortunately. On the first day of our July weekend – luckily after we had bagged Bynack More – I was brought down to earth, literally, by the exploding tyre beneath me.

The case of the exploding tyre

And then, the very next day, I was met with a compromising situation in the safety department as our navigational aids – that provide my security – were made redundant, in a catalogue of neglect. The straw that broke the collies back was when our map – the very foundation of our whereabouts – blow off in the wind. Somehow, I survived to tell the tale.

The case of the disappearing map

B went bagging again briefly, in both September and October but, by this time, I was having something they call divided loyalties, which is a very nasty condition. With the old girl gone back to ashes, I couldn’t bare to think of David – home alone, when I was away with B. On the other paw, when I kept David company, the thought of B on the mountains, without the protection of her Munro buddy, sent me into a tumult of guilt and anxiety. This unconditional love business isn’t always easy. I felt like I was becoming a tug of love dog.

After October, it was better – lovelier – we were all together, all the time. We had such companionable walks in the Lake District, me with my ball, B & David with that incessant chatter thing that humans do. Then alas, it was the interregnum (from the caravan site) and we were banned from the Lake District till March. The season of mellow fruitfulness had given way to winter and I took to the indoor life, disporting myself around the soft furnishings, while catching up on a spot of reading.

It has to be said that, my absolute best read of 2019 is a little tomb called, ‘The Enlightened Spaniel’. I need to qualify that sentence in a couple of ways. The book is in no way little. In fact, IT IS MEGA. It has changed my whole outlook on life. And then, of course, there is the issue with the breed (not my favourite, since an unfortunate little altercation, regarding the property rights of a certain spherical object, a couple of years ago). Clearly, the book should have been pawed by a noble Border Collie but, it seems, the floppy ears got in first. That said, I think this way of being may have something to offer.

For instance, you are – apparently – meant to live in the moment. Well, let’s face it, that’s easy peasy for me. That moment could be blissful, with one of my bestest humans throwing my ball over an arch of sky, or it might be some scary instance requiring the nipping of ankles; either way, when it’s done it’s done – nothing of the past remains and, as for the future, it’s a foreign county; anything could happen. Another facet of this world view is about unconditional love and – say no more – that’s what we go in for, big style. I might even have to let the Spaniels in on that one – reluctantly.

According to Buddhist philosophy, which is big on this enlightenment stuff, we get born and born again – ever improving – on a path to somewhere called Navana, which is the bees knees. Did you know that bees have knees? Nivana is the best place imaginable and you have to be v. v. v well behaved, caring lots about other creatures, to get there. Honestly, I really was doing my best but then along comes Christmas and well, let’s face it, we all indulge ourselves a bit – or a big bit. All those presents, eating too much, loafing about and, of course, the excess of dog beer – it may have set Nivana back a bit.

Nevertheless, just a few more incarnations and I fully expect to be there. The first Border Collie ball dog at Wimbledon… perhaps next year.

In the meantime, more dog dreams.

And so to bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Ben

 

1 Carroll, D H (2013); Dog Dreams. This England, Vol 46, No 2, Thompson Publishing, London.

Munros 2019 – August 26th – The Easains

Friends, collies, homeward bound dogs,

(If are new to my blog let me, Ben – a young Border Collie – say a huge welcome. I’m absolutely elated that you have chosen to read my post and not been put off by that old chestnut about people attributing human characteristics to animals!! My blog is all about the trials and tribulations of a young dog – and their person – on a v. v. v big challenge, climbing lots of mountains in Scotland, called The Munros. You can find out much more about it here Ben’s challenge … the story continues)

The last Monday of August 2019 announced itself, in the central highlands of Scotland, like so many, many, mornings have over the centuries. Ubiquitous clouds assembled in a mass gathering that drew curtains across the dramatic stage behind. In other words we couldn’t see a thing!

I would like to report that B woke up every Munro morning, absolutely raring to go and put more Munros in our bag. That would however, be a v. v. v big lie. Today, the lowering cloud, the later start (we had overslept by an hour) and the thought of a five hour drive, following seven or eight on the hills, weighed heavily on her. As for me, well, I just go with the flow. It took longer today to get some life force pulsing through B’s old body and, therefore, the start of our walk was of the sluggish variety. She did utter our tried and tested mantra, “We’ll just see how far we get” but somehow, it didn’t hold the conviction that we were going far at all.

Stodgy, best describes the mood and ambulation as we diverted from the track beside Loch Treig, and took to the hills on an increasingly muddy and boggy path. This was, to say the least, unfortunate. B is at her absolute worst when tramping uphill with feet sinking into squelching quagmires. I did suggest she might take a lesson from me, going barefoot, because she would be better without those heavy boots dragging her down, but that suggestion didn’t seem to go down too well for some reason.

Plodding through bog while looking at an imposingly steep climb, as banks of cloud obscure the two Munros beyond, isn’t – I learnt today – the best way of raising one spirits. Still, I’ll give B credit for one thing – perseverance. We had been robbed of yesterday’s walk, because it was just too hot, and we weren’t going home without achieving today’s Munros.

Once we got to the steep ascent rock began to replace bog, so it wasn’t all bad news for B. For me, of course, it’s a win, win, situation. Out of the bog and onto steeper slopes B’s verbal ticks went from moans and groans to huffs and puffs. Alongside these exclamations of exertion comes the need to stop and draw breath and, this is where I come in. My best empathetic glance, and unspoken encouragement, demands edible rewards – obviously – oh, happy days. We eventually got to the top of Meall Cian Dearg and still nothing of our two Munros had revealed themselves.

However, though the cloud clung doggedly to the summits, the wind – hurtling through the glen – was having a rare old game. Tumbles of grey and white summersaulted across the mountains in the most dramatic salsa and sometimes, where seams of shade collided, the sun – protesting against obscurity – sent down shafts of light to create hillside galleries of the sky; elsewhere it danced in gay abandon, skittering across the  ruffled waters on the surface of Loch Treig.

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As we continued light and dark pirouetted in their familiar tango, with brighter forces gaining brief victories, before submitting to the elemental force of stormy clouds. Traversing the sinuous ridge above the loch we saw our first Munro clearly ahead, in a brief moment of clarity, but then it’s summit’s crown was lost again before we claimed our own victory.

Thus, my photo a top Stob a’ Choire Mheadhoin took on that old familiar aspect of… not much at all. Looking ahead a moment later we could see our immediate direction of travel but nothing yet, of the second prize we were pursuing. The sky-scape continued its wafting and then, suddenly, the long arched shoulders of Stob Coire Easain were visible, urging us on but, by the time we got to the summit cairn of our 84th Munro, visibility was a thing of the past.

Nevertheless me and B were on top of the world (well, pretty high up in Scotland anyway). From the pessimism of this morning we had ploughed through our dampened spirits to arrive at these giddy heights. As always the ridge we had travelled spoke magically to the soul so that, on our return, we were in 7th heaven, trotting along as if the uphill slog had really been no effort at all, the bog non-existent and the long drive back a mere hiccup, as we gasped the last breath of our brilliant weekend.

For the rest of the afternoon the battle of the sky continued with the cloud lifting higher all the time. The shades of colour intensified where the sun could shine and who could do anything – even a little dog – but gaze in amazement at the splendour of this world.

Then, looking back with great satisfaction, there was the sight of Meall Cian Dearg and the two Munros beyond that had, today, etched the number 84 on our Munro bag.

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Then, after all that, guess what I did on the way home?

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And so to bed!

Love Ben xxAA HeartPawPrint

25th August 2019 – Time out

Friends, collies, meteorologists,

(If are new to my blog let me, Ben – a young Border Collie – say a huge welcome. I’m absolutely elated that you have chosen to read my post and not been put off by that old chestnut about people attributing human characteristics to animals!! My blog is all about the trials and tribulations of a young dog on a v. v. v big challenge, climbing lots of mountains in Scotland, called The Munros. You can find out much more about it here Ben’s challenge … the story continues)

Little did I know that yesterday evening, while I was putting an impressive amount of effort into keeping the old eyelids closed down, my B had been wrestling with the forecast and the fact that we had come all these miles north to do a few days of Munro bagging. This was after nearly two months when the people from the Met had advised us to steer clear, in symbols that communicated only wind and rain. Now, in an unpleasantly ironic twist of fate, a freak day of high temperatures was going to cover the UK which, in our parts, rose from a predicted 24o centigrade to a predicted 29o in the space of 2 hours. There was going to be very little in the way of breeze and the temperatures started rising at 6.00am, from an overnight base line that that didn’t dip much below 20o. Full sun was going to bathe the hill in glorious colours and a roasting blanket of heat. This forecast gave a very clear steer to direct B’s thinking but her disappointment obliterated the obvious. Desperately she looked for alternatives: shorter walks, different parts of the country, getting up even earlier. However, none of them could get around the fact that – no matter where we went, or what time we started out – at some point in the day we would be spending several hours in the v. v. v hot weather and, as proved to be the case – according to the gospel of Facebook – dogs can get heat stroke. Finally, she admitted that the 25th September 2019 was cancelled, having the temerity to blame it on me.

Given that I was unconscious at the time of this wrangling I found the lack of consultation a little hurtful, but my indignation was short lived as I was able to lie in late the next day. Now, I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong impression. I really am in this for the long haul and have all the necessary commitment but, I ask you – honestly – what would you rather do, flog up a 3,000 foot mountain or two, and get heatstroke, or turn around, scratch your blanket up into a nice ball and then flop down for a tad more shut eye?

Last night, once our proposed Munro trek had definitely been written off, B – thinking about how I might like to spend such a hot day – has hatched a plan B.  As it happens, our physical presence in this universe had planted us just a couple of hundred metres from a stunning highland loch, and I had been destined to spend many hours in the cooling properties of Loch Laggen’s sylvan waters. As we had approached the gate, giving us entry to the field which annexed the shore, we could see a heard of cattle grazing nonchalantly, right in our way. Seemingly, these bovines could become enraged at the very sight of little old me and all hell could let loose. Well, I don’t know about any of that but I just wished a stupendous tube of Primular cheese could have been lowered from the sky to distract the cows, granting us a safe passage through the field, so close to the loch. Several times we paced backwards and forwards to the gate but, the cows were not for moving.

So Instead, we spent Sunday in an opaque passing of hours; much of it looking for shade. On a bench under trees, just beyond the Creag Meagaidh car park, B passed the time reading and writing, while I spent it on guard, ready to put in a strong objection when anyone dared to pass by. At these times, the distracting nozzle of my Primular was swiftly placed close to my lips and copious amounts of the velvety substance transferred itself, as if by magic, to the back of my throat. It was a day to treasure.

My friends, who get this post in their e mails, may need to go to my website to see these photos as a slide show – Ben’s website

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Early in the evening some cloud cover dissipated the heat of the sun and we decided to move to our resting place for the night. During our short drive early evening light silhouetted mountains high against the sky as glorious monuments spelling out the beauty of the natural world.

Fersit lies at the end of a minor road leading to Loch Treig. Me and B love to end our day in such sequestered pockets of solitude. Here overlooking a loch  and cradled by mountains, we relished the privileged freedom of roaming the land by day and sleeping in Tanka, our Renault Kangoo, by night.

B told me all about those people who had to do big fights to win our rights and pave the way for us to be sleeping here tonight and climbing Munros tomorrow. First she told me about the Diggers, who in the 1630s occupied some land, objecting about the money people who wanted to take it from them. They were fighting to be able to graze their sheep on common land so they could feed their families. “We are free men, though we are poor”, they said.

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Then she told me about the Manchester Ramblers, who did an illegal trespass on Kinder Scout, Derbyshire in 1932, asserting their right to roam over the moors, in order to claim a bit of a work / life balance, after labouring in industrial mills and factories all week. “I may be a wage slave on Monday, but I am a free man on Sunday” is how Ewan McColl phrased their perspective on life. Clearly he had no idea of diversity and omitted woman and dogs from his song about the big march, which is pretty unforgivable.

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After such heavy intellectualising, my head hurt badly and my eyelids were sinking in the direction of my snout. I sometimes think B forgets that I am only a dog when she starts philosophising. I needed zzzs.

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And so to bed!

Love Ben AA HeartPawPrint

24th August Creag Meagaidh circuit

Friends, collies, loch swimmers

(If are new to my blog let me, Ben – a young Border Collie – say a huge welcome. I’m absolutely elated that you have chosen to read my post and not been put off by that old chestnut about people attributing human characteristics to animals!! My blog is all about the trials and tribulations of a young dog on a v. v. v big challenge, climbing lots of mountains in Scotland, called The Munros. You can find out much more about it here Ben’s challenge … the story continues)

Though Saturday afternoon, Sunday and Monday, had all looked like fair weather walking days, the forecast for Saturday morning was less certain. Light cloud symbols decorated the BBC forecast and the mountain weather information service was ambivalent about the chance of cloud free Munros. So – obviously – B was up early and we were setting off at 6.30am, with the cloud banked low over the summits! She is a creature of habit and bending to the mood of the day doesn’t seem to feature within her narrow realm of flexibility. Seemingly B had a theory. Apparently, the cloud would rise with us as we climbed though, to be honest, I couldn’t find any the scientific evidence to back up this notion. More likely it had something to do with that dubious concept called wishful thinking.

We certainly put in the climbing but look how B’s theory worked out at the top of our first Munro that day, both at the summit cairn and with a 360 degree view.

Not only was our view obscured but high winds, from the south, were blowing us about like paper flapping uncontrollably near to an electric fan. We took shelter in the lee side of the summit cairn – constructed for such eventualities – and B tried to kid me on that the wind was a good thing. According to her second theory of the day, it would blow away all the cloud so we could find our way. Well, true enough, dogs aren’t great on keeping time but I do know this, I was getting v. v. v cold sitting around waiting for this latter day highland clearance, and I still couldn’t see a paw in front of me. Me and B kept having a look back, in the direction of the wind, and the sun was doing its best. At first a tiny circuit of light, the size of a saucer, could just be glimpsed through the cloud; then it became a tea plate and even a dinner plate. Nevertheless, whoever it was that made the cloud must have had the upper hand, because all that crockery never penetrated and waves of cloud kept sweeping across those translucent circles of hope, obliterating the suggestion of brightness.

By this time B had a nice hat on, was sporting some lovely warm gloves and her coat was all zipped up. I, on the other hand, had none of these luxuries and I began to wonder about the balance of power in this special relationship. Just as I was contemplating what rebellion looked like, from a young dog on top of a Munro, the sun performed a feat of magic. With one last blast of wind all the hills around us cleared of the smoke screen that had obscured their curves and crevices and, like a farewell to arms, the sun rose in ascendancy announcing its supremacy. It seemed that B’s theory wasn’t all bad after all, even if it was a bit late in materialising. We set off at a fair pace to warm up and make up for some lost time, embarking on Munro number two. Everywhere around us the great dog in heaven smiled down, Illuminating gently folding contours and raggedly exposed gullies. Our senses were ignited with vistas prone to bring on big releases of endorphins and, despite the lack of wind abating clothing, I knew what a lucky dog I was to be up here, running along with the wind in my fur, close to my person; we were so very happy.

As we continued along the ridge the cloud base continued to lift and patches of blue wove a tapestry of promise in the sky. Nevertheless, Creag Meagaidh’s topknot still remained a shrouded mystery, covered in a circumference of stubbornness that wasn’t going anywhere fast.

8 Circumference of stubbornness on CM

B, on the other hand, was going up there, regardless of the warnings written in the route we were following, “… difficult to navigate in poor visibility, precipices nearby!”. Having come this far, who were we, she said, to let fear of a few precipices stand between us and our third Munro. Personally, I began to think this use of the royal we a bit over used and, what’s more, the butterflies in my tummy agreed.

In the meantime, we still had to claim the second Munro for our bag and, according to our route, it was at the top of the next steep ascent. Well, me and B popped up the next hill, did a big descent and then started climbing, imagining ourselves to be on the way to Stob Poite Coire Ardair. At the top, we came upon a cairn and conducted our usual summit ritual: drop of malt whiskey for B, big hunk of sausage for Ben, full on photo-shoot.

At this point we had ascended well into the cloud and were trying to find a path to the south west that would take us in the direction of the invisible Creag Meagaidh. Why then, we wondered, did the two men who sped past us at this point seem very intent on heading directly west on, it has to be said, a fairly clear path. B consulted our GPS only to find that the hill we had popped up earlier – while waiting for a steep climb – was, in fact, Stob Poite Coire Ardair and we had walked right on past. This is the only Munro ever where I haven’t had my photo taken.

8a Looking towards Stob Poite Coire Ardair - cairn just visible

Heavens alive, she must be getting fitter than either of us thought. The cairn where we did the ceremonial was none other than Mad Meg and, happy days, just a few hundred metres across the plateau was the highest point of the walk, our third Munro today. This was one up for our energy bank and several points down for navigational skills. Creag Meagaidh marked the 82nd Munro and I really did wonder how we had managed to find our way to all the others. What, I also wondered, would the other 200 now left have in store for us. The views from the top were… identical to those from the summit of Carn Liath earlier today!

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We now needed to retrace our steps to the bealeach called ‘The Window’. As soon as we had passed and turned our backs on Mad Meg the sun, in a display of supremacy, wiped out the cloud, showcasing a panorama of mountain topography. The battle for the sky had been one at last and for the rest of the day sunrays bounced off mountain rock faces while the jewel in this crown, Lochan Choire, sparkled in a glorious azure of temptation. And, guess what, oh… uncontainable joy, I was going swimming. However, my excitement has let me get ahead of myself.

The steep descent from ‘The Window’ is not for the faint hearted. Here is a tale of brutality, enacted by some angry elemental force that ripped the landscape apart, tossing it’s broken frame about in a viscous storm, before hurtling the pieces down to earth in a crashing torrent. Thankfully, that was some time ago and all we had to do now was find our way through the remnants of that great tempest.

A walker’s path weaves almost miraculously through the pieces, though its traverse is no simple matter and, for me, without sturdy boots to protect my paws, it was a somewhat painful experience. B, even with all her protective gear, was not exempt from discomfort. Old bones are prone to wear and tear, with joints taking the brunt of this anatomical evolution. Today’s complaint came from her knees so that, by the time we got to the loch, B was nearly as excited about having a rest as I was with the prospect of a swim.

For the next 15 minutes or so I ranged about the lochan swimming after my ball, while the shimmering waters danced around me in the sunlight, under the great fangs of Creag Meagaidh’s Corrie, a revered site for winter ice climbing. Beyond the loch we followed the path back to the car park to complete the full circuit. The rest of the day was blissfully simple in the satisfaction of a job done. There were zzzs before dinner, more zzzs after dinner and finally, deep sleep zzzzzzzzs to see me through till morning.

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And so to bed!

Love Ben AA HeartPawPrint

 

 

 

AT LAST!

Friends, Collies, Red Admirals,

(If are new to my blog let me, Ben – a young Border Collie – say a huge welcome. I’m absolutely elated that you have chosen to read my post and not been put off by that old chestnut about people attributing human characteristics to animals!! My blog is all about the trials and tribulations of a young dog on a v. v. v big challenge, climbing lots of mountains in Scotland, called The Munros. You can find out much more about it here Ben’s challenge … the story continues)

Me and B had been looking for the chance to ‘bag’ some more Munros since our last weekend away in July. So often, when looking a number of days ahead the weather had  looked promising. Then – big, big, disappointment – as the weekends got nearer, nice sunny symbols were overruled by despots of black, proffering tear drops of rain. At last, after nearly two months of this fraught weather watching – with its tension of will we, or won’t we, get away – the forecast for the weekend ahead took on a more consistently optimistic outlook; it appeared that we were off. I had recognised the frantic activity at home as indicative of a move, and this was made absolute when B & David sat huddled over maps. Those butterflies in my tummy started flapping about with that familiar, and heady, mixture of excitement and trepidation; I had to nip outside urgently.

The next day I had my morning constitutional in Maibie Forest with David, involving the usual meet, greet and chase routine. Then, arriving home, I walked into to a whole lot of angst. It turns out that the good job B thought she had done (getting our tyres up to scratch, by dealing with our puncture and swapping an offending wore item with a spanking new spare) wasn’t such a great effort at all. In fact, we had a flat tyre and, this was just as we were meant to be off for a long drive, to go Munroing.

Flat tyre

Suddenly, the morning departure – aimed at beating the worst of the bank holiday and Friday afternoon traffic, across the central belt of Scotland – was abandoned. Instead, a mercy mission to tyre specialists in Dumfries was the order of the day. Despondency loomed large as we wondered if we would get away at all, in this brief respite from the westerly fronts that had kept assaulting the UK – Scotland in particular – for the past couple of months.

It concerned me somewhat that we were never, EVER, going to have a straight forward Munro trip. One where preparation, and an uneventful drive, was followed by a few days of solid walking without any complications. The question mark hanging over this particular weekend was, however, resolved by the swift, efficient and friendly service at Denton’s Tyre Centre in Dumfries (five stars all round). Within an hour and a half B was back at base with the affronting tyre all puffed up and looking very pleased with itself. Even though I’ve never met them, the v. v. v clever humans at Denton’s instantly became some of my bestest friends. I vowed that they are exempt from any interest in their ankles – from a potential nipping perspective – should I be lucky enough to meet them – whatever the temptation.

Denton's

At this stage of the game, our 1 pm departure would now, undoubtedly, result in a more congested journey. Right enough the M74, heading north from Moffat, boasted a carriageway three lanes deep in heavy traffic and then, following a straight forward trip into Edinburgh, we were queued up waiting to get onto the city bypass. After that the A9, going west, supported only slow moving travel while, long before we could even see the Queensferry Crossing (over the River Forth), we were nose to bumper in stationary traffic.

misery for people stuck on queensferry crossing

On the north side of the bridge we got going again only to arrive on the outskirts of Perth at what amounted to rush hour. Here we took our part in, what seemed to be, a race where we had put all our money on the snails winning. Finally, just south of Birnham, where no forests came to meet us (despite the Bard’s prophecy),  traffic cones and contraflows dominated the scene of a slow moving procession. The roads beyond were clear though, oh my golly gosh, what a bendy road that A86 between Laggen and Spean Bridge turned out to be. By the time we turned into the Craig Meagaidh car park, at 6.00pm, my butterflies had been on one hell of a roller coaster and I was exhausted.

Still, on the plus side (me and B are keen to focus on positives), my sleeping accommodation had taken a turn for the better. No longer was I perched on a high rise cushion that slipped down the gaps between the boxes that supported it. Instead, I was staying on my comfy front seat except that, with the back of it laid nearly flat,  B and I could just about touch noses; happy days. With that arrangement I felt a whole lot more secure so that – after a bite to eat and a bit of route planning for tomorrow – me, B and the butterflies in my tummy, settled down for a good night’s sleep.

sleeping

Lots of love,

Ben AA HeartPawPrint