Ben’s review of 2020

Friends, collies, clever scientists,

(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a young Border Collie on a v.v.v adventurous 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).

Well, who ever would have thought it. Me ‘The Ben’, at the tender age of 6 years old, becoming the canine chronicler of our age, recording a world public health crisis in the annual review of my year. Back at the beginning of 2020, an age of innocence, words that now slip off the tongue so easily, like pandemic and epidemiology, were beyond the scope of my Border Collie imagining. What an education this year has been.

In January, the comforting normality of our annual cycle had announced itself. A lethargic Ben was sprawled in front of a lovely hot fire, recovering from the ravages of an exceedingly merry festive season. Daily walks were still on the cards but enthusiasm, for more than a modicum of chasing ball, was somewhat wanting. Across the airways something in the Far East – a new virus – was reported but didn’t resonate. Of much more concern were references to the way animals were bought and sold. I really thought it was time to form the Border Collie branch of the Animal Rights Movement: ‘Black and White R Us – Zero tolerance for live animal markets’. However, at the time, I was a prisoner to one of those deadly sins, the one called sloth, and my radical career was sedated by golden flames of warmth.

As January flooded into February carefully timed outings avoided the worst of the wind and rain, and my people muttered something about a nasty flu coming our way, as the big cheeses on infectious diseases began to take up more of our radio listening. But still, as in every year past, the white flowers of snowdrops – those fair maids of February – bowed their heads in deference towards the earth.

In March, I was rudely awoken when we resumed our Lake District visits, and long hours of fell walking replaced long hours of dozing. Apparently, me and B were on a programme of Munro preparation. Spring was here and the revolving wheels of my year were so reassuring familiar, even if a little exhausting. However, each morning we were greeted by scientists who hijacked the radio waves, projecting forebodings of gloom onto our day. Meantime, our political masters, or in my case mistress, instructed us to go in for a new fad called social distancing, which – mere dog that I am – sounded like a contradiction in terms.

D’s day finally came on 20th March. Though he left the caravan in rude health at 5.00pm, as was customary, he returned less that 2 hours later as a shadow of his former self. An ashen pallor had replaced the rosy complexion that usually returned from these outings, and the jocular spirit was replaced by a numbed presence devoid of speech… he was in shock. My David’s raison d’etre had been whipped away from under his pint – THE PUBS WERE CLOSED DOWN, by order of the Prime Minister.

From here, it was but a matter of two days before being banged up for the first time ever in our lives. We were instructed to go nowhere and the law kept us tied to home; the fabric of my life was torn to shreds. It seems that this supposedly little bug, working it’s way across the globe, was, in fact, a malicious Coronavirus, specified as COVID-19; it wanted to invade our lungs and stop us breathing. Now there were going to be no more Lake District walks and, not even a short trek in Maibie Forest to meet my best pal Oscar. In this period of readjustment I had to go in for one of those steep curves, making my brain hurt with all the new words to learn. For a start, we had to stay at home to stop the nasty virus thing spreading, before exponential growth took over and caused a crisis in the NHS. It was all quantified in something called the R number, which told us – if we had any inkling of what was going on – how quickly the spiky monster was working it’s way through the population. During this time of national crisis all non-essential business had to shut down and the bloke with the exquisitely tailored outfit, who holds the purse strings (no, this most definitely wasn’t the Prime Minister) said, “You can all stay at home and I’ll pay you”. Actually, it wasn’t his money but it could easily have been because he is v. v. v rich, and also a bit suave for my liking, but that’s another story. Normally, people who stay at home and draw on the governments dosh are called scroungers, who should get on their bike and look for work. Now though, people who sat at home and watched telly all day, while the government paid them, were national heroes, saving the NHS; it was all getting a tad confusing. Anyway, all this gave rise to another term I had never heard of before, furlough, which sounded a bit like those things tractors drill. After the seeds have been popped in they need sustained TLC to grow and prosper; I wonder…

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Hardest of everything I learnt in these early days of the Coronavirus epidemic were the acronyms: PPE and ICU. Till now, my blogs have always been a light-hearted take on my life, looking for the humorous and commenting on the small absurdities of our everyday lives. However, the bombardment of news about the COVID imposter got underneath my skin. Because of this Coronavirus lots of people got sick, many of them needing to go to hospital and into special care. Even in these most extreme circumstances we still needed to stop the virus spreading and the arrangements for this were breathtaking. No one could visit you in hospital, to hold your paw and tell you how much they loved you. If you died, and eye-watering numbers of people have, there could be no celebration of your life to which the mourners could come. And, even though you represented every point of the compass to someone, they couldn’t even get a hug of comfort. Coronavirus was eating away at the core of our people’s humanity.

Us three counted our blessings, we were so very, very, very lucky. Not getting my usual walks, or meeting up with Oscar, was such small fry it didn’t signify at all. Our own lives slid effortlessly into a tranquil pace, walking on our lanes at home, while small miracles of nature nourished our souls (yes, Ben has one too!!). Cows, in the field seen from our kitchen window, satisfied an itch by rubbing against a fallen tree, such clever bovine creatures, or spoke sweet nothings to a special pal. Meantime, goldfinches hopped from hedge to fence, before jumping down to feed on our lawn, and virtually every evening for the three months, in that stupendous spring and early summer of 2020, light bleed into a crimson sky as the sun set.

Hurrah, at last, the end of our first lock-in. It seemed that all was under control and we could go about our normal business or, for me, normal pleasures, with only just a few limitations – yipee! Alas, I still had lots more to learn and we still had to cross a threshold into something called ‘The New Normal’. Round about this time shopping trips became quite scary expeditions where my people turned into bank robbers. In fact, everyone turned into bank robbers. Scariest of all was the sign on the bank where they secure all our money; these weren’t normal times at all – new, or otherwise; the world had gone all topsy turvy, asking bank robbers to take off their masks for identify puposes. At this point, I began to get rather worried that, with all these bank robbers knocking about, there might not be any of the readies left to buy my dinner. But then I rationalised that, if the national debt could run to trillions, someone, somewhere, would surely be able to russell up a bite of dinner for Ben. After all, us canines, and quite a few other furries, had been the main source of comfort for millions of households across the land. We had been their numero unos, so to speak. In my case this wasn’t too tricky as I was the only numero.

Our new normal did at least open the door to what me and B had been missing so much, our beloved Munro bagging. So, we set out at the end of July for a weekend in the Southern Highlands. As drove off, the wings – belonging to the butterflies in my tummy (apprised of the banking situation mentioned above) – tickled my nervous bits with concerns about where my dinner was going to come from. They really needn’t have worried because there it was, in my bowl, bang on time, every night. In fact, apart from one transient incident with a temperamental battery – which I won’t go into here – we achieved all our aspirations for that weekend, notching up a further four Munros, the last of which – Cruach Ardrain – embroidered the magical number of 100 onto our bag.

Alas, looking out from the summit cairn nothing was visible. Cloud, our frequent companion, was hobnobbing with the peaks and obscuring the view. Nevertheless, me and B liked to summon up the landscape in our imagination. Ben Lomond presided over the south, of course, her head inclined towards the loch, just as Ben More and Stob Beinn struck their doubled-sided shoulders into the sky line of the north-east. Meantime, directly north the hills of Orchy, & possibly even Glen Coe, would be issuing their own seductive invitations. Closer to our hearts were yesterday’s conquests and mighty Ben Oss – in the north-west – would be opening his arms to the heavens, through which Beinn Dubhchraig might just be visible. It was all a tad overwhelming to be up here now, in this moment of history that amplified the fragility of life – gratitude and humility coexisted; tears were shed.

Ben’s Map of all the Munros done, in blue, and all those to go, in red

All Ben’s Munro Blogs here

During this weekend I had climbed high, waded tummy deep in bog, walked above the clouds, paid homage to the Robin Hood of the highlands, and run myself into the ground; dear dog in heaven was I done in. It’s just possible I might have raised my head to say hello to David, once I got home, and for a bite of dinner, but otherwise I slept the sleep of the just for days. Pottering around the lanes at home during lockdown, and relaxing in the garden with bottles of dog beer, didn’t – I found out – tune me up for the task of Munro bagging.

Then, as July reclined and August lifted its face towards a new tomorrow, I could sense the vibrations of something major afoot; it might even include me – oh my golly gosh, how exciting was that. Colour, joy, and I might even suggest pageant, marinated the day, as the sun tracked its golden course around the circumference of our garden. Hooray, there was liquid refreshment and tasty bites (in that order), to trace every part of the rotation. B had been working at home for a few months, always tapping away, ignoring me. Now though, she had gone in for something called retirement and, what’s more, she was never, EVER, going out in the morning to leave us alone again; my world of walks and playing ball would always be hers – FINALLY, she had seen the light.

Alas, it was only a short while later that I had to comprehend the word dilemma, and come to grips with it. Coronavirus wasn’t only the beast that was going to upset the equilibrium of my easy life. Now that I was the only numero at home (after our old girl had finally gone to sleep a couple of years ago), I needed to choose between two – equally important – roles. Either I could be B’s buddy, during Munro bagging expeditions, or I could be the the comfort at home, ensuring the home fires – burning bright – weren’t devoid of canine company; in the end, I stayed with David. Munro bagging was fine for two, three, or even four days but B, getting further north, was going in for longer shifts. In all loyalty I couldn’t desert the family homestead for so long. By the end of September B had been away on three more adventures while, every night, me and David had sent her our very best vibes – telepathically – from the comfort of our king-sized bed , warmed by a late burst of central heating; I might just have made the right decision.

As the nights got shorter another Munro season drew to a close. Despite the spiteful Coronavirus, and it’s encroachment into our civil liberties, me and B had put the 100th Munro in the bag and she had etched up a further 38, on those solo trips. But, for now at least, we were all at home together and, blow me down with a golden ring, there was another celebration on the cards.

It turns that a v. v. v long time ago, long before my biological mummy and daddy got it together, my people had tied a knot. I’m not quite sure what nautical purpose it served but, in so doing, they had to vowed to stay together forever and ever, and not to run off if one of them got ill, or had no money in the bank. Since entwining their bit of string they had opened their home to a menagerie of predecessors, who had warmed up my place on the sofa. Sam was the first Border Collie, and Sheba – his feline friend – gave way to Willow. She liked to cradle the neck, from the front or the back, looking for cuddles. Next came Toby who, like me, was a bit of a handful. There were a couple of wild creatures too, Cocky, the Cockrell (I know, I know, it’s not a very original name), and Fuchsia, the farm yard cat, so-called because they put out food for her under a Fuchsia bush (I suppose that’s a little better). Then, so sadly, there was Angel, a tiny kitten who appeared in a very bad way and, even though my people rushed her to Andy – the best vet in the world – he wasn’t able to save her, but… he could take away her pain, kindly. Last, most importantly of all, there was the old girl – Maisie – who was in situ when I arrived. She just couldn’t put a foot wrong and the number of times I was exiled to the porch is legendary, just because I wouldn’t give her a look in when B got home from work. So, there we have it, 40 years of marital bliss, obviously complete now that I’m on the sofa.

By October, that brief summer interlude – of glorious celebrations and Munro achievements – seemed like a lost Elysium, and Autumn, usually lit by bronze, began to take on darker shades. Just a couple of months earlier we had all been given a bit of dosh, encouraging us to eat out so we could help out and get the economy going again; I just can’t tell you how miffed I am that I never benefited from that particular little scheme. Shortly after though, because such mixing and mingling had got the nasty COVID fellow up and running again, we all had to batten down the hatches once more and get back onto Zoom.

Throughout the pandemic so many generous, inventive bipeds, had made their intriguing endeavours available on line, helping us to keep mind, body and spirit together. After a night time of slumber we could have greeted the new day with a spot of yoga in bed, before indulging in a delicious slow breakfast of coddled eggs, enlivened by a flambé of roasted goats cheese on fingers of burnt toast. Then, after putting the garden to rights while learning Portuguese, we might come in for a bite of braised squid resting on a bed of lightly seasoned Marigold leaves – before getting stuck into a streamed production of the ‘Ring Cycle’ for the next 17 hours, while quaffing shed loads of home made nettle beer. Finally, just in case these contributions weren’t sustaining enough, there just had to be a website somewhere that could teach a Border Collie how to play the penny whistle, something I’ve always aspired to. Sadly, my people aren’t really technical so I missed out on it all. However, of all the free on line offerings Zoom outclassed them all, because it brought people who loved each other together, seeing their faces: laughing; smiling; crying. I could see the attraction but, frankly, it wasn’t for me. My famous friend Honey had it just right, the flaw at the heart of the Zoom phenomenon. “I can’t get a biscuit on a Zoom call” she said, “I can’t do my wee sad face that gets me lots of treats on a Zoom a call.”

What Zoom really sounded like was something we all wanted to do – double quick – get past this horrible year. But, progressing towards winter was an art form – holding it together, shutting down here, there and everywhere – to salvage some semblance of a Happy Christmas from the jaws of the virus. A whole confutation of restrictions tried to contain the beast, as noises demanding to know what we might do – or might not do – over the festive season, got louder. Implicit in all the restrictions was the understanding that, if you do this now and suppress the virus, WE might let you have one or two people around, for a diminutive turkey and a small glass of Smoking Bishop. And, it has to be said that all our hard efforts, avoiding everyone in sight, seemed to reap some reward when, after a meeting of chief Cobras, on 23rd November, we were promised five days of celebration. Oh deary me, what fools we mortals be, when ever we believe a politician – spectacularly, when there is a world pandemic doing the rounds. But… oh, how we wanted to believe it, how we needed too.

Hence, almost predictably, having all the presents wrapped and the larders loaded, our dreams were wrenched from under the Christmas tree and the most dramatic U turn of our age ensued. It turns out that the COVID monster had another string to it’s bow, and Ben had more lingo to get his head around. The ‘new variant‘ I’m told, is a mutant variation on the original ghastly fiend. It seems that this one-time nasty bug had another surprise up it’s sleeve and we were back in the land of R numbers. Apparently, our new visitor could nuzzle in even more cosily, replicating its ill effects at an alarming rate and, before you could say Happy Christmas, thousands and thousands of people might be in hospital and the NHS was overwhelmed. Thus, there was nothing else for it and, on 19th December, Christmas was cancelled. The bitter pill was sweeten by saying you might have just one buddy around to help you soak up the misery, on Christmas day only. Even then, my mistress in Scotland, kept suggesting it would be much better if me and my buddy went for a long walk, instead of snuggling up by the fire after a lovely BIG dinner and lots of dog beer. I’m all in favour of a long walk myself, but I was more than a little concerned about the effect of the sub-zero temperatures, that dominate Scotland’s weather at this time of year, on all those granny’s we were going to be knocking about with.

Anyway, the long and the short of it was that, me and my people cancelled our rented cottage for Christmas, near to where we meet our special Christmas friends. We couldn’t even cross the border to England, though our caravan site was opened throughout the year, for the first time ever. Having planning an extravaganza, at said caravan – as plan B – our decorations were (are still!) in situ. Finally, after the infamous day itself was over, my B couldn’t go and see her other people in Devon – something of a tradition that she loved. From my point of view though… IT WAS TOTALLY BRILLIANT, my best Christmas ever. The butterflies in my tummy didn’t even need to get started, as no packing up commenced. Nor did I have to stay out in the cold car, during pub drinking hours, and B was home… THE WHOLE TIME. We slept in till late, had a lovely walk and game of ball in the snow, before comming home to sit by a warm fire, tucking into Christmas treats. Finally, after a lovely dinner, we all settled down for a Midsomer Murders video fest, as a suitable ending to such perfect days. What dog on earth could ask for more than that?

As the end of 2020 collided with 2021 we were still in the vice like grip of the new variant, but had reason for the biggest of all celebrations. The scientists, saluted at the beginning of my blog, had come to everyone’s rescue by pulling out all the stops out and producing a vaccine. Vaccines, it seems, are like buses. You wait an awfully long time for one to arrive and then two come along at once. We had one produced by Pfitzer in Germany, and another by Astra Zenica, from research in Morse’s own territory, Oxford. Normally, vaccines take a v. v. v. v. v. v… exceptionally long time to develop, measured in years, but it seems that – where there’s a will, and an awful lot of money, there’s a way. Thus, in the wink of a clinical trial, the solution to a world crisis was in sight.

I’m led to believe that, if everything goes to plan, .both my people could ‘be done’ by the end of February and… I’m just beginning to wonder if my annual booster, due in March, might include something a little extra.

Think I’ll sleep on it

And so to bed

Love Ben xx

PS As I write the snowdrops in our garden, known as the flower of hope, are poking their heads through the soil.

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!

11 CM

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.

IMG_5037
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

 

 

Thank you my patient friends

Friends, collies, v. v. v patient dogs,

I am so, so, sorry to – only now – be posting blogs about my Munro exploits at the end of August.  Modesty forbids me telling you that I’m great on getting my thoughts assembled straight away (oh I just have!) but, I have to rely on my person with the technology – there’s only so much a paw can do – and now I’m all behind. She pleads all sorts of excuses of course, and I’m promised a better service after retirement – which sounds slower rather that faster to me but here’s hoping. However, the next few days will, at last, give you a window into the world of our adventure the last time we were both in the Munros. So bear with me please, it’s taken a lot of nagging and, I believe, my persistence has pushed my records ahead of all those walks she went on without me, which she still has to publish. Ben’s blogs, naturally, take precedence.

While waiting there was only one thing I could do.

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And so to bed!

Lots of love,

Ben AA HeartPawPrint

 

 

Munros 2019 – July 8. 9 Mullach Clach a Bhlair (No. 79)

Friends, collies, early rising dogs,

Oh my goodness, now this was getting seriously silly. 4.00 o’clock in the morning is no time to expect any self-respecting dog to be up and looking their best and, though she had instigated it, I can personally vouch for the fact that B would have turned out a lot better herself with another couple of hours of shut eye.

Still Munros are Munros, and they’ve got to be done and, what’s more, when this bagging business is followed by a long drive home, they’ve got to be bagged early. This is what happens: get up at some ungodly hour, put a Munro in our bag, get a couple of hours of zzzs, drive home… job done.

This morning’s walk started out down the beautiful Glen Feshie. We set off at what for B was a cracking pace. The clear path beyond Achlean aided our progress so, quite how we deserted this, to follow a track down to a bridge over the river, I’ll never know. Route planning last night had clearly shown that we needed to keep to the north side of the river. I must admit to getting quite worried about this tendency of totally ignoring what was, as plain as the nose on your face, only a few hours before.

Still, on this occasion we rectified the error early and were back on our rightful track absorbing the clarity of light on this glorious extremely EARLY July morning. The route through the glen took us through more of the Scot’s Pine that cloth so many of the glens in the Cairngorms. B had been combing the area this year, most of it without me. Today we were in the south east of the national park and once Mullach Clach a’ Bhlair was in the bag there would be just 3 more routes, to finish off all the Munros in the Cairngorms. After our early mishap we did find our way safely through the forest and then, turning north east, started the inevitable climb. By this time – the fourth day of our long weekend – I had got the treat hunt down to an exact science. I was able to predict with absolute precision the moment when B’s momentum would give out, and she would grind to a halt for a bit of a breather. The frustration of these interruptions to our upward progress was compensated for by the treats that came my way, before we set off again. I just had to look adoringly and, bobs your uncle, I was munching on some nibbles. As these rewards were my main motivation for flogging up mountains I decided to bring forward the moment of administration by pre-empting the next break, sitting down, and gazing with that pleading vulnerability that melts hearts. Alas, we were only a little way into my guise when B cottoned on – she’s not always as daft as she seems. Then she started to tease me, walking for longer than she would normally, even though the huffing and puffing was getting seriously out of hand. I was left sitting behind her with my most pathetic look fixed on the back of her rucksack. I tried racing ahead and sitting down again but she wasn’t having any of it. I think we were playing something called a cat and mouse game, which is somewhat curious because she’s a person and I’m a dog.

Distant views as we ascended

The popular image of the Cairngorms is of huge rounded lumps of remote mountains, characterised by the bogs and hags that lie between them and v. v. v little human habitation; I think it’s called wilderness. Every now and again though, they catch you unawares and take your breath away. Erosion in these parts didn’t always produce smooth, graceful slopes. It could be angry and violent, cutting out gullies of rugged cliffs. Such an episode must have visited the Coire just ahead and, with this awesome prospect greeting us, B and I gave up our game and sat down to soak up the vista. Well, to be more accurate, B was taking in the scene and I was keeping a steady fix on the banana she was eating, being quite partial to a bit of fruit myself.

It wasn’t long after we got going again that we were at the top by another cairn of old stones. Today’s summit was also the culmination of our achievements over the weekend. Admittedly, our mishap on Saturday had cost us the next day’s planned route, and two Munros, but at least we had added five more to our bag, a cause for celebration. After all Friday nights little tête á tête, with the RAC person, had nearly cost us the weekend. B hugged me, I dutifully went doe-eyed and a nice hunk of sausage came my way.

Summit of, and views from, Mullach Clach a Bhlair

We elected to go back the same way sacrificing variety for a bit of saved time. On the way down our outlook was dominated by indomitable presence of those classic Cairngorm hills – voluptuous curves and folds of hills sloped into deeply cut glens for as far as the eye could see, as if the National park was one large sculpture park, set down by evolution, with the sole purpose of pleasing the eye.

Here, in the upper reaches of Glen Feshie, the other half live in splendour able to feast their eyes on the scene from their gardens in all it’s glorious changing seasons. Soon all the hills would be smothered with flowering heather, as it was just ready to burst into a riot of purple.

With less of the readies to splash about, but stores of memories to draw on, B collected souvenirs from the ground. Me and B are going to make a mountain shaped Christmas decoration from the pine cones, to help us recollect all the fun on today’s walk as we have our yummy Christmas dinner every year. The shade of the trees was very welcome as it had become very warm at this more reasonable time of the day, some 7 hours later.

The bit of shut eye, before we drove off, was very timely too but, the most heaven sent thing of all was the sight of my David opening the gate to our house back at home. I got so excited when I saw him and there were no contrived treat driven pranks it was just pure authentic delight. I had so much to tell him.

And then some proper zzzzzzzzs, AT LAST

SF 8
And so to bed

Love Ben AA HeartPawPrint

Munros 2019 – July 7th. A’Chailleach (No. 78)

Friends, collies, bothying dogs,

After our long walk yesterday, and with a shorter walk now planned for today, we were wallowing in a long lie in. However, when at 7am there was no movement coming from the bed next to me I began to see if I could nudge the motionless body into life. After all natures call waits for no man or, in this case, woman.

Our last two days had been a bit of a roller coaster. The puncture on Friday had threatened to sabotage the whole weekend. Then, yesterday’s walk was – in all the ups and downs of navigation – very taxing, to say the least. Today our experience promised to be more sanguine.

We started out beside the Allt a’Chaorainn, crossing it up stream of the bridge, to make a direct route for the corrugated shelter, an unmissable landmark on the walk. At exactly the point we reached the hut dark clouds forged together and emitted a light, persistent rain. B & I amused ourselves in the secluded charm of this basic shelter, etching our presence into bench and, in so doing, married our names with Jan and John, Shirley and Derek and scores of others that had sheltered her for just an hour, or who had put their heads down for their overnight zzzs.

Lots of remote shelters are to be found over the highlands ranging from primitive emergency stopping places, to bunk houses for paying guests. Many of the buildings are maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association which is is a charity that maintains about 100 shelters in some of the remoter parts of Great Britain.

With the permission and support of the owners, the shelters are unlocked and are available for anyone to use freely. Maintenance activities are carried out by volunteers and they are always looking for new members to support their work. Without that support, many of the unique shelters would be lost forever.

 

bothy
http://www.mountainbothies.org.uk

The Bothy Code

Respect Other Users
Respect the Bothy
Respect the Surroundings
Respect Agreement with the Estate
Respect the Restriction On Numbers

 

 

When me and B resumed our walk esumed our walk the rain had stopped and we continued upwards over that most ‘wonderful’ of terrain, bogs and hags. It even sounds horrible doesn’t it?

1 Looking North West to the south eastern face of A' Chailleach
Looking North West to the south eastern face of A’ Chailleach

Eventually, I hauled B up the final pernicious slope wondering how much longer she could attempt this and I could manage. On this occasion we arrived at the top before anyone else. This meant the butterflies in my tummy were sleeping and I could relax for my summit snap, which always makes for a better pose.

5 A'Chailleach
Only a day late

Views north, north west and south

On the way down the troops were abroad and I displayed my best behaviour with nearly everyone I met, regardless of how many legs they had. I got petted by two humans and had a nice reciprocal sniff around Meg, Stan and Corrie. I was rewarded with lots of lovely Primular and my tummy – though never full – felt nice and satisfied. No one will ever know, least of all me, why I then took exception to the young man I met next but, while B was talking to the female person, I decided he was a treat to my security. Form there I was on auto pilot with barking, lunging and with the ultimate temptation of a nip, high on my priorities. It seemed that the people moved on very quickly after that, for some reason. B, disappointed as ever, gave me a big cuddle. She seems to be resigned to the butterflies in my tummy getting the better of me and told me that is why she always has to have a v. v. v tight hold of my lead.

14 Looking down on bothy

By this time we were passing the bothy and the rest of the day passed off uneventfully. It wasn’t long before we were back at my Kangoo with dinner in my bowl nice and early. After that we both had a bit of shut eye and then made for Glen Feshie, to be well positioned for the last walk of our weekend, tomorrow.

IMG_4866
And so to bed

Love Ben AA HeartPawPrint

Munros 2019 – July 6th. Carn Dearg, Carn Sgulain, (nos. 76 & 77)

Friends, collies, navigators

B is up and doing long before I have any notion that morning has arrived. I know when she is in determined mood though, and at such times resistance is futile. So, after a few shakes and a number of stretches I was nearly ready to face the day.

1 No a bad place to wake up
Not a bad place to wake up

We set off to try and bag three Munros in the Monadhliath mountains, starting from Glen Blanchor about six miles west of Newtonmore.

Another deserted farmhouse  –  at the foot of the Monadhliaths

After a hike up Gleann Fiondrigh we found the spot to cross the river no bother, and then began flogging our way up toward Gleann Ballach, in a south westerly direction. It was horribly boggy and the path disintegrated early on. A much younger woman easily caught us up and, after a nod and confirming that she was going after the same mountains, marched ahead; I was left with the slow coach plodding over the peaty hillside, now on a north west trajectory. We traipsed along behind Ms speedy as she frog march over the tough terrain, with us losing ground all the time. Eventually, she disappeared out of sight but, curiously, did not reappear heading south west to claim Carn Dearg, the first Munro on the route. This threw B into a state of confusion. She studied our map; looked at the mountain and looked at the last place we had seen the young woman. It didn’t make sense. In order to solve the puzzle she got out the GPS, to double check our whereabouts on the route.

Oh my goodness, the batteries were dead. Now, rather late in the day if you ask me, B remembered that she’d meant to look at the GPS last night. It had been eating up our batteries lately and she wasn’t sure it was functioning properly. Yesterday evening though, we had to made an appointment with the man from the RAC and, I might add exchange cash, in order to get us road worthy after the wheel underneath me started wobbling down the road. Not only had B forgotten to give our GPS the once over but, having put all the batteries together to try them out, we didn’t have our usual set of spare batteries with us. At this, words that no innocent dog should hear escaped from B’s mouth and, as if in rebuke, the clouds that had been threatening closed in and it started to rain. Carn Dearg, if it ever was Carn Dearg, became invisible.

Things seemed to have reached a head because we started back the way we had come and I began to think it was all off. However, every so often B would stop and look behind her, wearing that desperately disappointed look; she doesn’t like giving in. After some moments of indecision we turned again, walked a little way and then stopped again. It seems she had remembered the app on her ear piece, which would give us a grid reference to tell us where we were on the map. But… not today apparently, because the batteries were flat; another case of navigational negligence, I thought. More bad words issued forth and we about turned again, this time with less of the looking backwards. After about just five minutes the sun came out and B ground to a halt. The mountain, that might possibly be our mountain, was revealed in all its glory. It was too tempting anyway, whatever mountain it turned out to be. For the fifth time we tramped over the same bit of ground, as I desperately tried to get B’s attention. PLEEEASE, I wanted to bark, I really don’t mind which way we go but can you make your mind up. I’m getting desperately dizzy down here.

I think me and B communicate by something called telepathy because it was a long time before we turned back on ourselves again. We headed in the direction of what might, or might not, be the Munro we wanted to bag. It wasn’t that far but it was up a v. v. v steep hill, so we had to have a little sit down and a big snack on the way; it took us a long time and I had to do a lot of tugging to get B up onto the ridge. Once at the cairn I had my photo taken in a spirit of optimism, hoping it was the right summit. We would know soon enough as, according to our printed route, we should come across some rusty old fence posts if the next hill, on our way to Munro No. 2, was Carn Ban.

Looking south east with Schiehallion in the distance

For many walkers this mountain furniture might just be some ugly scrap iron, long past it purpose, but for us it told us that we had just claimed our 76th Munro and were indeed on the right route, heading for number 77, YIPEE.  Not only that, but we were promised that these fence posts would take us along the 7km of featureless mountain top that would – otherwise – be difficult to navigate, if the clouds came down again. Goodness knows where the person from this morning had gone but we were going to claim victory from the jaws of defeat, or so we thought.

After about 3km the clouds did descend again, the mist closed in around us, and light rain clothed us as we walked. Just then, B noticed that her map wasn’t in the map case; a further feat of safety carelessness is you ask me. Here we were on top of a featureless plateau, in wind-blown, damp and mucky conditions with rusty fence posts as our only allies. Our own navigational aids had been reduced to one typed up route, with minimal directions, and a compass – the functioning of which B had never quite mastered. Admittedly, the posts would get us to the top of the Carn Sgulain but what then. We had been on the go for 6½ hours and that would be a v. v. v long way back, when on earth would I get my dinner. The upshot of all this was we turned back, except this time we were scouring the ground and it seems that someone – perhaps the great Dog in heaven – was looking after us because, in just about 500metres, there was our deserted map up against a rock.

We resumed our walk but I really didn’t know if I was leading with my head or my tail, never having spun around so many times in one day before. It was still a long way to get to the summit but the good news was that the clouds had lifted and we could see our way. By the time I was having my photo taken we could even see across to the third and final Munro of the day. We just had a fairly short bit of pathless navigation to get there and then were promised a path all the way back. Oh how my little heart leapt with joy; dinner wouldn’t be too late after all.

Clockise: the summit of Carn Sgulain; looking south with Ben Lawers in mist.; looking west to Knyodart

Following the instructions on the route we returned to the last Bealach and headed south west to avoid the big drop between the hills. Then… I’m out of exclamations and I don’t want to use any of those bad words B resorts to – we came a cropper again. Our route now told us to head south east but this was away from what we had thought to be our third Munro, which was now to the north east. What lay to the south east was a cairned mountain top but it didn’t look as tall at all. Nevertheless, routes was routes and ‘Walk Highlands’ routes were gospel. Perspective can be a funny thing on the hills and perhaps the angle we had looked at the initial top had made it look bigger. We continued in a south easterly direction and at one point did seem to be going in the direction of the higher summit. Sadly, we knew immediately we were at the top that we were in the wrong place. One look back along the ridge told us we were lower down and, while the top – of what turned out to be Geal Carn – sported a wind shelter, there was no sign whatever of the massive cairn described in the route.

13 Not A'Chailleach But Geal Carn
Not A’Chailleach but Geal Carn 😦

We looked back and decided – in our psychic manner – that it was just one step too far. Our legs were hurting and our tummy’s were empty. If we substituted tomorrow’s long, long walk, with a hop up A’Chailleach instead, we could have a lie in and a much more relaxing day. It seemed like a much better idea at this hour of the day, even though it would rob us of the two Munros we had planned for the next day.

The essentially flaw in this line of reasoning asserted itself quite quickly. The path we had been planning on to help us off the hill didn’t materialise because we were on the wrong mountain. The pathless way down, was steep and not without difficulty; B was often kept upright only by clutching at heather. I was much more agile but then I am 35 years younger and I have four good legs. Eventually, without a hook or a crook, we got down into the Glen, finding ourselves not at all where we should have been of course but, back on the track we started out on this morning. It was a straight forward trek back to base after that and, after my dinner, I had the best night’s sleep ever.

And so to bed

Love Ben AA HeartPawPrint

Free competition, open to all

Friends, collies, gamesters,

Well, it’s going to take a bit of time for me to write up all my adventures in the Munros last weekend and, as you know, it’s never plain sailing (or walking) with B.

In the meantime, I thought I’d whet your appetite, by using a couple of my photos to launch a new competition.

I haven’t run a competition for a long time. I got so down in the mouth last year. B had to go down south a lot and our old girl, my mentor – Maisie – went down the tubes, before having to get the vet out that one last time; and then … to put a tin lid on it, David had that v. v. v big fall, coming home from hospital with lots of horrible equipment that scared me silly. It wasn’t great.

In fact, I didn’t even announce the winner of my competition last May, when I gave you a clue to help you work out the old girl’s great age in hours. I feel bad about that. But, better late than never. Tink, my little friend from Devon, will be getting something nice and juicy to reward her. She has astonishing abilities in arithmetic for a feline. I will give her prize to her people, when they come to visit my people, in August. I only had two entries so I think I’ll steer clear of anything mathematical in the future.

This time, then, here is your picture starter for 10. My competition is open to anyone and I will post the prize anywhere in the world, free of charge. The winner will be the first person to get my correct answer. The result will be posted on 7th August.

Me and B came upon these curious burrows as we were struggling over big tracts of pathless, boggy and peaty terrain, while doing some Munros last Saturday. My question is, what sort of creature lives here? Just add your answers to the comments below this post

I needed a big sleep after all that hard work, so B tucked me up in my cushion in the back of Tanka, our Renault Kangoo.

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And so to bed

 

I can’t wait to see what you come up with 🙂

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