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.
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.
Then, after all that, guess what I did on the way home?
Love Ben xx