Most of the time it’s abundantly clear that dogs in general, and Beagles in particular, are second class citizens. Everything seems to be biased in favor of humans – even the very things that are supposedly made for dogs. Take poo bins for example. Every single one I’ve seen has been mounted way too high up. It’s almost as if the designers were deliberately trying to stop Beagles from having a good rummage inside and maybe snacking on a couple of logs! It is therefore particularly satisfying when you find something that has genuinely been designed with Beagles in mind. A while back we discovered the the ferry to Arran had railings perfectly spaced to allow a Beagle head through for optimum viewing. And yesterday we discovered that the Vango Storm Shelter 400 has similarly been specifically engineered to accommodate the small-to-medium sized hound.
We bought the Vango shelter partly as an emergency survival aid for when we’re out hill walking, but also as a low hassle way to give Beanie and Biggles a peaceful place to chill out with us even when we’re high up and beset by overwhelming sniffs from miles around. We took it with us yesterday on our trip up Ben Donich. We had no expectation of really needing it, but the weather had other ideas.
We started the walk up at about 7:30am, and at that point the weather matched the forecasts. It was a little cold and cloudy but it was dry, and occasional pockets of blue and the odd ray of sunshine held the promise of a bright, clear mid morning – just in time for our arrival on the summit.
Unfortunately as we reached the top we were hit by a strong icy wind, there was what looked like fresh-ish snow on the ground, and visibility had gone down to 100m thanks to heavy grey cloud. It was desperately cold but every so often we’d get a brief (i.e. minute-long) window of visibility. This encouraged us to stay put until the promised good weather turned up, and to combat the cold, we broke out the Vango.
It’s basically a big orange bag with a small plastic window and a couple of air vents at either side. There are no poles or other structures with it – you just find somewhere to sit down and pull it right over you. The material it’s made from blocks wind and rain alike, and the inside warms up remarkably quickly. It’s so effective that some people actually describe this kind of shelter as a “bothy in a bag”. Certainly it worked for us. Even with all my layers on I don’t think I could have tolerated being on the summit for much longer without it. I sat perched on on a rock in one corner of the shelter with Biggles on my lap, while Susan took the other corner with Beanie. Beanie of course wasn’t having any of this “sit quietly on my lap” nonsense; she focused all her efforts on raiding the rucksack that had the sandwiches in it. As Susan and I both struggled to contain our waggy sandwich thief, the wind grew stronger and a hail/snow storm started up. Not a good development, but that was about to be the least of my worries.
As I turned my attention away from Beanie and the storm outside I realised that Biggles’ entire head had gone missing! I’ve often joked about him wagging his rear so much that his tail will drop off, but now it looked like I’d been worrying about the wrong end entirely. His tail, legs, body and neck were all present and correct, but there was nothing but the orange “wall” of the shelter where his head should have been. Then, on closer examination, I realised that his head hadn’t vanished, it was merely fully – and I do mean fully – inserted into one of the shelter’s air vents. Yep, it turns out those clever Vango people have somehow measured Biggles’ head and created a special rain and wind-proof sniffing portal especially to fit him. Now that is customer service!
By the time I’d extracted his head from the vent (and he’d stuck it right back in, and I’d extracted it again, and so on several more times), the storm had blown over. The shelter had worked brilliantly, but we decided that hanging on any longer would be pushing our luck. The best thing would be to use the lull in the bad weather to get down off the mountain and back to the safety of the car. However, just as we packed everything up the clouds began to clear away one more time – and this time they stayed clear. There were patches of blue sky among the grey and a bit of warming sunshine, and I finally got to break out the camera and get some shots of the views.
Clear! Well, mostly!
I’ve heard it said that the best conditions for viewing landscapes come just before, or just after, a storm. I’d have to agree.
Having seen the best of the views, we headed back down.
Shortly after leaving the summit we had to deal once more with the only scrambly bit of the walk – a short stretch of vertical rock that must be climbed. In truth it’s not hard; there are lots of mini-ledges that act like steps, and the whole thing isn’t exactly high anyway. Sherpa Beanie led the way, perhaps a little too enthusiastically, followed by Susan and Biggles.
The scrambly bit is in the lower right corner
Spot the Beagle?
His Biggleship wasn’t wild about the climb but he did it anyway
Hey dad, what’s keeping ya?
Now it was my turn. I put the camera away and mounted my sturdy but heavy and unwieldy tripod back onto my rucksack. I got my right foot securely onto the first ledge/step – taking care to position my torso so as not to scrape the tripod against the rock – and thrusted up hard to overcome all the weight I was carrying. Unfortunately I’d been paying so much attention to caring for my camera gear that I’d neglected my own bits and pieces, and I drove my head straight into another rock ledge above me. It hurt. I now have an extra baldy bit up there, raised and scarred. I guess I could semi-legitimately claim that it’s a rock climbing injury!