We’ve had some surprisingly good weather during May, and yet through all of it our caravan has sat unused on our drive. Clearly this couldn’t be allowed to continue, so we headed up to Glen Coe for a mini holiday.
The first couple of days passed without any major expeditions; we went on some low level walks around the pyramid-like Buachaille Etive Mor..
and we went in search of The Grey Mare’s Tail. The latter got Beanie & Biggles very excited; the tail end of a horse is where the poo comes out, and horse poo is a delicacy that no self-respecting Beagle can refuse! They followed the trail with great enthusiasm, leaping over fallen trees, climbing steep hills and crossing raging torrents..
And yet despite all this effort and two of the most powerful sniffers this world has to offer, Beanie & Biggles never found the illusive grey mare, let alone her poo deposits. All they got instead were wet paws at some poxy waterfall!
Nope, there’s no horse poo down there. Dammit!
Naughtiness was bound to follow a huge disappointment such as this. Sure enough, at lunchtime – just as Susan was serving up chicken and mushroom pasties – I spotted a tick crawling on someone’s furry bottom. I grabbed some tweesers, nabbed the little bugger and sentenced it to death by chemical toilet. On my return I found that my pastie was no longer intact; there was a vaguely triangular chunk missing from it’s left side, and Biggles was working his tongue round his mouth trying to dislodge thin slivers of pastry from his teeth. I looked at him, and he looked right back at me defiantly as if to say “that’s just the start. If you want a full lunch you’d better take us on a proper adventure!” There was also a brief and highly inadvisable attempt to start a chase in the caravan with a toilet roll.
Obviously a substantial hillwalk was needed to quell the peasants’ revolt, and there’s no shortage of them in Glen Coe, but which one? The Pap? Done it. Ben Bevis? Too long and too busy. But what about Buachaille Etive Beag? Perfect! After all it’s almost got “Beagle” in its title and it gives you two Munro-qualifying peaks in the one walk. Unfortunately it also has a section along a ridge that, from other’s photographs, appears to be knife-edge narrow. Would it really be suitable for safe Beagle traversal? According to Susan there was one easy way to find out: send me up it alone one morning, and if I came back alive, we could all do it together the next day.
Being a keen photographer I wanted to catch this special two-headed mountain in special light, so I decided to set off super early to be on the first of its peaks at sunrise. At this time of year, super early means 2.30am, so I needed to get as much sleep as possible beforehand. It’s very tough to move around in our little caravan once the two dog crates are in place, so we decided that we’d let the Beagles sleep in bed with us, making my early morning escape a little easier. The drawback? Biggles decided to unleash his woeful bed-making skills on my bunk. More than once during my desperately short night I was awoken by a grumbling Biggles as he tore away the covers and circled with them to form an uneven Beagle-filled lump in the bottom corner of the bed. So, at 2.30am I was bound for the car park below Buachaille Etive Beagle with little more than two hours’ sleep in the bank.
I was armed with various torches (including one that can illuminate a spot from more than 100m away – I’m very proud of that one and it cost less than a tenner on Amazon), but I didn’t need ’em. Even at that delicate time of the morning there was sufficient light to see the path. The route goes like this: you walk up to a central dip or “bealach” between the two peaks, then do the peak on one side, return to the center and do the the other side, then back to the center and down. Determined to beat the sunrise I hammered up the first stage as fast as I could, which wasn’t very fast as it was steep as hell. At about 45 minutes into the walk I saw a very bright light up ahead of me. I figured it was torchlight from some intrepid campers up on the bealach, and my heart sank. I was greedily looking forward to having this mountain to myself, with no restrictions on how long I spent photographing its delights, but clearly that was not to be. Worse still, these campers had a torch that was even more powerful than mine. Bummer! And yet, as I drew closer to the light source I realized that it was in fact the moon.
384,400 km away and you can still see that bright light. It must eat batteries for breakfast though, and I bet it cost much more than a tenner.
On reaching the bealach I took a moment to recover and had a swig of chocolate flavored milk, which has got me through a lot of tough challenges in my life. I’d made good time and had the option of doing either of the peaks first: Stob Coire Raineach to my left which was closest, or Stob Dubh which was further away and at the end of the ridge. I went left, thinking that any spare time before sunrise could be spent finding a good place for photographs. That was a very, very, very good call:
It wasn’t easy to tear myself away from that view and continue on the rest of the walk, but I had to do it. Heading back down to the bealach should have been trivial, but while the path between it and the summit is obvious on the way up, it’s not so clear on the way back down. I mistook a winding scree slope for the true path and my journey down was rather faster and more exciting than it should have been. As they say on the motoring show Top Gear: “a bit of poo came out”. Still, it was better to make mistakes like this while solo rather than with two crazy Beagles tied to my waist!
The walk to the second peak was thoroughly enjoyable. It was nowhere near as tough as the march up to the bealach, the ridge was in fact reassuringly wide and all the while there were beautiful views to the front, and looking back over my shoulder.
In due course I reached the summit cairn of Stob Dubh, but found it to be less photogenic than a second cairn further on but lower in height. The wind was picking up speed now and it was chilly enough to make my nose run, even in full sun. I reached for a hanky and discovered I had half a Tesco dog biscuit knocking around in one of my pockets (I always like to keep a biccie and a poo bag in my pocket. On occasion I’ve even left biccie desposits on the floor of my local gym while doing my ab routine). I symbolically placed this on the second cairn, ready and waiting to be grabbed by one of my ever-hungry Beagles the next day.
Yeah it’s only half a biccie, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
I hung around on Stob Dubh for some time taking more photos…
By the time I headed back some clouds had blown in which made for even more dramatic views of the ridge..
I made it back to the caravan without incident so now a second trip with the whole pack was on the cards. This time his Biggleship decided to leave the bed making to me and I got a semi-decent sleep. My legs were far from fresh of course, but Beagle power helped me up to the first peak in plenty of time for a second sunrise. This time around the sun was obscured by cloud, but it was still very beautiful.
Susan’s even less keen on heights than me, but after a little snack break she bravely headed out onto the ridge with Beanie & Biggles tied to her belt.
On reaching the Stob Dubh summit our Beagles searched high and low for the biccie I’d told them about, and during the course of this search the cairn itself took a little, er, damage. Fortunately Susan was able to effect repairs..
We never did find that biccie, but apparently Beanie & Biggles were still satisfied with their adventure because there were no further pastie-chomping incidents.