Our intrepid Beagles can now add Ben Narnain to the list of Scottish mountains they’ve conquered. In fact they can add it twice, because we went up it twice in the same week.
The first ascent was done very early in the morning in the hope of reaching the top in time for sunrise. We succeeded, in fact we over-achieved, arriving a good hour ahead of the sun. Ordinarily this would be a good thing but on this particular morning the weather was intent on misbehaving. While the rest of the UK was enjoying a heatwave, Scotland was having unseasonably chilly temperatures. On the summit this was coupled with a strong, bitingly cold wind (a gentle breeze had been forecast) and clouds that couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be above us or below us. We spent most of our time covered by a cold wet mist which parted only briefly to reveal tantalizing glimpses of the surrounding landscape. I was reasonably confident that once the sun appeared it would burn off most of the cloud, but an hour was an awfully long time to wait, especially for Beanie.
We are NOT amused Dad. Not one little bit.
As you can see I’d brought the doggy coats with me this time, so there was no need to give up my balaclava, but still the Beanster was shivering. Even Biggles was feeling the cold; he insisted on sitting on my camera bag to insulate his little furry bum from the rock. To kill some time I took them for walks round the large summit plateau, and we lasted out until sunrise. We saw the sun briefly, but then cloud covered everything again and the temperature dropped still further, leaving us no choice but to pack-up and head back down. This proved much more challenging than expected because I mistook a sheep/deer track for the path, and our descent became more of a scramble than a walk.
About half way down a group of sheep turned up – possibly the same buggers that had made the decoy path in the first place – and ignited Biggles’ prey drive. He immediately broke into his warbling, grunting and aarfing routine, but the sheep just stood and stared at him, apparently unimpressed and unafraid. Ordinarily I feel sympathy for my boy’s bruised ego when this kind of thing happens; he tries so hard to put on a manly baying voice but he always falls short (imagine Michael Jackson trying to do a Darth Vader impression and you’ll get the general idea). On this occasion however I was just glad that the sheep were standing their ground; as long as they did so, neither of my two hounds would start pulling, and I really didn’t need any pulling at this point. Of course this was the very moment that Beanie decided to show Biggles how it should be done. She was the runt of her litter, she only weighs 11.5kg, yet she has the loudest, most blood curdling baying voice of any hound I’ve heard. She turned the volume up to eleven, the sheep ran for their lives, and now I had two frenzied four-legged pulling machines to steer down the steep, slippery slope of Ben Narnain. By the time we reached the base of the mountain, the sun had burned away all the cloud and the wind had dropped. It was a beautiful warm day, but we were all too knackered and too long without sleep to do anything with it.
Obviously we couldn’t leave it at that, so later in the week we made a second visit to Ben Narnain. This time we had some of the heatwave that the south had enjoyed, and we went up during the day, well-rested and armed with a tent for an overnight stay.
This time everything went right. It was warm, there was scarcely a cloud in sight, and there still was just enough breeze to keep the midges away. We got to the summit in plenty of time for sunset, and found a great place to pitch our tent. And here’s the really amazing thing: we human types actually got a decent sleep in the tent. All previous Beagle-in-tent experiences were best regarded as sleep-deprivation experiments, but not this time. There were no midnight raid attempts on the rucksack, no repeated migration from one sleeping bag to the other, and no digging of claws into human flesh to steal more than one’s fair share of the limited space. Biggles curled up by Susan’s feet, and Beanie snuggled into my stomach like a little furry hot water bottle.
Of course that’s not to say there wasn’t an escape attempt first thing in the morning..
But Susan got a firm hold on their collars, thus avoiding an unplanned extra night on the mountain
So Ben Narnain has been done, but there are so many great views up there I’m sure we’ll climb it again next year. I think it’s actually replaced The Cobbler as my favorite hill!