“It’ll break your lungs, your legs, your lower back..”
The words of Steve Austin (the wrestler, not the secret agent with notoriously unreliable bionics) were playing in my head last Thursday morning as I made my way up Arrochar’s Beinn an Lochain in the dark. I’ve no doubt the “Skullbuster” obstacle course is in reality much tougher than a walk up that almost-but-not-quite Munro-class hill, but it is nevertheless a steep little bugger that does everything in its power to break your morale.
Less than 48 hours earlier the walk had been in danger of not happening at all. I’d finished my gym session early and while I was waiting for Susan to finish her workout, I nipped into The Range and ended up in the pet section. They had some new toys I hadn’t seen before and I started testing them out, closing my eyes and imagining that my right hand was a Beagle mouth (my mouth analogue tends to be better at finding good toys for Biggles, while Susan’s “mouth” is more suited to Beanie). In this case, a furry, squeaky slipper felt particularly nice, and though it only had one squeaker it was well positioned and didn’t require a lot of pressure to activate. The slipper fell into my shopping basket, along with a cheap pack of tripe sticks that I figured would be great for the hillwalk. I didn’t try the tripe sticks in my “mouth” as it isn’t good at chewing, lacks taste-buds and isn’t connected directly to a stomach, but I did let Beanie & Biggles try them in person as soon as we got home, along with the slipper. The slipper was a bit of a non-event, but the tripe sticks went down very well indeed. Unfortunately they also came back up really well about three hours later, leaving us with two large piles of Beagle stomach contents – one on the lounge rug and another on the corridor carpet (the much easier to clean laminate flooring was, as always, barf-free). Needless to say the tripe sticks went straight in the bin and I waited somewhat anxiously to see if their ill effects would carry over to the next day. Happily they didn’t and Beinn an Lochain was declared a “go”.
Anyway, back to the hill climb. Beinn an Lochain is basically a big, steep and lumpy ridge, and because it is so lumpy it presents one false summit after another as you climb it. After the first few surprises I gave up trying to determine if the currently visible “top” was the real deal or not and limited my view to the path immediately before me. Even that wasn’t exactly easy; the path kept turning abruptly and skipping round featureless rock as though deliberately trying to hide from the beam of my headtorch. Fortunately my two furry companions were on the case; almost every time my eyes lost the path, a wet black nose found it. Thanks to this teamwork and the heavier leg workouts I’ve been doing recently, we arrived at the real summit well ahead of my expectations.
Given a choice I’d always rather get to the top of a hill early, but in this case I’d seriously overdone it – we had nearly a full hour to kill before sunrise and Beanie & Biggles don’t do waiting very well. We strolled between the official summit and another close-by high point a few times, consuming about ten minutes. We took another five minutes to munch our way through a total of four cow ears. A pack of 4 Pedigree mini-jumbones (yep, those advertised with the ever-lasting om-noms) was gone in barely 2 minutes. By the time sunrise was finally approaching, things were getting pretty woofy on Beinn an Lochain I can tell you.
To make things worse, the clear skies promised in weather forecasts never materialized; instead we got only grey clouds and windchill. I traded a handful of my traditional “summit” peanuts for a long exposure shot by the cairn, and then reluctantly started on the journey back down.
Back at the Beaglemobile I served up two bowls of breakfast for the pups and kicked off my walking boots, hoping to enjoy the last of my peanuts unmolested. Like the sunrise, this didn’t quite work out as planned :)
A crossed leg is no barrier to The Beanster