Chomp! Part 3

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Moving on from Camas nan Geall, we drove to the base of Ben Hiant – Ardnamurchan’s highest point. On our last visit there we climbed up in the dark to catch sunrise from the top. This time we were heading up at the opposite end of the day, but one thing remained the same: it was very cold and windy at the summit.

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We didn’t hang around on the summit for long, preferring instead to walk back down to a lower point that was much warmer and gave us a very pleasant view of of the setting sun.

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Beautiful though the sunset was, it didn’t hold Beagle attention for long

Soon after that last shot we continued down the hill to the Beaglemobile, arriving just as the light was failing. My first task on getting the van open and the lights on was of course to prepare two bowls of Chappie for the pups. From this point until the bowls were put down on the floor, Biggles became Ardnamurchan’s honorary Town Crier, proudly announcing teatime to any sheep, deer and humans in a 5 mile radius. We humies had our tea also, but not having my own inbuilt megaphone I was unable to broadcast the event as effectively as my little big-gobbed boy.

By now the Corran ferry service had closed for the day, so we had a choice: spend the night on Ardnamuchan, or just accept the somewhat longer drive back to the campsite. The lure of the showers and our extraordinarily comfortable tent won out pretty easily. What’s more although the drive would be longer, we expected it to be much easier at night; there’d be less traffic, and headlights would provide ample warning of any oncoming vehicles. As it turned out we were mostly right, but a few pesky deer still managed to get the adrenaline flowing.

The next morning I took the pups for a final walk round Glencoe while Susan packed up the tent. Whenever I’m responsible for the first morning walk on a campsite I always try to get Beanie and Biggles through the exit gate before they relieve themselves, but I rarely succeed. Perhaps the urgency in my walk translates into urgency in their lower bodies. Regardless, plot number 13 got doused by Biggle pee, and not for the first time on our little holiday; I guess the number 13 really is unlucky.

After a stroll around the nearby Lochan Trails we returned to the campsite, where we encountered another Beagle. He or she burst into howls of outrage as we passed, but my two trotted on calmly without responding. It’s not often I get to play the owner of well behaved dogs, but when it happens I make the most of it. “I don’t know, some Beagles!” I said, shaking my head as we walked by.

The drive back home passed quickly and soon I was leading Beanie & Biggles through the front door. I unclipped their leads and as usual Beanie immediately embarked on a whirlwind tour of the house to make sure that everything was as she’d left it. While she buzzed around, Biggles drained the water bowl, found the comfiest seat in the lounge and plonked his big white bum on it. Once Beanie’s internal checks had been completed she requested access to the back garden. I let her out and stood watching at the door, expecting her to go on her customary mad sprint of freedom. Unusually, it didn’t happen;  she just calmly patrolled the garden borders then had a relaxing sniff round our tree.

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From my point of view our holiday with the campervan and tent had involved more doggy restrictions than previous breaks in the caravan; after all there’d been no off-lead time in the tent at all (unless you count that brief moment when Beanie unclipped her own lead). Perhaps being tethered but able to go in and out of the tent or van at will actually gave our pups a greater feeling of freedom than being off lead in the confines of the caravan?

 

Chomp! Part 1

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When at home our Beagles rarely have problems communicating their needs to us. A paw on the arm while either of us is sat on the sofa means “I want a blankie”. If the water bowl has been emptied by a thirsty Bigglet, Beanie requests a refill by repeatedly banging the bowl against the wall and making a sound that’s a cross between a groan and a muffled fart. And if someone needs to go to the outside loo (or just snoop around the kitchen) then a bit more paint gets noisily scraped off the kitchen door. Unfortunately when we’re away from home some of those signals just don’t work.

For example, let’s say you’re a silly Beagle boy tethered to a stake in the ground just in front of The Beagle HQ Tent on a Glencoe campsite during the recent heatwave. The irresistible urge to pee takes hold of you but there’s no kitchen door to damage. What are you gonna do? Well if you’re Biggles, you whine briefly, and when that doesn’t work you go up to one of the crucial guy ropes on the tent and sever it with a single chomp.

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Yeah Dad, it wasn’t one of my proudest moments but I had to improvise. All things considered, I’m OK with it.

By a minor miracle the tent didn’t collapse; by a more significant miracle the four nights we spent in the tent went brilliantly well. Having said that, I only properly experienced three of them because at 1am on the first night I headed off for a solo ascent of nearby peak Meall Dearg.

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As it turned out I could have spent an extra hour in bed; I made the summit with nearly 80 minutes still to go before the sun appeared. Still, my early arrival left me plenty of time to check out possible photography angles and to admire the summit cairn, which looks uncannily like one of Beanie’s poos. You see Beanie’s not content with outputting simple log shapes; she prefers to create little sculptures with her number twos, and Meall Dearg’s cairn is a classic Beanie design: a curling base with the raised central column offset at a fashionable angle.

In addition to having a poo-shaped cairn, Meall Dearg is connected to neighboring peak Sgorr nam Fiannaidh by the infamous Aonach Eagach ridge. This is apparently the narrowest ridge on the British mainland, and I was happy to be photographing it rather than walking it.

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The other views from Meall Dearg weren’t too shabby either..

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It was a shame not to experience Meall Dearg with Susan and the Beaglets, but this was really a scouting mission to see if it was properly Beagle-able. Now that I know it’s just a hard slog with no technical challenges or scrambling, I think it’s a fair bet there’ll be a real Beanie poo up alongside the cairn in the not too distant future.

Back at the campsite the sun was fully up, and the heat was building rapidly. We opened up the tent for maximum ventilation and kept Beanie and Biggles tethered to a stake just at the front opening. This worked surprisingly well; the Beaglet’s leads were long enough for them to sunbathe on the grass or seek shade in the body of the tent, but just short enough to stop them reaching our cooking gear and food stores at the back of the tent. Biggles quickly took a liking to the inflatable chair we’d brought (even though it was a bit wobbly) and when tiredness caught up with me and I crashed out on the bed, he was able to join me and use my legs as chin rests.

In due course we added a windbreak at the front of the tent to form a sort of semi-enclosed “garden” area.  There are plenty of reasons for having a windbreak on a campsite: to provide shelter from the wind and the sun, to increase privacy, and to stop curious Beagles from seeing things that might lead to noisy howls of outrage. I’ll let you guess which one of those was the most relevant to us.

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By the afternoon I’d caught up on sleep enough to be semi-functional; I grabbed the laptop to check if I had any emails that needed attention. Susan was outside the tent, preparing to light our little portable barbecue. I glanced over towards the Beaglets; Biggles was on his comfy chair, and judging by her lead, Beanie had retired to her travel crate for a private nap. It was warm and sunny, with just enough breeze blowing to keep the temperature comfortable. This was one of those serene, perfect moments that happen all too little in our busy lives.

My relaxed contemplative moment was interrupted by the laptop signalling that it had booted, and I began sorting through my email. Just then, Beanie trotted happily by me, her tail raised and wagging gently with the movement of her hips. My eyes switched back to the laptop, but in the back of my sleep-deprived brain a little alarm bell was starting to ring. Hadn’t Beanie just gone beyond the limits of her leash? Had it become detached from the stake? I looked back to the front of the tent, and was relieved to see her leash still safely anchored to the stake, with the other end leading into her open crate.

Hang on! That’s not right!

Yep the Beanster had decided to go on a little solo tour of Glencoe and being a very resourceful little girl, she’d unclipped her lead just as she had done on the top of The Merrick a few years ago. Fortunately this time her multi-hour “yahoo” didn’t happen; she was quickly apprehended by Susan and frogmarched backed to the garden area of our camp. This little almost-adventure served as a timely reminder of why I wrap duck tape round the release clip of her lead when we’re out on hill walks.

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Crap! Foiled again!

Biggles has never managed to unclip his lead, but judging by his quick work on the guy rope, I don’t think he’d need to; a quick chomp or two would work just as well :)

 

Ben Ime Base Camp

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I’ve finally been to the summit of Ben Ime, but unfortunately due to unknowns about the weather I wasn’t able to take my little furry sherpas with me. We did however hang out at base camp together for quite a while before I started my climb, and it got very cuddly. The fact is that the seats in the Beaglemobile aren’t quite high enough for a truly nosy Beagle, whereas seat plus human lap makes the perfect viewing platform. Installed on their human booster-seats, Beanie & Biggles were able to spy on every sandwich, bun and ice cream consumed within their immediate vicinity. What’s more, hugging was not only tolerated but even welcomed, as it counteracted the foot and bum slippage caused by waterproof hillwalking trousers.

Things got even more cuddly when our car park was invaded by a group of car enthusiasts and bikers. As the sound of revving engines and back-firing exhausts filled the air, Beanie sought to reassure me by nestling even further into my lap; for his part, Biggles reassured the rotating passenger seat by creeping into the foot-well behind it and hanging out until all the roaring and banging subsided. It’s a shame that some of my best cuddles come from scary moments, but if it’s going to happen, I might as well take advantage!

Before long it was time for me to get started. I stuffed snacks and drinks into my pockets, removed Beanie’s snout from said pockets, strapped the tripod to my camera backpack, removed Beanie’s snout from my pockets again, and set out on my mission.  I made good time at first, but as I got a decent way up the mountain snow made the going very tough.

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The true summit finally comes into view…

When I reached the top it was clear of cloud and the air was quite still, but within minutes visibility dropped to a few yards and there was savage windchill. Another five minutes later the cloud lifted again and the wind dropped. And so it cycled round for the next hour or so. During the clear spells I got some really beautiful views, but when the wind was blowing and I was in cloud I couldn’t help wishing I was back at Beagle base camp, inhaling air filled with the subtle fragrance of warm comfortable hound, and the occasional very unsubtle blast of sulphur from Biggles’ bum.

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Given the rapidly changing conditions I was glad that Beanie & Biggles weren’t with me, but from the footprints in the snow clearly somebody’s woofer had enjoyed a good romp around the summit earlier that day!

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I had my phone with me and though there’d been no signal for most of the walk, reception was OK at the summit, enabling me to receive a few textual Beagle bulletins. Apparently chews had been consumed, the trees near the van had been watered copiously, and now Beanie was making popping noises in her sleep. Business as usual then!

I reached my thermal limit just as sunset arrived, and after one last shot from the top of Ben Ime I headed back down.

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As is often the case, the same snow that made the climb up so difficult made the return journey really easy. There were two deep channels in the snow heading straight down to the boggy lower half of the mountain, and I knew instantly that these had been made by other walkers bum-sledding their way back down. I tested my own rear end in the nearest channel, and it was a good fit. It took two minutes on my bum to cover a distance that had taken half an hour on my feet. By the time it was dark, I was off Ben Ime and on the long trudge back down to Arrochar. This is usually the most tedious part of the walk; all the adrenaline from the climb has gone and there’s nothing but bog, trees and aching knees ahead. Fortunately another Beagle bulletin arrived informing me that the furry sherpas had departed base camp and were coming to help me back to the van.

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When the sherpas arrived they were very keen to lighten my load. Throughout this whole adventure I’d been terribly weighed down by a pair of dental chews in my right thigh pocket, and Beanie and Biggles kindly relieved me of this burden almost immediately. Suddenly the journey back to the van didn’t seem quite so long.

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Back at base camp, and after an all-day-breakfast and a tin of Chappie it’s almost time to leave. Notice our little pack leader at the window,  making sure I don’t go wandering off on my own again.