Mountain ears: they’re so tasty!
That’s Biggles tucking into a tasty ear breakfast after spending the night on the summit of Ben Donich. And before you ask, yes the overnighter was intentional and not something that was forced on us by an escaping Beagle. As you can see our four legged mountaineers were frisky and full of energy after their night of wild camping, which is more than could be said for Susan and myself.
Our previous night on a mountain was last year on Arran’s Goat Fell. That had been during June, giving us the double benefit of warmer nights and less time to kill between sunset and sunrise. We’d been able to get by with a lightweight fishing shelter instead of a full-blown tent back then. This time, with colder temperatures and nearly twelve hours from sun down to sun up, we knew there could be no corner cutting; we needed a proper tent, with proper sleeping bags. Unfortunately all that bulk doesn’t help when you have to do a bit of scrambling on the way to your chosen mountain top.
Another thing that doesn’t help with scrambling is an over-enthusiastic Beagle boy. The plan had been for Susan to get just far enough down to hand me first her rucksack, then our two Beagles, but Biggles just didn’t want to wait for his turn. He kept trying to squeeze past Susan, and it was only when he finally managed to dive over her shoulder and onto her lap that he remembered he’s no good at climbing. In a second he went from fearless mountaineer to scared and repentant little boy, but somehow Susan managed to keep hold both of him and her unwieldy backpack just long enough for me to get them safely back to terra firma. I will say one thing for Biggles: he doesn’t let these little reversals dent his ego. As soon as his feet touched the ground he had a thorough shake and was instantly transformed back into Sir Edmund Bigglery. Onward!!
We made it to the summit without further incident and quickly found a site for our tent. Susan handled the pitching process almost completely solo. I’m not good with tents and neither are Beanie & Biggles, so I figured the best way for us to help would be.. not to help.
Are you done yet Mum?
Once the tent was up I attended to the really important stuff like serving up the kibble and filling the water bowl, then went to scout out good shooting locations for the coming sunset. As it turned out cloud made the sunset a bit of a non-event, but I got some shots of an unusual shaped rock and Susan doing a handstand against the summit trig point.
Up to this point the temperature had been pretty mild, but as soon as the sun disappeared it really started to bite. It wasn’t long before we all retired to the shelter of the tent to spend the night wrapped up in our thick sleeping bags, and that’s when the fun really started.
We had two sleeping bags and four bodies to keep warm. After a game of musical beds I ended up with Biggles while Susan took in Beanie. I have to say it wasn’t brilliantly comfortable; I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the bag’s designers never anticipated that the owner would be sharing with a Biggly Boy. Nevertheless, I figured I’d still manage to get a somewhat decent sleep. I was of course wrong.
Susan has a touch of claustrophobia, and the combination of a tight sleeping bag and Beagle that really likes to stretch out soon became untenable, so I ended up with two Beagles in my bag. At first it wasn’t too bad; Beanie settled in behind my knees while Biggles kept the front of my feet warm, but then I tried to change position and got a taste of claustrophobia myself. Every time I made an inch of space for myself, a Beanie body part filled it. I decided I would just shove her out of the way; after all I’m the human, she’s the dog, right? She responded first by grumbling, then by walking none too lightly over my groin area which really killed the whole “just about to nod off” vibe. After a little more wrestling I somehow ended up with her nose packed tightly into my left armpit. She took in a deep breath, then let out a relaxed sigh of contentment. I can honestly say this is the first time any living creature has reacted positively to the smell of my armpit, especially after I’ve climbed a hill without showering. Regardless, this stable state didn’t last for more than ten minutes, then we were back to wrestling and grumbling at each other. Suffice it to say I got maybe 40 minutes sleep over the whole night.
In the morning we were in and out of cloud for the first hour or so, but when the mist cleared the view was spectacular.
It was truly gorgeous up there, but desperately cold. Eventually we’d had our fill of the scenery and we began the process of packing everything up. We started inside the tent by letting the air out of our inflatable mattresses (which was a source of endless amusement and fascination to Beanie & Biggles), then moved outside to dismantle the tent itself. It had been my intention to help Susan throughout, but a sudden outbreak of play-fighting demanded my attention.
Despite all the criss-crossing, leaping and rolling that went on, they never once got tangled up in their leads, yet on a regular walk you can guarantee that Biggles will tie himself up at least once every 100 yards.
It was great to see them playing; they haven’t had an extended wrestling match like that at home for ages. I figured either Beanie’s attacks on Biggles a couple of years ago had permanently dented his confidence, or maybe they’d just grown out of that kind of play. Either way, it looks like that night on Ben Donich has rolled back the clock a bit.