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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.