Every Dog has its Day

Garbh Bheinn – 885m
Distance: 5 ½ miles
Ascent: 1000m
Weather: Hot and sunny
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Bill, Andy, Robin, Stewart, Sheila, Heather, Ted, Andy, Amanda, Doogz, Alan, Peter, Hamish, Molly, Milly, Ali, Louis, Meg

Molly’s mission to become the first canine Corbett completer.

‘She’ll need a lot of exercise’ said the farmer as he handed me over to my new Humans. Well they certainly took him at his word.

Me aged 5 weeks.

I was born on a Dartmoor hill farm and spent my puppy hood surrounded by moors, tors, hills with loads of fantastically smelly things to roll in and apart from a couple of embarrassing encounters where I was beaten up by sheep, life couldn’t get any better. Then when I was six months old one of The Humans gave up work so she could devote herself to entertaining me full time. Such dedication.

Shortly after my first birthday The Humans started preparing for my first holiday. I had no idea what this involved and I nervously watched as my bed, toys and huge quantities of dog food were loaded into the back of the car. The journey was very dull but eventually we arrived. Wow! All this space to run around in, the hills looked huge and most of them were covered in some funny white powdery stuff. I couldn’t wait to investigate.

My first adventure was on a Munro called Creise.  The white stuff made me want to run around like a puppy again……………….in fact after all these years it still does. After a couple of hours, we reached a pile of stones and The Humans stopped, patted me, took my photo and gave me my lunch. A strange ritual that they seem to follow every time we reach a pile of stones. My bagging career had started and during the holiday I climbed my first Corbett, Beinn an Lochain.

At the summit of my first Munro, Creise, April 2008

A few months later The Humans packed everything we owned into a lorry and we drove north to Helensburgh, but this time we didn’t go home again. I certainly wasn’t going to complain because each night The Humans would look at something called the ‘weather forecast’ and if they started smiling, I knew I would be getting a good walk the next day. We drove for miles to climb up hills and touch the pile of stones at the top and before I knew it I had climbed my 50th Corbett on Beinn Maol Chaluim.

After a few months The Humans packed everything into another lorry and unloaded it in Aviemore. It was November and there was white powdery stuff everywhere, even in our garden!

Enjoying the Aviemore snows.

We kept walking and walking and after a year I was rewarded with a celebratory sausage on Beinn Spionnlaidh to mark my 100th Corbett.

As if walking wasn’t enough The Humans started to experiment with other forms of transport. One day Uncle Andy turned up and made us sit in a lump of plastic and we floated to Ben Aden. This was not an enjoyable experience and I sat on her lap shaking the whole way. I was very relieved to get out and put up a bit of struggle when they tried to get me back in it again.

Kayaking to Ben Aden.

I became quite an expert on the canine facilities aboard CalMac ferries and I loved to chase The Humans on their bikes in a futile attempt to make them go faster. On one of my overseas trips The Humans took me to Arran and Uncle Andy took us on to the A’Chir ridge. I was having great fun leaping up and down the rocks when suddenly we arrived at a huge drop. ‘No problem’ says Andy. Whoever heard of a dog abseiling? I don’t think I’ll be doing that again in a hurry.

Last year The Humans took me for a walk on a mountain that was on fire!! I was becoming a bit concerned about burning my paws when a huge noisy helicopter appeared and whisked us back to safety. Now that was fun!

In 2012 we walked up to The Cobbler again, but instead of waiting patiently at the bottom, guarding the rucksacks while The Humans climbed it I was trussed up in my climbing harness and before I knew it I was standing on the top!

The Cobbler.

I traveled the length and breadth of Scotland with The Humans and slowly but surely, I reached 150 on a very snowy Sail Mhor and climbed my 200th during a heat wave on Beinn an Eoin. With only a few Corbetts left to climb I found out that it was probable that I had  walked where no other dog had walked before and plans were made for a celebration on Garbh Bheinn.

Getting some practice in kissing the cairn.

I thought I was going to burst with excitement! Everywhere I looked more and more of my friends and their doggie companions were appearing. We set off up Garbh Bheinn and once we got to the summit all The Humans seemed very pleased with me, I must have done something special as I was presented with a huge packet of sausages. The Humans were patting me and shaking my paw and everybody was taking my photo.

I’m not sure what was going on but it really was a grand day out!
But l’ll let The Humans tell that tale…………………………….

The idea of Molly completing the Corbetts begun in 2011 when I was updating her hill log and realised she only had 20 to go. The trouble was they were rather widely distributed and the last few walks meant some lengthy drives. South to the Borders, Galloway and Tyndrum, west to Skye and Ardgour and finally north to Foinaven.

Some detailed research followed (Hamish Brown, owner of Kitchy, the first dog to complete the Munros and Dave Hewitt of Angry Corrie fame both helped) and this showed that there had never been a recorded canine Corbett completer so it looked like Molly was likely to gain that honour.

The completion date was set for 13th May but the forecast torrential rain and 100 mph winds materialised and we didn’t even get out of the car. A rescheduled date was planned for 2nd June and the forecast looked pretty good.

Ardgour awaits.

We assembled in Ardgour with Molly’s invited guests gathering from afar and 5 dogs adding to the general air of bedlam.

We plodded steadily up the ridge to the 823m top with the views opening up all around us.

Anne, Bill and Molly.
Our first view of the summit.


Molly and her assembled canine companions.


As we approached the summit, we were greeted by Hamish Brown who had made the journey specially to congratulate Molly on her achievement.

We finally managed to make Molly stand still for long enough to take a couple of summit photos, modelling her doggie buff which was sent to her as a completion present.

Molly and her companions were presented with a packet of sausages each. Most of the dogs scoffed theirs down in a couple of minutes but Robin managed to save a few to torment the dogs with.

Robin the sausage magnet.

We celebrated with the by now traditional cookies and champagne and in all the excitement I totally forgot to get the group together for a summit photo.

Molly was presented with a completion Frisbee at the summit just in case she wasn’t excited enough.

Celebrations over we took a leisurely stroll back down the hill followed by a cool refreshing pint in The Ardgour Inn before we all went our separate ways.

I’m ready for my 2nd round now!!

















The best view in Scotland?

Beinn Lair – 859m
Beinn a’ Chasgein Mor – 856m
Date: 28th May 2012
Distance: 23 miles
Ascent: 2,150m
Weather: Hot, hot and even hotter
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Stewart and Molly

A’Mhaighdean – 967m
Ruadh-stac Mor – 918m
Date: 29th May 2012
Distance: 22 miles
Ascent: 2, 050m
Weather: Hot in the glens and cloudy summits
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Stewart and Molly

On all my previous visits to Fisherfield I had been based at Shenevall and climbed the Munros as a circuit from the bothy, then on my Corbett round I had visited Beinn Lair and Beinn a’ Chaisgein Mor from Poolewe. Stewart was in the final stages of his Corbett round so the opportunity to tackle A’ Mhaighdean and Ruadh-stac Mor via an alternative route seemed too good to miss. The promise of high pressure across the north west miraculously coincided with us both having a commitment free week so the trip was on.

Continue reading “The best view in Scotland?”

Escape to Mull

Winter had arrived early in Aviemore, tons of deep powder snow had made hill walking an energy sapping slog, post holing or wading through knee to thigh deep snow. Exercise was restricted to ploughing through the snow on along the Speyside Way and endless cross-country skiing in the woods around Loch Morlich. The highest thing I had climbed for two weeks was a ladder to remove frozen snow from our gutters.

It was time to escape and I needed to go west as there was significantly less snow there. I decided to combine a visit to Oban to see Andy with a jaunt across to Mull. Andy had recently acquired a new Bearded Collie puppy so this gave me the perfect excuse for a visit.

Ali at 16 weeks

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Island Odyssey – Part 2: Arran and Rum

With only 20 to go I still didn’t have plan for finishing the Corbetts! A completion date had been set for early July so I spent the first six months of 2010 on a mopping up mission across the length and breadth of the country. Jura, Harris and Knoydart had been visited so all that left was a trip to Arran and Rum.

Now the observant reader will notice than Arran is quite a long way from Aviemore so it probably wasn’t the most sensible idea to prepare for the trip with a 13 hour round trip over Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, Mullach nan Dheiragain and An Socach from the Glen Affric road end, followed by only 5 hours sleep. I left the house at 5 a.m and drove to Oban to meet Andy, by this stage Molly had recovered from her epic walk the day before and was raring to go. After a quick break in Oban she was reluctantly bundled back into the car for the drive to Claonaig to catch the ferry across to Lochranza on Arran.

This was my first visit to Arran and it looked pretty good so far.

Continue reading “Island Odyssey – Part 2: Arran and Rum”

It Doesn’t Always Snow in Knoydart

My first visit to Inverie in Knoydart had been in May 2005 and the weather was somewhat un-spring like.

7th May 2005: Meall Bhuidhe – Luinne Bheinn traverse

8th May 2005: On the Ladhar Bheinn ridge

Our re-visit to Knoydart had been booked  the previous November when the promise of spring after a never ending winter was something to look forward to. When the MWIS forecast for the weekend predicted snow showers and bitterly cold temperatures I did feel an ever increasing sense of de-ja vu.

Continue reading “It Doesn’t Always Snow in Knoydart”

Island Odyssey – Part 1: Harris and Jura

Plan, what plan?
I never really had a plan for completing the Corbett’s, I just plodded my way through the list and somehow found myself down to the last 20. However, ticking off the last few required trips to Jura, Harris, Arran, Rum, oh and Knoydart! Time to dust off the ferry timetable again.

The sudden change in the weather had taken us all by surprise. Over Easter we were still wading through knee deep snow in Aviemore and by the following weekend it was the warmest place in the UK.

Carn na Nathrach – 786m
12th April 2010
Distance: 8 1/2 miles
Ascent: 970m
Time taken: 6 hours
Weather: Dry, warm and sunny
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne and Molly

The good weather continued and after a short hop across Loch Linnhe on the Corran ferry I arrived in Glen Huirich near Kinlochan to climb my last Corbett in Ardgour. After 30 minutes along a forest track I reached the small cairn that indicated the steep route through the forest up onto the ridge.

Looking back to Glen Hurich

Continue reading “Island Odyssey – Part 1: Harris and Jura”

Meall a’ Ghiubhais – Numpty Hill

Meall a’ Ghiubhais – 887m
25th January 2010
Distance:  5 ½ miles
Ascent: 950m
Weather: Cold, bright and sunny
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Stewart, Molly and Milly

Both Stewart and I had endured lengthy weather induced lay-offs from the hills. Deep, deep snow and icy roads had completely trashed our new year plans. The weather gods were looking favourably upon the north west highlands and we both fancied a trip to Torridon. The last time I summited Meall a’ Ghiubhais the cloud base was down to the bonnet of the car so I was looking forward to a view this time.

We started by following the left hand loop of the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail on the A832. The Mountain Trail is furnished with a plethora of cairns, informative, obscure and frankly quite irritating by the time you have reached the summit of the trail.
Perfect for hillwalking numpties, I suppose we all have to start somewhere but I am sure that most people can work out what a rock, tree and heather look like!

Stating the obvious

As we climbed higher above the forest, views of Slioch and Gleann Bianisdale opened out.

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Ben Aden  – It’s a long way from anywhere

Ben Aden  – 887m
11th September 2009
Distance:  12 miles (by kayak), 5 miles (walking)
Ascent: 880m
Weather: Sunny and then cloudy at summit
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Andy and Molly

At the beginning of the week we had planned a Munro bagging spree around Fort William but the Met Office promised one of those rare phenomena, a period of high pressure over the western highlands. So, obviously overcome by the shock of such an occurrence, Andy and I agreed that a trip to Ben Aden by kayak would be a good idea!

Even a cursory glance at OS Sheet 33 will indicate that Ben Aden is in fact, a long way from anywhere. We had contemplated walking in along Loch Quoich, but 17 miles of trackless west highland terrain and 1,400m of ascent didn’t exactly make this one of the most appealing options. An approach by kayak seemed like a good idea and sounded quite fun. However, when Andy appeared with a small flimsy piece of plastic strapped to the roof of his car I experienced the first of many buttock clenching experiences that day.

Andy is an extremely experienced paddler but my water based experience amounted to a brief spell in a canoe on the River Thames when I was 12. I say a brief spell in the canoe because I spent most of the time falling out of it. To be honest, I feel queasy and nervous on the Corran Ferry so things did not bode well for 3 hours in a kayak. That is before we factored a hyperactive Border Collie into the equation.

We arrived on the shores of Loch Quoich in glorious sunshine and after much struggling and swearing we dragged the kayak down to the shore. At this point Molly thought this was all great fun and was thoroughly enjoying bounding in and out of the water, joyfully unaware of the traumatic experience yet to come.

The launch spot

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Bidean a’ Chabair – A Hill Too Far

Bidean a’ Chabair – 867m
29th June 2009
Distance: 15 ½ miles
Ascent: 1, 450m
Weather: Far too hot to be enjoyable
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne and Molly

I always seem to be moaning about the weather these days. Too much snow, is it ever going to stop raining or, at the moment, the current weather extreme…………..it’s too hot.

Looking at the map it appeared that Bidean a’ Chabair was a hill to be left for dry conditions and good visibility. So with an excellent forecast, it looked like today was the day.

We left Aviemore at 5.10 a.m. and were very glad to arrive at the end of the road at Loch Arkaig at 7.15 a.m. There were already about 15 cars parked, but despite this we did not see anyone all day until we got back to the car.

We were faced with a choice of routes up Glen Dessary, either on the south side of the river through the woods, cooler but I would be eaten by clegs and midges, or along the track on the north side facing the full heat of the sun but with more of a breeze and water for Molly. I decided on the northern track and after rounding the first bend we had our first sighting of Bidean a’ Chabair which looked a long, long way away.

Bidean a’ Chabair looks a LONG way away

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Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Beinn Lair – 859m
Beinn a’ Chaisgein Mor – 856m
24th and 25th June 2009
Distance: 34 miles
Ascent: 2, 550m
Time taken: 36 hours
Weather: Hot, hot, hot
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Andy, Molly and Meg (Andy’s dog)

At the end of May, Andy and I stayed at Shenavall Bothy, we climbed the Fisherfield Six, Beinn Dearg Mor and Beinn Dearg Bheag under sunny blue skies and in stifling heat and he was instructed to ensure some decent weather for this trip as well. Now there is good hillwalking weather and sometimes the weather simply takes the mickey. This was to be one of those occasions.

You could not imagine a team less well equipped to cope with excessive heat; a short podgy woman, an ex-ginger and two hyperactive Border Collies.

We left the car park in Poolewe under the scorching mid-day sun, with hindsight, not an altogether sensible start time. After a bout of doggie dunking in the River Ewe we started cycling along the tarmac road alongside the river towards Kernsary. After Kernsary we entered a short section of woods, this was to give the only relief from the sun for the next 36 hours.

After a short respite we emerged from the forest to open ground with Letterewe in its full glory ahead of us.

Letterewe beckons

Continue reading “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”