A perfectly ordinary looking fence with a perfectly ordinary little ditch running below. It may only be ordinary to you but to The Fatdog this represents the Gateway to the Kingdom of Hell. But, when there is no other way, the tough, the damned…and The Fatdog know there is no alternative but to…
Now you are questioning your own logic. No – it’s not possible – Fatdogs can’t, won’t, shouldn’t even consider…
“Prove it!” you demand.
I may, but then again…it depends if you’re prepared to read on.
Wednesday July 13. Only a few days back from France and The Fatdog and I are off up a hill.
“Feckin’ locked gates!”
God I hate them.
Strictly speaking it’s my back that hates them, but let’s not dwell on such trivial details.
I had just come through an unlocked gate below the railway bridge thinking –
“Great! It’s going to be an unlocked gate day. No dog tossing this trip.”
Then we reached the gate with the demonstrably large multi digit spin dial combination lock. It was sodding massive! Out of respect the tubular metal gate supporting this monstrosity of a lock was bending under its weight. We’d only been gone 5 minutes from the A9 lay-by where The Tank was parked, trundled down the old road to the bridge under the railway and turned sharp right, before coming across this, our first obstacle.
The Fatdog looked distinctly unhappy. My back told me to bugger off as there was no way it was going to be responsible for lifting the big black hairy beast over that! I pointed to the small mucky ditch below the adjoining fence. The Fatdog’s tail drooped miserably and two big solemn brown eyes pleaded pathetically. I snorted and once more pointed emphatically to the impossibly tiny ditch. Head down, The Fatdog slowly plodded towards the fence…and the minute gap below.
I’ve no intention boring you with a detailed route description of this ascent; it’s been done many times before. Having said that here’s a little update on crossing the Allt Coire Dhomhain.
There are bridges…new bridges at that, one downstream of the traditional wet-foot crossing and one upstream. The downstream bridge doesn’t appear to have a clear path heading towards Sgairneach Mhor but there are either stalkers paths or animal paths heading that general direction if anyone wants to investigate further. The upstream bridge has a track heading almost straight up to the approach ridge, but doesn’t go very far before stopping in the heather. Two possibilities for the future for the more adventurous.
We’re strict traditionalists so, for the first time in 5 years it was off with the boots and socks. We crossed the Allt Coire Dhomhain just down from the little marker cairn on the left hand side (going up) of the track.
My crossing might best be described as inelegant. In truth it was downright wibbly-wobbly. It wasn’t until I was past halfway that I realised most of my balancing problems were coming from the unaccustomed eccentric loading from the backpack. No wonder I was making such a meal of it. The Fatdog opted to sit on the bank until I had reached the far side, no doubt put off by the somewhat voluble cursing. Once she saw me safely across the Allt Coire Dhomhain and concluded that the shouting was over…she delicately picked her way across the submerged cobbles, far more competently than I.
Now that the ritual paddling was complete we followed a clear, gently sloping, trail (initially following the right bank of the burn in the photo above) all the way up onto the broad east ridge of Sgairneach Mhor.
There’s not much more I can say about the ascent. We “ground out a result” at a steady, but very slow, plod. After a 5 month lay-off and the old complaint still tying up the calves and “hammies” I opted for a very controlled performance. Not once was I tempted to push too hard and I was incredibly chuffed that I never felt the need to stop to catch a second wind. It’s amazing how relying on experience can get you by.
It has to be said that Sgairneach Mhor is not a hill for dramatic views…it’s a fairly boring beast. On one hand it may be boring, but it’s easy, and that was the main requirement for today.
I had intended that we stop at the summit for lunch then, either head back to The Tank or push on to Beinn Udlamain, assuming both of us appeared none the worse for our mornings efforts. The summit shelter was already occupied by 2 walkers, one of whom had a nasty suspicion that his lunch was about to be appropriated by the strange looking hairy one. As he tightly clutched the various components of his meal to his chest I decided that we’d better push on before he broke down trying to do the impossible. The Fatdog looked hurt, but finding a number of springs on the north side of the hill for a much needed drink took her mind off the missed opportunity.
I’m not sure if there is a path to follow off Sgairneach Mhor heading for Beinn Udlamain. I had taken a quick look at the map then headed off across the rounded north spur towards the bealach between the two. As bealachs go it was ok…not too boggy, in fact just springy enough to give my hamstrings a bit of a rest.
The plod up Beinn Udlamain was straightforward, following the old fenceposts with no great changes of gradient. This suited us just fine. We weren’t exactly setting the heather on fire with our speed of ascent but things were going a lot better than expected leg wise – for both man and dog!
The view of the day was of Loch Ericht from the approach to the summit of Beinn Udlamain. Although we were walking in bright sunshine, the cloud cover blocked the rays from lighting up the loch itself and the surrounding hills.
In the heat The Fatdog was beginning to drop off the sedentary pace. This was her longest walk for many months and we had maybe picked too long a route, especially taking account of the temperature, which was warmer at the summit than forecast. We dropped off Beinn Udlamain down a mainly grassy slope to meet the main track up the corrie. Other than a wee bit of heather bashing for the last couple of hundred metres the descent went very well as I looked for every soft area available to take the sting of the descent out of my legs and The Fatdog’s paws .
There’s not much else to say really…oh yes…the perfectly ordinary looking fence with a perfectly ordinary little ditch running below.