Monday 11 April 2011

Ben Nevis, and canine considerations

I had been thinking about giving Molly a turn at the hillwalking on Saturday, but at the last minute domestic arrangements meant it was easier to take the WBD. Accordingly I felt rather guilty when just as we were passing Bridge of Orchy, I realised it was Molly's birthday, and she was home alone.

As it turned out, it was just as well I left her, because Andy's dug Cara ended up having problems with her paws given the constantly rocky, stony terrain. Cara, being the stoic sort, struggled down the hill with great character. Given that the last time Molly was up a Munro was with Cara on Bynack More last year, I'm sure her paws would have been in the same nick, and Molly doesn't "do" pain at all. She would, I fear, have point blank refused to continue, and I envisage that 30kg of labradoodle would have put something of a strain on the Jirishanca.

The decision to head for Ben Nevis had been a last minute one, based almost entirely on the weather forecast. The sunshine, so the theory went, would make up for the path and the crowds. pretty much did.

Looking back to the Halfway Lochan

That's no' even one of the official zigzag bits

Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew etc etc

I wouldn't fancy standing there...

...but it's safer than standing there!

Summit stuff

High altitude dug wrangling

A dug and a view

The nature of the path being what it is, you find yourself passing folk, and then, a bit later on, they'll pass you when you're pausing for a well deserved breather/fag/bit of malt loaf. There was a chap we had exchanged a brief word with lower down on the zigzags, and we met him again at the top. Iain, his name was. A proper gentleman sort. Once he took his sunglasses off it was clear that he was a fair bit older than first impressions had suggested. A couple of years since he had first lifted his pension, at any rate. We nodded in yon congratulatory manner that hillwalkers do, and he wandered over. "I was wondering", he said, "have you seen any snow buntings up here today?". Well, no, was the honest answer to that one. Indeed we weren't entirely sure that anyone had ever seen snow buntings on the Ben - we both knew that they hang about the Cairngorms, but other than that it seemed unlikely. "Oh, they do come here" said Iain. "I bring seed up for them...I'll leave it anyway of course, I just thought you might have spotted some." It was tolerably clear even from that opening exchange that Iain had been at the summit of Ben Nevis before. He was quite taken with the dogs, and asked if he could take a photo of all of us, because he likes to log his walks; so we told him the dugs' names; and our names; which is when we got his name...which is when he mentioned that he had lost his old collie last year, at the age of 18. "She was up at the summit here 219 times", he remarked in passing.

You can imagine that this resulted in a brief stunned pause. 

And - other than wishing him well - that was about the extent of it. But it made an impression. On both me and Andy, I think. We certainly got the notion that somebody who's been up Ben Nevis more than 200 times - and that was just in the period he had his dog - just might be a weel kent figure. I had a wee search when I got home, but admittedly had little to go on so wasn't surprised I came up with nothing.

Then you google something imaginative like "Dog Ben Nevis", and stumble across a picture on Flickr from 2008:


That photograph has much more of an emotional impact on me than it should, in the circumstances. I must be getting softer as I get older.


  1. What a great story - well done for digging out the picture too. 200 odd of the Ben... Phew! I hope the birds appreciate him!

  2. Can't claim 200+, (try 3 !) but never had the weather like that.
    Some amazing facts on multiple ascenders on this link

  3. Scott we've been fortunate to meet Ian & his dig Becky a few times in the Mamores. She was a smashing dug and it was very obvious that Ian loved getting outdoors with her. Below is a link to the last time that Steve met them with some photos

    It's great to know that Ian is still out on the hills and i hope I'll dump into him sometime soon

  4. Sorry to hear about Becky, but as Elaina has said she was a cracking dug! Good to hear that Iain is still getting up the hills. We exchanged emails after I met him the second time, must try and find it and send him a link to your blog!

  5. I was pleased with myself for finding the photo too Alan, till I saw Elaina's link! Didn't realise the gentleman was a personal friend of folk I know.

    Quite a coincidence though - if we hadn't got talking about dogs, we'd have been none the wiser.

    That Angry Corrie story is remarkable - nearly 2000 ascents of Ben Lomond?!? I've done Meikle Bin a few times mind you, but I'm fairly sure it's not quite that many. Mair than 10 though, definitely.

  6. Struggling to find his email but have come across this from a couple of years ago:

  7. I'm trying to think of something more original than saying "it's a small world" Steve, but that's really the only way to describe it!

    If you find that email address, it'll prove to this sceptic that t'internet is actually a useful invention after all. A line of communication established in a few days for two random folk meeting on Ben Nevis who exchange nothing but first names? Now that's clever.

  8. Maybe I should rethink my aversion on Ben Nevis. It's never appealed to me, possibly due to the likilihood of meeting people on it.

    Great story!

  9. It is indeed a small world Scott! I'll never forget the day I was doing Aonach Mor a few years ago at New Year and I stopped to talk to another solo walker, as you do. He turned round and said "Are you Steve?". Turned out it was ptc who I'd not actually met at that time although he must have picked up from OM that I was staying in Glencoe for Hogmanay and somehow recognised me!

    Btw that link I posted above to the Lochaber News doesn't seem to work any more, but it definitely did last night. I'm sure it gave Iain's surname that I was hoping to use to check my emails from 2 years ago. Don't suppose you can remember it from the article?!

  10. @Fraser: to tell the truth, I was trying to take enough photies from odd angles that I could give the impression that we had the hill to ourself, but it was an idea that didn't last long!

    @Steve: It was Iain Thomson. :0)
    Oh, and yon ptc gets about as well, doesn't he? ;0)

  11. OK folks I've found the email address and sent him a message with a link to this page. I've also just remembered a comment made on in response to a trip report I put on there ( about Iain being IDS Thomson who wrote "The Black Cloud" (

  12. See, it's no wonder you're getting on well with your family tree - you're a wizard on the whole research thing! ;0)

    Almost inevitably, I read that book just a few months ago. Gordy gave me a copy.

    It's maybe even a smaller world than we first thought.

  13. Great story Scott. One man and his dug and bag of seed. As you say, it brings a tear to the eye.

    I'm away to look up his book.

  14. It's a good read Flaff. As Gordy says, once you've read it you'll never go hillwalking in Scotland again without taking waterproof trousers - their absence features in several grim tales.

  15. I reckon it was Iain and his collie we met on Stob Ban in the Mamores a couple of years back...couldn't believe the age of the dog then. He is a great character...took our photo for his log.