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“Catch a Falling Star and…”

23 Mar

Empathy…I don’t do empathy!  I’m generally considered to have as much empathy and sensitivity as the average engineering brick.  Cap’n Jack can’t spell it and the Fatdog isn’t interested in it as she can’t eat it, so all in all empathy doesn’t come into the equation.  This now begs the question why are three of the least empathetic characters in the known universe taking a little pink star all the way into the mountains with them?

It’s all the fault of geocaching and my twisted sense of obligation.  Having picked up the star in a cache in Fife and read the accompanying instructions, it fell to me to fulfil another step in the star’s journey.  The little pink star wanted to go on a journey and have a story.  This journey involved fairies, angels and Portuguese mountains…with photographs please.  As rough tough mountain men we couldn’t be seen to be chasing after angels and fairies…at least not without attracting a degree of unwelcome attention, but we could manage mountains and photographs…and we could definitely do a story… 

Journey’s End for Me and the Fatdog


Today was a big day for myself and the Fatdog.  After two and a half years of walking we would complete our 50th Munro together.  While this is not a big total in the grand scheme of things, for us it sees the completion of our original target.  When we started I had no idea how we would take to, what was for us, the alien concept of going uphill!  I had no idea of how difficult, or easy, it would be to climb a Munro never mind the fact I had a fitness level normally associated with the average chip shop queue.

The target of 50 Munros was based on the assumption that we might do around one per month and that the Fatdog might only be good for 4 to 5 years on the hill…and apart from that 50 seemed a nice round number.

A few weeks ago the Fatdog and I completed a very strategic 49th Munro on An Socath with a view to doing No.50 during a “cherry picked” midweek trip with Cap’n Jack.  As it happened we couldn’t have timed it better.  On queue a settled spell of high pressure squeezed its way across the country on the appointed week leaving us with a few days of bright sunny weather to choose from.  Now it was only a matter of choosing the Munro.

The Mamores, we like the Mamores.  Just south of the big lump of rock that is Ben Nevis sits this range of shapely hills, each with its own distinctive physical characteristics.  The Mamores are hillwalkers paradise.  After a quick perusal of the map I decided upon Sgurr Eilde Mor for my 50th, a easy grade for over 6km with a short sharp clamber up the final 250m of ascent.  The trail from Mamore Lodge followed the south face of the hills all the way to the summit thus reducing the amount of snow we would be liable to encounter and, on such a fine Spring-like day, would keep us in the warm sunshine.  With the potentially photogenic Coire an Lochain perched at 750m above sea level, at the start of the final run in to the summit, I reckoned the route could be a winner.

The day didn’t start too well…I forgot to bring the little pink star and a geocoin I was going to move on after the walking part of the day.  This resulted in a grumpy ten minute trail back to the house.  Trying to combine hobbies is not to be recommended unless you are particularly well organised.

I have to admit, as we drove north, I was unconvinced as to the accuracy of today’s weather forecast.  The cloud looked a bit thicker than I was hoping for and I doubted whether it would burn off significantly at this time of year, but by the time we kicked off from Mamore Lodge the cloud was above the 1000m level and was huddling on the tops of the higher peaks in the nearby ranges.  The air had a warm feel to it so for the first time this year I was starting off in just the base layer.

Having paid our £3 for parking at the hotel, thus giving us an instant 250m of ascent, we strolled eastwards across the southern slopes of Na Gruagaichean heading for the western tip of Loch Eilde Mor.  This route followed a rolling track all the way to the watershed (400m) where a narrow climbing path took a left fork towards Coire an Lochain around the south spur of Sgor Eilde Beg.

 

The path suddenly took a zig-zag upwards then once more climbed at a more shallow gradient.  We had been snow free up to this point but now the path cut across a series of short snowfields, some 30m wide.  There was a melt along the line of the path where booted feet had cut a plane of weakness straight across an otherwise pristine white slope.  Some footsteps met with solid snow others with slush puppy softness as a leg disappeared suddenly up to the knee. 

 

Avalanche

We were about a third the way across when I heard the sound.

“Schhhhhhhhhhhh…”

There was a clearly audible swishing sound from above.  It was the sort of sound from films and documentaries…the sort of sound that represents snow on the move.  The snowfield we were crossing stretched some 50m above us.  With some degree of trepidation I looked upwards. ..

                                                     ******************

The tiny snowball rolled happily down the side of the hill.  It was a fine day and the early spring sun warming the air around his home allowed him a little freedom before the big melt and the long deep sleep until the next snows.

As he tumbled downwards he caught sight of three wide mouthed figures staring straight up at him from the path far below.  Two bounces and a dive later he disappeared into a patch of soft snow and peeked out of his hiding place.  The snowball waited a few minutes to make sure the nasty looking creatures had definitely moved on before once more resuming his progress down the hill …

                                                     *******************

 

"Schhhhhhhhhhh........." Now you see him.......!

It was hardly the stuff of which great adventure stories were made.  A small fist sized lump of snow and a trail of small “crumbs” trickled down some 30m above us and stopped abruptly.  End of avalanche. I must confess I wasn’t too disappointed.  We had now reached the truly magnificent setting of Coire an Lochain.

 

 

 Coire an Lochain

 

Sgurr Eilde Mor

Sgurr Eilde Mor

Binnein Beag

Binnein Beag

Binnein Mor

 

Binnein Mor and Binnein Beag

Binnein Mor and Binnein Beag

 

 

 

Taking a Star to Meet the Sky 

 

We had only 250m of ascent left.  Up until now the walk had been a relatively leisurely affair with the route from Mamore Lodge to the lochan providing steady gradients, initially along a track then along a narrower steeper path.  Now things became a trifle tougher.  A couple of passing walkers advised us that we had boulders and small crags to negotiate on the final, steeper, slopes of Sgurr Eilde Mor but nothing at all difficult.

It was fun, hard work, but fun.  The Fatdog coped well with the boulderfield.  The rocks were not too big so FD had lots of places to place her paws without the threat of stumbling into large gaps.  The crags proved a little more interesting as we had to pick routes for her to follow.   One step proved particularly tricky when she sized up her options but didn’t like what she was seeing.  A shift of a few metres to the right and a series of ledges within paw reach and we were past the crag and heading for the summit.  Cap’n Jack, led the way with the little star tucked safely in his inside pocket.

Looking down on Coire an Lochain

Looking down on Coire an Lochain

 

The Fatdog hates boulderfields!

Cap' Jack deep in thought...

 

The Fatdog hates boulderfields...

The Fatdog hates boulderfields...

On the otherhand Capn Jack just loves boulderfields!

On the otherhand Cap'n Jack just loves boulderfields!

Munro number 50 was soon done and dusted and it was time for the little pink star to have her photo taken…over Ben Nevis!

It had been a day of hazy sunshine and the surrounding mountains were barely silhouettes.  Only the nearby Mamores and Nevis ranges provided any degree of clarity.  Lochan Eilde Mor and Blackwater Reservoir failed to light up as the sun, now in the west, struggled to break up the thin veil of cloud. But it was difficult to complain, other than a chilling breeze near to the summit the weather had been exceptionally kind.

The Triumph of The Fatdog - 50

The Triumph of The Fatdog - 50

The red coloured NE ridge

The red coloured NE ridge

Capn Jack, Na Gruagaichean and Binnein Mor

Cap'n Jack, Na Gruagaichean and Binnein Mor

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis

The Little Star soars high over Ben Nevis

The Little Star "soars" high over Ben Nevis

Most definitely NOT the way down according to Capn Jack!

Most definitely NOT the way down according to Cap'n Jack!

The Fatdog effortlessly negotiates the scramble...as for Capn Jack...

The Fatdog effortlessly negotiates the down-scramble...as for Cap'n Jack...

A happy Fatdog

A happy Fatdog

one last boulderfield...

one last boulderfield...

...and its the long walk home.

...and it's the long walk home.

 

                                                  ***********************

The little pink star was in a thunderous mood and tapped one of her little points impatiently.

Could these oafs not read?  They had clear instructions.  Angels, fairies and Portuguese mountains…what was so difficult about that?   Why on earth was she being hauled so ignominiously up a mountain in the middle of nowhere to take part in this crass and ham-fisted photo shoot…amateurs…she was dealing with complete amateurs!  And what a motley bunch they were!

The young one with the hair could most definitely do with a bath.  The grey haired one was old enough to know better and as for the small black hairy one, the star shuddered.  It’s smile was cute but the eyes seemed to be permanently checking a lunch menu to see how pink stars would be served.

The little star sighed and settled back down.  At least the scenery was good and it was a day out.  As the little pink star drifted off to sleep in Cap’n Jacks pocket she wondered where on earth she’d end up next…

                                     *********************** 

Catch a Falling Star and…Take it to the Pub!

Well…we had great intentions of putting the little star into a nearby cache…but regretably we ran out of time.   This was mainly because we were heading for the Clachaig!!!   But it all ended happily ever after as the little star and the Fatdog  got hammered on pints of ale and sang all the way home. 

 

and the Star’s story…

Please no...not angels and fairies!

Please no...not angels and fairies, anything but angels and fairies!

 

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13 Comments

Posted by on March 23, 2009 in General Drivel

 

13 responses to ““Catch a Falling Star and…”

  1. Tessa Park

    March 23, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Looks like a great walk, if a bit bouldery..

     
  2. beatingthebounds

    March 23, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    The Mamores are very hard to beat, especially on a sunny day. Looks like you had a good one.

     
  3. walkhighlands

    March 24, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Surely not really your last Munro – or are you going to do 50 Corbetts now?

     
  4. tommyk

    March 24, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Great pic’s ken, especially with good weather. Many congratulations on achieving your target, has FD started training for the next 50?

     
  5. scott

    March 24, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    “Journey’s End for Me and the Fatdog”

    I got a fright when I read that. I had the same thought as walkhighlands, tbh.

    Then I thought one of you had maybe fallen off!!!!

    :0/

     
  6. fatdogwalks

    March 24, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Journey’s End? There’s a question 😀 .

    It was great to do what we originally set out to achieve and to be honest I’ve no idea what we’ll do next. This “sciatic” niggle I have seems to be getting a bit worse as of late and for the first time, after Sgurr Eilde Mor, I actually had backache (as well as the near permanent leg ache) the next and subsequent days. This is a new and unwelcome development especially since my enthusiasm was so high. Hopefully getting into my back exercises again will ease things a bit. The irony is my legs feel at their best when I’m out hillwalking…until the point I have to do some serious uphill and then the power drops and I make heavy weather of the climb. I’ve managed to counter this over recent months by picking hills with long easy gradients and only short steep sections which, I’m chuffed to say, works pretty well.
    I’m turning into quite a tactician when it comes to choice of route and hill not to mention weather and terrain (no bogs!!!). My campaign for flatter hills is gaining momentum.

    Ironically the initial target was based on what I thought Maisie would be able to do…next target will be based on what I will be able to do 😆 .

    There is a temptation to do another 50 Munros…but I feel that is a trifle mundane. I think something more imaginative is called for. Just wish I had the imagination to think of a new target.

    Think I’ll put up a new post and see what everyone can come up with 😀 .

     
  7. Midgefodder

    March 24, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Ken
    Yet another classic ‘tail’
    Wonderful read and photos.
    Please please please don’t stop at 50 not out.
    Your reports and antics have kept me entertained and brightened up many a dreary day
    Keep them coming
    Cheers
    Andrew

     
  8. fatdogwalks

    March 24, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks for the comments Andrew 😀

    Don’t worry I think the Fatdog “Tails” will be around for a while yet. We’re merely diversifying and expanding our portfolio to hedge against future dips in this particular market 😉 .

    Apart from that what are you doing on line? I thought you had a house to finish? I know someone who won’t be pleased if it’s not ready in time 😆 !

    Good luck with the move.

    Ken

     
  9. mike knipe

    March 26, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    What other 50 other stuff could you do, I wonder?
    Islands would be expensive.
    Possibly too many sheep on Donalds (although I’m quite fond of these hills)
    Corbetts are always bigger than they seem..

    I’d go for 50 more Munros. You can do smaller things as the dog starts getting into dotage – eg Marilyns perhaps…

    I enjoyed this read, even though its keeping me from collecting my prescription. (I do live a rich and interesting life…)

     
  10. Paul

    March 26, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Another great read Ken with excellent photos.
    Another 50 Munros would be a good target, get your total to 100! Corbetts would be as much of a challenge as you can’t string too many together in one go, but as you say you have already made a start and with your tactical planning I’m sure you could find enough suitable hills to bridge the gap.
    Maybe you could do all the Corbetts not on the mainland this would involve a bit of Island hopping, Arran, Harris, Skye Rum and Mull (I think thats it!)

     
  11. fatdogwalks

    March 26, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    The good thing about the Munros is that a lot of them have well worn paths which makes things easier for me 😀 . On that basis it is tempting to go for another 50.

    I agree about the sheep coated Donalds Mike…I like walking them but I’ve found (in the Ochils) a huge number of fences which in turn has involved serious dog tossing!

    I’d love to do the islands Paul, but that would involve a lot of staying over and as I don’t camp it would be pretty expensive…and would you fancy lifting the Fatdog over the Cuillin Ridge ? 😆 !

     
  12. Susan

    December 12, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Guys, Thank you so much for taking my little star on a day trip . I am sure she will have been very impressed.
    Fantastic photos as well.

    Susan

     
  13. fatdogwalks

    December 12, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Hi Susan 😀 Glad you found the link. Hopefully this is what you wanted for your little star…other than the trip to the pub (obviously).

    It gave us a bit of a hoot doing this one and made a real oddball “Tail” for The Fatdog’s and my 50th Munro.

    Many thanks for visiting the blog and for your comments. Hope you venture back sometime…you never know we might find the little star again and then… 😯 😉

     

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