The Reason God Invented Velcro

16 Feb

We had a visitor! A most distinguished visitor! A stalwart of many an epic tramp across the Scottish landscape, an indisputable bagger of mountains, a collector of more scrapes, bumps and bites than your average mud wrestler , a legend in his own teapot…

…so why in God’s name could he not tie his own bloody bootlaces yet!

It was the third time we’d stopped and we’d only been walking twenty minutes…and every time he stopped the Fatdog thought it was time for lunch. Aaargh…Oh well, he’d soon learn…

There’s not been much by way of hillwalking for FD and I over the past couple of months other than a very quick blast part way up Fiarach in late December. Today was the start of our efforts for 2010 with a trip to The Graham “Uamh Bheag” in Glen Artney, just north of Callander.

We didn’t have any specific plans until earlier in the week when, after a flurry of emails, we discovered that we were going to have company on our first hill outing of the year. Our visitor claimed he had eschewed a trip to Singapore for the Chinese New Year purely for the chance to come hillwalking with myself, Cap’n Jack and The Fatdog. The Fatdog reckoned that was b******t! Personally I thought it was totally plausible but I’m egotistical…and incredibly gullible.

But who was our mystery visitor?

The car park opposite the old church in Glen Artney is surprisingly big for such an out of the way place and there’s an informative sign at its entrance suggesting you’ve sod all chance of finding a parking spot anywhere else…so be warned! From the car park we still had a wee walk of some 1.5km westwards along the quiet single track road to the bridge over the Water of Ruchill before going through a gate and picking up the riverside path towards the NE spur of Am Beannan.

As we stopped, yet again, at the gate into the field I recalled that Cap’n Jack, not even in his early years (up to age 27), had to re-tie his laces more than once in twenty minutes but our visitor was having some obvious problems in the motor skills department. I then remembered Cap’n Jack’s shoes always had Velcro fastenings. Hmm, some merit in that after all, I thought.

Cap’n Jack discovers that our visitor requires more than his bootlaces tied

After 1km from the gate, the path appeared to end at the Allt Ollach burn but I recalled reading of a bridge further upstream so after a few hundred metres of uphill we came across the promised structure just beyond the falls.

Once over the bridge we had a water break and it was time for our visitor to tie his bootlaces, for the third time. Next time I was tying the bloody things. Then they’d be no chance of them coming out again…ever! Hell I might even tie them together and leave him there.

Am Beannan, the bridge, The Fatdog…and our bootlace tying visitor

Am Beannan (574m) was a tough little slog of some 350m ascent. The steep grassy slope would have been a real pig in either ice or the wet but today conditions were just perfect…if sadly uphill. We collapsed half way up for a break.

I suppose this lull in proceedings would be an appropriate time to introduce our esteemed visitor.

YES, It’s our buddy SimonP!!! All the way from deepest Derbyshire. In a somewhat spurious interpretation of doctor’s orders he is currently skulking around a few lower hills kidding himself that these are not such strenuous days out.

The biggest tongue in the business

This wee steep section on Am Beannan was our “major climb” of the day

From the summit of Am Beannan there was a shallow dip and rise to Meall Clachach and from there another wee dip and a rise of some 75m to the summit of Uamh Bheag with its singularly characteristic cairn adornment. It was 6km from the start of our walk to the summit with roughly 550m of ascent…a nice wee stroll.

Meall Clachach (right) leading to Uamh Bheag (right of centre -rear)

Cap’n Jack proudly conquers the majestic snow field (it was about 5sqm)

In the shadow of Uamb Bheag’s ludicrously smiling face we discovered Mr.P’s nasty little secret! As he battled with the fence trying to reach the summit cairn (only 1m on the other side) we discovered that not only is he a bagger…he’s a “ticker”…a cairn tapper! Oh the humiliation of it all! Oh well he’d be happy, there were other “tickables” nearby. The breeze was light but cold so we didn’t hang around.
Mr. P was keen to do the round taking in the other Donald, Beinn nan Eun. These baggers are all the same. Doesn’t matter what it is, just give them a list and they’re happy.

This is what the locals did to the last “ticker” they found here!

There’s not hellish much to say about the views on this walk, as most are distant. Given Uamh Bheag is at the start of the mountains only the snow clad Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin are near enough to give a sense of scale.

Ben Vorlich (right) and Stuc a Chroin (left)

What you do get with the views from here is shear distance. Our weather was a bit cloudy but the air was sharp and clear. The full length of the Ochils could be seen stretching eastwards with Dumyat, such an iconic wee hill when seen from the south, looking a cast off pimple at their west end. Mr. P took a lot of convincing that the jagged outline on the western horizon was Arran, but given the lack of plausible alternatives he quickly became a convert. I can’t tell exactly how far southwards we could see because the view just kept going on and on, though I’m sure I could make out distant hills.

My stomach was telling me it was lunchtime so we didn’t linger on the summit and dropped off east towards Beinn nan Eun with the prospect of a bite to eat in the bealach, out of the wind. It was impressive how quickly Mr.P degenerated from “No Maisie!” to “Bugger Off Dog!” (or was that Cap’n Jack?) Naw…he generally starts with “Bugger Off Dog!” and degenerates from there. Anyway lunch was its usual battle of wills, The Fatdog even resorting to her pitiful begging pose…caught here on camera for the first time EVER!

The Fatdog’s favourite time of day

The Fatdog’s desperately pleading pose

Lunch was leisurely. The sun came out and our chosen spot was sheltered from the chill we’d encountered on the summit, which seemed odd considering we were sitting right next to a wind farm.

To the gentle thrumming of giant sized propellers we somewhat lazily extended our break with Simon and Cap’n Jack continuing their mind bogglingly bizarre conversations…two warped imaginations perfectly in tune with the darker side of unreality.

SimonP believes he has beaten off the predatory Fatdog!

SimonP realises he has not beaten off the predatory Fatdog…and that his bootlaces are undone

The immediate post lunch trek found us falling down towards the source of the Allt Odhar…quite literally falling as it happens. 2 – 1 to Mr P was the final score on this section of the walk, a smugly mocking Cap’n Jack being the only one to stay afoot for the whole 150m descent. As the Cap’n watched his decrepit elders (but decidedly betters) repeatedly tumble on the slick frosted grass, the thoughtful look on his face suggested zimmers, bedpans and nursing home, as soon as we made it back to civilisation.

Looking back to the “nose” of Am Beannan

As we rounded Meall Odhar we found ourselves in peat hag territory.

Initially we walked around them but it soon became clear it was far easier to clamber into them, then follow these natural gullies on hard crisp snow as they linked their way maze-like around the contours of the hill.
Sadly none of us realised that the undistinguished bump we were circumnavigating in between our 2 hills was a New Donald. In fact the only one likely to have bagged this one was Cap’n Jack as he had set off after some deer, hopeful of getting close enough with his 300mm lens. As Simon and I bypassed the summit, via our snow filled peat hags, he was all over the top in pursuit of his quarry.

The first sight of Beinn nan Eun drew a breath of horrified “Oh s**t!” Not because the hill is even vaguely imposing but because its approach seems to have been dug up by a giant plough. Even from a distance these are impressive looking peat hags. Fortunately this is undoubtedly the time of year to tackle these hills. Solid, frost filled, ground with the hags infilled with brick hard snow ensured easy passage.

The “ploughed field” effect

Peat hags that even impress our visitor from Derbyshire

Following the snow filled maze of gullies to the summit

Marked by a small cairn the heavily rutted summit of the hill appears an arbitrary spot, but I’m sure someone must have checked it in the past.

Mr.P at the summit? of Beinn nan Eun

The way back – the bridge is off photo to the right

For us it was back down the north ridge cutting right to a bridge (well spied by Mr.P and confirmed by Cap’n Jack’s 300mm lens) over the Corriebeagh Burn and from there down the track in Findhu Glen back to the road…and a locked gate which 35kg of unhappy Labrador had to crawl under. We had dawdled some 14km with about 700m of ascent in about 6.5 hours (including a long lunch). Not a bad effort for our first outing of the year.

I’m hugely indebted to SimonP for popping up for a wee walk with myself, Cap’n Jack and The Fatdog (and for providing the evening’s Chinese Take-away). Already we’re considering options for the next trip. Probably up a hill I would expect.

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Posted by on February 16, 2010 in Donalds and New Donalds, Grahams


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