Things had been going well before the snow arrived in early December. My physio had suggested I adopt a more conservative approach to my walking which basically meant more gentle and relaxed hill days.
I took the hint.
As a result FD and I had a very successful spell at the end of October and through November tackling 3 easy Grahams without further aggravation to the persistent back problem. Then the snow came, closely followed by a 3 week post Christmas “viral episode”. It was now 2 months since we’d last set foot on a hill.
My hill re-hab spreadsheet told me I should be going to Tinto, the easiest of my proposed hillwalks…but the weather forecast was decidedly better for the west. The spreadsheet hinted that Cnoc Coinnich would be the optimum target with very little by way of steepness or general difficulty. The spreadsheet proved to be correct.
Recently The Fatdog had been suffering from anxiety when out for a walk. Any sound, no matter how muffled, that could possibly be construed as a bang was causing either a tail drop and panting or, in more extreme cases, an abrupt turnaround and a quick march to either the house or the car. She had also developed a slight stagger in a front shoulder. Both problems had been prevalent in recent weeks with only the past day or so seeing an improvement in both. Were her hillwalking days at and end? A successful trundle up Dumyat yesterday suggested that we could gamble on an easy hill walk to check her out more fully. It was time to keep our fingers (and paws) crossed.
It was with some degree of trepidation that I opened the tailgate of “The Tank”.
I shouldn’t have worried. FD seemed to be up for the walk and immediately sought out the local toilet facilities after an hour and a half of being copped up as we travelled from Larbert to the foot of the “Rest and be Thankful” and Coilessan Glen car park (258,011). Bodily functions taken care of she was ready for the hill.
To be honest there wasn’t going to be much by way of hill today. Very roughly the route up Coilessan Glen and from there onto Cnoc Coinneach (761m) was split into 3 types of terrain. 2.3km of forestry road, 1.2km of path (though the section over the coll could more accurately be described as bog) and a final 1.1km of pathless, tussocky grass to the summit.
The forestry track was as exciting as those sort of routes normally are but once the upper stages of the trees were reached there were decent views of The Brack and Cnoc Coinnich though the latter, off to our left, appeared to be more of a flattish ridge giving me some difficulty in locating the summit.
Near the end of the forestry road there was an open area where the road bent back and a short spur carried on towards the corrie end. At this point there was a green marker post indicating the start of a path running parallel to the short spur.
FD was doing well. Other than a brief wobble at the sound of a train on the far side of Loch Long she had obviously heard nothing liable to cause distress and was content to sniff her way along the path edges tracking the progress of previous canine explorers. I hoped the rest of the day would prove as stress free.
The steep upward track required a minor amount of grunt before a fence was reached at the upper boundary of the trees. The Fatdog had obviously clocked the stile (236, 018) and had resigned herself to the approaching humiliation that is “dog tossing”. I remembered this fence from our previous visit as we descended off The Brack. I couldn’t say I was looking forward to it.
FD discovered that she was in luck and I discovered that my salvation was at hand. Much to my relief the gate which had been firmly wired shut on our previous visit was now capable of being opened. From the forest path we stepped onto the bog that is the bealach between The Brack and Cnoc Coinnich.
Today’s route followed part of The Cowal Way, the long distance footpath between Portavadie on Loch Fyne and Inveruglas on Loch Lomond. The dampness soaking through my boots informed me that this was obviously not its finest section although the views north to The Brack and west to Beinn Bhuela, Beinn Tharsuinn et al were fairly decent.
All was going squelchingly well…then disaster struck! The Fatdog had left her stick behind.
We followed the black smeared reeds as far as the high point of the trail then broke south up Cnoc Coinnich’s north spur (230, 018 apprx.). The relatively easy ascent was hampered by the dazzling sun sitting just above the horizon. What should have been a straight line up began to resemble “a dug’s hint leg” as my dad used to say. Half blinded by the glare we wobbled all over the shop trying to avoid small patches of bog while, at the same time, attempting to keep on the easiest terrain. All the time the painfully low sun kept my eyes well screwed up.
It took us 2 hours to reach the summit. I had been obeying the physio’s recommendations (most strictly) and was keeping my pace down to an absolute minimum. This proved to be no great hardship…as my legs wouldn’t go any faster anyway. As we reached the summit ridge I hooked up The Fatdog to her lead.
The summit was sunny…and bitingly cold. A brisk northerly was picking up making a cuppa on the summit distinctly unlikely. I took a few photos then we headed back down smartly to the shelter of a small crag for lunch.
FD and I fought over lunch…as usual…before we picked our way back down the north spur, more or less on the route we took on our way up.
Once back in the bealach on The Cowal Way we headed back to The Tank – job done. The Fatdog’s tail continued to wag on automatic as it had done from the start of the walk and…there were no signs of a front shoulder stagger. It was only one walk but the signs for The Fatdog were looking good.