J raised an eyebrow and I tried my best to look sheepish. “Yes…Ben Ledi.” I mumbled. The eyebrow shot up further then she turned to inspect the rest of the troops before heading off to work. My proposed hillwalking venture was not meeting with unanimous approval. The pups were in favour, but they were in favour of anything that might get them out the house. Unfortunately J had, during the summer, watched me struggle to make it round the streets during the pups’ half hour evening walk so my announcement of a wee wander in the mountains was looked upon somewhat unfavourably.
I admit there are days when the muscles in my right leg are not are their best and yes, I can battle a bit in the evening, but things had definitely been improving with the little thugs causing a lot less damage to various muscle groups than they had a few months before. Even my right arm, which had taken the brunt of their enthusiasm is almost healed. This had allowed me to participate in the circuit training class for the first time in 6 months. I’ve managed 2 sessions without major organ (or limb) failure. With confidence running high on the back of those two sessions I reckoned we might make it up Ben Ledi…at a pinch.
J was not convinced. She studied the pups before issuing her instructions. I was ignored, not being considered reliable enough for matters of such importance.
“Ok, Lottie you…” She broke off in mid-sentence to stare at Lottie’s best, head down – eyes up – goofy blonde grin…and thought better of it. It was a face with futility written all over in big letters. She spun around to confront Mabel instead. Mabel was sitting bolt upright to attention, eyes front.
“Mabel, you’re in charge. Take them up and bring them back by 5pm. One piece would be nice but not essential. Got that?”
“MA’AM, YES MA’AM!”
And so we found ourselves half way up Ben Ledi, Mabel powering on at the front hauling both myself and poor little Lottie up the mountain at a relentlessly “got to get back in time” pace. It was going to be a very tough day out…oh yes it surely was.
Important: The photos have captions. The best way to view is to click on the first one to bring up the carousel where the full text is visible at the bottom, then scroll through the rest. The story continues after the gallery so remember to scroll down!
I remembered how steep that initial climb through the forest from Stank Bridge could feel. It may look innocuous but it can be a killer to the unfit and enthusiastic – as I found out way back in 2006. No chance of that enthusiasm this time.
Out of the forest and onto the “once-forest now woodland” section. And look…a hint of blue sky!
Wish it was a bit clearer. This is the view over to the Ochils with little Dumyat in the centre of the photo.
The view north up Glen Ample with the Corbett, Beinn Each, to the right.
See those rock steps to the left of the photo. I knew they would be tough going up, my legs not liking steps these days. I dreaded coming back down them…quite rightly as it turned out – with muscles seized almost rigid and not able to use the sticks having my hands full of mutt leads.
Respite! This is the beginning of the gentle traverse that leads up onto the ridge. It’s a welcome break after the steeper first half hour’s walking.
A little oasis on our path. A dip down into the burn and then up to the stile.
Now, here’s the stile. Oh the problems I used to have getting Maisie to crawl under the fence. I wonder how today will go? Oh dear, can’t let the pups off as there are 2 walkers only 30m in front. I crossed over, had just managed to put the lead under the bottom fence wire…when 2 more people came up behind. Absolute chaos it was. Thankfully they helped me out as we eased the pups through.
As we look back down the traverse to the stile I notice that the forecast is not living up to expectations with the cloud drifting up Loch Lubnaig…and the drizzle has begun.
Well…we still have a view south east as we turn onto the ridge proper. The clouds over Loch Venachar are looking too dark for my liking.
Not quite the clear sky and sunshine us Ben Ledi walkers expected. Here we begin the series of little ramps those of weak will refer to as false summits. Ben Ledi has lots…always at least one more than you think…and I prefer not to think about them anyway as I generally want the walk to last longer. Odd that. I’ve never bothered about “how far” or “not another bump to get over”. Maybe I need help.
We’ve called a brief halt so that I can pull on my paclite waterproof trousers. This is an operation which results in what I have come to think of as Faux-Tourettes Syndrome. Wrestling with pups on a bungee lead while trying to pull on waterproofs over boots and gaiters is not one to be undertaken lightly. —“Good girls…stay! Well done, stay there”—“ARSE!”
“Do you think he’s got any idea where we’re going?”—“Nope…maybe you ought to ask if we’re nearly there yet.”
“I know what that smell is…it’s…eh…it’s elephant!”
“Don’t know about you…but I’m getting a very bad feeling about this.”
“Tell me again, just so that I have this straight. We came all the way up all those bumps…for this!”
“This is not impressive.”—“Are we nearly there yet?”—“O Lord, why did she put me in charge!”
“See Ma’am…he’s properly hooked up. He won’t go anywhere but I’ll know about it.””
“Look Lottie, pretty views…that’s apparently why we’re here.”—“?”
“Wanna go home now.”—Sigh—“Cheer up Lottie. look, over here…I can smell your elephant again.”
“I’m not going anywhere near that! Maybe he buried the “last one” up here.”
“I’m bored! There’s nuthin’ to do here. When are we going home?”
Typical, we’re on our way down and the sun is trying to put in an appearance.
The pups contemplate the long descent
At least we can see Loch Lubnaig on our way back.
The descent was as much fun as I had anticipated. I soon found that having 50kg+ of Labrador towing me downhill was not one that was going to have a happy ending. The bungee connection was replaced by individual leads. The pups automatically dropped back to heel and down we dropped. While the pups showed no signs of tiredness I could feel my legs becoming tighter and tighter with each downward step. Not being able to use my poles was a big loss, especially as regards my balance. I only fell once, on a muddy section where a clod gave way, so I reckoned the day was a remarkable success, all things considered. We covered a miniscule 7km with about 750m of ascent.
All that remains to be seen is…will we tackle another hill? I think so. Choice of route will be the big thing. The hill has to be short and easy so we don’t do any damage to the wee thugs. No heavy bog…no boulder fields…no steep gradients…especially no running about. And that’s just my “banned” list…you should see the pups’!