This week saw our long, hot summer slip gently away to be replaced by another of nature’s amazing seasons. Of course, up in Scotland we can often experience all four seasons in one day! There has been frost in the mornings this week and even some windscreen scraping. The temperature gauge in the car has dropped to 2 degrees at times and I have to confess that I succumbed to popping the central heating on at home for an hour on Monday night. We do have a bit of a challenge at home when we see who will give in first to the heating. A couple of extra layers, a few brisk walks and plenty of hot, steaming tea and you can usually hold off the heating for a couple more weeks.
All Quiet At The Tearoom
At the tearoom this week it’s been very quiet (as always at this time of year for some reason). This has given me time to catch up on some of my own crafting, share tea, cakes, gossip and laughter with the lovely customers and start to plan for our exhibition table at the Soul Sista’s event at the end of October. The tearoom will be closed that day so that Mr M can come along to the event and we can both show off with pride what Mother Murphy’s is all about.
I Will Succeed
After last week’s disastrous trip up to Glen Lyon I decided that this week, no matter what, I was going to be successful in climbing Stuchd an Lochan before winter makes the Ben Lawers road impassable for mere mortals like myself.
After bit of a late night on the Sunday with a birthday celebration and I headed to bed and had the alarm set for 6.00 am. Mr M had said that he thought he would not go walking as he had a few things to do. I did wonder if that was his way of saying, “there is no way on this earth that I am ever getting into a car with you again and heading down Glen Lyon, never mind thinking of going up Stuchd an Lochan”.
So, Mr M was not going. Was I brave enough to go out on the hills without Beatrix and have a totally solitary outing? Well, here’s the thing and all dog owners will know exactly what I mean. For me to go out on the hills without our highly intelligent, but sometimes naughty Border collie, I would have to put some sort of escape plan together. Firstly, I would need to pack my rucksack with all my walking clothes and boots the night before and have them stashed away in the car. Then, on the day of the walk, I would have to appear downstairs in my non-walking gear, have breakfast as usual and then try to get my packed lunch and flask ready without Beatrix seeing this. Of course, she does have some sort of sixth sense, so even if she didn’t see this secret planning, she would be able to sense it. Then the looks would start – the puppy dog eyes. There has been actual scientific study into puppy dog eyes, where the brow is raised to make the eyes appear wider and sadder. Oh, and only when humans are looking. So, lying there trying to sleep, my guilty conscience got the better of me just for thinking about it, so walking the hills without Beatrix was never going to happen!
Mr M Is Coming Too
6.00 am the alarm went off and I crept out of bed, dressed and headed out for a short walk with Beatrix to let her do what a dog needs to do.
Heading back home, the lights were all on. I smiled to myself because this could mean only one thing. Mr M was making my porridge. Sure enough porridge was on the go but I also spied Mr M’s rucksack in the room. Ok, so there would be three again in Glen Lyon.
Just before setting out I checked the mountain rescue weather forecast and was pleased to read that it was going to be fine and sunny until around 4.00 pm and visibility was recorded as very good. The views were going to be great. This week it will be great.
The drive again took us along the A84 up from Callendar and past Loch Lubnaig. What stuck both of us (and possibly Beatrix noticed it) was the difference in the colours in just a week. Last week there was a hint of autumn in the trees and hills. This week, the greens were replaced with autumn golds, yellows and orange. The sun was shining and the sky clear blue. Again! The loch shimmered again and the reflections were just as clear as last week. This week, the hills were all cloud free and there was not a hit of rain. The weather forecast was correct.
The single track road from Killin up to Ben Lawers and Bridge of Balgie was just as narrow and scary as the previous week, but this week there were no timber lorries for me to reverse for. There are signs out on the road advising a speed limit of 10 mph as there is a risk of skidding in places. Let me tell you, 10 mph is positively speeding on this road! Turning left at Bridge of Balgie I assured Mr that I had carried out extensive research on the internet and I knew exactly where I was going. Ok, I had re-read my Munro books and looked at the ordnance survey map a little closer! I knew now that the little turn off I had discarded the previous week was actually the road I needed to take. With Mr M sleeping most of the way I had no back seat passenger this week. He woke up as I switched on the indicator to take the road on the right. Why I felt the need to do that I am not sure. Who on earth did I think needed to see which way I was going? The deer? The cattle? The sheep? Well, this did wake up the back seat driver. “Why are you going down here? This is not the way. I don’t remember this road”. Anyway, 5 minutes down this even narrower road, we could see the dam in the distance. Phew!
Mr M kindly opened the gate for me to enter the final stages of our journey. This road takes us into the remnants of the Caledonian forest and these fences and gates are vein attempt to protect this wonderful area from the deer and sheep. Unfortunately for car drivers, highland cattle are not prevented from roaming this area. Now, Glen Lyon is a vast glen. Actually it is the longest enclosed glen in Scotland, running for 34 miles from Loch Lyon in the west to the village of Fortingall in the east. Why then I ask did all the highland cattle feel the need to be on the road I was travelling on. Mums, Dads and baby highland cattle. Oh flip I thought. Not to worry, if I drive slowly they will move off the road when I get to them. Or so I thought! Before I had chance to panic, the car was surrounded by cattle all looking in the windows, licking the windscreen and generally putting their huge horns far too close to my windows than would like. Now, don’t forget that I had a back seat driver and a border collie in the car with me. Beatrix by now was barking like a ferocious wild animal in the back of the car. This just intrigued the cattle more and they were putting their faces even closer to the car to get a better view of the barking dog. The back seat driver was telling me that I should not scare the cattle because we didn’t know what they would do. Is that right I thought! I inched forward slowly and eventually I was able to crawl the car through the herd. On any other road, I would have thought about reversing and going home for a cup of tea, but this was, don’t forget, the narrowest road you could find, so reversing was not an option for me.
Eventually though we were though the beasts and the car was parked safely at the side of the correct dam this week. The sun was still just about shining but there was a strong, cold breeze blowing in. Off we went.
Stuchd an Lochain starts with an almost impossibly steep climb to begin with and you do question at times whether you are walking a path or a stream. Eventually though it eases out and the views start to open out. Past the initial very steep beginning, the rest of the route up to the summit is gentle in comparison. I love this walk because you are walking most of the way up what feels likes a horseshoe ridge. The views are spectacular and mountains stretch as far as the eye can see. I was hoping to see lots of deer around the Loch on the way up to the summit but it was not to be today. Now let’s not forget that I checked the weather forecast just before setting off this morning and read about the sunshine and the very good visibility. Maybe I will send my photos to the mountain rescue weather people. Stopping for a snack and to catch our breath a little, we could see that the clouds were rapidly heading our way. The rain started but stopped almost as quickly as it started – to be replaced by snow! I am in my element in the winter weather and love the snow, the driving rain, the wind. I know! I am a little mad. Mr M, however, loves the hot, sunny weather. By now were perhaps an hour away from the final summit. Being the thoughtful, caring wife that I am, I did say to Mr M that I was happy not to go to the summit if he thought the weather was too bad. “I am not coming this far and not getting to the top” was the reply. Oops, my plan worked then!
Finally arriving at the summit, the views were not as spectacular as I had hoped but the feeling of isolation was still the same. We should have been able to see across Rannoch Moor and the Ben Nevis range but we could just about make out the dam across the valley that we arrived at by mistake the previous week. It was very cold and windy at the top so we did not hang around too long. The descent was very pleasant and the snow turned back to rain, though not quite so heavy now. The final mile or so is not quite as pleasant as we had to go back down the steep descent where the stream path was now a bit of a raging torrent at times. There were several slips and slides and lots of little swear words (from all three of us I think).
Finally we reached the dam road and just had a 5 minute walk back to the car from here. Suddenly Beatrix disappeared. I whistled to her, shouted to her and looked all around. My initial thought was that she had somehow managed to get into the dam workings. Don’t be silly, there is no chance of that. I looked and saw she was down at the edge of the water playing with the stones. Phew! Then she disappeared again! There was lots of shouting, cursing. How could we walk all that way and then loose her! I set off down to the car to see if she had gone past without us seeing her. No. She was not there. I set off back up the dam service road to see if Mr M had found her. She came running towards me like a bullet, stopped at my feet and dropped a half-eaten fish at my feet, smiling like only a collie can smile. She won’t be hungry now I thought to myself!
Drama over, we were all back in the car and Mr M said he would drive home. As we set off back up the hill, the highland cattle were nowhere to be seen but like magic they suddenly descended on the road and surrounded the car again. No matter how much we waited and waited, they were not going to move. “You will have to get of the car and shoo them along”, said Mr M. Well, I have to say, it took Mr M quite a while to keep getting out of the car, shooing the beasts and jumping back in the car to drive. I can tell you, there was no way I was getting out of the car to shoo these beasts!
Mr M says that he is going to have a little break from walking with me!
This week’s song for you to sing along to,
Rocky Mountain High by John Denver.