So...what have we been up to this past week.
Well, whilst Gary has been rambling in Las Ramblas in Barcelona, I have been preparing the walls etc for the 3 Hobbit houses that are due to be delivered to Blackwater Hostel in Kinlochleven to join the 7 that are already there.
Hopefully, by Tuesday coming, we will be ready to start assembly of these Hobbits in preparation for a customer visit the following week. We hope that sale will come off, as we have no units down in Cornwall, so that would certainly be a feather in our cap.
Then, this weekend.
I decided that Blaze and myself should head West and climb either Ben Narnian, or Ben Arthur (the Cobbler) on the Saturday.
Therefore with good intentions, I laid out all the hill walking gear, including ropes and climbing harnesses on the Friday night before nipping out to the pub for a swift nightcap.... This was however a severe test of my willpower, which I failed upon miserably, and it was after midnight before I wound my way home.....
As some of you may aware, a 5am alarm clock and next day dehydration is not the best of combinations when the planned agenda consists of dragging an ever ageing body up mountains... (more on the dehydration part of the story to follow).
So, especially as I've never got around to changing the horrendous alarm ringtone on my phone, I was awoken by the jangly tune of the marimba....It's dire....
First task...kettle on, then boil the eggs....a job that should really be done the night before as it's stomach turning at stupid o'clock in the morning.
Then, time to get dressed...and the 1st of the mornings tribulations.
Blaze, who has been house trained ever since I got him had decided to empty his bladder at some point in the night over the rucksack, soaking my prepared socks, wooly hat and gloves etc....
Therefore, 2nd task was mopping up the 'spillage' from the carpets.
A severe verbal warning and a yellow card was issued, with threats of a visit to the Dogs Trust re-homing in Glasgow promised in the event should this behaviour ever be repeated...(more on this later alongside the dehydration tale)....
Eventually, egg sarnies made up, and my new mini-flask, purchased very cheaply I may add (more on this later also), filled with piping hot coffee, we staggered out to the car for our early morning 90 mile drive to our start point.
Cue 2nd tribulation of the day...the car is iced up...so 15 minutes were spent getting some form of visibility through the windows allow us to set off...eventually.
Soon to follow...3rd tribulation...a yeasty smell wafting from the rear seats of the car..... Yep...Blaze had puked up a steaming mountain of what could only be described as a mixture of month old Wheetabix and Marmite..which is quite amazing as he never gets fed either of these delicacies.....
Well, after the rigours of the alarm tone, the smelly eggs, the soggy carpet, the ice...the last thing I needed was cleaning puke.
Still, a quick pull over into a layby, blanket rolled into a ball and stuck into a carrier back, and a clean blanket laid out, we set off again.
2 hours later, we arrived at our destination...well, I should say, according to the GPS, we arrived at the starting point for the climb. However, the track we were on would have had drivers from the Paris Dakar Rally chucking the towel in, as the 'road' made the surface of the moon look like the Neucamp Stadium.
Luckily, after a 43 point turn, and heading back the way we came, we found the car park and deposited our money into the machine for being allowed the honour of abandoning the vehicle in 9 inches of mud.
As I'm wont to do, for safety reasons, I hid the car keys in a suitable 'invisible spot' below a rock..below a tree so they don't get lost on the hill.
By now, things were starting to look better...the sun was shining and the mountains were resplendent with the first rays of the day glancing off their eastern slopes.
The initial part of the walk consists of a set of leg-aching zig-zags, but after 20 minutes, we were rewarded with fantastic views down to the village of Succoth... Things were getting better.
After the zig-zags, Ben Lomond in the distance
It doesn't take long after this, when the first glimpse of Ben Arthur is encountered. After the night before, and the rotten start to the day, we decided to tackle this instead of Ben Narnian and Beinn Ime, plus, we would never get a better day for 'threading the needle' at the summit of The Cobbler.
1st view of Ben Arthur
Blaze was having a ball as there were plenty of streams for him to cavort in, and was as proud as Punch, sporting his brand new climbing harness which we hoped to put to the test later.
The walk into the base of the mountain is then fairly easy, and initial glances to the bealach seemed to promise a fairly hassle free ascent.....(by this time I'd forgotten about the previous nights consumption of Coors..which would return soon... in spades)...
Approaching the summit
At this point...many things came together, the dehydration, the peed on rucksack and the severe telling off that poor Blaze had received earlier in the morning.....
I went to get a drink from my water bag that nestles in the depths of my rucksack, which was energy boosting Robinsons cordial..and disaster..the tube had a blockage which had me sucking as if my testicles had been kicked up to my throat by a pissed off WWF wrestler who has just discovered his wife had been sleeping around and wanted to vent his anger on someone...
Therefore, off came the rucksack, and a major emptying out operation ensued. The end result was that I had not put the cap on properly the previous night, resulting in the contents having leaked out onto my socks, gloves, woolly hat and carpet during the night. I could swear Blaze gave me a look that would have frozen hell over, as I swiftly retracted his yellow card and apologised as much as one could apologise to a completely innocent non-incontinent collie.
Of course, I was still left with the severe dehydration problem, but the thought of a nice coffee upon arrival at the bealach gave me the willpower to trudge on...I mean...what else could go wrong???
Arrival at the bealach for promised coffee...
Remember how I mentioned how cheap the flask was??? Now we know why. Firstly it leaked..and secondly, what dregs of contents that were left sloshing around in the bottom, were colder than an Eskimo streakers dangly bits....
Blaze however was just keen to eat the eggs sarnies for me, as I discovered after the first mouth full, that the previous nights ale had robbed me of all appetite. So, surely nothing else could go wrong..could it??
It was only a 10 minute scramble to the 'needle' where we were glad we had packed extra clothing as it was flipping freezing, despite the sunshine. Then, the first bit of good luck. Standing proud atop the needle were 2 climbers..already roped up. This meant, after a bit of shouting up and down, we agreed they should lower a rope down for Blaze...and hoist him to the top, and I would 'thread the needle', climb up the ledge and join them all on the top.
Eye of the needle.
The intended climb.
To explain the task using the above photo... Blaze was to be hoisted from the rocks on the left of the photo as it was the least distance to haul.. However...see that little overhang....? Well that's where his rope got snagged on, and he was left hanging around like a solitary bauble on a bare Xmas tree..and was none too happy about the whole sorry affair.
It was decided that he would be lowered back down to me and left at the base while I went through the needle, which takes you to the ledge seen on the right hand side of the photo. The climb to the top was really quite easy, and a great sense of accomplishment was felt, as the majority of visitors who attempt this 'bottle it'. Blaze however was none too happy about being left behind and was barking as if being murdered...highly embarrassing...
Hurrah...one of us made it.
Alas...getting back down is a whole new ballgame, as there was quite a bit of mossy slime on the rock, and my legs would have benefited from being 6" longer. The chances of me plummeting were reduced however, it almost needed a credit card slid in between my puckering butt cheeks and the rock to break the suction my bum had managed to achieve.
We then had a wee play around the base for a while before heading for the other 'top'
Luckily, there is a way to skirt the worst of this by approaching it from the side, scrambling up some slabs of rock.
With a second great feeling of glee, we reached the summit, fully laden with our rucksack, winter survival gear keeping us warm, ropes, harness and various essential dangly bits needed to overcome these dangerous peaks, only to discover 2 guys up there already, resplendent in trainers, donkey jackets, and smoking a joint that made a roll of carpet look like a twizzle stick.... Still...they did manage to take our photo..
At the top...yippee...
So legs aching, lungs bursting, head throbbing and body dehydrated, we decided to head back down, but taking a route that didn't involve the scramble we had to get up there..a longer...but much easier path. Halfway down, we were able to abandon the cold weather gear...and thanks to God...a lovely stream of fresh, cool water was awaiting us. We were taking joy from small pleasures at this point.
The loch looked welcoming as we approached, and I promised Blaze a cool swim for having put him through yet another of my mad escapades.
Then, just to round off the day...remember that really safe place I hid the car keys....well it was so damned safe, it took me 20 minutes of searching to find them again....
A cool swim...for one of us anyway.
We have decided to have a lazy Sunday.
Back to Hobbit building tomorrow, so hoping we have a good, productive week.
I wonder what next weekend will bring??? Sure to be fun, whatever it is.