According to the weather forecast, Wednesday morning was to be the last of the recent high pressure area and a cold front would move across the country in the afternoon heralding the return of our normal wet weather.
I have been gently building the dog's stamina and foot pads for the past few weeks by alternating longer walks in the hills with days of shorter walks pounding the pavements. After our walk up Meikle Bin on Monday, where she showed no signs of fatigue or suffering on the cold snow, I decided it was now time to try for the highest point of the Ochil Hills. Ben Cleuch is 2364 ft high and I could see from my house that the summit was covered with snow.
I have been to the top of Ben Cleuch many times in the past few years but have always gone via Mill Glen at Tillicoultry and up the steep front of The Law. However because the Mill Glen is closed at present due to a rock fall, I decided to approach Ben Cleuch from Alva. This is a new route to me.
I stopped for a photograph at the familliar sight of the Waterfall in Alva Glen. The route to Ben Cleuch branches off the Alva Glen walk not far past this point.
As I followed the path, I carefully studied the front face of Big Tory on the opposite side of Alva Glen. Im sure there must be a way up to the top of the Tory for a future walk ? I tried it from the top of the Alva Glen walk many moons ago but turned back when it got too steep for me on the slippery grass
There was no problem going to Ben Cleuch from the Glen as the route soon joined the road that was built to carry the wind turbines to the top of the Ochils. Woodhill on the other side of the road is another future walk.
I followed the road for a mile or so before taking the path up the flanks of Ben Ever. Its not as steep as the Law but it seemed to go on forever. I think I prefer tacking the steep Law approach. This photo is looking back down the slopes of Ben Ever towards the Nebbit (the hill in the centre of the photo)
I like the names of the Ochil hills as they are easy for me to get my tongue round, not like the strange names of mountains in the north. I lived in the lowlands of Ayrshire for too long to be called a true Cheuchter, even though I was born in Dingwall. It was warm work slogging up the track and I had my hat off and jacket open. Holly walked happily at my side.
I kept a close eye on Holly to see if she was starting to show signs of slowing down with fatigue but she was quite happy walking in front. (I let her off the lead when I was sure there were no sheep around) We followed the path that by passes the summit of Ben Ever to save some energy. We were now above snow level and it was getting colder by the moment. My hat went back on and the jacket was zipped up. I wondered if Holly would get too cold.
Because of a suspected poor diet, she has lost a lot of her fur, and she also has a few bald patches due to itchy skin so I was a little concerned for her but she had great fun trying to find something below the snow ? I suspect it was a mole or something similar ?
The temperature dropped even further as the sun disappeared behind the clouds. The wind chill was bitter. I wished I had a coat for Holly but she seemed to manage ok.
Looking over to the west, the cold weather front was dramatically darkening the sky. It can be a bitterly cold and desolate plateau at the top of the Ochils and is not a place to take lightly in a winter storm.
Both Holly and myself moved quickly up the final slopes of Ben Cleuch. It was to keep ourselves moving and blood circulating. The wind was quite strong at the summit cairns and Holly dived into the shelter as I fumbled around trying to take a photograph. My hands were frozen so I hate to think what her ears felt like.
I quickly took one more photo of the turning wind turbines, before putting my camera away, putting my gloves on, and pulling my hat over my ears. We were about to head back the way we came and straight into the wind.
I shouted "Come on Holly..lets get outta here..fast!!" and ran down the slopes. Holly didnt need any second telling .. she turned tail and ran too.
By the time we dropped to the summit of Ben Ever, we were either below the cold wind or it had dropped again. I got the lunch box out while Holly investigated the cairn, then we shared an egg sandwich. I also gave her some doggie treats which I declined on.
Then we both wandered happily down the hillside towards home, sometimes running and sometimes walking. Holly showed no signs of fatigue nor being too upset with the cold. I was proud of her achievement but I think I will wait until it gets a little warmer before attempting a munro with her.
However, until the snows disappear, our successful walk to Ben Cleuch has opened up a lot of other walks on the Ochils.
The only problem I now have is that for the past two days..of damp, wet, miserable weather .. both Holly and myself have been pacing the pavements .. wanting to get back to the hills