UKH

Doggy Hill Baggers

More than 6500 people have recorded a full Munro round, which is no small feat. But how about the faithful four-legged friends who accompany so many walkers as they bag Scotland's highest summits? Many dogs enjoy mountain hikes just as much as their owners. In fact, an increasingly number have completed a hill round, too. Here we speak to three keen baggers who would not be without their Canine Corbetteers or Munro Mutts.

It's not just humans that love hills..., 227 kb
It's not just humans that love hills...
© McCheyne family

  • Back in the 1960s it was Kitchy, owned by walker, writer and photographer Hamish Brown, who claimed the title as the first dog to finish a round of Munros. His next dog, Storm, also did a full Munro round.
  • Keen to get your pal into the outdoors, but unsure where to start? See How to go Hillwalking With Your Dog

Molly

Molly was Anne Butler's much loved collie who sadly passed away in the summer of 2016 after being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. Over a very active life, Molly became the first dog to complete a round of Corbetts.

Their enthusiasm is contagious and everything is fun. I love just sitting at a cairn, having a cuddle, looking at views and remembering all the walks we have shared

Molly kisses the carin on her final Corbett, Garbh Bheinn, 153 kb
Molly kisses the carin on her final Corbett, Garbh Bheinn
© Anne Butler

Although Molly did not finish a round of Munros, because Anne did not feel her nerves would cope while taking her dog to some of the Skye summits, the collie did reach an impressive number of peaks, including 1227 Munros, 312 Corbetts and 131 Grahams.

Molly's first mountain hike was the Corbett, Beinn an Lochain, aged one. Her first Munro was Creise in April 2008 and her last Munro was June 2016 in the Cairngorms. Her final hill was Ben Stack, a Graham in the far north-west of Scotland at the end of June 2016 and just weeks before she died.

Molly loved being outdoors and relished the freedom to run in the mountains. Retired nurse Anne, who lives in Aviemore with her husband Bill, says:

"Molly was born on Dartmoor and her first walks were in the moors where we lived. When we moved to Scotland and settled in Aviemore in 2008, she was in her element.

"I do a lot of walking [in September 2018, Anne completed her Full House to become only the 53rd recorded person to do so] and as soon as Molly could see we were heading off to the mountains she would leap in the car and pant in anticipation all the way."

Molly's first Munro, Creise, 78 kb
Molly's first Munro, Creise
© Anne Butler

Anne had just finished her own first round of Munros in July 2010, and was working her way through a second round of Munros when she worked out that Molly had about 70 Corbetts left to finish her own round.

Anne says: "I decided to set about revisiting Molly's missing Corbetts and she completed on Garbh Bheinn in Ardgour in June 2012, becoming the first dog to do so. I confess I was happier when Mollie finished her Corbetts round than I was when I completed mine."

Molly's love of the mountains never waned. Anne says: "Molly loved to be outdoors and it struck me that she liked to spend the time being a dog, if you know what I mean? Running, sniffing, exploring new places, the smells, sights and sounds all seemed so wonderful to Molly. She was free, she was part of our little pack and being in the hills was just what she did.

"She was also highly charged working dog so she needed to be busy and the hills kept her mentally and physically fit and stimulated. She had great stamina for all the walking."

On The Cobbler - she was hoisted up, 178 kb
On The Cobbler - she was hoisted up
© Anne Butler

In the kayak en route to Ben Aden, 105 kb
In the kayak en route to Ben Aden
© Anne Butler

Anne has many memories of walking with Molly. She says: "I loved the times when we visited remote bothies together and watched the sunset then got up the next day to see it rise again on a summit.

"I remember many times glissading down snowy slopes with Molly barking hysterically and loving every minute of it. Other times were scary, such as when we were airlifted off Liathach in Torridon in a rescue helicopter when the hill was on fire.

"Another time Molly was scared by a kayak paddle up Loch Quoich to climb the remote Corbett Ben Aden. She shook the whole way there – and back – and cuddled into me for reassurance.

"We also scrambled the A'Chir ridge on Arran where she abseiled twice in her harness. Then the time when a climbing friend Andy took her to the top of The Cobbler l knew the Corbett completion would happen."

For Anne, it seems perfectly natural to walk with a dog. A month after Molly died, she became the owner of another collie, Ralph. She says: "I was really struggling without a dog after Molly passed away so I only lasted a month before Ralph joined us in September. We could never replace Molly and all the memories we shared together but I'm hoping that l can make plenty of new ones with Ralph.

"Walking with a dog adds a whole new dimension to planning the walk. You have to plan around them. I can't just go out in any weather as gales and whiteouts aren't much fun for the dog and heat can cause problems, too.

"You also need to factor in where you can stay, how to carry their kit and find water, as well as assessing the terrain. But more than anything, being with a dog is uplifting because they see you as their world and do not judge you if you get lost of bail out of a walk.

"Their enthusiasm is contagious and everything is fun. I love just sitting at a cairn, having a cuddle, looking at views and remembering all the walks we have shared.

"In the month in between loosing Molly and getting Ralph l honestly didn't enjoy my hillwalking as I had no-one to share the memories with. I still miss her so much."

Aonach

Aonach is a West Highland Terrier owned by the McCheyne family, mum and dad Diane and Neil and twin girls Cliona and Nuala. They were the youngest girls to finish a round of Munros in 2012.

Aonach on Munro 224, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, 216 kb
Aonach on Munro 224, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor
© McCheyne family

Aonach herself has been walking in the hills with her family since she was five months old and between 2008 and 2017 she walked all the Munros except nine on the Cuillin Ridge.

Cliona, 17, says: "Aonach is a keen walker and loves being in the mountains. She has done all the Munros that we felt were safe for her to do so. We do not see the point in pulling her up in a harness because she would not have been physically climbing to the tops and also the very abrasive nature of the gabbro rock would have caused her great discomfort to the pads of her feet."

Aonach has also been an enthusiastic Corbett bagger and has a tick list of 161 of all 221.

A wintry day on Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh, 137 kb
A wintry day on Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh
© McCheyne family

Cliona reports that Aonach would be walking mountains every day if she could. She says: "Aonach enjoys running around, snowking [sniffing] in the moss and heather, swimming in the rivers and lochans, rolling in the snow, getting a piece of everyone's lunch and attempting to hunt mice.

"She doesn't chase sheep and she has never been fazed by edges, drops and ridges. However, she does have a habit of rolling in various forms of excrement, which we have to wash off.

"And if there is another dog further up the hill than us she will pull constantly until we catch up with them. This is hard work," adds Cliona.

Garbh-bheinn, Skye, Corbett number 159, 195 kb
Garbh-bheinn, Skye, Corbett number 159
© McCheyne family

For a small dog, Aonach takes big hiking days in her little stride, with only a little help occasionally.

Cliona says: "We have done some long hikes to do the Munros, such as an entire round of the Fisherfield Big 6 in a day; the Knoydart hills of Meall Buidhe, Luinne Bheinn and Ladhar Bheinn in a day from Inverie; Seana Bhraigh, Eididh nan Clach Geala and Meall nan Ceapraichean from Inverlael in a day. The distance has never been a problem to Aonach.

"The day we did Ben Alder we also did Beinn Bheoil and Carn Dearg. Aonach was very happy to sit in a box on the rear carrier of dad's bike for the cycle from Dalwhinnie in to Culra and back again.

"However, some days when walking, Aonach goes berserk and runs about at high speed in big circles. Obviously at these times she feels we aren't going fast enough!"

On Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin, Munro 149, 243 kb
On Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin, Munro 149
© McCheyne family

Lying down on the job on Ciste Dhubh, 243 kb
Lying down on the job on Ciste Dhubh
© McCheyne family

With so many outings, Cliona and Nuala have a lot of memories to draw on. A few stick in their minds.

Cliona, who is in 6th year at Dunoon Grammar School, says: "On her first Munro, Schiehallion, Aonach was let off of the lead half way back down and she ran all the way to the car park with me and Nuala chasing after her.

"On another occasion, which was funny for us but not for her, we had to tie a midgie net on to her head while camping in the Fisherfields because the midgies were so bad.

"She has proved to be a great companion over many years as our family walks the Munros and Corbetts together. And, of course, we get a lot of laughs from her."

Moray

Moray is an Australian-Kelpie mix named after Glen Moray single malt. He started walking mountains with his owner Tim Hall aged about 18 months. Tim is now aiming to walk all the Mainland Munros with him.

Moray in the Lairig Ghru, 188 kb
Moray in the Lairig Ghru
© Tim Hall

Geal-Charn at Drumochter was Moray's first Munro "to see how he coped".

Five years on and the dog has summited 237 different Munros, although many local ones to Tim's home in Aviemore have been climbed many times over.

Tim, who owns walking and wilderness camping guide company Out In The Hills, says: "I am currently on 260 Munros in my third round, although I am working to a list of all current and past Munros, so just there are more than 300 in total. I hope to finish this list in in 2019 and tie it in with Moray finishing the mainland Munros. I think the 'Mainland Munros' is a cleaner list than 'all Munros except the In Pinn'.

"I have no intention of trying to get him up the Inaccessible Pinnacle on the Cuillin ridge. I think hauling a dog up is unfair on the dog and, in my opinion, it doesn't count as an ascent."

On Seana Bhraigh, 208 kb
On Seana Bhraigh
© Tim Hall

However, Moray has managed some ridge walks, such as the Forcan Ridge and Ben Alligin. But for others, such as the Aonach Eagach, Tim will summit the two Munros as separate hills to avoid the narrow and unavoidably scrambly connecting ridge between them.

It's the long hikes in wild and remote places that Moray appears to like most. Tim says: "Moray is well suited to big days and has a lot of energy. For example, he enjoyed doing the Fisherfield Munros over two days and several two and three-day camping treks, such as the Mamore and the Mounth.

"But there is a limit to our days away because of the food, water and kit required. He has panniers to carry his own food and I carry a short ground mat and a fleecy thing for him in the tent. Although, if he's cold, he just takes over my sleeping bag.

"There are things you need to think about when planning a hike with a dog."

He's a dog for all seasons..., 122 kb
He's a dog for all seasons...
© Tim Hall

Tim has also found Moray to be an unusual asset to his photography interest. He says: "Moray has different reactions to different wildlife, so I can tell from his this whether there are deer about or mountain hare. It's a good advance warning to be ready to photograph them.

"However, then it requires for Moray to stay calm and still while I take the photograph. And that is not always what happens."

At 21kg, Moray is not a lightweight and his owner has had to show him how to get over stiles himself – "with my support rather than a lift because he is so heavy," says Tim. He is also trying to teach Moray to be comfortable being carried on his shoulders, just in case the need ever arises.

Moray walks on a long, retracting lead at all times. Tim says: "I really don't like seeing dogs chasing wildlife, especially ground nesting birds like ptarmigan or dotterel. They struggle to survive in that environment and anything that forces them to fly off uses a lot of energy they need to replenish.

"Having on a lead makes a few things more difficult though. If I'm trying to micro-navigate on a bearing he can be a distraction pulling to the side."

Tim enjoys Moray's companionship. He says: "It's just great to walk with your own dog and he's good at picking up the scent of a route in trackless terrain, so helps with the navigation."



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