Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Third Time is Not the Charm...

This weekend, we got to dog sit for Bailey’s best bud, Angus. They were restless indoors and spent most of their time wrestling and inadvertently knocking things over, so we tried to get them outside for some hearty exercise. The 3 mile forest walk we took them on Saturday did little to diminish their energy and excitement over their sudden cohabitation. We knew that if we wanted to tucker these pups out, we were going to have to pull out the big guns. 

On Sunday we were met with a rare calm, sunny and warm day. Immediately upon waking we started researching nearby hikes, trying to find one that fit the bill. We looked inland towards the Cairngorm Mountains, but when I checked the forecast, it looked rainy and yuck. Jonathan was still game, but there was no way I was leaving the sunshine behind in search of rain. 

We decided instead to revisit Bennachie, one of Aberdeenshire’s mountainous ‘hills’. There is a 6 mile circuit that visits all the summits of this massive landmark, and the views of Scotland are phenomenal. I had done this same hike shortly after learning I was pregnant. At that time, I was feeling queasy and the trail was slick with ice which made it a treacherous and cumbersome walk. 
6 weeks preggers
I was excited to re-try with my newfound energy and dry paths. Bennachie is well taken care of and there are several well marked paths. Even if you get ‘mixed up’ you can never really get lost, which is great for Jon and I because we are both directionally challenged. 
I also wanted to revisit Bennachie because though I had scaled the hill twice before, I had never made it up to the summit of ‘Mither Tap’. During my first attempt last summer, I sort of spazzed out and had a panic attack about 30 feet from the top. 
Jon at Mither Tap summit last summer. I was huddled in the fetal position about 30 feet below.
During my 2nd trip with the AWA Explorers, the ascent was simply to icy to risk it. But on Sunday I was hoping that the cooperating weather and the wealth of experience I had with hill climbing and scrambling in the past year would give me the confidence I needed propel me to the tippy top of the summit. Jonathan actually gave me a 20% chance of succeeding without a panic attack, which was a pretty high vote of confidence from him. I was determined to succeed. Unless I got scared. And then I was gonna let myself off the hook. 

I forgot how difficult it was to hike the first mile which is essentially a vertical climb. 
Once you get in the vicinity of the top of Bennachie, it substantially flattens out and all you’re left with are a few short climbs to the different summits. 
The first summit we came to was ‘Little Oxen Craig’. 
It was an easy hike to reach the summit, and after a few photo ops we decided to head over to the second summit, Big Oxen Craig. 
This is actually the highest point on Bennachie and offers sweeping views of the surrounding countryside and rolling hills of Aberdeenshire. But man, is it windy. We figured we’d stop here to take a water break and eat a snack, but the wind kept us moving towards Mither Tap (aka. My Everest). 
A brief water break.

24 weeks preggers, with Mither Tap peak in the background.
By the time we reached the start of the summit hike, we were both starving, which for those of you who know us well, you know what a disaster that can be. We label this state of mind ‘Hungry Monster’ and our personalities do a complete 180 from pleasant and sweet to irritable and mean. We figured we’d just knock out the summit and then scramble down and find a cozy spot for lunch. 
Unfortunately, we missed the part of our directions that said ‘Ignore the marked path to your right, and turn left for an easier path up’. Instead, we kept following the path which quickly turned into a pile of loosely fitting rocks on the side of a cliff. I kept telling Jonathan that something didn’t feel right, but he assured me that just as soon as we turned the next corner we would be there. 
When we turned the corner and realized we had another steep and cliff-faced climb ahead of us, I started to hesitate. An Irish man sitting nearby could sense my distress and told me, ‘Just go straight up. You can’t get lost’. I informed him that getting lost was the least of my worries; falling was more of a concern. 

Either way, Jonathan and I knew that at that point we had both grown too hungry to proceed. We receded into a little alcove for a picnic with a beautiful view. 
After gorging on PB&J and Milano cookies, we had settled down enough to reread through the directions and realized our error. 
We scrambled back down the loose rocks, and looked up the correct path to Mither Tap summit. At that point, I was good to go, but Jonathan’s hungry monster takes a while longer to recede. He was kind of over it and made the call that we would just start the 3 mile trek back to the car. 
I was a little disappointed that I had come all of this way for a third time and still wasn’t going to make it to Mither Tap. I consoled myself with the knowledge that MT isn’t even the highest point of the mountain, and technically, I’d climbed to the summit of Oxen Craig twice. Good enough for me. 

With most of the hard work and my anxieties of scrambling out of the way, we relaxed. We let our guards down. We forgot to keep a close eye on Bailey. For the prior 2 hours she had been an angel. Coming back each time she was called. Playing with Angus. Staying within a 30 yard radius, always in our sights. 

She must of sensed us loosen up the reigns a bit because about 2 minutes later she flushed 2 pheasants out of the heather and that was the last we saw of her for about 5 minutes. 

Now I know the worst possible thing I can do in this situation is panic. I tried calling her a few times, but with the howling wind up there, I was pretty certain she couldn’t hear me. Plus, I had no idea in which direction to call her name because the child can cover so much ground within seconds that it’s impossible to predict where she could have been by that time. Jonathan insisted that we keep walking, and that she would find us eventually, but I just couldn’t in good conscience leave her behind with the chance that she’d get hopelessly lost in the wilderness. 

While he stood still and waited for her I started backtracking. I broke off into the heather so that I could elevate myself a bit to see if I could spot her little white head. Five minutes went by and we still had no sign of her. I kept tracking through the heather as fast as my 6 month pregnant legs would carry me, frantically pleading with her to come back until I finally spotted her close to where we picnicked. 

I called her name, made eye contact, and she just blatantly ignored me. Which made me more hysterical as I started irrationally screaming her name and scrambling up the summit to reach her. Rationally I knew that all I was doing was making her LESS likely to obey, but at that point my fear and panic had overtaken me and I just needed her back safely within arms reach. 

When I saw her dart off in the opposite direction, I was deflated. Luckily some nearby hikers figured out my dilemma and intercepted her until Jonathan was able to fetch her. I was left stranded in the heather, clawing my way back to the path, struggling to steady my heart rate and control my breathing. And that’s how I came to have my second panic attack at Mither Tap... 

It sort of ruined the mood of the day so when we came to the 4th and final summit of Craigshannoch, we just decided to skip it. But after a few minutes of sunshine and Bailey behaving, our good attitudes slowly returned. 
By this time, Bailey and Angus were so exhausted that they trailed right behind us for the rest of the hike. 
Six miles and three hours later, we made it back to the car. All four of us were dog tired, but Jonathan and I were also hungry again. We stopped at the nearby Gadie’s café for tea and scones and a little artisan shopping at Touched by Scotland next door.

This is a great shop full of home goods that are all hand made in Scotland. We found a print of ‘Harris Beach’ which we may return for if Harris ends up being the final name we choose for Baby Boy. 
Other than that, we left with just two bags of homemade dog treats for the pups. 
Our goal of tiring the dogs out was a complete success, and both Angus and Bailey spent the next 24+ hours sleeping it off.   

Dog tired.


  1. Great photos! Love the name Harris :) My youngest is called Lewis, it was the only Scottish name we could agree on!

  2. I would love to hear the uncensored version of this story! I can imagine the colorful emotions and tempers that were flaring. lol.