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From euphoria to heartbreak - a walk in Fisherfield

From euphoria to heartbreak - a walk in Fisherfield


Postby dogplodder » Sat Jan 19, 2019 3:26 pm

Route description: Fisherfield 6, from Shenavall

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Tarsuinn

Date walked: 11/08/2018

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 31 km

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I wrote up most of this report a couple of weeks after doing the walk but then something happened that meant I couldn't bear to look at it. Even now it's difficult, but I need to get it done.

The walk itself was brilliant and for that I'm indebted to gammy leg walker and pollyh for encouraging me to have a go (even offering to go with me to give me company!). Up until then I assumed getting into Fisherfield involved tent or bothy and couldn't quite see how I could easily do that. But from what they did (admittedly they had a tent) I saw a possible way in for a quick smash and grab and out again the same day. This was later confirmed by Black Panther, who had done exactly what I planned to do to bag Beinn Tarsuinn.

A few folk were interested in coming, but later had to pull out and the group was down to Rosalind, Ian and me. Except that on the day before we were due to go Rosalind (from Orkney so has to make the most of her time on the mainland) had climbed Slioch and by the evening felt too exhausted to contemplate another long day so decided to head for Applecross instead. So it was down to Ian, me and my dog Callie, who had only been with us 4 months.

Some folk on here may remember we lost our 13 year old black lab Tess in April 2017. Tess was a great hill companion and I thought we'd very little hope of finding another like her, but in July filled in the application to adopt from Lab Rescue Scotland. Having twice previously adopted from Lab Rescue NW and things happening very quickly I wasn't quite prepared for a long wait and by January 2018 was getting a bit desperate to find another black girl who could come on the hills with me. But it was worth the wait to find a good match and on 7th April 2018 we adopted a beautiful 3 year old with a nature to match and called her Callie. She hadn't much experience of the great outdoors so we spent an intensive three weeks of recall and lead training so she'd be able to come on some of the WHW that we had lined up for the end of the month.

https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=83141

She took to it like a natural and after a few smaller hills was ready for her first Munro. It just so happened that was to be on the day of our foray into Fisherfield! Not many would climb a Fisherfield Munro for their first but this was one special dog and I was confident she would do well.

I left the house at 4.55am, drove across town to pick up Ian at 5.15, then on to Incheril where we parked and were walking by 6.30am. We followed the route in over the Heights of Kinlochewe, heading for Lochan Fada where we would start the climb for Beinn Tarsuinn. The idea was to climb it first and then Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, depending on how things went.

We made good time on the track and once past the buildings at the Heights I felt a rising excitement as we approached the 'Great Wilderness' which I'd thought about so often but never thought I'd reach. Even with early morning cloud drifting about the tops, our first sighting of these hills was exhilerating.

Cloud on Beinn Tarsuinn but clear by the time we got there
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As I expected Callie didn't put a foot wrong. There were sheep In the fields around Incheril but she didn't give them a second glance. She stayed close and came at once every time I called her. None of the running off on the scent of deer like we used to get from a young Jack boy! (Still with us at 14.5 but retired from hill duties.)

Loch an Biorach
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Beinn Lair and A' Mhaighdean
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Callie associates the camera with food so runs to me whenever she sees it - making it difficult to get a photo with her standing still.

Slioch from the north
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We were level with Lochan Fada around 9.00 and found a large boulder to perch on for breakfast. I was already euphoric just to be sitting by this remote loch surrounded by the beautiful shapes of these fabled mountains. Even if I got no further it would have been worth it to get this far.

The beach and a tent by Lochan Fada
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With fuel in the tank we set off to find the path up to the col between Tarsuinn and MCMF. If we had continued on the path right down to the beach we would have picked it up but we cut the corner over heather before we found it a bit higher up. It's a narrow path but clear to follow and easier than I had expected. As we gained height the views to the west got better all the way until they were blocked by the craggy south side of Beinn Tarsuinn.

Beinn Lair and lower slopes of Beinn Tarsuinn
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Following a faint path up the Allt na Criege Glaise
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Keep to the right where the gully divides
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After a while I took pity on Ian having to go at my pace and urged him to go on and we'd regroup at the summit. My right knee was twinging so I was placing my feet carefully to avoid straining it. Better to take my time and let him go on at his own pace, rather than feel I was holding him back. And to be honest I love the feeling of walking alone in the wilderness - but with the added security of someone not too far away if anything went wrong!

Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair
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I didn't pick up the path from the col, possibly turning left before I reached it, but the 200m climb up was straightforward and I was soon standing at the top of my first Fisherfield with my new dog on her first Munro! There's not much of a cairn to pose by on Tarsuinn but I found a nice rock to sit and give her a wee treat for doing so well. I wondered how many more we'd do together.

Feeling euphoric on Beinn Tarsuinn
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I was euphoric to be sitting here (a) on one of the Fisherfield summits and (b) to be here with Callie. She had no recall and wasn't lead trained when we got her, due to her owner's serious health problems meaning she couldn't take her out. But she had a beautiful gentle nature, was eager to please and had learned faster than I could have dared to hope.

Callie on her first Munro (Ian's photo)
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It's a tradition our dogs always get a carrot at the top so Callie got her carrot and we had a snack. I then had a decision to make. Would I go on with Ian to climb the Mullach? There was plenty of time to complete it and be back at the car in daylight and I really wanted to. But the Mullach looked bouldery which would be hard on my knee and hard on Callie's pads and I came to the conclusion it was better to stop after the one. The knee would be painful on the descent so better to take it slowly. So the plan was for Ian to go on solo and for Callie and me to spend as long as we liked at the top before heading down as slowly as we liked and finding a spot by the loch to wait for him.

Ian had not long departed when the first people I'd seen all day suddenly appeared from the east side. We hadn't seen them approaching and Callie was startled and barked - although seconds later it was like they were her best friends ever. A sociable wee girl. Three (or was it four?) guys who were doing the round from the Shenavall bothy and loving it. It's always good to spend time with folk who appreciate the same things we do and this was no exception. If we'd met in Princes Street Gardens we wouldn't have spoken but meeting on top of one of the Fisherfields is another matter entirely!

Eventually after taking a few photos it was time to tear myself away from this amazing place. Now I know how to do it I hope to be back for more... but even if I don't I'm so very chuffed to have been here the once!

View west
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Zoomed to Tarsuinn's 'tennis court'
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NW to Summer Isles and Lewis
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Gleann na Muice with Beinn Dearg Mor on left and An Teallach straight ahead
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Beinn a' Chlaidheimh, Sgurr Ban, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair
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Her first Munro - and hopefully the first of many
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Despite the complaining knee I enjoyed the descent with Callie, picking our way down over stony ground. There was one point we reached a rib of rock and she didn't know what to do so I helped her down a rocky step and she was fine after that, slightly ahead but always checking where I was. It's amazing the way dogs instinctively pick up on the right way to go and rarely get it wrong, even though they can't read maps.

We found the path we had missed on the ascent and followed it down before branching off to the south as we reached the col. It was about then I saw a couple on the way up from the col and called to them there was a path, pointing over to it. Maybe they weren't English speakers but they stared at me blankly and didn't reply. Or perhaps they thought this old wifie with the white hair and black dog, alone in such a remote spot, must be mad. Or a witch minus the broomstick. Whatever they thought they said nothing and hurried on.

The descent
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We followed the gully down and were treated to views of Beinn Eighe appearing through the gap east of Slioch.

Beinn Eighe (in the gap) Slioch and Lochan Fada from the descent
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Having time to fill we headed for the beach. There wasn't a soul about, just me and my dog. A recipe for bliss.

A refreshing dip
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Finding the exact stone I threw - how do they do that?
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After spending a while on the beach the midges had told all their mates for miles around that we were there so we relocated to a spot higher up where I would be able to spot Ian and he us. In terms of midges it wasn't any better so I put my midge net and gloves on and hunkered down on a bed of heather to wait. It was actually very comfy and the varmits could no longer get to me. That was fine for me but not so good for the dog. Millisecs after I wiped her face it was covered in midges again.

Dogs are so stoical compared to us
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Not on the lead but sitting so close - a poignant photo
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We didn't have long to wait. Ian arrived about 3.45 - just an hour behind us and he'd climbed an extra Munro! It would have taken longer than that if I'd gone. Once he'd had a snack and done a debrief on the conditions on MCMF (stony, bouldery, loose gravel in places) we started on the long walk back to the car. It was reassuring to know there was a good path all the way.

Pointy side of Slioch and goodbye to this beautiful place
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The long path back to Incheril
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Once we were beyond the buildings at the Heights of Kinlochewe and on the vehicle track again I noticed Callie's back legs buckle and she lay down. I wondered if it was cramp so gave her a tuna roll and a drink of water. We then sat for about 10 minutes with me stroking her and she was soon good to go again. She got a bit excited when we passed a stationary yellow digger and looked hopefully at it like she was angling for a lift. But there was no lift until we got to the car at Incheril where she got her proper meal, curled up in the back of the car and didn't move until we reached home. A good end to a great day and I had high hopes of days to come.

Sadly that wasn't to be. A couple of weeks later Callie was in at the vets to be spayed. It's a condition of adopting from any animal rehoming organisation to neuter the animal to help stem the tide of unwanted dogs and cats ending up in rescue. She had been due to have it done in July based on when her last season was meant to have been but two months after we got her she came into season and poor old Jack went around with a silly grin on his face for the next three weeks. The second date for her op was 27th August. It went well and on 7th September she got the all clear - wound well healed and ready for off lead exercise again.

The next day I was due to climb two of my grandsons' first Munro with them - Carn Ghluasaid. It wasn't too big a day and I tentatively asked if it would be okay to take Callie but the vet felt it would be better to start with short walks and work up to it gradually. That made sense so the next day I left her behind.

What happened that day - https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=84540

We drove home in high spirits. My son dropped me off at home and one of the grandsons came in to collect something he'd left. He was particularly attached to Callie and asked where she was. Pete was sitting on the sofa indicating that Daniel should go. He then told me he had bad news.

This being the first day Callie was allowed off lead exercise he had taken her a short walk in the mornng and was planning to take her for a longer one in the woods in the afternoon. But when he was about to leave Jack was keen to come too so he went to 'the hedges' instead. This is a walk we've done many times with the dogs - a path running at right angles to the road between fields with no livestock and lined with hedges. Safe to have the dogs off lead.

He parked in the space off the road and let both dogs off the lead as they walked in. A group of people with a child's buggy and another black lab were standing around at the start of the path. Whether it was this that confused Callie we will never know. She did something she had never done and that was completely out of character. She turned and ran back through the parking area and across the road. It's not a very busy road but a car was coming and she was hit. Pete didn't see her go but he saw her limping back to the grass verge, where she lay down. With the help of someone he carefully lifted her into the boot of the car, putting Jack in the front to give her all the space, and drove straight to the vet. He was there in 5 minutes but being Saturday afternoon the place was closed. He phoned the emergency number and the vet who had done Callie's spay arrived in another 15 minutes. While he waited he stroked Callie and told her he was sorry. (That choked me up.) He could see she was in a bad way with breathing getting shallower and by the time the vet arrived her eyes were fixed. The vet said she was probably brain damaged and only option was to put her to sleep. Pete thinks she was gone before the needle went in.

He was distraught and blamed himself. If only he'd kept her on the lead. If only he'd stuck to his plan and taken her to the woods. I thought if only I'd taken her on the hill with me. But there's no point in going over 'if onlys'. What had happened had happened and she was gone.

Apart from the trauma and heartbreak of losing her like that it was a costly business. We discovered vet insurance doesn't routinely cover emergency call out, euthanasia or cremation - and it didn't cover the damage to the car that hit her either. All we could do was take a deep breath and pay the bill. A dog on a road is the owner's responsibility and they are liable for any damage done.

After their triumphant day on the hill it was hard to break the news to the grandsons. They and all the grandkids were distraught. They loved Callie - we all did - and it was very hard to take in that she was gone. The only comfort we have is knowing that after a very limited life due to her owner's illness she then had five months of discovering the outside world - which anyone could see she had loved.

To end on a less sad note I'll add a few photos in a post as a tribute to a sweet gentle girl who made a big impact on all of us in the short time we knew her.
Last edited by dogplodder on Sat Jan 19, 2019 11:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: From euphoria to heart break - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby dogplodder » Sat Jan 19, 2019 3:38 pm

With Jack the day we picked her up
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Wih two of the grandsons on her first hill
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On West Highland Way
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On final stage of WHW
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At Camusdarach
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On Isle of Canna
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The next one is our last photo of Callie, taken by Moira on a walk round Lochan Vaa.

Our beautiful girl
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Re: From euphoria to heart break - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby mrssanta » Sat Jan 19, 2019 6:31 pm

Oh Kathleen I am so sorry to read that story. What a beautiful dog and how loved she was! She has such a beautiful quizzical labradog face.
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Re: From euphoria to heart break - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby Sgurr » Sat Jan 19, 2019 7:15 pm

So sorry to read that. At least you can console yourself a little with the fact that you took Callie to many places most dogs(and humans) would never have a chance to experience.

Some lovely photos in your report.

Hope you can manage to find a way of climbing the rest of the Fisherfield some day. I did them via dragging in a tent on a bike as far as we could push from Incheril, and carrying the rucksack along the path (Day 1) 3 hills (Day 2) 2 more hills (Day 3) Walkout (Day 4) with husband and three of our friends, but I was only 64 (as were most of the others), and couldn't manage it now, though we have carried bothying packs up to 3 years ago....very occasionally.
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Re: From euphoria to heart break - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby Hillbeback » Sat Jan 19, 2019 9:43 pm

She was a beautiful girl and what a tragic end to your walk. And when these kind of things happen we always say " if only we hadn't done this" or " if only we had done this" but we can never foresee these terrible events. You all loved her so much and you made her life so special while she was yours. A fitting tribute and lovely photos. Great to see Jack still going strong. That was a lovely area you were walking in.
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Re: From euphoria to heartbreak - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby gammy leg walker » Sun Jan 20, 2019 12:06 am

I'm just home from Ben Klibreck and picked up your PM, I'm heartbroken for you and your family. If it's any consolation you gave her a wonderful life in the short time you had her. In a way it's fitting her one and only Munro was in Fisherfield, there's no finer a place to climb your one and only Munro.

RIP Callie xxx
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Re: From euphoria to heartbreak - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby rockhopper » Sun Jan 20, 2019 12:06 am

Sorry to hear that - a fitting tribute and you'll have some great memories.
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Re: From euphoria to heartbreak - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby past my sell by date » Sun Jan 20, 2019 12:07 am

What a sad ending to your story
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Re: From euphoria to heart break - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby dogplodder » Sun Jan 20, 2019 5:50 pm

mrssanta wrote:Oh Kathleen I am so sorry to read that story. What a beautiful dog and how loved she was! She has such a beautiful quizzical labradog face.


What a lovely comment. Thank you xx
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Re: From euphoria to heartbreak - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby Mal Grey » Sun Jan 20, 2019 7:17 pm

Poor wee Cassie, so sorry. Just those few pictures show she had the best life for the few months she was with you.

Fisherfield is a fabulous place, I hope you return to climb some of the other hills, knowing that Cassie's memory will be gambolling happily alongside.
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Re: From euphoria to heartbreak - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby pollyh33 » Sun Jan 20, 2019 8:40 pm

Kathleen, I am heartbroken for you and your family.

Callie looked like she was having a ball in Fisherfields and enjoying every minute of it. And no wonder, she had you looking after her or was it the other way about. :D

Thank you for taking time to write another wonderful report, special in so many ways.

P xxx
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Re: From euphoria to heartbreak - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby Graeme D » Sun Jan 20, 2019 9:48 pm

So sorry to hear about this. What a beautiful young girl she was. May she rest in peace and forever dream of adventures amongst the hills. x
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Re: From euphoria to heartbreak - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Jan 21, 2019 1:27 am

Ah, that was a very painful read at the end. We also lost one of our rescue dogs after only a few months with us (in a freak accident on a canal where she got sucked into an underwater overflow). Had it not happened I would not have credited how painful such a loss can be. I think it was the fact that it was so untimely, like Callie. Not so bad when they've had a full life, but when it's cut short so unexpectedly, it seems so unfair (as life is for so many folk...).

We consoled ourselves to some extent with the thought that at least for the first time in her life she'd had 100% care and affection. But it didn't much ease the initial pain.
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Re: From euphoria to heartbreak - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby tweedledog » Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:45 am

So, so sorry. A heartbreaking loss.
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Re: From euphoria to heart break - a walk in Fisherfield

Postby dogplodder » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:28 pm

Sgurr wrote:So sorry to read that. At least you can console yourself a little with the fact that you took Callie to many places most dogs(and humans) would never have a chance to experience.

Some lovely photos in your report.

Hope you can manage to find a way of climbing the rest of the Fisherfield some day. I did them via dragging in a tent on a bike as far as we could push from Incheril, and carrying the rucksack along the path (Day 1) 3 hills (Day 2) 2 more hills (Day 3) Walkout (Day 4) with husband and three of our friends, but I was only 64 (as were most of the others), and couldn't manage it now, though we have carried bothying packs up to 3 years ago....very occasionally.


I hope to get back in another one day trip but even if I don't am so thankful to have these memories. They are such special hills and will always be linked with this wee girl who did so well .
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