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A successful Corbett hike: How I learnt from my mistakes

Written by Fiona

January 16 2018

A recent hike of the Corbett Carn na Fhreiceadain taught me a few things about walking with my whippet. When another Corbett walk was suggested, this time Meall na Fearna from the south side of Loch Earn, I wondered whether I should try to leave Wispa the Wonder Whippet at home. I am glad I did not because it worked out well this time.

I planned to walk Meall na Fearna with the Milngavie Mountaineering Club. My last MMC walk was Ben Cruachan some two years ago. I have no idea where time flies by to and why I do not join more MMC walks but that’s how it has gone.

Alex was our capable organiser for the Saturday hike. He suggested a time to meet and drove to the start point on Loch Earn’s shores with Rob (my hero of last week’s Corbett) and John, also from MMC.

The G-Force and I met them at the shore of Loch Earn and we decided before we left that if the going got too tough for Wispa we would turn back. I did not want the same horrible situation to occur as last week.

Wispa wears two jackets.

16 things I did for a successful dog hike

1 I had a very careful look at the Corbett route on Walk Highlands. The route is 7.5 miles, which I know Wispa can easily manage. The ascent in total is 750m, which is also within her capabilities.

2 The route follows a track and while there was likely to be snow higher up, there was also likely to be less than last week. The summit was lower and temperatures had risen so I expected less snow on the ground. It was right. There was snow but it was much more consolidated and this allowed Wispa to walk on top of it rather than falling into deeper snowdrift, like last week.

3 I checked that the walk could be done as an out-and-back in case I needed to retreat. Last week, the walk was more of a circuit of summits and this meant there were fewer get out options.

4 I checked the weather forecast and while it was going to be quite windy at higher levels it wasn’t as cold as the previous week.

Snowshoe snow.

5 I made sure Wispa had her fleecy jacket on from the start of the walk. When we climbed higher and it became windier I added a second jacket.

5 I gave Wispa a good breakfast and ensured she ate it. She is not always keen on early breakfasts but this time I checked what she had eaten.

6 I took food and snacks for Wispa to eat as we went along. I stopped more often to ensure she had enough food and water.

7 I packed a flask of watered down tomato soup. Many soups and hot flavoured drinks have onion added and onion can be toxic to dogs. Tomato soup does not have added onion. At first Wispa wasn’t sure about the warm soup but she did enjoy it later on in the walk. It was suggested to me that a warm drink would be a good way to keep her warm and I think it did help.

G, Rob and Alex walk uphill in snowshoes.

8 I kept a close eye on Wispa to make sure she was still happy and alert. Whippets do not offer much emotion in their facial expressions but I kept an eye on how she was coping. She stayed with the group at all times and did not lag behind as had happened the previous week.

10 I continually asked myself whether Wispa was okay. I asked Gordie, too. And Rob. They all thought she seemed fine – and she was.

11 There were times when we were walking into a strong wind and there was snow but this didn’t last as long as the previous weekend’s walk. If we had faced winds and cold for a longer period I would have turned back.

Lily at the summit.

Summit Man Leg.

12 At the summit of the Corbett is was windy and cold. Instead of stopping for a bite to eat here (so many times we do this even when it is inclement) we dropped off the mountain to find a place where it was calmer. This made a huge difference to how Wispa responded to eating food.

My view behind at one point. Total white out.

13 For lunch I gave her some of my sandwich as well as her own food. I watched with interest how Alex fed his dog Lily with a special high fat dog mix. I have taken note and I will be buying this or future outings. Wispa is not so interested in her own (boring?) food when other people are eating sandwiches but she did seem very interested in Lily’s special hiking meal.

14 As we descended Wispa did look a little tired but I judged this to be how she normally is. I was tired, too! Looking back at last week’s hike, Wispa was lagging behind quite significantly and wanted to curl up in the snow. This did not happen this time. She was alert and happy to carry on, although she was tired.

Not a lot to see due to low cloud.

15 I watched as the two dogs walked side by side quite happily. Lily is a golden retriever and is furrier and bigger and therefore better equipped for the mountains than a whippet. She did not need a jacket on the entire outing. As they descended the mountain Lily and Wispa walked happily together and I took this to mean that both dogs we coping well with the walk.

16 After the walk, Wispa did not immediately jump up on the bed of the campervan to sleep (as she did last week). She was happy to wait for Gordie and I to get changed and get into the van before she slept in her usual place in the footwell of the passenger seat. This showed me she had coped well with the walk.

All this has taught me that Wispa is fine with winter walks. She is a slim dog and she is now aged seven but she does enjoy a mountain hike, even when there is snow on the ground.

What I have learned is that I need to make sure I have fully checked the route, weather, her warmth and her food. I learnt a tough lesson last week but this weekend I am pleased to report she enjoyed walking with us again.

Pack below the cloud on the track to the start.

By the way, you’ll see from the photos that we spent a lot of time in the cloud on this walk but i still enjoyed the chance to snowshoe, chat with new people and catch up with G and Rob.

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