Saturday, 20 October 2012

Lake District 2012 (Day 4 of 14)

Keeping one eye open on the weather
Day four arrived, Blue was now well settled in his new home and enjoying our company 24hrs a day.
We have our own reasons for doing things the way we do, including our selection of holidays. We both work 5 days a week, Sue part time with me doing a full time job.For this reason our holidays are as much if not more about Blue than ourselves. While we are working Blue spends his days working from home, guarding and protecting the family home. He is yet to master the household chores, but does a mean impression of a Dyson hoover, if treats or food should fall to the floor, still yet to master the operation of white goods, but Rome wasn't built in a day.
The near dawn walk was now getting later, it is now nearer to 7.00am instead of the usual 5.30am this is a good sign that Blue is getting sufficient exercise and mental stimulation. This first walk could of been a problem. We were walking along the street content with the world and enjoying the peaceful morning when as we walked past a high hedge by an alley, we were greeted by lots of snarling teeth and barking from two chocolate Labrador's. Morning greetings were exchanged from Blue, but it quietened down as quick as it started, the lady owner told me they were heading for the woods, I explained our walk was nearing its end and we were going home. So we parted, with one of her dogs spending the parting with constantly looking back at Blue as they headed for the woods, where we had walked the other day.
When we got home we explained our side of events to Sue, with Blue wagging his tail constantly as we recalled the greeting as animated as we could. Breakfast was done eaten and digested over the thoughts of where to go today. The weather was showery on the forecast but outside it did look brighter than the weatherman was saying. Our minds were made up and we got ourselves ready to tackle England's third highest mountain, Helvellyn.
Following a fifteen minute car journey we arrived at Swirrels car park. Pay and display fee paid.
Blue was equipped with his halti lead, eager to assault the mountain they lay before him, not really knowing the challenge that lay ahead.
With one foot in front of the other we all set off with Blue's nose leading the way
It is hard to explain, but Blue does seem to know the direction we want to head off to. It may be that at times it is the only path forward, but today in the car park how did he know to head to a wooden footbridge in the corner which would be our route today. It may be his sense of smell following where others have recently trod. We are grateful because it means we move forward in the right direction together.
We had successfully navigated two wooden bridges across streams and were to begin the zigzag path that laid ahead, and as yesterday, who was there to watch our progress, Herdy, the Herdwick sheep that could only afford a cursory glance, grass was higher on his agenda, Blue gave the Herdy a glance, but had mountains to climb, woollies were for another day..
As has been said before, we do like to challenge Blue, but are keen to watch his body language, just in case it starts to take its toll on him. Today there was no stopping him, he was determined to get there, where ever there was.
Progress was good, until you looked ahead at this monster looming ahead of you, that is Helvellyn not Blue.
Few dogs of Blue's size are seen on our trips up and down the fells, collies, spaniels and terriers are by far the most popular canines we encounter. The views were good, it was a clear day but not sunny. Once again the reason we choose this time of the year, Blue like many dogs dos not enjoy walking in hot summer weather, so even a nice day in September is rarely a scorcher.
There is energy that can be channelled, Blues size determination and strength mean he is greater assist than any walking poles or sticks, there are times when all you need to do is relax hold on and enjoy the ride as he literally will drag you along. On more than one occasion he has took Sue off her feet and left her laying prone on the ground. That is the strength that Blue can muster.
With the occasional stop at a strategic boulder, hand picked, sorry paw picked by Blue, progress was taken us to greater heights. We had been recently used to metalled roads made of gravel and rock but this climb was different, it resembled a staircase with the boulders set in place as stepping stones.
As we reached an altitude of around 700m the climb took a bit of a twist, rather than stepping stones we had reached a craggy section, unlike the last 500m the climb was now a bit more technical than just a walk up or down. We needed to pick a route with a small amount of scrambling along a barely discernible route. Voice control was essential if Blue was to work with us and avoid any costly slips or falls. At all times Blue remains on a lead in the mountains and fells, to make sure he does not worry any sheep, humans or fellow canines.
"Wait" was the only word apart from "Good Boy" that Blue was to hear for the next twenty minutes. After which we had successfully navigated the challenge, time for a big treat and big cuddle for our big bundle of happiness called Blue.
Looking ahead the trig point of the summit was still a tidy walk away, but the route was now a nice clear path on a reasonably shallow ascent. We now had a different dilemma, we had put four hours on the pay and display meter, we had now been walking one hour and fifty minutes, we chose to walk on.
Surprisingly the weather changes at these altitudes, two of Blues dislikes paid a visit, wind and rain, but Blue tries to nestle between us or our legs for shelter, at times nearly knocking us off our feet in his attempt to secure shelter. But as quick as the rain comes it moves away, often leaving breathtaking views even more stunning.
Finally after a small detour not to disturb a pack of grazing sheep, we reached the summit of Helvellyn. Standing at an impressive 950m above sea level.
Blue the German Shepherd, who had his spinal operation at six months hold was proudly standing with his Mum on top of Helvellyn, today was special and meant so much to all of us. Finally time to take the camera from the rucksack and record this monumental achievement of Blue.
Blue and family on top of Helvellyn

Though the rain had stopped enough to take these pictures, the wind was relentless, and gusting too much for a prolonged stay, time to admire the views 360 degrees around us, and a unanimous vote to descend was taken.

While walking back we encountered a not very friendly brown and white collie, that chose to buzz and bait Blue, eventually his owners took control and off they went towards the summit that we had left five minutes previous.

Now we previously mentioned what Blue is like when climbing, descending is a challenge that pales that into insignificance. Footing is the biggest challenge when descending with Blue, he pulls equally hard descending as he does ascending, this added to the earths gravity means you have to plant your feet firmly down on terra-firma.

Due to the close control required, this means when Blue is wearing his halti there is only a short distance between his back legs and your feet. Not only do you have to concentrate on placing your feet on secure footholds but maintain balance, anchorage and momentum. Our greatest challenge arrived where we needed to do the short scramble on the ascent. Blue was a model dog, very restrained, in total control and focused on leading us gently down. Times further down the ascent I tried going at Blues pace, but the increase of speed started to get a bit hairy, so Blue obliged and returned to our controlled pace.

Amazingly with all this energy exerted he still finds the will to stare and intimidate passing walkers, but no one comes to any harm and it is normally explained and received in a humorous manner.

Our return to the car park was forty minutes over the four we had paid for, so what did that mean.

It meant that Blue had enjoyed a walk/scramble to England's third highest mountain at an impressive 950m above sea level. A walk of 290 minutes over mountainous landscape enjoying the open air of the Lake District. We were done.

All that remained was to head off back to our bungalow, enjoy the rest and reflect of this monumental achievement that Blue had done today. One look back from the car park with knowing satisfaction.

Now back at the bungalow
Normal service resumed

I wonder what Blue is dreaming of!