The Incredible Dingo
The seed for Climbing Mount Improbable and the 3 Peaks Challenge was sown in September 2011. We had just climbed to the summit of Alltwen – a small mountain on the North Wales coast. The panoramic view gave tempting glimpses of the mountain range of Snowdonia – an area I have been visiting and walking in since childhood – and my unlikely quest to climb to the summits of the highest mountains in Wales, Scotland and England with Dingo, my Border Terrier started to develop.
I say ‘unlikely’ as for most dogs this wouldn’t be a major challenge, but Dingo is not ‘most dogs’. 3 months earlier he had been involved in a major road accident few thought he would recover from. Alltwen itself had been a major achievement – were we really going to climb Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike – a total of 3,408 meters?
A year later however we returned to Snowdonia and climbed the 1,085 meters to the summit of Snowdon. Dingo had climbed Mount Improbable – anything was now possible!
In the months and years that followed his recovery was plagued with complications so it was another 4 years before the opportunity for another mountain was even remotely plausible. But after further surgery Dingo was much improved, his youthful puppyhood ways returned and June 2016 saw us standing at the base of Ben Nevis – 1,345 meters, the highest mountain in Scotland and the U.K.
Everything about that day was perfect and 5 hours later we arrived on the summit plateau and slowly hopped from rock to rock to reach the trig point. For a while Dingo was the highest animal in the U.K. It was exactly 5 years since the accident and yet again I was in awe of a scruffy brown terrier that didn’t know how to stop fighting.
The following year in 2017 I considered Scafell Pike – the highest mountain in England – but yet again Dingo was struggling with intermittent lameness. Instead I returned to Snowdonia and spent a few days wandering gentle foothills, sandy beaches and hidden lakes – it was also my 50th birthday so there was going to be nothing too physically taxing!
At the end of 2017 Dingo was really struggling with bouts of lameness to the extent that I began to question his long term future. At a low ebb I posted his predicament on Facebook. A vet friend saw my post and suggested platelet therapy. I had my doubts but decided there was nothing to loose and the procedure was undertaken in December. By the end of the month – in agreement with his vets plans were being drawn up for our final mountain – Scafell Pike in June 2018 – the therapy really was that transformative.
Scafell Pike is the lowest of the 3 peaks at under 1,000 meters, but for Dingo it was always going to be the hardest. There is no gentle ‘tourist route’ to the summit and the only way up that doesn’t involve scrambling of some form is a relentless uphill climb from the lake at the bottom and a summit plateau littered with boulders that would be tough going for little legs!
In early summer I started to have doubts – although I was still determined to give it our best shot even if we didn’t make the summit. Dingo was still doing well after the platelet therapy with no signs of lameness, but lost in all of the preparations, the fund-raising, the therapies, the treatments, the endless vet visits and the personal goal to conquer the 3 peaks was one crucial aspect; Dingo was now 8 – he had spent nearly all his life recovering from the accident and whilst I was focused on eventual recovery I failed to take into account he was becoming an old man! The climb was set for June 29th, but the whole of June had been unseasonably hot and with a combination of age and heat Dingo was clearly not going to make the summit.
A few days before I left home I finally listened to the various voices of reason – assisted by a recurring nightmare which saw me stuck on a scorching mountain with a dying dog in my arms! Enough was enough – We weren’t going to climb Scafell Pike.
Whilst it was huge disappointment it was also a relief, but determined to do something to honour the challenge I scoured the maps and the internet and decided upon Middle Fell – 396 metres lower than Scafell pike with no scrambling or boulders! From the summit we would get a clear view of the mountain we came so close to climbing and our new challenge was to take home at least one photograph of it!
On July 6th, 2018 we arrived at Greendale on the shores of Wastwater between Scafell and Middle Fell. It was slightly hotter than the forecast had promised but myself, my sister, niece and of course Dingo set off on his third and final mountain. 3 hours later after a leisurely walk we arrived at the summit.
We may have only climbed 3,012 metres rather than the 3,408 as planned 7 years ago, but Dingo has raised almost £6,000 for 3 charities, he has been to places that most dogs never get the chance to go, he has stood on the highest point in Wales, the highest in Scotland and the highest in the U.K. He has also changed my life in more ways than I thought possible and whilst he is now retired from active mountain climbing and fundraising I look forward to the rest of our adventures together.