Tuesday, May 07, 2013

157, 158. Meall Corranaich (68), Meall a' Choire Leith (263). 06/05/2013

This one will stick in our minds because of the story of Lambi. The walk itself was quite straightforward. We'd set off early to try and get the best of any early morning clarity, but were presented with mist and drizzle for most of the ascent. The walk along the ridge was much better, since the ground was solid and we could make good progress (apart from one bit where we nearly went down a snow slope, having missed a slight turn in the ridge). The rain had also more or less stopped, although it was still cloudy. So we were over the second peak and making our descent when we had to cross a stream in a hollow at about 650m.

The area was sheltered by the hill, so there was still a large patch of snow covering the stream and we saw a heartbreaking sight - what looked like a dead sheep in the middle of the snow and its lamb walking around its mother trying to coax her back to life. We felt we had to do something, so we walked over to the scene. What had happened was that the mother sheep had walked across the snow, but the stream made a 20m long tunnel underneath the snow and the sheep's front legs had gone through. This meant the sheep was stuck with the front half of its body through the snow, but with its back legs out and its head bent back at a nasty looking angle - we didn't think it was still alive until we saw a tiny movement of its eyelids. We didn't know how long they had been here, but it must have been at least a couple of hours.

Not really knowing what to do at this point, we decided we had to at least save the lamb (who was frolicking  dangerously close to the edge of the snow), but the problem we faced was having to go onto the snow not knowing if it would support our weight and knowing that if it collapsed, the lamb may well go into the burn. First we tried to get the lamb to come to us with chocolate (thinking that all kids like chocolate, but then this wasn't a baby goat, it was a lamb) which didn't work. In hindsight I should have tried to locate the mother's back legs and pull her out backwards whilst I lay down on the snow, but at this point we weren't sure she was alive and the lamb was more important. Eventually we persuaded it over to our side and then I had a go at trying to dig out the mother, but in doing so everything collapsed and sheep and snow (and nearly me too) went plunging into the stream. The sheep had got itself to the side of the icy-cold stream and was resting its head on the bank, but not making much movement, so it was only just alive - the problem was it was completely inaccessible (several metres into the snow tunnel) and without enough energy to help itself. It made one feeble kick to try and save itself, but in a second it was back where it started. Of course at this point, Lambi decided to take a bold (and utterly stupid) leap straight into the stream to try and join its stricken mum. Fortunately I managed to grab one back leg and drag the now bedraggled lamb back out of the rapids before it got under the snow tunnel.

We spent the next half an hour knocking down the snow of the tunnel to try and get closer to the sheep, but we had a feeling it was futile. Looking back, even if I'd managed to get close enough to grab hold of the sheep, I doubt I could have moved 50kg of wet sheep out of the stream with no footing. Needless to say, with the sheep unable to help itself and with us exhausted by digging through snow for half an hour, eventually the sheep floated downstream deeper into the tunnel to drown out of our reach.

A moment of clarity on the ridge. 

We carried Lambi the mile or so back to the car and took her to Cruachan Farm on the main road, where we hope she is alive and well.


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