As I am about to embark on another hike, the Three Peaks Challenge that I did last year has been on my mind again. Totally off my usual topics, this has nothing to do with cruelty free, vegan or zero waste living, but is something I really want to put out there. Before I did this challenge I looked up various resources online to see if it would be suitable for my dog to do the National Three Peaks Challenge with me. Next to nothing came up, honestly I was none the wiser! My dogs are extremely well walked (on hard ground), normally a minimum of 6-8 miles a day rising to 15-20 over the weekend. Nothing challenges them. We did the Kilt Walk last year, 26 miles, and ran the last mile or so, I am pretty sure they could have done the whole thing again happily. So although the online search proved useless, based on their fitness I decided to go for it. It was a bad plan, so I hope this post may help others looking online for some info. If not of interest, don’t worry my normal ramblings on vegan cooking, zero waste options and cruelty free products will resume in my next post!
Back to the challenge, the day before we set off a team member found a video on YouTube for each hill. They looked ok, but the ground for the majority of Scaffell Pike looked a bit hard on their feet. At this stage I made the decision not to take either dog on Scaffell, it seemed like I would just be asking for trouble. This left just Snowdon and Ben Nevis which I was overly confident my youngest dog could do with her eyes closed. The elder one is not such a fan of so much physical activity so I decided to leave her at the bottom with my Dad to saunter round as she pleased.
Snowdon was first and we went up and down no worries. There were a few sheep on the way up but nothing too crazy, and they were mostly a fair distance away. The terrain was a little challenging in a couple of places but so long as you have a well trained dog, it is fine. It rained a fair bit up there but the way back down was fine. The rocks on the hill are fairly weathered so there were not too many smooth edges to slide on on the way down which is a real bonus when an over excited dog is dragging you down! Zorka came running off this hill as happy as I have ever seen her, safe to say she loved it! This is a hill I would happily take my dogs up again.
Scaffell was as expected, and worse! The first field is full of sheep, nightmare with a prey driven dog. The next 20 minutes were spent in a field full of cows. Who incidently moved for no one! I had to give them a pretty wide berth! Next up was a very wide and heavy flowing stream. If there was no rain this would have been fine, but after heavy rainfall, to be honest it was just an accident waiting to happen. My dogs are attached to me with a waist belt so it just would not have been possible for me at all. With a dog loose (which would be highly unrecommended due to the aforementioned sheep and cows!) this would be manageable s long as you have a very sensible dog. I don’t. Further up it got slippier, rockier and all round worse. Regardless of day of the week, month of year, personally I would not recommend anyone take their dog on Scaffell Pike and I was very glad I didn’t!
Ben Nevis was last up and me and my puppy (side note not a puppy she is 5 before people worry about her joints!) set off super charged and ready to do this! All was well, again a fair amount of sheep, but they are far enough away it is no issue for a dog on a lead. It does require a well behaved dog though, the edges are pretty steep and this is a high hill so you could do yourself a real injury falling down this if your dog chose to take off after one of these sheep! The further you get the worse the trail gets though. Looking online, it seemed the hard ground with lots of small rocks which may hurt a dogs paws, went on for about 20 minutes. It doesn’t, it lasts for at least an hour and we did it at a very fast pace. At the top when I lifted my girls front paws for a team selfie she yelped, which is extremely unlike her. Thinking I had stood on her or something I moved and did it again, this time she really yelped.
I let her be, gave her all the treats I could find and we turned round to start the 2.5 hour decent (again this is a very fast pace!). About 10 minutes into the descent I noticed her walking funny on her back left paw. The poor pup had rubbed her pads raw. The front two were not in great condition either. As a responsible dog owner I had planned for this and had 4 booties and vet tape in my pack for emergencies. Out it came and on went a bootie, which was a real fight. Not easy with freezing cold hands at the top of the highest mountain in the UK, exhausted. Needless to say it came straight back off, she would not wear it. She then cuddled up on my lap, which she never does, through sheer exhaustion! Not really ideal!
Thankfully (after a few more treats!) she perked up a bit and we went down a further 10 minutes. Then the yelping started again. Her paws were just so worn, she was in real pain. At this point I had a sudden realisation that I may actually have to carry a 20kg dog down the whole way. It is long, steep and difficult and with my total exhaustion on top it honestly would have taken me all day, and I mean all day. Please do not underestimate how big an issue it is to have a dog in this amount of pain at the top of a mountain. There is no plan B! I started to feel like an utterly irresponsible human being and basically like the worst dog mummy in the history of the world. Again we had a fight with booties and vet tape, again she cried and screamed and shook them off (which is just stupid dangerous on the side of a any hill let alone the top of the highest peak in the UK!!). There was literally no option but to leave her as she was or carry her down. I decided to give it one last try. So off we went at the fastest pace possible. It was tough and she was very much in pain, but we had to push through. Within 40 minutes or so we were back on better ground and she perked up.
Safe to say we made it to the bottom in really good time, but it had a real effect on her. Not only was she physically exhausted but her wee paws were a state. For the week after our hike I had to clean her pads every few hours and make her wear booties when she was out. She hated it and cried every time, but there is just no option! Every time I had to do this she looked at me with her, “what have I done to deserve this” face. Heart breaking!
Lesson learned, don’t take a dog on the three peaks. Even if I had the foresight to actually make her wear some booties to do the walk, prevention is always better (she says now!!), the challenge itself was actually just a bit too much for her. At the top of Ben Nevis I can only think she didn’t want held up as her little body was in so much pain. To have her curled up on my lap on the way down utterly broke my heart as this is not something she ever does, that was a sign she was utterly done and needed her mummy, which huskies just don’t!! She slept constantly for days when we got back and took every opportunity to snuggle with me, which much as I am loved having a nice loving dog, it is not right, she never behaves this way! And to point it out again, this is a very fit dog, who had done a lot of Munro climbing in advance of the challenge and had trained just as much as me!
I am immensely proud of her and she raised a lot for our charity of choice, but never again. The next time I take on a crazy challenge I think I will be leaving my dogs at home! My main motivation for writing this post is to save someone else having the same situation as me, or worse having to carry the dog down, or be rescued by mountain rescue! Regardless of how fit or well walked your dog is, in my opinion leave the dog at home, they do not get the same sense of achievement as you when they are done. They just have days of thinking their mummy is hurting them which is just the worst.