Alfie: Frank Westerduin

Sgurr nan Gillean. 22nd August 2021

Alfie didn’t set out to ‘bag’ the Munros. His first real love was running whilst I mountain biked, usually out in front.  Alfie is a mountain dog, a Springador (Springer/Lab cross) and he lives for the outdoors. The adventure all started in 2016 with him supporting my training for the Celtman Triathlon and it soon became apparent there was no option but to complete the Munros. The journey has taken us wonderful places and given us such fantastic shared experiences. With his unusually markings, Alfie is so photogenic (not that I am biased) and genuinely seems to enjoy posing for his pictures! He has a summit shot on each Munro, along with a few others. Often, it’s just the two of us slogging up the hill together with Alfie way out in front. Sometimes he needs to step it up and keep up with the bike or skis.


It is really impossible to choose a favourite walk; there have been so many. But for an amazing single day’s walking, Sgurr Alasdair with a dusting of snow is right up there.

When you have only dog years to complete the Munros you can’t always be picky. Weather is a major enjoyment decider, there have been some ‘pure miseries’ and a few walks we had to abandon. Alfie’s expression on Ben Hope says it all with nasty ice blasting on the flat windswept summit.


Many of the hills required multi-day excursions and Alfie loves snuggling up in the tent. For a fantastic mini-adventure it is hard to beat our magical Knoydart experience; a 6km trip along Loch Hourn from Arnisdale to Barrisdale in an inflatable kayak followed by two days walking and camping in the area.

To be clear, I’m not a climber. Like all dogs, Alfie has an astute awareness of his human’s anxiety. As any sign of my weakness makes him more jumpy than normal, I have learnt to stay calm in steep places. A jumpy dog on an exposed ridge isn’t fun. His ability on the scrambles is actually fantastic and I’ve given up worrying about him leaning over ledges - I’m convinced he’s teasing me. Cornices are a different matter; he really has no idea. I usually try any steeper scrambles first to see what’s required, usually finding him ahead of me, having taken a different route.


Alfie refuses to be carried, I did try him once in a rucksack (he had managed to lose all four boots and had no paw pads left from a previous day’s excursion). Carrying a 25Kg squirming bag of muscle makes descending a Skye scree slope amazingly hazardous and was quickly abandoned. He occasionally required a lift up with his harness, the knack was to avoid him falling back down on me.  I only needed to rope him up once. We were climbing Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh and I used the rope to help him down the 4m scramble into An Dorus.

Alfie agrees with Sir Hugh about the height of Sgurr Dearg (Sgurr Dearg was the Munro until 1921) and I can’t see any enjoyment in roping him up the Inaccessible Pinnacle. For this ascent I left an anxious Alfie waiting at the foot of the abseil for my return. Perhaps one day his ashes will fly from here.

Covid kept us off the hills and with too much time on our hands, his website appeared; it is a feast of Alfie photos and experiences, which is purely to enjoy.

Alfie thrives in the outdoors, unsurprising for a Springador. In mid 2020 this very nearly came to an end. He required emergency care for what turned out to be bladder stones causing an obstruction. After numerous procedures over many weeks, it was clear the last possible option was a stent. This had to be specially made and as Alfie still couldn’t pee, he required a catheter. He was just so miserable in hospital and once I’d had some training by the vet, Alfie was allowed home to wait for the stent to arrive. Alfie was absolutely fantastic about allowing me to catheterise his bladder four times a day for the next five days, he is a remarkably trusting dog. At this stage we still had some big trips to do, including the Fisherfield Six, Glen Affric, Knoydart and most of the Cuillin; but I was doubtful. Alfie had made an amazing recovery and was soon back into the hills but I didn’t know how long we had, so the two of us did sort of pack ‘em in, rapidly chomping round the rest. Completing on Sgurr nan Gillean hadn’t been planned, but standing on the ‘Peak of the Young Men’ we felt rejuvenated.


As we both still seem to have some life left in us, we have set out to do the Corbetts - just over 200 to go. It’s very exciting to think about visiting so many amazing places again, but also the new ones; Rum, Jura, Harris and the far north western hills.

Alfie has been a fantastic companion. As I had mentally prepared to lose Alfie in 2020, every adventure I have with him is a bonus and I look forward to having as many as we’re permitted.

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