Animal Rescue on Stac Gorm, Loch Ruthven

Posted by on Feb 1, 2011 in East Highlands, Walk | 3 Comments
My heart sank as I watched Tam, my faithful border terrier, disappear from view, silently swallowed by the heather. I knew that we were in the vicinity of a deep cleft in the rock. Clearly it extended further than I had realised, overhanging heather completely obscuring its upper reaches, a fiendish trap lurking on the seemingly innocuous summit of Stac Gorm.
A frozen Loch Ruthven from the windswept summit of Stac Gorm.  Danger lurks to the right, just off camera.
With some trepidation I peered into the rift in the rock. It was close to five metres deep but only about twenty centimetres wide. A big enough drop to seriously injure a dog and so narrow that recovery would be extremely complicated, impossible without specialised equipment. As I scanned the gloomy depths, a distant corner of my mind was imagined how the birch branches by the lochside below could be cut to make a hooked pole of sufficient length to hook his collar. A wave of relief surged through me as I made him out walking unsteadily along the floor of what to him was a slot canyon. The far end of the cave was partially filled in with a ramp of earth and his fall had been no more than two meters.
 I remembered from a previous visit that the slot had an accessible front entrance, making the evacuation of an uninjured dog a distinct possibility. As I slid down into the crevasse Stephen cautioned me not to get stuck, likening the developing situation to the recently released film 127 hours, the story of Aaron Ralston, who hacked his own arm off with a pen knife after it became trapped by rockfall during a canyoning trip. The entrance was a short dogleg, so I wriggled my way down and along between the tapering rock walls to get a look into the main chamber. Tam was about ten feet back, hesitating on the cusp of a constriction, fearful of  getting stuck as he squeezed himself through. I knew exactly how he felt. He panicked and managed, with some difficulty, to stand on his hind legs and turn round, ending up facing the wrong way. No amount of cajolling would convince him to reverse the maneuver. There was no way I could reach him, and even if I could get him to walk up to me getting him out would be very difficult. I was thoroughly wedged in and could not get two hands into the same place to lift him towards the exit.
I eventually enticed him from the depths by jangling his lead, then somehow managed to bring him with me as I wriggled awkwardly towards the entrance. I handed the lead to Stephen and took the dog’s weight with one hand as he was hauled to the surface, squinting like a Chilean miner.
Returning to the surface after a successful rescue, dazzled by the light after spending so long underground.


  1. Robert Craig
    February 2, 2011


    Looks like the loch is still frozen in your top picture.

  2. Gavin Macfie
    February 2, 2011

    All frozen apart from a tiny patch over by the crannog and a small section at the narrowing 2/3 of the way down. Don't know if I'd risk skating on it though!

  3. Dominic
    February 15, 2011

    glad to see mutt and master survived unharmed.


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