Oran the terrier to dash up Munros for charity cash
He stands just ten inches tall and, when caught in a deep snowdrift, resorts to poking out his nose in the knowledge his owner will pluck him to safety.
But what Oran lacks in size, he more than makes up for in tenacity.
The little dog is on track to set an unlikely record after scampering to the summit of some of Scotland’s most formidable peaks – but then he is a cairn terrier.
In the past eight months alone, hardy Oran has conquered 39 Munros with his owner Chris Nelson and the pair are determined to bag all 282.
It represents a gruelling undertaking for even the most hardened hillwalker, but the two-year-old dog has demonstrated an unlikely love of heights since embarking on the challenge alongside Mr Nelson.
The pair climbed their first Munro in April and, according to Mr Nelson, the dutiful Oran did not take long to show his mettle.
“He fears nothing and scrambles up steep ledges that would defeat most dogs three times his size,” the 30-year-old said. “He’s just turned two and after covering 26 miles on a summit he will sleep for an hour or two and wake ready for a walk.”
Since starting their adventure, they have climbed the likes of Ben Lomond, Beinn Bhuidhe and the Arrochar Alps, with Mr Nelson taking photographs of Oran on their travels, posing on cairns (of course) or alongside other hillwalkers they met along the way.
While Oran appears to enjoy the sheer thrill of climbing the mountains, even with temperatures the wrong side of freezing and wind speeds of more than 80mph, Mr Nelson is confident they can help those less fortunate by raising £10,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The PE teacher, from Kilsyth in North Lanarkshire, recently discovered he carries the gene for the condition, while his girlfriend, Kirsty Young, suffers from acute breathlessness that is one of the disease’s most debilitating hallmarks.
Undeterred, the couple are undergoing medical tests for embryo selection to have an unaffected baby.
“We know the value of having good health and just want to help those with cystic fibrosis,” Mr Nelson said.
Ms Young, a 28-year-old music teacher, who is also a member of the National Conservatoire of Scotland’s Les Sirènes choir, said her two “great aims” in life are to become a mother and be fit enough to climb a Munro herself.
Even if medical science can only help her achieve one of those aims, Mr Nelson and Oran – named after Òran Mór, the Glasgow pub where the couple met – are determined to make her proud.
And at a time when many pets would prefer to take shelter from the weather, Oran is in training for abseiling one of Scotland’s most notorious peaks – the 3,235ft Inaccessible Pinnacle in Skye. The terrifying sheer flank is rated by experienced climbers as one of the toughest in the UK.
Mr Nelson is buying a special harness to allow Oran to be eased the last few feet to the summit for another triumphant picture.
He explained: “Even humans need to abseil those peaks, so Oran will need a helping hand.
“The breed is hardy and known for tolerating cold weather. I guess that’s because of their genetic link to Skye and the Highlands.”
Mr Nelson and Oran have raised more than £1,000 so far. To donate to their challenge, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/chris-nelson10