IT was a scene that would have David Attenborough salivating and it was unfolding right before our eyes.
We were heading for Beinn a’ Chreachain on a wild, windy day. Three days of constant rain had left the ground saturated and the smallest streams had turned into torrents.
The water was squelching underfoot and at times running over our boots and the wind was bending the trees as we made our way along the track from Achallader farm into Crannach Wood. We stuck by the path all the way through the tree cover for a bit of respite. We were in no hurry to venture out in the open again.
As we emerged from the wood and walked up by the roaring, foaming waters of the Allt Coire an Lochain we spotted a shepherd and her dog trying to round up a flock of sheep. All was going smoothly until one of the sheep made a sudden break for freedom. It took off towards the raging waters, pursued by the collie.
Now, if our walk had depended on having to ford that water we would have had to abandon any hope of reaching the hill and retreated to the pub. The incessant rain of the last few days coupled with snow melt had turned it into a wall of white water which would have washed away anyone foolish enough to attempt a crossing in seconds.
But the sheep was now in full flight mode and, in its desperate bid to escape the dog, it plunged straight into the water and started swimming for its life.
We stood and watched with a mix of horror and astonishment while it was battered back and forth, bobbing up and down, as it fought its way through the torrent. The odds were stacked against it but amazingly it managed to stay afloat long enough to scramble out on to a small rocky outcrop sticking up in the midst of the water.
The dog, meanwhile, had thought the better of continuing its chase. It stood at the edge looking equally bemused and appreciative of the sheep’s struggle and eventual reprieve. So we had a stand-off - the sheep perched on a tiny island in the middle of a raging river and the dog standing at the edge, daring it to come back but unwilling to take the plunge to go after it.
This was the sort of wildlife drama you would expect on the flood plains of the Serengeti rather than an impromptu flood plain near Bridge at Orchy. We were transfixed. We wondered what the shepherd would do.
We didn’t have to wait long for the answer. She obviously decided she could collect the Steve McQueen of the flock later, called her dog back and they headed off with the rest of the sheep.
The escapee didn’t look too phased. It watched its pals disappear and then discovered a patch of grass on the rock and settled down to graze. Getting out of its river prison didn’t seem to be a priority, but then sheep have never seemed too adept at forward planning.
Excitement over, we headed on up to our mountain. The day improved but the wind stayed with us but despite one or two ferocious gusts we made along the ridge, ticked off our two mountains and then completed the circuit by heading down to the farm.
In some ways I wish we had been able to go back by our ascent route. I would have loved to have found out what happened to that sheep.