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There's no walk I enjoy more than a good solid continuous eight to ten-hour stroll around a variety of hills and tops, be they Murdos, Marilyns, Deweys, Wainwrights or anything else. Therefore, after several winter weeks with no walking following a house move, I was looking forward to chilling out in some nearby hills. With a good forecast near the end of February, I set out to complete the three peaks of Yorkshire from Ingleton on a bright Saturday with a chill northerly blowing. This is one of my favourite Pennine areas: I love the shapeliness of Penyghent and Ingleborough, the wonderful spaciousness of the area, and some of the man-made features such as Ribblehead viaduct, which seem to add to the quality of the scene. Finished up in a blizzard at dusk.
The following week the foot-and-mouth restrictions came in and another four months passed before the chance came to take a long weekend in the Morar area with the RHB group at the end of June. The Friday morning was very wet so I made a one-off ascent of Glas-charn from Loch Eilt whilst seeing how the weather would go. At mid-year, this was my first new Marilyn and my only Graham of the year. By noon the weather had turned round completely so, in full bagging mindset, I did the round of Creag Bhan, Beinn nan Cabar, Sidhean Mor and Cruach Doir'an Raoigh (all 10D), avoiding use of the train.
Most of the Saturday was spent with the RHB group on Carn a'Ghobhair and Sgurr Bhuidhe, while on the Sunday I decided to have a look at the causeway to Eilean Shona. The mud on the beach of Shona Beag was thick and horrible but the yellow and red bladderwrack, together with stones stained yellow and red, were very attractive. There are about ten holiday bothies, and I had an interesting chat with one of the holiday-makers and found out the tide times. Time was pressing, mist low and raining, so I decided to return on the Monday to visit the top. I waded through about six inches of water and spent three unhurried hours there, with the tide still way out as I returned; I reckon I could have had about four hours. Once on Shona Mor, having found the path up through the woods, which are thick on the lower slopes, there was no further difficulty.
In late August the FMD restrictions around Coniston were lifted. Living in Lancaster and working in Barrow, I picked the best late summer evenings to revisit the Coniston area Marilyns and 2000ers. I consistently met no-one else on evening outings to these very pleasing and familiar hills. I van-camped in choice locations next to Coniston Water or in the Duddon Valley before reporting to work the next morning.
Made a trip to Dumfriesshire in late October, taking in the remaining Marilyns there, and in November a trip to the 'foothills of Cadair Idris' revealed the autumnal glory of the Mawddach estuary. The delightful SubMarilyn Bryn Brith has a car park as big as Tesco's alongside Llynnau Cregennen, yet on a walk at dusk at this time of year, I had the hill to myself.
In early December I had the good fortune to be invited to Alan Dawson and Roderick Manson's 'last New Donald' expedition to Whitehope Heights. As a bonus to the unquestionable bonhomie that comes with such an occasion, this was the clearest hill day I've had for some years. We enjoyed views from Hart Fell of several highland hills, the Cheviots, Cross Fell, Wild Boar Fell, Skiddaw and Grasmoor, and past the Galloway hills to Arran.
The year's final walk was on 30 December in very cold, snowy and bright conditions with friends from the south: a round of Wetherlam, Swirl How and the Old Man. My water bottle, which I had filled with tap water before leaving home, grew ice crystals during the walk, despite the constant movement in my rucksack. Maybe no novelty to Scottish winter enthusiasts, but it must be over 20 years since that had happened to me. We finished with an icy descent by the tourist route back to Coniston.
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