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A lot seemed to happen in RHB land in 2003, both good and bad. Let's start with the good. Hall of Fame membership managed to reach three figures, with eight new members in 2003 and a further six in the first four months of 2004. There was also a record turn-out for the annual gathering. Ludlow proved to be a hospitable and accessible venue, with 36 turning up at some stage of the weekend, including two enthusiastic and impressionable youngsters. Thanks to Richard Webb for organising a great weekend, and also for a relaxed and enjoyable stroll up his 1000th Marilyn - Well Hill in March.
Another major landmark was Chris Upson's remarkable achievement in bagging 24 Marilyns in 24 hours. His account of this run (which easily exceeds the well-known Bob Graham round in distance and effort) was published in issue 59 of The Angry Corrie, so we'll make do with a photograph here.
Brent Lynam was another one with a major bagging agenda, attempting to climb all the Marilyns and Hewitts in England and Wales in a single year. He didn't quite manage it, but it was a bold attempt from someone trying to maintain a job and a relationship too. Brent was too busy bagging to write anything for Marhofn this year, but maybe he'll have another go next year. His experience was certainly useful for a furtive dusk incursion into Upper Park, on the way back from Ludlow. Another monumental effort was that by Rob Woodall, who became the first person to climb all the SubMarilyns, and went on to complete all Yeamans south of the border (see page 28).
Turning to more mundane matters, just before Christmas Marhofn headquarters moved from the urbanity of Glasgow to the quieter and hillier environment of region 1A (note new address below). And the Scottish Parliament justified its existence (though not its own half-billion pound headquarters) by approving access legislation which sounds good in theory. Whether it will simplify off-path bagging, and consign the Scottish get-off-my-land brigade to the wheelie-bin of history, remains to be seen. Judging from some of the continuing stories of keep-outs and keep-offs, the recycle bin seems more likely, as the GOMLs will no doubt think up new excuses for attempting to deny access to open country.
Now for the not-so-good stuff. For a start there was the long-awaited but ill-fated Marhof expedition to St Kilda. This has been well-covered in The Angry Corrie, but Bert Barnett gives a personal account here on page 24. Although Hirta was as disappointing as the weather, Boreray and Dun looked enticing, while the stacks looked every bit as daunting as expected, confirming the suspicion that few Hall members are likely to climb them, regardless of access permission.
The Ludlow weekend was generally judged a great success, but not so for Rowland Bowker, who managed to tear the tendons from his kneecap while getting into his camper van, leading to a stay in Hereford hospital and a spell in plaster. But it wasn't that long before he was off bagging more new countries. When I visited them in March 2004, he and Ann were just back from the Caribbean and looking forward to a trip to North Korea (though probably not to visit its highpoint). Both remain a great inspiration to all.
By far the worst thing to happen in 2003 was the premature death from cancer of Paul Richardson. Paul was well-known to those who attended the Marhof meetings in 2000 and 2001, and he had a good excuse for skipping Golspie in 2002, as he was busy walking from Land's End to John o'Groats. He had planned to make up for this omission by celebrating his 600th Marilyn in 2003, but circumstances changed, and he passed on to the great hall in the sky in September, leaving behind a Marilyn tally of 585, which was not much comfort for family and friends. Some consideration was given to moving the threshold for Hall of Fame entry to 585 as a tribute, but the consensus of opinion was that honorary Hall membership would be a more appropriate way of remembering Paul, as Jon Metcalf explains on page 32.
More bad news followed in February 2004, with the sudden death of Alver Burks while on Creach Bheinn (Mull) with his wife Moira, the day after they had climbed their 1000th Marilyn together. The only consolation here is that Alver died as he would have wanted, though it was a great shock to Moira and others. Although there's not much helpful that anyone can say to either Alison or Moira in these circumstances, one thing for certain is that should either of them wish to have company for hillwalking and bagging, once they have got their own lives back into some sort of routine, there is now a sizable community of people who would be happy to oblige. Although most hillwalkers who know about these things regard Marilyn bagging as some sort of lunatic fringe activity with which they prefer not to be associated, there is clearly now such a thing as an RHB community, which exists on-line, on-paper and on-hill. We're an odd bunch but all the better for that, and Alison and Moira are very welcome to dip in or out should they feel the need to associate with people who understand the strange obsession of their husbands (and maybe even themselves).
So that's the good and the bad, what about the niggly? Well, here's a gratuitous photograph of Phil Cooper on an early traverse of the Hill of Nigg, which he explains on page 6.
Elsewhere, other members report on the usual variety of niggles: dodgy knees, stinging bees, unmapped trees, 100 degrees etc etc. Yet maybe niggles aren't all bad. After all, climbing Marilyns wouldn't be half as interesting if they were all straightforward. That's something to remember the next time you get stuck in grass up to your hat while being eaten alive by little beasts. As Rowland said to me recently, enjoy it while you can, for you never know what's round the corner.
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