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2003 was our most active hill year ever, yet we failed to add a record number of Marilyns. Two things at play here; there are now very few within moderate range of home, and in the excellent weather we spent many days in the Highlands with companions revisiting Munros.
The Marilyn year started on the much-maligned Billinge Hill, which was a pleasant surprise, with wide views over urban and agricultural landscapes (it helps that the landfill site is now filled). Sue's 50th birthday in March was spent on the Isle of Man, where we secured all the Marilyns and most of the 400m and 500m tops, in addition to visiting all the island's 15 trigs. The IoM landscape is a gentle one but there are fierce defences to most fields in the form of earthed-over stone walls topped with well-tangled gorse hedges.
Some fine spring days out of Killin included a revisit to Drummond Hill. On our previous visit we'd assumed the summit to be at the trig. Our earlier ineptitude was rewarded however; near to the trig point some curious guttural noises were heard and traced to a male capercaillie - our only sighting of the bird to date.
There was more progress in the top ten Corbetts, with The Fara, Leathad an Taobhain and Meall Buidhe all collected. The Fara was combined with Meall nan Eagan via the wonderful bouldery clefts of Dirc Mhor and Dirc Bheag. The remaining Corbetts in southern Scotland gave Sue her first visit to Galloway and my first since 1976. Newtyle Hill (6B) in mid-August was much more than we'd bargained for, with a very rough and quite awkward approach from the north, though we found an easy way off through wonderfully blooming heather.
The year's Alpine trip in the Zillertal was a little tame (a result of being hotel based), but after the deluge experienced in 2002 the mainly benign weather was welcome. Being dependent on public transport there was a good deal of hurtling off the hill in order to catch last buses.
In the past we've spent many October half-terms and some February ones in Argyll, generally beside Loch Lomond, and the memories are of some pretty bleak weather. October 2003 however brought a glorious week (but not at half-term), based at St. Catherine's. We roamed in near unbroken sunshine over a fine collection of almost pathless Grahams and other hills - amazing that so close to major population centres they should appear so little visited. An unexpected companion joined us on the ascent to Beinn Mhor (19C) - Wolfie, the dog from Glenmassan Farm.
Resolutions for 2004 - we must head to the north-west and the far north where the main concentration of required Corbetts lie, including those remaining from the top ten.
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