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Wet wet wet wet. That's my main impression of hills in 2004 (three 'wets' don't quite capture it). Like many baggers these days I don't usually start off in torrential rain, but once I've started I don't like to give up. On 1 January I was able to persuade my two companions that the snow conditions might improve if we carried on for another 20 minutes. Amazingly, they did, as the steep upper slopes of Glas Bheinn were scoured free of the deep snow that had us toiling all the way from Inchnadamph. The next day on Breabag was the only crampon action of the year. Two new Corbetts in two days was a heady start, but that was it in Scotland until after Easter. In May a leisurely stroll up Stuc a'Chroin from Glen Artney turned into the biggest deluge I can remember on a hill, with full electrical accompaniment (someone was killed by lightning on Ben Oss the same weekend). The whole hillside was awash with rivers of hail. The scene was repeated a few weeks later, back at Inchnadamph. The River Loanan was an easy wade on the way in to Beinn Reidh, but a few hours later it was a raging torrent, filling Loch Assynt by the minute. I dipped my stick in to test the depth and was almost sucked in after it. The car was only ten metres away, but reaching it required turning round and climbing 400m up Canisp to bypass Allt an Beithe. But, bless you OS, the little bridge at NC244191 was still intact, so the detour was only three hours.
Yet all these days were fun in a perverse sort of way, and far more enjoyable than the approach to Suilven. Once past the Falls of Kirkaig the path was appallingly wet, the ground either side was worse, and it went on for hours. I was tempted to nominate Suilven as a wee shite, but I concede the hill itself is quite good once you get there. Despite the viewlessness, the steep scramble up to Meall Meadhonach was memorable in the wind. The summit rendezvous with Charles Everett and his brother never happened, as they were turned back by even worse weather.
The prevailing pattern continued in August, when a pleasant day by the seaside at Glenelg turned into a cloudburst halfway up little Glas Bheinn. Someone had dumped an old Maestro van near the top of the track, which provided shelter for half an hour, but the rain wouldn't relent. Still, the wing mirror was a handy replacement for the broken one on the camper van. A few weeks earlier my trusty van had broken down in the Highlands for the first time in 15 years, but as this happened just two miles from Lairg, where three other Hall members and a bagger's moll had rented a cottage, with a comfy couch and a cook, I couldn't really curse my luck. The AA towed the van to a hilly road so I could sleep in it, bump start it, dump it at the garage and then bag a lift from Dave Hewitt up to Altnaharra for a round of three Marilyns east of Ben Tee. This turned out to be far more interesting and enjoyable than the map had promised. A large rock outcrop on the descent from Creag Dhubh Mhor reminded me of the bare rock of Canyonlands National Park in Utah (I'm not joking), but maybe I just wasn't used to the sunshine.
Plans for reeling in Fisherfield Corbetts fell victim to a torn calf muscle, but I did manage to hobble up Creag Rainich on a day it forgot to rain, and enjoyed it so much that I limped on up Beinn Bheag and Groban on the way back to Loch a'Bhraoin, where I managed to pick up a lift back to Ullapool from an attractive young woman. So not every day was a washout. And Corbett matters were tidied up by eliminating Buidhe Bheinn and Corrieyairick Hill along with their parent Corbetts. This numerically annoying pair of twins provided two of the best hill days of the year, proving yet again the rewards of a bagging agenda. An easy scramble up the imposing NE ridge of Sgurr na Sgine was a bonus after the undulating ridge from Buidhe Bheinn to Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais, finishing an excellent natural circuit from Kinlochhourn.
The year finished as it started, in rubbish weather. A few November days in the Lakes coincided with sheet rain and blanket cloud bedding in for a few days, culminating in a head-down no-nonsense viewless bag of Black Combe that was so wet it seemed impossible to get any wetter by adding in Whitfell. But it wasn't, and we did.
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