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A new world record? Under the scrutiny of Alan Dawson on 8 October 2005, six of us finished the Grahams by simultaneously touching the summit cairn of Druim na Sgriodain (18B). For five of the group this also represented completion of the Munros, Corbetts and Grahams. All five are in the Hall of Fame, and the sixth, Richard Cooper, has probably climbed enough Marilyns to qualify, but finds the arithmetic too difficult.
Our walking group goes back more than 20 years, originating as members of the ICI Mountaineering Club at the plastics division HQ in Welwyn Garden City. One or two of the elders still remember those good old days when trainee lady secretaries were taken on weekend trips to cook evening meals for the intrepid mountaineers (I think I would have enjoyed that). In the early 1980s parts of ICI were 'rationalised', the HQ was closed down, and I finished up in Lancashire. That was essentially the end of the mountaineering club.
Whilst my colleagues looked with trepidation on the prospect of living in the north of England, I was quite pleased, as the proximity of the Lakes and Yorkshire Dales sounded ideal. I continued to go out with a couple of ex-members on monthly trips to Scotland, but at first the Highlands seemed too far to go for a weekend. Eventually I relented, and have not stopped going since. Faces come and go, and we usually have a group of up to eight people. A frequent problem was that we never seemed to have the same aims. Some were doing Corbetts, others Munros etc, so five years ago, six of us agreed to find a common agenda. As we had only climbed a few Grahams they seemed an obvious choice, and that is how it started. We have since climbed most, though not all, of our hills together. We targeted the finishing time, and chose the last Graham about a year before the actual event, giving time for mopping up and providing an incentive to get a move on. I had to make some solo trips to Arran and Jura, while others visited Rum, but it all came together according to schedule.
On the big day for the final peak we had summoned together a group of about 30 friends and family. Dave Hewitt unfortunately could not come, so in his absence Alan Dawson led the Hall of Fame chant around the cairn, to the bemusement of some friends and partners. It has been our custom on a completion to sample the single-malt local to the hill, so in this case we chose Ben Nevis and Oban whisky for the summit celebration. We had found it very difficult to buy the Ben Nevis, despite a visit to the distillery, where they could not sell it or advise where to buy it. In the event it was deemed to be below average quality, but the Oban was excellent. Celebrations continued in the pub by the Corran ferry, followed by an excellent evening meal in a hotel in Strontian.
An article later appeared in The Great Outdoors magazine entitled 'What next?' We have not discussed the possibilities yet, but there is a diversity of interest. There has been a distinct shift towards gourmet food, with wine and single malts to follow. Although beer does still seem to play a part, a bean feast has not appeared on the menu for some years. For my part, I will continue with the Marilyns knowing that I will never finish, but that there are always new places to find.
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