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The catalyst for a record attempt was my move from Cambridge to Stirling in October 2005. My lifetime total of 271 Marilyns (as at 31 Dec 2005) comprised 95 Welsh, 95 English and 81 Scottish (55 of Munro height, 15 Corbetts, six Grahams and only five below 610m). With so many unvisited summits on my doorstep, my first full year in Scotland seemed like the ideal opportunity to climb as many hills as possible. I suppose transferring the mind-set of a hillwalker based in East Anglia to one living in Stirling played quite a significant part in keeping the motivation going throughout the year. I once climbed Bredon Hill and Cleeve Hill in the same summer evening after work, driving 125 miles from Cambridge and back again.
The final weeks of 2005 consisted of as much preparation as possible, poring over maps and walking guides, as well as picking the brains of experienced walkers for less well-known multi-hill hauls. I had a flexible portfolio of around 150 three-hill-plus days from which to choose; short or lower-altitude walks for the winter months and bad-weather days, long and higher-altitude outings for the summer months, traverses for two-car days, and a selection of 30-50 hills which I could reasonably climb after work on summer weekdays.
My three main holiday locations - the Outer Hebrides (organised with near-military precision by Brent Lynam), the far north and mid Wales - were chosen for their impracticality for weekend visits as much as for their multi-bagging potential. These were the only trips that were planned and confirmed more than a week in advance - flexibility is the key to a record attempt like this, not only planning based on weather conditions and daylight, but also factoring in fitness, tiredness and proximity of accommodation between walking days.
The walking year contained 139 days off work (although 11 of these yielded no new hills) and I was able to add 43 hills from 27 evening outings.
1st - My sister and I watch the Hogmanay fireworks from Edinburgh's Waverley bridge, followed by a pleasant stroll up Arthur's Seat, surrounded by the orange glow of the city. Back in Stirling at 4am, we manage to catch a few hours' sleep before a snowy circular route visiting Beinn Uamha and Beinn Dubh (1C) later that day.
3rd - Driving north from Creag Ruadh (5) to Ord Ban (8), car #1 develops engine trouble and a blow-out ensues. Eight hills from three days, but now a lack of private transport.
6-7th - A couple of eBay bids later, I'm on a train to Carlisle to pick up car #2. The quest is seemingly back on track. Until alternator failure occurs on the drive back up the A74, forcing an overnight stay in a service station car park and a day lost waiting for repairs.
27-29th - During a weekend in Glen Roy the exhaust pipe decides to part company with the rest of car #2. I now spend 33 days car-less... careless.
17-19th - A weekend in Tyndrum; seven Corbetts, one Graham.
26th - Carleatheran and Stronend from Stirling, and back, on roads, all on foot. Sore legs and feet.
3-5th - Car #3 collected from Greenock; 12 Lake District hills.
14-23rd - Ten days in the far north for 35 hills, including Maiden Pap, Morven, Smean and Scaraben - four superbly contrasting peaks in one magnificent round.
28-30th - I move into my own new flat, ferrying car-loads of personal possessions, but manage 13 new hills, including a continuous traverse of the 'Luss 8' (1E) with Lindsay Munro.
20th-2nd June - Outer Hebrides (14 days, 49 summits), including North Lee and South Lee with Phil Cooper on 25th, providing an unexpectedly good view of the St Kilda group.
30th - Walk from Reinigeadal to the A859 for a lift to Eisgein, followed by Guaineamol, Muaitheabhal, Beinn Mhor, Ciopeagal Bheag and Caiteseal, then back to Eisgein. Probably the toughest day's walking of the year.
11th - Down Glen Etive for Ben Starav, Beinn nan Aighenan, Glas Bheinn Mhor, Stob Coir'an Albannaich and Meall nan Eun (plus Tops), with Lindsay Munro. Stunning panoramic views - a real 'who's who' of the West Highland mountains.
24th - A long circular route visiting Meall a'Bhainne, Sgorr Craobh a'Chaorainn, Sgurr Ghiubhsachain, Druim Tarsuinn, Meall nan Damh and Glas Bheinn (18B).
2nd - Beinn Dorain, Beinn an Dothaidh, Beinn Achaladair, Beinn a'Chreachain and Beinn Mhanach (2A) from Auch - great, dry weather with the occasional distant rumble of thunder.
11th - Four-hour evening walk visiting Mor Bheinn and Beinn Dearg (1B) with Jonathan Woods.
15th - An Socach, Carn Bhac, Beinn Iutharn Mhor, Carn an Righ and Glas Tulaichean (6B), plus Tops, in ten hours on one of the hottest days of the year.
16th - Stuchd an Lochain, Sron a'Choire Chnapanich, Meall Buidhe, Meall Buidhe and Cam Chreag (2A).
28th - A gruelling ascent of Beinn Lochain and Beinn Bheula (19C) with my dad, in wet conditions.
30th - Sgurr an Fhuarain, Sgurr Mor, Sgurr nan Coireachan, Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche, with Lindsay Munro.
5th - A solo traverse of Stob a'Choire Odhair, Stob Ghabhar, Creise and Meall a'Bhuiridh (3C) in thick mist.
11th - Evening ascent of Ben Vrackie to enter Hall of Fame.
23rd - Now, I'm a great lover of all creatures great and small, but finding a tick (attached) in the bath, three days after your last walk, is not likely to be one of your fondest memories of the year.
26th - Leaping over a gate at the foot of Little Conval (21A) I manage to catch my trailing knee on the top bar, causing the only real injury of the campaign. Hobbled ascents of Hill of Foudland and Hill of Tillymorgan complete the day's activities.
3-11th - Nine days in mid Wales and 43 hills.
10th - 253 days into the year, the previous record of 405 new Marilyns in a year is surpassed.
4th - An evening walk up Ben Cleuch under a full moon and the expert guidance of Dave Hewitt.
15th - Seven hills in the Scottish Borders.
5th - Last walking north-west of the Great Glen (four hills in 11A and 12A).
17th - Blue sky and a sprinkling of snow; perfect conditions on Creag na Doire Duibhe (4B).
23rd - Cloud inversion and a fantastic fogbow on Shining Tor.
31st - A solo ascent of Ben Bowie (1E), followed by my first repeat for four years on a wet and windswept Conic Hill (1C).
The uncompromising thrust of rock that is An Grianan (16A); the wedding-cake tiers of An Lean-charn (16B); the steep rocky outposts of Ciste Dhubh (11A); the steep and majestic Beinn Sgritheall (10A); glorious and graceful Garbh Bheinn (18B); swooning over the rocky rebel known as Suaineabhal (24A); the rough rocky ridges of Stac Gorm (9B); something special to stand out from the crowd in a superb area - Sgurr na Ciche (10B); small but perfectly-formed Moel-y-gest (30A); scrambling in snow and ice on the ridges of Creag Dhubh (9B).
Wading through bleak heather towards Creag nam Mial (6B); the impressively uninspiring summit plateau of Carn Garbh (16D); the heather and ditches of Beinn Uird (1C); slippery felled trees on the way up Beinn Lochain (19C); almost impenetrable wind-throw on a poor route up Cnoc an t-Sabhail (15B); driving rain, heather and head-high bracken ascending Bainloch Hill (27C); a wet and misty Llan Ddu Fawr (Waun Claerddu, 31C); Cyrniau Nod (30E); poor choice of ascent, boggy ground and a band of marauding bullocks on the ridge of Cnoc nam Broighleag (19A); tonnes of earth seemingly floating on a lochan on Knockan (21A); several summer hills pursued by horseflies, clegs, soldier flies, etc.
300th, 400th, 500th, 600th, 700th, 800th; doubling and trebling previous lifetime total; adding one third to the previous record total; my 100th Munro; starting regions 17-21, 24, 26-28, 33 and completing 12 sections. Of the 549 new summits, 343 were solo ascents. My five most frequent walking companions were Richard Tibbetts (128 hills), Phil Cooper (32), Brent Lynam (26), Lindsay Munro (25) and Alison Richardson (20).
Walking objectives for 2007: 100 new Munros, remote mainland UK Marilyns, English and Welsh completion, Irish majors, European Ultras.
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