Marhofn 196.11 - May 2009

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Baglogs: Central Chamber:

Baglog: Tony Smith (+126=932)

As I get ever closer to achieving two more of these numerical targets, it must be time to add my first tuppence worth to this invaluable publication. I hesitate however, having noted a reference in the 2008 edition to 'mad and talented' contributors. I don't consider myself to be either of these, but with wife Lorna's views in mind, I suspect the former is much nearer than the latter in respect of hills and the ability to write poetically about them, as others seem to do with ease.

Unlike some, I only recently graduated from 'arbitrary made-up lists such as Munros' (RHB) to Marilyns, having completed the 3000ers on 28 Sep 2001. Munroists will appreciate the significance of the date, which also happened (coincidentally of course), to be our wedding date. No excuse for forgetting the anniversary! 2008 was reasonably representative of my hillwalking since then; a mixture of repeat ascents of higher hills (generally in more carefully selected days), and exploration of otherwise neglected lower-lying areas of the country. I suspect this seeking out of what some members of our mountaineering club regard as mere pimples is where the madness view starts to creep in from the unconverted. I do however have to accept that it was a ridiculously long drive from Montrose to Cornwall in 2007 for 40 minutes in the brambles of Carnmenellis, not to mention the delights of Hensbarrow Beacon and Dundry Down. Some you win...

As ever, the early part of the year offered the better conditions in Scotland, with excellent snow and visibility in February (and no need for the midge repellent either), whereas the words 'windy' and 'rain' appear much more frequently in later log entries. For new hills, travels ranged from Ben Griam Beg in the far north to Foel Offrwm in mid Wales. I recommend sampling the character of the Crask Inn and bunkhouse on the Tongue road if you're up that way.

Highlights of the new Scottish mainland hills included Foinaven (simply a very fine mountain), Sgurr a'Choire-bheithe (10B) - over five hours in wind and heavy rain to reach the top was memorable, even if for the wrong reasons - and the wonderfully remote Carn Ban (15A). On the islands the Jura Paps (not in the hill race) are a fantastic group, and Biod an Athair on Skye had a staggering view to the Outer Hebrides from the cliff edge, with resident eagle. This must rate as a wee gem, especially on a good day in early May, a time when a number of others were also bagging on Skye, including Stewart Logan whom we met in Carbost.

In Wales the hills of the Lleyn peninsula offered views way out of proportion to the minimal effort required to reach the summits (but what is that yellow trig on Carn Fadryn all about?). Holyhead Mountain would be another wee gem for the view, were it not so popular and over-developed. By comparison I can't think of any English highlights, despite it being my home country, but it's difficult not to be influenced by the weather, which was invariably dull there. Even Mickle Fell proved to be almost disappointingly easy, in mist via the track from the B6276, which actually extends over High Crag and nearly to the trig. And Freeholds Top (36) is probably the only hill where I will use a Mercedes garage forecourt as the start point (and no I don't drive one).

And those two targets? The final Corbett (Benvane, 1C) and the 1000th Marilyn. Both for 2009 I hope, and perhaps even simultaneously on 22 August if all goes according to the plan.

A final thought from a non-obsessive (?) bagger: 'It might all be based on a list but the rewards are (almost) invariably far greater than just another tick'.

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