Marhofn 196.11 - May 2009

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The report of the motion king

Rob Woodall

At last a year not dominated by trig pillars! My main goal was Ramsay's Round: 24 (pre-1997) Lochaber Munros. I had picked it up in 2001 but it had put me down. On 17 May I was better prepared and the weather was perfect - a day (and night) I will remember for a long while. Two weeks later, with that wonderful weather showing no signs of flagging, I trundled round Mark Rigby's circuit of the 18 main Cairngorms Munros. From Ben Avon over Cairn Gorm to the finish seemed endless, but the first 17 were sheer magic and it was great to have another classic Scottish sub-24-hour challenge in the bag.

In July I climbed Olympus (Greece), Musala (Bulgaria) and Etna with Arizona-based septuagenarian mega-bagger Bob Packard. Of these, Olympus and Etna were superb; Musala was middling, Munroesque and rainy. This rather daft one-week schedule arose out of Bob's project to bag the 12 most prominent peaks of Europe. I look forward to going back to Bulgaria and especially Greece. I was back in Italy in August with Andrew Tibbetts. Heading off with a too-ambitious schedule and far too many maps and reports, we came back with more than we'd dared hope: a dozen Ultras and another eleven P600s. We linked up with Lee Newton for a few peaks, including the impressive Presanella and the magnificent Marmolada; and with Petter Bjorstad (the Norwegian bagging legend) for two very fine and challenging peaks: Ortler (the Austrian national highpoint until Italy bagged it in a post-war trade) and Piz Kesch.

In August I celebrated my last Welsh trig pillar (660 surviving pillars in total, since you ask) on Red Hill (I'd been there before but hadn't given the trig a second glance). A few trigging friends joined me but it was also set up as a geocaching event. Over lunch, in such esoteric company, we triggers were surprised to discover how comparatively normal we were! I subsequently celebrated an English trigs completion (of sorts), on Coniston Old Man. This was the LDWA Hillwalkers Register Weekend - monsoon on Saturday but blue skies for my celebration. Great choice of hill. That leaves me with seven English trigs left to visit: an easy one on Scilly and six others with access issues. (England has about 3300 pillars; they keep disappearing or being rediscovered.)

By November it was time to escape the oncoming winter: a week on Taiwan with Bob Packard, Gerry Roach and Ken Jones. All three are chasing the World Fifty Finest list: Bob and Gerry are currently vying with Petter for the top slot, with half of the list done. By contrast, 3952m Yu Shan was my sixth. This and Syue Shan are impressive peaks and we had a memorable week; my first taste of Chinese culture.

December brought another Fifty Finest related trip, this time to Ecuador, with Petter again plus Adam Helman (writer of a book called Prominence that every prominencian should own but most will never finish - a kind of bagger's Brief History of Time). I was set to achieve successive personal altitude records during this trip but was unsure how I would fare, having experienced mild effects at around 4000m in recent years. However, with well-planned acclimatization I got to 4794m on Volcan Pichincha (Quito's local hill) without incident. Next up was 4634m Cerro Imbabura - a great-looking peak with some mostly-nice scrambling. After an assault on the reportedly diabolical Cotocachi, which I missed due to a dose of Montezuma's revenge, we rested before climbing the iconic 5897m Cotopaxi. The last 200m I found very tough, but it's a great summit, with the now-customary dawn view across a cloud sea, out of which the other big hills protruded like nunataks. The main goal, 6267m Chimborazo, was even tougher, with arduous snow conditions such that only six of us made it to the summit that day. On arrival I was in a state of collapse.

Finally a bonus peak, 5790m Cayambe, Ecuador's third-highest. This was a fitting finale: arriving at dawn, we were able to gaze south to all of our fortnight's peaks. Ascent reports can be found at www.peakbagger.com. 2008 was brought to a gentle conclusion with a long weekend at Inverness youth hostel over Christmas; and another over Hogmanay at Perth, kindly hosted by Ali Wilson. After the distractions it was nice to get some trigging done. Totals:

World Fifty Finest: +2=7 Marilyns: 121 revisits
Ultras: +24=44 Humps +182, Yeamans +115
P610m: +36=200 Corbett Tops +7
OSGB Trigs +375=5432 Graham Tops +23

Sunrise from Cayambe, Ecuador (photo: Rob Woodall)

Sunrise from Cayambe, Ecuador (photo: Rob Woodall)

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