Marhofn 212.12 - May 2010

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Talking Heads featuring Radiohead

Eric Young

It's good to walk on your own. It adds a lonesome quality to the space and solitude. Time for yourself and your thoughts. The Evans path bisects the Jura trio of Corra Beinn, Scrinadle (great name) and Beinn Bhreac, to the north of the Paps. It felt remote, untroubled, fresh. I sat on Scrinadle with my thoughts running free like the deer. Juniper hangs on in the quartzite; a large brown Silverline moth hangs on a grass stem imitating a mushroom. The west coast looks relaxingly tempting.

Or there was that quality afternoon on Huisival Mor (24B). Picking my way up bare bits of gneiss, I was surprised by the closeness of a stationary yet wary Harris hare. As it relaxed it moved to within ten feet of me before casually disappearing into a burrow between boulders. Unusual. Beyond the cairned top is the wonder of the glacial trench of Glen Cravadale and Loch a'Ghlinne, with Scarp, the Uig hills and Tiorga Mor (a favourite Graham) around.

But I can only walk alone by myself! As we neared the top of Lowick High Common (34D) a man crossed the skyline dragging a boulder by a rope attached around his waist. Perhaps he's building a rock garden at home, or training for the Antarctic, or carbon-neutral quarrying? Or perhaps it's a new event for the Highland Games; striving to be the first to drag a boulder up the nearby tops. We did think that descending would make for an interesting if bloody spectator sport - the steeper, the better!

The 'we' includes my better half, Margaret. She couldn't care less, but 76 Marilyns in 2009 deserves a mention. Her company enriched a glorious day on Fan Brycheiniog in the Brecons, with unperturbed red kites soaring by. And you can share trig-spotting. There were workmen in the waterworks compound on Brandy Hill (31C) so I went in and asked if they'd got it. They hadn't seen it. The field to the west gave us a high bump but no trig. 'Ah, there it is over the barbed-wire fence behind the hawthorn'. Unwanted and neglected, it just asks to be visited.

The orienteering competition on Wentwood (32C) took me back to university days at Edinburgh. The trig's turning green and forlorn in the damp undergrowth, with any number of bumps and ant-hills to choose from. The SOTA man Richard Higgs was transmitting to score one point after enjoying his orienteering. His ambition is to transmit from Snowdon.

Or you can walk by yourself but accompanied and come back in good company unaccompanied, as on Maovally (16E) in the height of the cleg season. I'd chosen to walk in by the hydro road (nae bike) from the north. It was warm July and clegs met me to eat me. Clusters and crowds of them. Throngs and swarms of them. No peace. No rest. Covered up and sweaty. Alone but not alone. Then sheer good luck! At the road's high point I met two professional bird surveyors with their ancient Volkswagen Polo. I felt sanely compelled to ask for a lift back. I'll only be 15 minutes. They said yes. I was up to the small cairn, had a 360-degree swatch at the view and back in a jiffy. Clegs motivate me as nothing else.

Except midgies. On Jura you can park at the public road end (worst in Scotland), use the rusting bridge at NR666926 and follow ATV tracks over an intervening ridge to Ben Garrisdale. I mention this hill in particular because the track had hundreds upon hundreds of sundew. I've never seen such profusion. Please take care not to stand on them. They eat midgies!

Then there's just jolly good company. The wettest May week in history on Mull had Alan, Alison, Ali and Jon scanning the Met Office forecasts for 'weather windows'. 7am. A thumping of booted baggers down the corridor awakened us. The postman had come? A fire perhaps?

No, the sun was shining, but not set to last. We joined the stampede. The rain set in before 9am but at least hills were done. There's a fascinating old chapel which is more of a clan mausoleum, en route to Druim Fada, with coloured stars in its roof. It contains the MacLaines' memorials and old fonts. Good shelter from the incessant stair-rods.

Chapel near Lochbuie on Mull (photo: Alan Dawson)

Chapel near Lochbuie on Mull (photo: Alan Dawson)

Or there's company well met, like:

And then there's Marilyn mob walking. This isn't just company, it's a crowd. A double mob with a hint of the Welsh turned out in February to celebrate Iain Brown's 1000th and his final Corbett, Carn na Drochaide, with Mark Smith matching the 1000. I was lured into knowingly climbing a neighbouring lesser top. But it's not for me thanks.

Double celebrations were repeated on Cruachan Charna in June. As Charles Everett conquered his 600th, Dee Lacy confessed quietly to her 600th too!

Good chat. Roll on the accompaniment for 2010.

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