Marhofn 255.14 - May 2012

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Phil Cooper (+84=1352)

The 2011 annual visit to the Highlands was planned for mid-May to end with the RHB meet in Portree. The south of England was in drought and the RSPB had called for folk to provide wet mud in their gardens for birds to use as nest building material. However, the mid to late May forecast for western Scotland had me thinking of sending apologies to Alan Holmes and going Hump bagging in beautiful sunny Sussex instead. On the toss-up, Scotland won: was it a bad penny? Sure enough, on arrival at our first stop, Inveraray, the westerly squalls came pouring through, drenching us before we had even tied our bootlaces. No matter, having received RHB group advice about cycling in from Bridge of Awe to Glen Kinglass, a 12-mile rough ride each way, I set out on the first full day at the crack of noon. The two remote Grahams, Beinn nan Lus and Meall Garbh, proved straightforward, but I found the many braes on the return ride increasingly tough.

Not satisfied with this exploration of the banks of Loch Etive, I decided to cycle the north bank route from Bonawe quarry to near Dail, to do Beinn Mheadhonach (589m) - a lot of rough going but a viable route to this third remote hill. A 'wee gem' was An Grianan, a mini-mountain conveniently done from the Elleric car park up Glen Creran.

The weather went from bad to worse, with gusts reaching 114mph and ferries and trains being cancelled. Wet and windy weather continued for the next 11 days, limiting hill activity to some extent. On a day starting off promisingly but proving to be worsening, I took the train from Tulloch to Corrour for nine hours of fun on Creag Ghuanach, Beinn na Cloiche and Meall a'Bhainne.

How lucky we all were to have a dry day on the Saturday of the annual RHB meet in Portree. I went island bagging to Rona, Eilean Tighe, the Crowlins and Longay. On the Sunday I did my final Skye Marilyn, Beinn Meabost, on the way to Elgol for the trip to Soay. The trip finished with more mainland hills in the superb Loch Shiel area, making a total of 40 new Marilyns on the three week trip.

An opportunity came up in July to spend a further 11 days visiting 44 more Marilyns in north-east Scotland. Having already done the Munros and Corbetts, the focus was on Grahams. I started with Mount Blair, did the Angus glens, Deeside, Donside and those up towards the coast, finishing with Ben Aigan. One of the highlights of this mainly good-weather trip was revisiting Deeside after many decades. A van camping spot near the river, towards the Linn of Dee, was especially memorable, with the river reflecting silver in the evening and sky blue the following morning when the temperature was almost down to zero.

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