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My second attempt to reach Mullach Buidhe on the Shiants turned eventful. My mobile rang, five people had called off - and so was the trip.
'Hang on. I've friends Marilyn bagging in Tarbert. Let me ask them if they'd be interested. Please.'
Tony, Dee and Alan had chummed me to Seaforth Island via the helpful fish farm. (Hint: ask in person about 8.30am on a working day to make an arrangement.)
I found them having a relaxing breakfast. Tony and Alan (more birder than bagger) agreed to come, raising my hopes.
'I've got two. Is that enough?' 'Hang on. The other phone's going.' Pause. 'OK I've got another two. We're on!' Elation.
Then to my dismay I found I hadn't packed my boots in my rush to secure a party! Only the flat-soled worn trainers I was wearing. I'd heard of the steep, steep grass of Sron Lionta on Garbh Eilean. Worse, I'd seen the photographs. Deflation.
I'm glad it wasn't until later I read in Adam Nicolson's book 'Sea Room: An Island Life'about the shepherd bringing his sheep down Sron Lionta, when a lamb slips and bounces helplessly down the grass on to the killing rocks below.
I was more careful. We even found the OS point at the top with a juvenile sea eagle floating by. The flotsam buoys at the bothy made great space-hoppers!
In his fabulous book '101 Uses for a Marilyn', AA Landswon oozes lateral thinking ideas on every page. Idea no. 54 is to have your wedding ceremony on top of one. Just as Sian and Andrew did on top of Struie. A humanist wedding in Scotland because it's the celebrant (rather than the premises) who is licensed to perform the ceremony. Hence no repeat is necessary in a registry office.
You only realise the importance of bar codes if you meet a bar code engineer on Ben More (Crianlarich). The supermarket punishments are severe.
We met a mapless New Zealand aircraft stress engineer on Drysgol and helped direct him homewards.
I met Bill frae Sheffield on the West Highland Way whilst the Langcraigs Club were bound for Cruinn a'Bheinn. He's the Kenneth McKellar fan club. A voice engineer surely.
Bill Owens on Rhinog Fach had met all the big names in British mountaineering bar Tom Weir. Tom's the only one I've met, red bunnet an' all, on The Dumpling by Gartocharn. Sadly missed.
If you ever break free from self-imposed strictures of the Marilyn list (or any other list for that matter), may I suggest Cruach Bheinn in Cowal? The route up from Loch Eckside comes steeply recommended. The Campbells' 'paper cave', where they reputedly kept their important documents, are slipped rock expansion fissures. Up on the open moor you'll see the Poit Dhubh, large isolated blocks of rock. Then I came across this:
Skye: Whilst at the annual meet in Portree, I decided to pay homage to John MacKenzie, the first Cuillin guide, and Collie, a pioneer of mountaineering. Storer, in his book on Skye, locates their graves in the church graveyard at Struan. Norman Collie had asked to be buried beside his old friend, who had pre-deceased him. Unexpectedly, I found Collie buried in a cairned grave fittingly at MacKenzie's feet.
Central Trotternish Ridge: Loch Cuitir provides an interesting starting point for the non-Marilyn, Sgurr a'Mhadaidh Ruaidh. The loch is much reduced due to Victorian removal of its valuable diatomite rich silt. The ruins of plant and store can still be found on the shoreline at Lealt. Turn the other way and the Trotternish ridge towers above you. How can I, a mere hillwalker, get up there? I went via its east ridge and Coire an t-Seasgaich. In contrast to the steep climb up, the ridge provides waves of grassy turf to surf along from Baca Ruadh to Beinn Edra. The circuit and day was complete when I set up a red fox back at the loch.
The Welsh wall: My last mainland and Welsh Marilyn came during a glorious heatwave in September. Cadair Berwyn is served by a Victorian cafe and marvellous double waterfall. We met Mel. He'd been tempted up following in Jon Metcalf's boot steps who had kindly gone on ahead to chill the champagne and cut the currant cake. Mel is a retired steelworker and proud owner of his house canal barge beautifully named 'Dreamcatcher', where he stays, and a converted van in which he holidays. Good company; interesting life-style.
'It's OK once you get used to living in a tin can!'
'Do you ever imagine a time when you might live elsewhere?' I asked.
'Only when I'm too old', he replied, 'or if I met the right woman'.
Cir Mhor: Reaching the Wall and choosing not to choose another list leaves choice. It also makes me less selfish. I can now choose to chum chums doing hills they want to do or revisit old favourites by new routes.
Freed from self-imposed list ticking I ascended Caisteal Abhail on Arran from North Glen Sannox. An excellent path through woodland by the gushing waters leads up the impressive ridge. It is punctuated by a granite tor before reaching the castle. I travelled on via marked springs to my favourite Arran peak Cir Mhor - 45 minutes all to myself.
Muirneag: I started out from the bridge to nowhere up the Abhainn Geiraha. I found the 'Cairn' as marked on the map (see photo). I think the trig has sunk a little into the peat. Two hours there; two hours back. A goodly reminder why I'll not be back... unless a pal fancies going of course.
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