Marhofn 269.15 - May 2013

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Martin Richardson (+205=1227)

I suppose I could have done better Marilyn-wise in 2012 if I had not wasted four months travelling between the Arctic and the Adriatic in search of Ultras and Majors. More about that at: 'Went up a hill and came down'

After completing the Birketts in January, I set off for the first of three trips in the motorhome to Scotland. The first two trips involved a lot of islands - depending on how you define an island I visited and bagged hills on well over forty of them.

Scotland trip 1 - nine weeks, 57 Marilyns - the wet trip

I started by clearing up much of section 10A. Guess which of the twin Corbetts, Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais and Buidhe Bheinn, I did before I had had enough of the terrible weather and I went off to Skye looking for lower summits. Yes, of course, the wrong one.

On Skye, I did almost everything previously unbagged - the one left over being Sgurr na Stri - seemed a shame to visit such a hill on a wet, cloudy and windy day. And, anyway, the boats were not running to Camasunary Bay and I was feeling too lazy for a long walk-in. After Skye, my plan was to keep steadily working down the coast from Mallaig as far as Oban, bagging everything in sight. However, a strange uncomfortable lump grew on my back. The Fort William hospital doctor diagnosed a cyst that would need surgery, but it could wait a week. I went down to Benderloch, to meet some Marhoffers in a rented cottage, and joined several expeditions - including Anne Bunn's 1000th on Beinn Lorn.

Then I went home, called at the local hospital for what I assumed would be a quick slice of a surgeon's knife and instead was admitted for three days. One week I am healthily stomping up the hills, the next I am confined to home, waiting for the district nurse. Having a district nurse call really does make you feel like a pensioner.

Scotland trip 2 - ten weeks, 98 Marilyns - the hospitals trip

I had been told that after a week the wound could be left undressed. So, I was not worried about missing the planned boat trip to Wee Cumbrae's Hump in early April. There were five of us accompanied by three of the island's little dogs. We had fun exploring both the lighthouses and the tidal castle. There was also the chicken incident - alive when we set off, mysteriously dead on our return.

As it happened, I needed dressings for another eight weeks. Having it changed, every other day, meant I bagged nine different Scottish community hospitals as far apart as Campbeltown and Lerwick - my favourite was Dunaros on Mull. I spent much time and diesel driving between hills and hospitals - up to 150km round trips. What it brought home to me is how easy life can be disrupted - what if I had been really ill?

From Wee Cumbrae, I made my way via various hospitals and Marilyns to Mull, for two weeks of mixed weather. Then back to bag a selection of mainland coast Marilyns, taking in the islands of Lismore, its tidal Bernara island, Seil, Easdale and Luing. And joined the two boat trips planned for the end of April.

Firstly, there was Alison Fox's organised RHB collective grab from Crinan canal to Scarba. We also visited the Humps on Lunga and Garbh Eileach. Michael Earnshaw confidently told the boatman we would not be long on the last island as the summit was unambiguous - however, we still had to wait interminably as Jim Bloomer confirmed which grassy clump was the top.

The next day's trip was from Campbeltown to Sanda. I got just a little wet as the sea was not as becalmed as the organiser, Douglas Law, promised. The best bit of this trip was being able to explore inside the lighthouse to where the light is. Sanda is not much further north than Moffat - and where am I going next day? Shetland. So it was a quick visit to Campbeltown hospital and then a long drive to Aberdeen.

Eleven days in Shetland gave me a chance to grab all the Marilyns and several Humps. I was very lucky with my choice of pre-booked flight days to Foula and Fair Isle - on many of the other days flights were cancelled because of wind/hail/snowstorms.

I had the same luck, thankfully, on the day I chose to get the ferry to Noss. I had forgotten that the trip was weather dependent too; the boat had not crossed for the previous five days. I met a RSPB worker on Hill of Arisdale, with the lonely task of day after day counting the birds - he was surprised that he got to add a rare Martin to his log. On descent from Valla Field I watched helplessly as a ewe gave birth in a horizontal snowstorm. I tackled the gate at Saxa Vord with the artificial aid of pipe lagging and a blanket.

Ronas Hill, Shetland (photo: Martin Richardson)

Ronas Hill, Shetland (photo: Martin Richardson)

The next set of islands, logically, was Orkney. The weather was still stormy and full of hail, with spells of sunshine in between. I managed to get all the Marilyns, all the Humps bar the Old Man of Hoy and, irritatingly, Gairsay and even all the Subhumps in the eight days I spent there. One particularly bird-filled experience was on Rousay, crossing Goukheads from Blotchnie Fiold to Kierfea hill, disturbing a number of bonxies and countless geese, on the way.

Then back to the mainland and a week tour of the Strath of Kildonan hills, an area that I had never lingered in before and despite the sea frets, was a lot more interesting than I had expected. Particularly fine and memorable were the Ben Griams, Maiden Pap and Morven.

It was time to switch coasts, the date for the AGM was looming. I met my mate Cliff in Fort William and we spent a few days tidying up more of the hills between Fort William and Oban - meeting up with Jim B and Douglas L for some of them.

One rather memorable day, my birthday, Cliff and I traversed Fraochaidh from Ballachulish to Duror, with a remarkably easy hitch-hike back to the start. Afterwards, we attempted to go for a meal at the Creggan Inn. Earlier in 2012, Anne Bunn and I had tackled Beinn Churalain together in dreadful weather and I had been impressed by the Creggan, when we were each given a towel. However, this time the customer service was terrible. To cut a long story short, they first failed to provide the meal we had ordered and then rudely and aggressively refused to do anything about it.

Never mind, the splendid AGM dinner at Ardbeg made up for it. And, of course, there was the week spent on Islay, Jura and Colonsay in various combinations of fellow Marhoffers. As the ferry schedule to Colonsay only allows a day trip to the island once a week, the boat was quite crowded with fellow baggers.

Then it was home for a week before setting off to Europe. On my return to the UK in October, via Wales to clear up some newly promoted Humps, I had two weeks at home before I became stir crazy.

Scotland trip 3 - four weeks, 55 Marilyns - the autumnal trip

This trip started in fine weather on one of the few remaining UK Majors, Beinn an Lochain - however it was raining heavily by the finish. I decided to go east instead. I worked my way through regions 7 and 21 and section 9A before I had had enough of pioneering through deep soft snow and had run out of the little snowless ones like Hill of Tillymorgan. So, for the last week it was back to region 19 and bright, very cold weather. You know it is winter when you have to wear gloves whilst eating breakfast.

Hill of Tillymorgan from Foudland Hill (photo: Martin Richardson)

Hill of Tillymorgan from Foudland Hill (photo: Martin Richardson)

What I did not understand is why Hill of the Wangie has such a poor reputation. I found it quite straightforward. OK - the trig was not quite where I expected, but that is probably my lack of concentration when looking at the map, rather than any malevolent intent of the pillar.

Anyone one want to see my post-operative scar?

Day after day, alone on the hill
The man with the foolish grin Is keeping perfectly still
- Paul McCartney

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