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In 2013 I had a record seven trips to Scotland from June to December. Probably the highlight was a late November first visit at last to St Kilda, with the winter hopeful stac climbers. No stacs for anyone, but I ended up praying to the goddess Boreray on my hands and knees on the narrow summit ridge, in a way that my sense of balance and confidence 25-30 years back would never have necessitated.
A Sunday figure-of-eight circuit of the whole of Hirta, in lovely calm and bright conditions, was a great joy. Two Corbetts, a Graham and a smaller Hump rounded off the year on Gairbeinn on 30 December, during a three-day meet in The Cabin, a cottage mountaineering club hut near Laggan, with seven others from York Alpine Club.
The new Marilyn year did not start until early April when I went to join various pals involved in the 'Encircling the land with sacred dance' pilgrimage dances near the full moon in each of the sites linked to the earth Zodiac signs in the land of England and Wales according to the old gypsy tradition. Somewhat wacky, which will not surprise many. This one was in Aries and in Brecon cathedral, and on a glorious day I took the opportunity for a pre-dance hike up Fan Fawr from Storey Arms centre. Bright sun, snow-capped Beacons and an icy east wind.
Two and a half weeks in June and July started with three days on hills south of Banchory. Two solstice nights followed art research and Murdo collecting by camping on Tom Dubh. Woke to serene, beautiful wind-free silence on day one, in which Cairn Toul, Angel's Peak and a full south-to-north and back circuit of all the Braeriach plateau and tops was a delight and my first Munro repeats since completion. It was only my second visit since a clagged-in snow-covered plateau with my dad when I was 13. For day two and walk out, I woke to clagged-in serene silence, a very different experience for the navigation out over Moine Mor.
A week with seven others followed at Dolphin House in Ullapool, which included my most remote and most challenging day, in terms of lugging equipment - wooden former, clay, bucket and plaster of Paris 4km to the hill top to make a trigpoint pillar top plaster cast on Meall an Fhuarain. I finally capped the midsummer jaunt with five days in Torridon and Gairloch and saw a large eagle which flew up off the moor less than 100 metres from me.
Sighty Crag with Jonathan de Ferranti and Jamie was Jamie's 298th Marilyn and my pre-birthday hill. This was before Ken Whyte's Scottish mainland Humps completion on Minto Hills. It turned out to be Jamie's last Marilyn of the year. After a rainy birthday camping in Hawick, my attempts to get him over 300 Marilyns, as I hiked a circuit from Over Phawhope bothy of the Ettrick Pen three Marilyns, met with teenage stubbornness, refusal and sitting in the car for eight hours playing with his phone. We had a row the next morning. We have made up, but I could not tempt him with Rick Salter and Jenny Hatfield's glorious-weathered final Corbett from Strontian in October, so his next Marilyn and the 300 point still awaits.
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