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2013 was a great year for hill and island bagging; in fact for me it became the year of the Tump. It started with a message I received around 17.30 one Friday in April as I was finishing a section of the Lancashire coastal path near Lytham St Annes. Jim Bloomer stated that he had a boat booked to the Calf of Man early on Saturday morning. If I wanted to come I needed to be on the ferry at Heysham for around midnight. I quickly decided to join in the fun that a weekend on the Isle of Man would provide.
In late April I had a blustery damp time on Mull for two weeks with Jim Bloomer. We visited a number of islands including Staffa, Lunga and Eorsa on boat trips organised by Brent Lynam. Our best day was a sunny route march after the first ferry to Ulva to walk out and over the bridge to Gometra and then onto the tidal island of Eilean Dioghlum with Richard Tibbetts and Jim Bloomer. We met Richard Wood and Martin Collins at the Vanessa trigpoint pillar on the summit of Gometra.
Towards the last week in May I started a 17-day trip with Richard Speirs after collecting him from Wormit. We drove to Aberdeen for the overnight ferry to Shetland. Alan Holmes had arranged accommodation for around twenty of us at the Voxter Centre near Bray. During our 15-day stay I drove over 1600km, bagging 159 hills via plane, ferry and an Alan Holmes' boat trip. I would never have managed as many hills without Richard Speirs' rally-style navigation and prior planning. Getting to Fair Isle was really difficult due to windy weather or low cloud. We turned up at the airport four times before our fifth booked plane got us there on a lovely sunny day.
Getting to Foula was uneventful but also included landing on Papa Stour. Foula was a great place to visit while Fair Isle was breathtaking. Isle of Noss was bagged on our first morning by taking the 8am ferry to Bressay then bagging a few hills before waiting for the warden from the RSPB to row us across in groups of four. Noss was stunning with its birdlife and coastline. We used ferries to bag other islands such as Unst, Fetlar, Yell, Whalsay and Out Skerries.
In the last two weeks of September, three hopeful groups of twelve headed to Harris/Lewis with the aim of getting to St Kilda and onto Dun, Boreray and Soay. Some of our groups were just across for a week and others like me were there for two weeks. Week one was very blustery and the swell on St Kilda was too high for our departure. We had to be content with bagging hills on Harris and Lewis. Alan Holmes had arranged boat trips to Pabbay, Scarp and Taransay. The weather was not any better at the start of the second week but we had a fun day on a RIB exploring remote hills to the north of Loch Resort and Eilean Mealasta. Martin Richardson had a bad slip while descending our second-last hill and fell over an eight-ten metre overhang before landing in a heap close to some rocks. He lay very still for 15 minutes before slowly rising.
The next day a bruised Martin was still keen to continue with trips to Seaforth Island and the Shiant Islands. Six of us, including Martin, were dropped off on the edge of the remote area of Pairc. We walked for over six hours over Uisinis and Gormol to get back to a minor road and be collected by car by Alan Holmes. Martin looked wrecked on the summit of Gormol. He still had ten km to walk to safety.
The weather improved and we decided to set off for St Kilda on our final Thursday. One boat left from Leverburgh on Harris while our boat of twelve set off from near Uig on Lewis. There was a wonderful sunrise over Lewis and all seemed great. However, 21/2 hours into our journey something went wrong. We could smell diesel fumes in the cabin and the engine began misbehaving. The boat was halted and the crew lifted up parts of the floor to inspect the engines. One had developed a fuel leak. An hour later we began limping back to Lewis on one engine.
The other boat got to St Kilda and had a lovely day exploring Hirta and checking for landing spots on Boreray. They got their tents up on that dry afternoon, however the next two days on Hirta were damp and misty and they only managed to get onto Dun. So perhaps going back during a longer weather window will allow us to gain the island summits that we require.
During 2013 I climbed 379 new hills made up of 371 Tumps, 107 Humps and 58 Marilyns.
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