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'Well I never' is what my old Gran would have said of our perfect St Kilda experience in September 2014 if she had still been with us. St Kilda had everything. It had the anticipation of climbing Bioda Mor on Dun with its relatively lush vegetation and fragile puffin burrows. It had the trepidation at the stories of the difficulties of Boreray. It had the challenge and uncertainty of whether I was up to the climbing on Soay. It had the wondrous delights of fascinating Hirta with its cleits, humps, wrens, mice and Soay sheep. Kind weather and a very low swell combined to make Bioda Mor a scoosh. Cnoc Glas on Soay was made possible with an awkward landing at Laimhrig na Sroine (landing place of the Neb) and the assistance of our excellent climbers Pete Ellis, Dave Tyson and Alan Whatley. Mullach an Eilean, Boreray's high point, turned out to be unexpectedly straightforward from a landing at Laimhail. Slippy above the barnacle zone, a rocky sloping ledge scramble and steep grassy slopes straight to the top. A moment of n-2 shared with Michael Earnshaw and Alan Whatley who subsequently moved on with Stac an Armin. Well, I never - nor am I likely to.
Amazingly, six new Marilyns for me in 2014. In addition to the St Kilda trio, Killyleoch Hill, Creag an Amalaidh and Mynydd Anelog completed as many Marilyns as I am likely to do.
The Majors in Ireland gave a wider perspective on the hill ranges on our neighbouring island beyond the Furths. The circuit of Mweelrea, the high point of Connaught, comes highly recommended, as does the coastal Slieve Snaught. A return visit is called for.
Who did I meet on the hills in 2014?
Dave Windle (Munroist 2412) was on a rescue mission in Glen Elchaig. We were cycling east to Carnach en route to Sgurr Gaorsaic. Dave was driving out. The day before he and his companion had cycled in to do the two Corbetts, Faochaig and Aonach Buidhe. On returning to their bikes they discovered they had lost the padlock key in the mountains. The bliss of a combination lock. The long unexpected and unplanned walk out in the gloaming will no doubt act as a salutary reminder living long in the memory.
Busy place Glen Elchaig. Another day and the two Roberts were cycling in as we headed this time for Faochaig and Sguman Coinntich. R. Ferguson (Munroist 1609) was completing his Grahams on An Cruachan. The other R. climbs Dumgoyne most days. Surely one of them is a Bob?
Best of all was meeting Chris Upson on Bidein a'Choire Sheasgaich. He was supporting Dan Duxbury in his valiant attempt to do a continuous round of the Munros in less than 39 days. I just wanted to bag the Murdo, Meall Mor, beyond Lurg Mhor, which proved an interesting scramble.
The scarved, pipe-smoking contemplative gentleman sitting at the Glenahanty farm ruin was Angus Martin. He is a retired long-serving postman from Campbeltown, now turned author. He remembers delivering the Daily Record on Saturdays to the remoter Largiebaan for the GPO newspaper rate. Now that was service - and a bargain. His latest epistle is 'A summer in Kintyre'. He never leaves the Mull. Maybe you will meet him too if you go to Cnoc Moy, as we did.
In re-ascending Staple Hill on St Andrews Day, I discovered to my delight that the trigpoint pillar's flush bracket had my 19th birthday as its number, S3970. That September day I had climbed Ben Lawers by a direct route from Lawers old school. Ah, the simple things that please.
With two outstanding Murdos on the wish list and many a Sim 'twixt Pressendye and Cnicht, I will not be short on challenges for 2015.
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